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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

From Katrina to Mardi Gras; Courting Disaster; Inside a Riot; Visiting Home; Outlaw Abortion?; What Anna Wants

Aired February 28, 2006 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from New Orleans, here's Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again. That is the scene from street level, down on Bourbon Street. For reporters and cameras, not -- well, a very dangerous place to be because you never know what may happen on live television. So we'll be very careful as we show you the scene.

It is quite an event here. Those are some of the beads being thrown. Thousands of beads thrown from the balconies here. It is a celebration unlike any other, particularly this year, nearly six months after Katrina. Tomorrow, the six-month anniversary.

Good evening again, from Bourbon Street. The city of New Orleans getting much needed hurricane relief, though not in the form of money, food or shelter. Tonight relief comes through a party of all three. The Mardi Gras celebration you see all around us, where people can finally be free from the pains of Katrina, at least for one night.

Over the next hour we'll bring you all the sights and sounds from the celebration. First, a look at what it really means. Not to the tourists who are here behind me, because that's most of the people here on Bourbon Street, tourists; but really, for the people of New Orleans. Those who survived the hurricane six long months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In this city, used to suffering, for a few hours today, some of the old New Orleans came back. Away from the tourists and the t-shirt shops, New Orleans' residents dressed up and stepped out.

There were side street swarrays and corner costume parties, families and friends, revelers of all ages gathering to celebrate not just Fat Tuesday, but survival itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to tell people we're still here. We're here. We're crazy, but we're still here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people here need Mardi Gras. You know, without it, there wouldn't be the life that there is. You know, this is a the soul of New Orleans right here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to Mardi Gras. Can I give you a kiss on the cheek (unintelligible)? COOPER (on camera): All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy Mardi Gras.

COOPER: All right. See (unintelligible). People are going to talk if I have lipstick on.

(Voice-over): The costumes were handmade; so was the humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, can I see some ID?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, put the stick down.

COOPER (on camera): How is it keeping law and order here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no law and order today. This is Mardi Gras and this is celebration. This is what we do.

COOPER (voice-over): FEMA bore the brunt of more than just a few jokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here (unintelligible) inspecting the flood damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking for the Convention Center.

COOPER: Away from the French Quarter, in the Ninth Ward, we found a small band of Mardi Gras Indians, trying to keep alive a traditional African American celebration. They had no elaborate costumes, and only a few of them remained, but they were here and that was something.

Elsewhere, however, there were no parties, just debris and the memories of what happened.

(On camera): It's so strange being back in New Orleans nearly six months after Katrina because just about any street you go down has some association with the storm, some memory comes flooding back.

We're in the Ninth Ward right now and I remember being on this exact spot nearly six months ago. At first I couldn't tell because it was all flooded with water and we were traveling in a boat. But then I remembered this stop sign.

Charlie, my producer had to hang on to that stop sign to keep our boat from tipping over. A Coast Guard helicopter was overhead, trying to rescue some people stranded in their home.

(On camera): I don't know if you can see that, but right there, look up there on the porch. There they go. He's going down again. The rescuer is going down. We believe there may be at least two more people in the house. He reenters the water and then washes the house, wraps a protective binding around the people and then hoists them up. It is remarkable to see.

(Voice-over): Around the corner there was a man's body, badly decomposed on the roof of a car. It was a shocking sight. He had been left out, abandoned for more than a week.

(On camera): This is the exact where nearly six months ago we saw that man's body sprawled out on top of the car. It's so strange. It's -- there's no memorial of it. There's no marker. There's nothing to indicate the horror that happened here. People just drive by. They weren't here then, they would never know what happened here.

And that's the concern of a lot of people in New Orleans. They don't want the memories, the images to just be forgotten, to be swept up and cleaned up and bulldozed away. If it's forgotten, some people here will tell you, it very easily could happen again.

(Voice-over): For the residents of New Orleans, this Mardi Gras is not happening in spite of the storm, it's happening because of it. Mardi Gras this is year is a joyful act of decadence and defiance.

On Sunday night I rode in the Endymion parade, tossing beads for hours. It was an unforgettable experience. Standing on the float, staring into a crowd several generations thick. After a while you stop hearing the screams. All you see are the faces. Tens of thousands of smiles. Time seems to slow. You toss the beads, shake people's hands, you make connection; one person to another, the present to the past. These parades, this party, it's not about forgetting. In fact, it's a way of remembering those not here. The faces in the crowd now gone. Mardi Gras is a celebration of life, a life no storm can ever truly take away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): And there is certainly so much life here, not only on the streets behind me on Bourbon Street, but throughout the city of New Orleans tonight for those who have returned. And I'm sure there are many people watching around the country who have not been able to return, but they are New Orleanians still at heart. And we wish them a happy Mardi Gras tonight, as well.

The streets right now are relatively safe behind me for party goers. That may soon change. You see, when Hurricane Katrina swept through here, it also hurt the way justice is done in this city. And now some potentially dangerous people might not see a day in prison.

CNN's Randy Kaye has been closely following this disturbing story, "Keeping them Honest," as she joins me now -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Katrina has left the New Orleans justice system incapacitated. Courtrooms are ruined, documents destroyed, and there aren't even enough lawyers anymore to defend those who need them most.

We wanted to know what's being done about this and why as many as 4,000 criminals could go free.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (voice-over): This Timothy Henson. Once homeless, now a confessed killer. Henson admits strangling a Japanese tourist in New Orleans nearly three years ago. Since then, he's been in the Orleans Parish Prison, waiting for trial. And now, astonishingly, before the end of this year, Henson could walk. That's right. Get out of jail free. Even though he's admitted to murder.

By law, Louisiana must try a defendant within three years. And with the carnage and disarray Katrina dealt to the state's justice system, the same storm that killed thousands of innocent people, could soon free thousands of dangerous criminals.

Public Defender Dwight Doskey, is Henson's lawyer, and knows the challenges of New Orleans' crippled court system firsthand. These days, Doskey works out of his pickup truck. The passenger seat, his file cabinet.

DWIGHT DOSKEY, PUBLIC DEFENDER: We were left with no office, no phones, no secretarial help, no case files, with clients who were scattered to over 40 different institutions throughout the state, and really no way to put the pieces back together again.

KAYE: It may cut both ways. In the same prison as Henson, sits another of Doskey's clients, Timothy Brooks, charged with beating a cab driver to death at this warehouse with a hammer and a two by four. Brooks says he didn't do it, that he was at his girlfriend's apartment, asleep when the murder took place. So Doskey must figure out a way to serve both clients.

Brooks, who will languish in jail because he can't afford a private attorney, who may be able to get him a speedy trial and clear his name. And Henson, who because time is on his side, may walk. Both men would have their arrest records wiped clean without ever going to trial.

DOSKEY: I think it's a very real possibility. There will be people who are accused of murder, there will be people whose cases should be brought to trial. Those people will be released.

KAYE: In addition to Brooks and Henson, Dwight Doskey has an overwhelming number of other clients -- 700 defendants. Why so many? After the storm, the Public Defender's Office was forced to layoff 36 of its 42 attorneys, leaving just six public defenders in a city where nearly 80 percent of the accused criminals use them.

Doskey says it would take him a full year just to interview all his clients, leaving no time to actually go to court.

DOSKEY: We're mishandling cases because we can't investigate a case, we can't prepare cases.

KAYE: In the meantime, the accused and their loved ones must wait, with no end in sight. Timothy Brooks' mother says her son is depressed and being treated in the prison's mental ward.

CASSANDRA BROOKS, MOTHER OF TIMOTHY BROOKS: As I said once before, I know he's innocent. But like I say, I be so frustrated. Me and my children all, so you know. It's been so frustrating to the whole family. Everybody's cheering and everything. Every time I talk to his kids, my dad's coming home out of that place, Grandma. I say, yes he is.

KAYE: Timothy Brooks is struck because the judge in his case refuses to hear any capital murder cases until the public defenders get funding, so that the accused might at least get adequate defense.

DOSKEY: He's an example of somebody who's severely disadvantaged by the judge ceasing the trials of the public defenders' clients. On the other hand, there are some people who might very well come out far, far ahead by the trial judge's actions.

KAYE: People who are guilty. Which brings us back to Timothy Henson, who acknowledges he killed, but is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. In this confession, obtained by CNN, he admits to strangling this Japanese tourist with a strap from her purse. They had taken the ferry to Algiers together. That's where her body was found. Police say Henson told them he needed to be taken off the street before he killed again. So is this confessed killer someone that should go free?

CALVIN JOHNSON, CHIEF JUDGE, NOLA DISTRICT COURT: The idea that as a result of this crisis, that I and my other judges may have to release people from jail who in fact committed heinous, serious crimes and now will walk the streets of my city and yours -- and yours, without any consequence is horrible.

KAYE: District Court Chief Judge Calvin Johnson believes New Orleans' justice system is in crisis and has ordered an investigation.

JOHNSON: We need help. We need the money sufficient to fund our system.

KAYE (on camera): You see, Louisiana is the only state in the country that relies on traffic tickets and court fines to fund its public defenders program. So when Katrina brought life here to a standstill, nobody was driving or parking and fines weren't being collected. The Public Defenders Office lost about 70 percent of its funding. That led to the layoffs.

JOHNSON: We have been in conversations with everyone we can possibly have a conversation with who can write us a check. But the fact of the matter is Louisiana cannot write this check. That's a fact. New Orleans cannot write this check. That's a fact.

KAYE: Judge Johnson says the federal government should fund the public defenders' program.

JOHNSON: America is going to have to pay the cost of this. It is the fault, with all respect, of the Corps of Engineers, which is an American peace. I know we're a third world down here in New Orleans and I know barely a part of America. They failed. They need to come up with the bucks to give us the sufficient funds so we can do what we have to do.

KAYE: In all of your requests, what has been the response from Washington?

JOHNSON: With all respect to the government, but it's like the response from FEMA. Help is on the way.

KAYE (voice-over): FEMA is offering to supply new computers, notepads, even desks. But that may be too little too late for these two men and thousands of others, both innocent and guilty, waiting behind bars in New Orleans.

JOHNSON: A lot of us waited on the roof for help to come. And the help was late coming. And we're still, in some sense, still standing on those roofs waiting for help to come.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So Randy, why can't some of these cases be handled by other parishes around the state or even, you know, by the state of Louisiana? Wouldn't that be better?

KAYE (on camera): It would be better, Anderson, but unfortunately, the state is not going to get involved because the state doesn't have a public defenders program. This is a local issue. It revolves around the parishes and local funding that comes from these traffic fines and these court fines. So the parishes are also struggling. So they're really not in a position to help out the city of New Orleans.

Jefferson Parish alone, has cut the salaries of its attorneys by about 50 percent. So all of them are going through the same problems and really they don't have the time or the energy or the money to help New Orleans.

COOPER: And what does the district attorney have to say?

KAYE: Well, the district attorney, Anderson, would not talk to us on camera, but he did say that the public defenders should get their funding. He says that the release of any inmate is an inappropriate solution to the lack of funding.

We also talked with -- or tried to talk with at least, the attorney general here in Louisiana. He did not return our call. But, Anderson, everyone you talk to about this case says it is such a serious issue because if any of these criminals do get out, they're going to end up on the streets of New Orleans. But that wouldn't stop them from getting on a Greyhound bus or a train or anywhere and heading to California or New York or anywhere else that it might be. So it's not just a problem for New Orleans, it's a problem for the country.

COOPER: All right, Randi Kay, keeping them honest, tonight. Thanks Randi.

Coming up, an American journalist cameraman trapped in an Afghan prison in the middle of a riot with al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at every turn. That story is next.

Also coming up, is justice really blind? (Unintelligible) pushed the test when a former "Playboy" centerfold stripper pays a call on the highest court in the land. And a different kind of homecoming, driven away by Katrina, but drawn home by Mardi Gras.

Around the Gulf and the country and the world, you're watching 360 from New Orleans.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God! Our homes are destroyed. But we're okay. We're alive. All of our family is alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well spending so much time down here with so many good people and knowing what they deal with every day, you sometimes wish that this were the only story in the world. That way the world would never forget the Gulf. But it's not the only story. And it's not the only place in danger of being forgotten, where American lives are literally on the line.

I got a dramatic and chilling phone call today from an American, a former colleague who's in an Afghan prison, caught in the middle of a prison riot and fearing for his life. His name is Ed Caraballo, and you'll hear that call in just a minute.

But how he got there in the middle of danger, in a prison on the outskirts of Kabul is a story in itself. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Pul-e-Charkhi Prison. It looks medieval, but was built when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in the 1970s. The conditions inside, according to a U.N. report a couple of years ago, some of the worst on earth.

We don't know how many prisoners are actually in there, but we're told some 300 of them are members of the Taliban or al Qaeda. They began rioting over the weekend, after being told they were going to have to wear prison uniforms.

Inside the prison, along with the rioters, Veteran American Cameraman Ed Caraballo.

RICHARD CARABALLO, ED CARABALLO'S BROTHER: The project that he was working on was a documentary on the War on Terror.

COOPER: But Caraballo went to Afghanistan with Keith Jack Idema. Idema, a former soldier, billed himself as a counter-terrorism consultant, but had a checkered past. Idema claimed he and his assistant, Brent Bennet, were working with the U.S. and Afghan governments to track down terrorists, which the U.S. government denies. But the Afghan government said Idema, who had named his group Task Force Saber Seven, was acting on his own, running his own private prison. All three men were arrested, tried and convicted. After appeal, Caraballo got a two-year sentence.

His brother says he didn't get a fair trial.

R. CARABALLO: He was just a filmmaker, shooting a film.

COOPER: Idema was able to run this website from his cell, actually giving updates on the riot.

Caraballo gave up the relative comfort of that cell and began distancing himself from Idema. He converted to Islam and moved to a different cell block, one that was taken over by the rioters.

R. CARABALLO: I'm worried sick.

COOPER: Richard Caraballo is worried about this brother, worried that despite Ed's conversion to Islam, he'll be targeted by some of the prisoners who want to send a message to the Americans.

R. CARABALLO: He's a perfect brother. Through rough times in life, he's been there for me and I've tried to do the same for him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I worked with Ed Caraballo years ago at ABC. He's never shied away from the hotspots, and this is certainly one of them. He is a long way from home, in the wake of rioting, barricaded against other prisoners, some of whom may wish to hurt him. He is under stress, to say the least, and possibly under duress from people or forces unknown. Keep that in mind for the next few minutes as we play back Ed's call to me earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED CARABALLO, AMERICAN PRISONER IN AFGHANISTAN (on the phone): They riot and took prisoner, two officers, women -- wives of two police officers and yesterday they -- I believe today they released those hostages and also they took out the wounded.

There were four people killed -- three people killed in block two and one person killed here.

COOPER: And where are you right now? What is your situation?

E. CARABALLO: I'm in my room. I have a private room that the Afghan police provided me with because I'm American and there has been many threats against my life here, so they keep me pretty well protected.

COOPER: And you're literally barricaded in your room right now?

E. CARABALLO: That's correct, Anderson.

COOPER: What happens? I mean, what happens now? Are you -- obviously, your life is in danger...

E. CARABALLO: Well, I've been -- they...

COOPER: Are they threatening you?

E. CARABALLO: At first -- when they first took over this block and the police -- they calmed them down. They shot some of the -- they shot into the (unintelligible) and they ripped down all the gates. So, all the floors -- all the floors are open to all, and you know, the gates are all open. Every -- the prisoners are all walking around, heavily armed with chains and knives and whatever they can -- they have to -- to fight.

And they're afraid that the police are going to storm in and kill more people. So today, you know, I had been -- I had been walking a thin line, Anderson, because everybody, you know, all the prisoners know I have a mobile. And I've been letting whoever, whatever prisoner call their family to let them know they're OK. And I've been able to -- so I've been able to keep my mobile.

They sort of see me as one of them, so, because I'm Muslim, so they haven't bothered me. But they said it's nothing personal, (unintelligible), you know, we know you're our brother, but we want to talk to the American ambassador.

COOPER: What is it that they want the Americans to do or the American ambassador to know?

E. CARABALLO: They want to stress that they were not trying to escape, they were just protesting conditions here.

COOPER: The last report that we had was that Afghan units had actually pulled back from the perimeter of the prison. It didn't look like, according to this last report I read, it didn't look like that they were going to try to move in. Have you seen any efforts to regain control of the prison?

E. CARABALLO: No. The Americans -- the American authorities have spoken to the U.S. Consul Adrianne Harchick (ph). I've been in contact with her constantly throughout the past couple of days. She's done a really good job of keeping me safe, but she says the Americans can't extract me, that it's not their job. It's up to the Afghans.

COOPER: How much more do you have on your sentence, Ed?

E. CARABALLO: Four months.

COOPER: It said that there are many al Qaeda prisoners in this prison. Is that the case? I mean, can you describe what that is like?

E. CARABALLO: Well, there are two blocks. Block one, which has the criminal side; and block two, which has the al Qaeda political criminals. And it's block two that started the uprising. And they're in communication, this block and that block, they're in communication just by yelling from the floor through each other. COOPER: How close are you to the al Qaeda prisoners?

E. CARABALLO: Right outside my door, Anderson.

COOPER: They're right at your door?

E. CARABALLO: That's correct.

COOPER: What do you want people to know, Ed?

E. CARABALLO: Well, I want people to know that -- I don't know. I just want to -- just -- I would say to the American forces or any -- or the Afghan forces, that they should not storm the prison at this point. The prisoners just want to get their message across and they've asked me to do that for them. So, I'm calling -- allowing the media to call me and ask me any questions they have.

COOPER: Is there anything else you want to get across?

E. CARABALLO: I love my family very much and tell them I'm safe right now. And I don't blame anybody for this if anything happens to me. I'm just a journalist in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And I actually came to Mardi Gras for the first time with Ed Caraballo about eight years ago for a story for ABC. It is amazing how quickly things can change.

New Orleans may not be home anymore to some who grew up here. But the place still beckons them powerfully, especially at Mardi Gras time.

Just ahead, a bittersweet story of coming back to a changed city.

And why is the Supreme Court considering the case of a one-time topless dancer and Playboy Bunny Anna Nicole Smith? Actually tens of millions of reasons, all of them green.

360 continues.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never prepare for this. We did a lot of our crying earlier. But there's a lot more crying to be done because a lot of people lost their lives, they lost everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the often quoted title of that great American novel rally isn't true, you can go home again. If you're willing to deal with what you'll find or fail to find when you get there. So it was this year at Mardi Gras for a lot of visitors who used to call this place home.

CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many Katrina evacuees who have left New Orleans are now feeling another loss -- Mardi Gras, which is part of the soul and spirit of so many people who have grown up here, is happening without them.

And that's why a temporary reverse exodus is taking place. The return of evacuees, so they can take part in a tradition that feels like it's part of their DNA.

ASHLEY CONTRELLE, HURRICANE VICTIM: I've missed one Mardi Gras, and that was when my little brother was born. And I was 5 at the time, and I remember being so mad that we had to miss it. So, I couldn't miss this one.

TUCHMAN: Ashley Contrelle lives in a college dorm, 90 minutes away from New Orleans. But she doesn't know where she'll go when school ends, because this is her house. Her mother, aunt and brother also lived with her, but everybody has left the New Orleans area, with no idea where they'll go permanently. Ashley says she doesn't think she could ever live here again.

CONTRELLE: I just don't think it's ready. And I don't think it's going to be ready next year either for the hurricanes. And that scares me like, just to have my family go through that again. I don't think it's worth it.

TUCHMAN: But she realizes something many people here completely understand. You can take the girl out of New Orleans, but you can't take the New Orleans out of the girl.

CONTRELLE: My family cries a lot. I really think I'm just starting to deal with, like just being back and like last semester, I was kind of like, I got to push on with school, I got to focus. And this semester I'm starting to kind of fall apart a little. I'm like, I really don't have a home. I'm not sure where I'm going to go, but. So it's been like -- it's been a rollercoaster.

TUCHMAN: Ashley's only visited her house once, and it was emotionally difficult. Her hope was Mardi Gras, with its frivolity and celebration of her culture, would make her feel all was OK again.

Do you ever come to Mardi Gras and think this is just totally nuts?

CONTRELLE: Yes, but it's what I love.

TUCHMAN: Like tens of thousands of others, Ashley and her college roommate made the most of their carnival visit to the French Quarter. (SINGING)

TUCHMAN: For two days, Ashley, for the most part, forgot about the upheaval and uncertainty of her life. But there was one thing left to do on this trip to New Orleans.

Her second visit to her home that had been under 15 feet of water.

(On camera): From talking to you, I didn't realize how bad this was going to be.

CONTRELLE: Yes. Like it's still standing, but. Yes.

TUCHMAN: How are you doing?

CONTRELLE: It's hard. (Unintelligible). This is the first time I've been back since October and it's a lot different. Everything's a lot drier. Like in October, you couldn't walk through here with normal shoes on, you'd have to have like rain boots or something to protect your feet. The smell's not as bad.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The pots and pans are still on the stove.

(On camera): The keepsakes and pictures were left in the drawers and on the walls because the family expected to come right back after a short evacuation.

Ashley Contrelle experienced two worlds in her two days back home. One of fantasy, one of reality.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That's just an incredible piece, Gary.

Is there any way to know how many people have come back for Mardi Gras?

TUCHMAN (on camera): It's impossible to know exactly how many, but there are a lot of them. It's very easy to find the people who have come back from other cities.

And one thing most of them tell us is, they don't want to talk about the hurricane. Their feeling is that for at least a short time, they want to remember their lives the way they were before August 29.

COOPER: Amazing reporting you showed us, Gary. Thank you.

TUCHMAN: Thanks.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman.

More from New Orleans to come, but we can't ignore two of the day's other stories -- both involve the U.S. Supreme Court.

We're going to look at how South Dakota's tough new antiabortion law took root. Will it become a tool of a more conservative Supreme Court? Some insight from Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Also, look who visited the high court today. It's Anna Nicole Smith, fighting for her share of her dead husband's estate, all the way to the top. Will she get what she wants?

You're watching 360.

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COOPER: And there you're seeing the images live on Bourbon Street. It is getting down to the witching hour, about an hour and a half to go before they close down Bourbon Street. The bars will stay all open, but the police will come on horseback and move all the people actually off the street. It is a remarkable exhibit of crowd control and nobody does it like the New Orleans police force.

Here in New Orleans, we have seen proof all around us that traditions will not die.

But elsewhere today, fresh evidence that we've entered a new era in the abortion battle.

Here's CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A journey to the Supreme Court begins with a single law. Which brings us to Roger Hunt...

REP. ROGER HUNT (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Hi Jerry, how we doing?

CROWLEY: ... a member of the South Dakota State Legislature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a mike?

HUNT: Yes, yes. CNN is shadowing me today. I think it's a little overkill maybe, but so be it.

CROWLEY: He is a lawyer by trade. But for 35 days every year, Hunt and other members of the legislature, take up residence in the hotel rooms of the State Capitol to do the state's business.

Business this year included passing the most restrictive abortion bill in the country. No abortions in South Dakota unless the mother's life is at risk. Sponsor -- Roger Hunt.

HUNT: My underlying premise here is those unborn children have no advocate. South Dakota has become their advocate.

SEN. J.P. DUNIPHAN (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Roger is a very caring, committed man who fights for what he believes in. He does his homework. He gathers his army, as we say, and he moves forward. CROWLEY: South Dakota is a live and let live sort of place, with wide open spaces and spots of quiet as far as the ear can hear. It is not the sort of place that goes looking to stir up a national fuss, but that it has.

NANCY KEENAN, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: It's been a bit of a wakeup call, and we are finding that people are very outraged.

CROWLEY: The national troops for and against abortion rights are on high alert around the country because South Dakota's governor is expected to sign Roger Hunt's bill.

GOV. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Doing so will be the broadest, direct attack on Roe v. Wade that we've seen to date.

CROWLEY: The courts will never let this one stand. It will be challenged. That's precisely the point.

ROUNDS: And it will be struck down as unconstitutional at each and every appellate court level, up to the point that the Supreme Court would be the only court left to consider hearing it.

CROWLEY: Roger Hunt has always believed abortion is wrong. And South Dakota has a long history of antiabortion legislation. What gives this particular bill its juice is a reconstituted, more conservative U.S. Supreme Court, and one liberal member Justice John Paul Stevens about to celebrate his 86th birthday.

HUNT: So that means President Bush is probably going to have the opportunity in the next two to three years to appoint a third nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

CROWLEY: As it happens, it will take two to three years for South Dakota House Bill 1215 to work its way up to the high court.

HUNT: Actually, it's just a lot of e-mail. A few hundred of those, good and bad.

CROWLEY: There's no guarantee the Supreme Court would even hear this case, but for now, lots of other people are listening. Hunt, a soft spoken heretofore, unknown state legislator in South Dakota has captured the attention of e-mailers far and wide, familiar with his work, if not his nature.

HUNT: And they live in some other state and they want to tell us how we should do things here in South Dakota. You know, that doesn't usually fly too well. We take a little a umbrage with that. We're kind of independent people out here and when we think we're right, we think we're right.

CROWLEY: And Roger Hunt thinks he's right.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Pierre, South Dakota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, for some legal plain speak, we asked CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin to join us.

Jeffrey, South Dakota is already at a tough place to get an abortion. What happens now until the Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear this? What happens in those intervening years?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what will happen is as this law goes into effect, a federal district court will put in an injunction saying it can't go into effect because, you know, as the Representative acknowledged, this is unconstitutional under current law and only the Supreme Court can change the law and they haven't changed it yet.

COOPER: Why hasn't the governor, who is antiabortion, signed the bill yet?

TOOBIN: Well, because there's a split in the antiabortion movement about this tactic of a full out assault on Roe v. Wade, like the South Dakota law; or step-by-step approach, like the federal antiabortion law, which limits certain kinds of abortion, parental consent laws. Most in the antiabortion movement think it's better to move gradually because after all, there are still five justices on the Supreme Court now who are committed to upholding Roe v. Wade. They think they have a better chance with small steps, rather than a big step like in South Dakota.

COOPER: And how does the Supreme Court decide whether or not to even hear a case like this and do you think they will?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, it's a hard call. I think that this is so contradictory to Roe v. Wade, it is so settled law that this law is unconstitutional, that if the cart remains the way it is, even with Justices Alito and Roberts, they would not take this case. They would leave this to the lower courts to declare it unconstitutional and not even review it.

But, you know, no one knows for sure. And as people have pointed out, John Paul Stevens is approaching 86 years old, so it's a fluid situation, but based on the way the court is now, I don't think they'd take the case and if they did, they would strike down the law.

COOPER: All right, Jeff, stick around. We needed to find a way of keeping Jeff just a little bit longer and we think we found it.

Coming up Anna Nicole Smith...

TOOBIN: All right.

COOPER: ... nine black robes. Exactly. We'll be right back with that case. Also, she's hoping the Supreme Court will be sympathetic to her plight. Smith's legal battle over her dead husband's fortune made it all the way to the high court today. We'll sort it out when 360 returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC) COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture of Bourbon Street, a very thin slice of the Mardi Gras celebrations here in New Orleans that have been going on for more than a week now. These are the last -- well, the last hour and 15 minutes or so of Fat Tuesday. People trying to get in as many beads as they can and as much revelry as they can as the minutes tick down.

And welcome back. We are broadcasting live above the parade here from Bourbon Street. Stop me if you've heard this one before. This stripper goes into the Supreme Court, well, actually, it's no joke.

Here's CNN's Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She usually greets reports with a flourish, but outside the Supreme Court, Anna Nicole Smith looked flustered. Inside, nine justices who may not have kept tabs on her tabloid past, seem to know every detail of her legal problems.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GOERGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: This is not a case of the justices celebrity shopping. This is a serious case. And Anna Nicole Smith is going to change the face of the law in this area.

TODD: Not bad for a stripper turned "Playboy" model, turned reality TV star. Smith, who for this case is going by her legal name, Vicki Lynn Marshall, has been fighting for a decade to claim part of a fortune of her late husband. Texas Oil Tycoon J. Howard Marshall. She was 26 when they married. He was 89.

ANNA NICOLE SMITH, SEEKING DECEASED HUSBAND'S MONEY: He wanted me to have it and I'll fight 'til the end.

TODD (on camera): The Supreme Court will determine which court has the final say. A Texas state court that ruled Marshall's son, Pierce, was the sole error; or a federal bankruptcy court which sided with Smith.

(Voice-over): The justices seem sympathetic to Smith and her lawyer's argument that Marshall's son tampered with documents to block Smith from the money.

KENT RICHLAND, ANNA NICOLE SMITH'S ATTORNEY: There was an effort to make a gift to Ms. Marshall. And it was that gift that was interfered with.

TODD: Pierce Marshall denies wrongdoing and counters, his dad meant the inheritance for him long before the old man met Smith in a strip club.

ERIC BRUNSTAD, E. PIERCE MARSHALL'S ATTORNEY: She says she just wants the money. The problem is that the money again, under the estate plan, was designated to go to persons other than her.

TODD: Still, it's not clear how any of these arguments will bear on the court's ruling over who has jurisdiction. The court should make that ruling by late June.

Brian Todd, CNN, at the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And with the case he's wanted to talk about all day, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst is back with us.

Are you surprised the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case?

TOOBIN: You know, Anderson, I don't think the tools of the legal analyst are really appropriate for this, so I've written a country song about this case. It's, Mama don't let your babies grow up to be probate lawyers. And it's not quite finished, but maybe we can do that later.

Yes -- what was the question again?

COOPER: Well, how much is at stake here?

TOOBIN: You know -- you know what? It's a huge amount of money. It's $1.6 billion. And it's just sitting there in escrow, gaining interest. But the great thing about this case is that it' not that big a deal a case. Probate is a tiny corner of the law. Most people don't go to probate. Most people don't -- once they're in probate -- have a fight between state and federal courts. I mean, this is an extremely obscure case. And we only love it because of Anna Nicole Smith. Let's face it.

COOPER: Oh, no, I'm purely interested in the legal aspect of the case...

TOOBIN: I know. I know how you must -- you like the probate law...

COOPER: I know...

TOOBIN: ... Anderson, night after night, all those questions about probate.

COOPER: I'm all about probate.

I know, that's right.

So, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Smith, what happens next?

TOOBIN: Well, then being this is sort of bleak house meets strip tease. It goes back to court to determine how much money she gets. Originally she got $400 million. Then they cut it down to $89 million. Of course, the only thing they should do in this case, what they should have done in the beginning is settle the stupid thing so it doesn't sit around for 10 years. But the people involved are obviously insane, which is one of the problems that are faced.

COOPER: We'll leave it there. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks. TOOBIN: OK.

COOPER: Fascinating.

Erica Hill, from "HEADINE NEWS," joins us with some of the business stories we're following tonight -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, frankly, Anderson, I don't know how you follow that.

How about a bumpy end to a choppy month on Wall Street? I think that will keep the people. A wave of disappointing economic news, really sending stocks tumbling today. The Dow fell more than 100 points, that's just under 1 percent. Well the NASDAQ and the S&P both lost a little more than a percent.

Among the bad news fueling those declines, some weakness in consumer confidence, manufacturing and home sales.

For the fifth straight month, sales of existing homes also slow last month. That's according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales of single-family houses and condos fell 2.8 percent in January. That's the slowest pace since February 2004.

Now, just yesterday, the Commerce Department said sales of new homes in January dropped 5 percent.

And maybe this guy can garner the momentum move, Anna Nicole Smith. CBS radio now seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from its former shock jock Howard Stern and his new employer. The popular radio host, in case you hadn't heard, moved over to Sirius satellite radio last month. A lawsuit filed by CBS says Stern ignored warnings to stop promoting Sirius during his final months with CBS and then directly profited when Sirius stocks soared. Stern's lawyer says the claims have no merit whatsoever -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, we'll see if he makes it to the Supreme Court like Anna Nicole Smith.

HILL: Oh, we can only hope, right?

COOPER: Exactly. Up next, meet the man who could not stop Katrina, but never stopped taping the wind and the waters that chased him through his home.

From New Orleans, you're watching 360.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Kennard Jackley caught Katrina as it slammed into Slidell, Louisiana, on his home video camera. KENNARD JACKLEY, KATRINA VICTIM: Here it comes. It's in the house. Broke the door lock. There it is. Oh man. I can't stop it now.

COOPER: Kennard never stopped taping and he never left. He knows it was risky.

JACKLEY (on camera): I don't want people to think that just because I survived, that you know, they will.

COOPER: Now, fixing his home, Kennard and his wife, Dookie (ph), believe the untold story of Katrina is the volunteers.

DOOKIE JACKLEY, KATRINA SURVIVOR: Sometimes on the news all we see are the bad in people, but we have seen just the goodness of the American people, just -- it's wonderful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And it is the volunteers. There have been so many of them over these last months, thousands from all around the country coming.

"On the Radar" tonight, something we saw in abundance out on the float the other night and wrote about it on the blog today, the notion that Mardi Gras is all about making connections; or as it's been this year, about reconnecting. A lot of e-mails coming into the blog.

Luke, in Baltimore writes, "Now do you get it? So many folks have the wrong idea about what Mardi Gras is about. What you saw is the real part."

"Thanks for posting this perspective," writes Jennifer in Durham. "Having never been there, I have definitely been one whose view of Mardi Gras was that it was all about a tradition of raucous partying and parading and not much else. Thanks for broadening my horizons a bit!"

From Mary in Houston, "We have a smaller Mardi Gras in Galveston," she says, "with only 100,000 people. Just like NOLA, the beads stay on the ground, unless contact is made!"

And finally, this from Lorie Ann in Buelton, California, "As the saying goes, you had a 'light bulb moment.' In the end human beings are the only thing that really matters. People will rebuild the Gulf Coast. I have no doubt."

Thanks, Lori Ann. And frankly, neither do we.

360 continues from New Orleans in a moment. Stay with us.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Thanks very much for watching this special edition of 360. I want to wish you all a happy Mardi Gras and to all the folks here in New Orleans. I'd send you out a pair of our own CNN beads right here. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next, with New Orleans Native Harry Connick, Jr. on life six months after Katrina's devastation.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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