Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

John Couey Convicted of Jessica Lunsford Murder; The Monsters Next Door: Can They Be Stopped?

Aired March 7, 2007 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
We are going to devote much of our time tonight to the Jessica Lunsford case. We will also hear from her father. And we will take you inside the mind of a sex offender, part of a special 360, "The Monsters Next Door: Can They Be Stopped?"

That's ahead.

But we begin with breaking news about an accused traitor. Tonight, a former Navy sailor is charged with trying to help terrorists kill Americans, all while he was on active service.

We just got new sound in from FBI in Phoenix. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH MCCARLEY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: He was charged with providing information that was classified information that did not -- to two individuals that should not have had that information. Basically, it was classified information relating to national defense to individuals who were not supposed to have this information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is monitoring the case from Washington for us.

Peter, what do we know about this guy? This name is Hassan Abujihaad. He was formerly known as Paul Hall. And he was arrested on charges of providing material support to terrorists.

Specifically, do we know what he allegedly did?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it seems that he was passing on classified information about the movements of naval ships, U.S. Navy ships, in the sort of pre-9/11 time period to two people in London, both of whom are linked to al Qaeda, and -- according to the U.S. government.

If it's true, it's quite a serious allegation, because, don't forget, Anderson, this was sort of in a time frame when the USS Cole had recently been bombed in October of 2000 -- the government alleging that classified information about U.S. naval ship movements being passed on from this active-duty U.S. sailor to people affiliated with al Qaeda in the United Kingdom. COOPER: In the Associated Press report that I read, though, it doesn't seem as if there was necessarily any linkage between what this man did and the USS Cole, although, apparently, he praised the attack on the Cole.

Is that your understanding?

BERGEN: Yes.

He praised bin Laden. He praised the Cole. But, you know, the fact that somebody, an active-duty U.S. military person, is engaging in passing on classified information to people who are broadly sympathetic to al Qaeda, I mean, that's a pretty serious charge , if the allegations...

COOPER: Absolutely.

BERGEN: ... prove to be true.

COOPER: I want to read a press release -- we got a press release from the Department of Justice.

And they -- quote -- "Abujihaad described a recent force protection briefing given aboard his ship, voiced enmity toward America, praised Osama bin Laden and the mujahedeen, praised the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and advised members of Azzam Publications that such tactics were working and taking their toll."

What is Azzam Publications?

BERGEN: Azzam Publications is -- basically, it was running an Internet site with -- several different languages out of the United Kingdom, providing a lot of information about jihads around the world, the Chechen jihad, obviously sympathetic to bin Laden, putting information about al Qaeda, sort of a clearinghouse for jihadist information. That was really the biggest site of its kind in the pre- 9/11 time period.

COOPER: Is it known how this guy was -- initially came up on the radar? I mean, the complaint alleges that he was communicating with Azzam while he was on his ship on the USS Benfold, which is one of the ships in the battle group, I guess, whose movements were disclosed.

BERGEN: Well, it seems that British police, perhaps in combination with American authorities, started looking at Azzam Publications. There's already an indictment against a couple of those guys. They're awaiting extradition to the United States.

So, when they looked into this case, then they found a link to the U.S. naval guy who is alleged to have done this -- a leak of classified information.

But, Anderson, one thing that's interesting is, al Qaeda -- this is not the first time al Qaeda has allegedly employed somebody in the active U.S. military. You may remember a guy called Ali Mohamed. He was actually al Qaeda's main trainer. He was a U.S. special -- he actually taught at the U.S. Special Warfare Center in -- in -- in Georgia. He was a sergeant. And he was -- at the same time that he was in the U.S. military, he was going to Afghanistan, meeting with bin Laden, training his bodyguards.

So, if indeed the allegations are true, this is not the first case of its kind, even though it's quite unusual.

COOPER: Remarkable.

Peter Bergen, appreciate it. Thanks for the expertise.

Now to Florida and just -- justice for Jessica. Jessica Lunsford was just 9 years old when a convicted sex offender named John Couey took her from her home, raped her, and buried her alive.

Prosecutors say she was holding her favorite toy, a purple dolphin. Well, today, the defendant, who spent his time during the trial drawing with coloring pencils, stood up and listened as the jury delivered its verdict.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The defendant is guilty of murder in the first degree. The defendant is guilty of burglary of a dwelling with a battery.

The defendant is guilty of kidnapping.

The defendant is guilty of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Emotion on the faces of the -- the family members of little Jessica.

Couey showed virtually no reaction, as you saw. He will either spend the rest of his life in a Florida prison or be executed.

Now, what Couey did to Jessica is probably one of the most horrific crimes we can recall. A lot has been said about him. Tonight, you are going to hear from Couey himself tonight.

CNN's Susan Candiotti reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Evander Couey, cold-blooded killer, in his own words.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JOHN EVANDER COUEY, CONVICTED MURDERER: I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it, buried her, (INAUDIBLE) plastic bag, plastic baggies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she dead already?

COUEY: No, she was alive. I buried her alive.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Buried alive with her favorite stuffed toy.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where's her dolphin at?

COUEY: In there, buried with her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the bag with her?

COUEY: Yes, sir. I let her keep it. She wanted to take it with her.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: A warped moment of humanity from a murderer who buried alive a 9-year-old child?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

COUEY: It was like three days, or something like that. She stayed in the closet. And I was feeding her. You know, I wouldn't let her starve, gave her water and stuff like that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: John Couey's confession was never heard by the jury for legal reasons. But it opened a window into a soul of a sexual predator.

Couey's troubles didn't begin with Jessica Lunsford. When he was only 19, Couey broke into a home and kissed a 12-year-old girl. He did only about two years of a 10-year sentence for violating his probation on a burglary conviction.

In 1991, he was caught fondling a 5-year-old and was convicted of attempted molestation. He was sentenced to five years, but was paroled after only two. In a tape-recorded confession back then, he begged for a cure he didn't get in prison.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

COUEY: So I will never have to do this again. I feel bad about it. Really, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. COUEY: And I don't want to go to prison. I just want to get help for myself. That's what I need. I want help for myself.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: After that confession, Couey told police he once molested his wife's daughter, but she kept it quiet because he gave her a divorce.

At that time, a police officer wrote: "Couey knows he has a problem, however, has never sought medical assistance to help him control his sexual attraction for young children."

And the system didn't give him help either, even after he asked for it. Couey was arrested 25 times by the time he was 46. Finally, two years ago, Couey raped Jessica Lunsford and buried her in a hole. While she was still missing, he sallied up to this bar in Augusta, Georgia, appearing not to have a care in the world. A local TV station videotaped him by chance.

The next day, Couey's days of preying on children were over. Florida cops found him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, the details of this thing are -- it is just -- it's so horrific, when you hear those details of what he did to this little girl.

How was it possible that he was allowed to keep committing these crimes and spend so little time in jail, and, even when he was sentenced, not serving -- I mean serving a fraction of his sentence?

CANDIOTTI: Anderson, that is what a lot of people would like to know.

But, remember, his track record goes back 25 years, so, a lot of time, he was spending his time that he was given. And then he would get out of jail, because there was only so much prison space to go around -- so, did his type, got out, violated law again, back in again.

COOPER: And, I mean, you know, as we're going to talk a lot about tonight, I mean, the treatment is what it is. But it -- it didn't seem like there was any, even, effort to -- to get treatment on his part, even though, according to police, he claimed he knew he had a problem.

CANDIOTTI: He asked for it time and again. You're absolutely right.

And there doesn't seem to be much change in that department, although, even today, the Florida Senate, under new Governor Charlie Crist, has passed something called an anti-murder bill. And this is designed to not get help for these guys, necessarily, but to make sure that violent probation violators don't get bail if they violate their probation again, and that judges can put them back in jail.

But, again, are they getting any help? No.

COOPER: Susan Candiotti, thanks for that.

Mark Lunsford is Jessica's father. Of course, you saw him in the courtroom. He is devoting his life, he says, to saving other kids from predators.

He talked earlier with Larry King.

Here is Mark Lunsford, in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": How rough was it for you, Mark, to be in that courtroom?

MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF JESSICA LUNSFORD: Well, it's -- it's -- it's a pretty hard thing to do. But, you know, I'm not going to leave my daughter to go through this alone. I mean, she already had to be alone when she was with him.

KING: Now, what was it like for you, as the father of this beautiful little girl, to look at Mr. Couey?

LUNSFORD: It just gives me more reasons to -- to go out and try to help other states understand that they need to pass tougher legislation, like Jessie's Law, or to be in compliance with the federal bills that -- that have been passed, the Adam Walsh Act, and for legislators to know we need more.

I mean, we need bills that will produce money for these other bills that we have already passed, so that law -- that the U.S. Marshals, the FBI, local law enforcement, prosecutors can get the tools that they need to get more prosecutions, and put these guys away longer, so we're not doing murder trials.

KING: But looking him, Mark -- looking at him, didn't -- didn't you hate him?

LUNSFORD: Yes, definitely, most definitely, I mean, but that's -- that's what fuels me. I mean, that's where I get -- that's -- that's -- that's where I get my energy to do what I do. It's the anger.

KING: So, all this has changed your life?

LUNSFORD: It does, Larry. It changes everything about your life, everything between the grass being green and the sky being blue. Everything you have ever known is changed.

You lose a lot of things. I mean, you lose people you love, because of your anger or because of what you're going through. But you gain a lot of friends, too, supportive friends that, you know, they just -- they're just there for you, no matter what. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that was Mark Lunsford in his own words.

For death penalty supporters, John Couey makes their case compelling. But those against execution may point to what defense lawyers contend is Couey's mental illness.

Joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

If ever there was the case for the death penalty, though, I mean, when you pay attention to the details of what he did, it's a pretty strong case.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's -- it's hard to believe that he wouldn't get the death penalty.

In every death penalty case, the jury has to be called -- done -- they have to be death-qualified. That means each juror has to say that there are some circumstances they could imagine imposing the death penalty.

People who say they would never impose the death penalty are not death-qualified, so they can never be on the jury. I can't imagine any death-qualified jury not giving Couey the death penalty.

COOPER: The defense, of course, will say mitigating circumstance, try to come up with things from his background. They say there's history of -- of mental illness, possible mental retardation.

TOOBIN: They have to say something. And -- and, certainly, he's had probably a difficult life. And he's had mental problems.

COOPER: Not enough, though?

TOOBIN: But the magnitude of these crimes, and the number of them, and the recidivism, and the -- the brutality of this crime, I -- I just can't imagine, although, I mean, it only takes one juror. This does not have to be a majority. If it's 11-1 for the death penalty, it's not a death penalty, but, I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Hard thing for one juror to stand up, when -- when the entire jury and -- and much of the world is watching.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: The Moussaoui case, that's what happened.

The alleged not -- the -- not alleged terrorist -- the -- the attempted terrorist was denied the death penalty by a vote of 11-1.

COOPER: Even if the jury does, though, suggest the death penalty, in -- in Florida, can that happen? I mean, Governor Jeb Bush put a moratorium on execution.

TOOBIN: Well, in -- in every state that has the lethal injection, there are now legal challenges to whether that procedure is cruel and unusual punishment. And Florida has had worse problems than most.

That problem is going to be worked out, one way or another. It will probably take years. There will be some new method of execution, or they will somehow refine lethal injection. In any event, even if he's sentenced to death in the next few weeks, he will have years of appeals anyway. So, I -- I don't think the -- the mechanical problems will -- will prevent him from being executed.

COOPER: It is just staggering, though, when you look at his record and how little time -- you know, he would get a -- a five-year sentence, and spend two years in jail. I mean...

TOOBIN: And so many of the crimes were the same kind of crimes...

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: ... this -- this -- this horrible behavior with regard to children. And abuse of children is a crime with terrible rates of recidivism.

That's one of the things that is inspiring, you know, the Jessica's Laws and all these laws, that -- that are trying to keep these people in prison longer, because there is no known cure.

I mean, you and Susan were talking about, well, they weren't getting help. He wasn't getting help.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: It's not clear how to help them, particularly.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, it's -- I mean, in certain cases, there's not enough money, but there's no treatment that is anywhere near foolproof.

COOPER: And we are going to talk about that a lot with a doctor...

TOOBIN: Yes.

COOPER: ... who does treat them, also with a sex offender himself who -- who claims he's not committed crimes again. We will talk to him just coming up.

Jeff, thanks very much for that.

In 1994, the Justice Department conducted a study of almost 10,000 convicted male sex offenders in 15 states. They tracked the men for three years after their release from prison. Here's the "Raw Data."

In those three years, 5.3 percent were re-arrested for another sex crime. Forty percent of those who allegedly committed another crime, sex crime, did so in a year or less of their release. On average, the sex offenders served only 3.5 years of their eight-year sentences.

Recidivism rates, however, are much higher than 5 percent. We will talk about that and what treatment options, if any, exist, including chemical castration.

Also ahead tonight:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Inside the mind of a sexual predator.

"STEVEN," CONVICTED PEDOPHILE: It's like a guillotine coming down. There's a child. I remember terrible things happened. I don't want to go there.

COOPER: Pedophiles' deep thought, a criminal, but also a patient. Can predators be cured?

All the angles, when "The Monsters Next Door: Can They Be Stopped?" continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: One of the monsters next door, John Couey, convicted child molester, found guilty today of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.

Convicted pedophiles live among us. That is a fact. Many of their names or pictures and addresses can be found on registered sex offender lists on the Internet -- not all, however. And some of them insist that they suffer from an illness that should be treated, not just punished.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta talked to one convicted sexual offender who says he is proof of that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

"STEVEN," CONVICTED PEDOPHILE: It involved several young male boys over a period of time, from the time I was about 20 to 47, 48 years old. And it wasn't a continuous thing. It was something that went like a broken -- broken tire, flat tire in the car. You would go along and things would be OK, and then you would hit the flat spot, and you would abuse.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no doubt this man is a pedophile. The bigger question, is he a criminal or a patient? STEVEN: I'm the guy that's going to take the long way around a group of kids in a shopping mall.

GUPTA: Steven, who asked for his name to be changed and to be interviewed in silhouette, spent three years in prison, after being convicted of acts of pedophilia as a crime. Since then, he has being treated for pedophilia as an illness.

Admittedly, it is blurry. Increasingly, we medicalize bad behavior. Alcoholism, violence, even murder may all be due to imbalances of chemicals in the brain. But the risk is, we may let criminals pay a lesser price for monstrous deeds or punish patients for whom treatment could prevent future crimes.

STEVEN: It's not a disease, as it's, you know, a bacteria or a virus. It is a mental illness. OK? It's a cognitive dysfunction that people can get. Is somebody born with it? Some people might be born with it.

GUPTA: As for Steven himself, he's not sure whether he was born with it. He is sure that, for almost 30 years, he molested more than a dozen children.

It was only the combined force of the police, court, and prison that could break Steven's cycle of abuse. Pedophilia has been a diagnosable mental illness for decades, simply defined as an abnormal sexual attraction for children.

And while there are no brain scans or blood tests to confirm the diagnoses, there is a battery of treatments, ranging from psychotherapy, to antidepressants, to forms of chemical castration with antiandrogens, aimed at reducing testosterone and sex drive.

DR. PAUL FEDOROFF, PSYCHIATRIST: The aim of treatment in pedophilia is not for people to stop having sex, but rather to modify their sexual interest, so that they become noncriminal.

GUPTA: Steven's course involves two strategies, antidepressants, to curb sex drive, and psychotherapy, to understand why he has abused. Now, nearly eight years after being convicted, he says he no longer thinks of children sexually.

STEVEN: I don't spend enough time thinking about them to have fantasies. So, it's like a guillotine coming down. There's a child. I remember terrible things happened. I don't want to go there. Clank. Done, out of -- let's change our thought pattern, go someplace else.

GUPTA: But can treatment work for everyone? Can pedophilia ever really be cured? Many are cautious, including Dr. Gene Abel, director of behavioral medicine at Emory University.

DR. GENE ABEL, DIRECTOR OF BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Rheumatoid arthritis never goes away. Congestive heart failure is never cured. Diabetes is never cured. This is not cured. This behavior, inappropriate behavior, is not cured. We just help the person stop this behavior.

STEVEN: I would say, when you get to the definition of cured being, "I don't want to, I don't feel like it, and I have no interest," if that's your definition of cured, then you have got a lot of people out there that have been cured.

If your definition of to be cured, never, ever having had a pedophilic thought in your life, then there is no cure. An alcoholic is not a drunk if he never drinks again, all right? Is he cured? Well, might as well be.

GUPTA: As far as pedophiles go, though, for now, at least, they will be treated as both patients and criminals.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sanjay joins me now, along with Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic, and Jake Goldenflame, who is a convicted sex offender, and author of "Overcoming Sexual Terrorism: 60 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Predators."

Dr. Berlin, are pedophiles curable? Can -- can you be cured of this?

DR. FRED BERLIN, FOUNDER, JOHNS HOPKINS SEXUAL DISORDERS CLINIC: No, I don't think you can be cured, but that doesn't mean there can't be successful treatment. We don't cure drug addiction or alcoholism, but many people are successfully treated.

COOPER: Jake, you committed offenses in -- in the 1980s. You say -- you were released from prison in 1991. You say you haven't committed an offense since then.

What is the key to -- to ongoing recovery?

JAKE GOLDENFLAME, REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER: The key to ongoing recovery, I think, is twofold.

Number one, you have to go ahead and have a compact with yourself that, under no conditions, are you going to allow yourself to go back to the kind of person you were, because his soul was so ugly, you can't bear it.

And the second thing you have to do is have a compact with your community. You have got to depend upon the community for support, and solicit that support, because their support is going to help keep you going.

COOPER: But, you know, Jake, there are going to be a lot of people listening to this who just don't buy what you're saying, I mean, who just won't...

GOLDENFLAME: OK. COOPER: ... believe that you haven't re-offended, or that you don't have -- I mean, you admit you have the same thoughts that you had before, the same attraction to in...

GOLDENFLAME: Yes.

COOPER: ... I think, in your case, teenage boys.

GOLDENFLAME: Yes.

COOPER: But you are just forcing yourself not to act on it; is that correct?

GOLDENFLAME: I wouldn't use the word force. I would say I'm stepping side from anything that tempts me.

COOPER: How do you do that?

GOLDENFLAME: Well, for example, I was scheduled to go on a weekend retreat. And I got on board one of our buses, and the only seat available was way in the back. And, when I sat down, I found myself sitting right next to exactly the kind of teenage boy that I find attractive.

Now, I knew right away I'm not so far gone that I'm going to lose him and rape him on the bus. But, on the other hand, I also was honest enough to know that I'm going to spend this ride arm-wrestling with myself mentally for the next two hours. And that's not what I want to do. So, I got off the bus.

And, as I told a reporter on our "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper that story, I said, the bottom line is that the dangerous ones stay on the bus.

COOPER: Sanjay, are -- are there concrete numbers on recidivism?

GUPTA: There are pretty good numbers.

There's a few studies out there. We did some homework on this. A study out Canada showed, within about five years, about 15 percent recidivism rate.

Another more interesting study, I found, was actually looking at the effect of treatment. And it depends how you look at the numbers. They showed, people who were not treated, it was about a 17 percent recidivism rate vs. 12 percent for those who were treated. So, again, it goes to the point, maybe not a cure but, at least some impact from the treatment, Anderson.

COOPER: Sanjay, do you -- do you think -- I mean, in your piece, you talked about whether the -- the main goal was punishment or whether it was treatment. It often seems to be either/or.

GUPTA: Yes.

You know, it's interesting. And I think this one theme came up over and over again. The -- the primary thing is to stop the illegal behavior as quickly as possible.

And -- and one thing, you talk about the Internet a lot a little bit in the piece as well. Finding people on the Internet before they can actually commit a crime sometimes really gets that early treatment started.

When it comes to the treatment, though, from a medical standpoint, you know, there's group therapy. There's relapse therapy. And there's also something known as chemical castration, which I found sort of interesting.

Basically, in a nutshell, it reduces testosterone levels, which, subsequently, a thought is, may reduce urges, and make someone more amenable, more -- more likely to benefit from group therapy.

COOPER: And, Dr. Berlin, how has the Internet made it easier for -- for predators, or made it more difficult to treat?

BERLIN: Well, it has complicated matters.

First of all, it is another venue through which people who might otherwise have approached children to get at them. So, that's clearly out there. But there are also people who get, in a sense, addicted to simply looking at the imagery. The imagery becomes an end in and of itself. It's much more voyeuristic.

We're needing to learn much more about it. The Internet is very insidious. First of all, it blurs -- it blurs the distinction between reality and fantasy. People think it's a -- a big game, when it isn't. All you need to do is push a button to have access to it. It's creating tremendous difficulties in this particular area.

COOPER: We're -- we're going to take a look, coming up, at civil commitments and whether they, in fact, work. And we will talk to you -- to you gentlemen a short time later.

Stay tuned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next tonight: When sexual predators finish their jail sentences, but are considered too dangerous to be released, they're committed to special treatment centers -- new questions, though, tonight about whether or not such civil commitments really work and why they cost four times more than prisons.

Plus: a new idea, special colored license plates for sex offenders, a way to keep your kids safe, so they know who to avoid. Would it work, however? And is it fair?

The debate -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some states keep sex offenders locked up even after they have served their time in prison. Is it legal, and does it even work? Next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The defendant is guilty of murder in the first degree. The defendant is guilty of burglary of a dwelling with a battery. The defendant is guilty of kidnapping. The defendant is guilty of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Convicted sexual predator John Couey found guilty today of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida and burying her alive.

Tonight we're looking at these Monsters Next Door and asking can they be stopped? Most communities don't want sexual predators, of course, but when they finish serving their prison sentences, they have to go somewhere.

A lot of states are now committing them to special treatment centers. And as you're about to see they're expensive, and it's not clear they really work. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I mean there's unknowns out there.

COOPER (voice-over): A therapy station at Larned State Hospital in Kansas. These are convicted sex offenders. They've served their time, but they're not yet free. Kansas is one of 19 states that allow civil commitment, the indefinite confinement of sex offenders considered at high risk of committing sex crimes again.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Traditional crime policy says you serve a sentence, then you go home. Civil commitment says after you finish your criminal sentence, you are confined to a very much jail-like setting, perhaps for the rest of your life.

COOPER: At Larned, they're called residents, not prisoners or patients, 151 of them. Their goal, to get the residents to a stage where they can be released safely back into society.

AUSTIN DES LAURIERS, DIRECTOR, LARNED CLINICAL PROGRAM: The aim of the treatment program is to both provide safety for the citizens of Kansas by providing a secure environment but also to provide a state- of-the-art treatment program for the residents.

COOPER: Some don't respond to treatment or don't want it at all, especially the beginning, when they feel like they've already been punished.

DES LAURIERS: These people typically feel like the system has victimized them at that point, and they're usually quite angry about it.

COOPER: Right now officials say three Larned residents are refusing treatment, but everyone must complete the program even to be considered for release. And it's expensive to get to that point.

On average, the cost is $100,000 a year per resident. Compared that to the cost of prison, about $26,000 a year. In other word, programs like the one at Larned cost the taxpayers four times as much, and there's no guarantee they'll work.

DR. RICHARD KRUEGER, PSYCHIATRIST, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: The release rate is very low.

COOPER: Dr. Richard Krueger is a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He says civil commitment laws are not the best solution.

KRUEGER: They don't allow for adequate treatment or adequate community supervision once somebody is released. And this then impedes the ability of centers to release individuals and sets society up for an ever-expanding group of men who are enormously expensive to maintain who are going nowhere.

COOPER: Nearly 3,000 sex offenders have been in civil commitments since 1990. Only about 250 have been released. That's fewer than 10 percent.

DES LAURIERS: We can offer all the treatment in the world but until they make a decision that I want to change my behavior, it's not going to happen.

COOPER: There's no cure for sex predators, something the staff at Larned readily admits.

DES LAURIERS: It's not something that can be cured in the sense that once it's part of your behavior, you're always going to be capable of it.

COOPER: At Larned, they say the best they can do it help residents control their urges and behaviors.

For now the sex offenders in these programs are off the streets. Society is safe from them, but they're paying for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next, forced therapy. Our panel weighs in. We're going to check in with them again, hear what the doctors and a convicted sexual predator have to say about it.

And another tactic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): Branded a sexual predator. Special license plates for the worst offenders? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it helps us identify that offender then it's worth doing.

COOPER: One state is considering it. Others could follow. A modern-day scarlet letter? Fair or not? You decide when "The Monsters Next Door: Can They Be Stopped?" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're watching a special edition of 360, "The Monsters Next Door: Can They Be Stopped?"

More now on forced therapy for sexual predators. As we mentioned it's being done in 19 states right now. It is very expensive, four times more than prison. And the sex offenders are held indefinitely.

I talked more about it with our panel, 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic and Jake Goldenflame, the convicted sex offender and author of "Overcoming Sexual Terrorism".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dr. Berlin, if there's any doubt whether a sexual offender can be fully rehabilitated what should the system do? I mean, if you're saying a cure is not possible, what should all of us do?

DR. FRED BERLIN, JOHNS HOPKINS SEXUAL DISORDERS CLINIC: Well, first of all, if I may, we need to get past hypocrisy. You know, we have a situation where a man goes into prison. And if he says he's ill and needs treatment the attitude is who is he kidding? He's trying to beat the rap.

Then he serves his time, and then 20 years later, at that point, we say now he needs treatment. We can't let him go. We've got to provide that for him.

I'm very worried when it comes to civil commitment that this could be a ruse for preventative detention for keeping people who served their time longer. And if we're going to do that, let's talk about it openly, but don't pretend it's treatment, if indeed that's not the intent.

COOPER: So in prison, Dr. Berlin, is there any real treatment?

BERLIN: In most cases there isn't. And I think civil commitment would make a lot more sense to me if we began treatment early on in prison, tried our best and then perhaps reserved it for those who either refused it or, in spite of it, still seem to be a considerable risk to the community.

COOPER: Jake, what do you think? Civil commitment, does it work? This is increasingly popular in states around the country.

JAKE GOLDENFLAME, AUTHOR, "OVERCOMING SEXUAL TERRORISM": Anderson, I'm sorry to say that in my personal opinion, and I have been in a civil commitment facility where I've run recovery workshops I hear from a lot of these guys in there. I know staff people who work in those programs.

By and large across the country in my opinion the program is in breakdown because not enough people are being released for two reasons. And these are two defects the program has to adjust, if it's -- adjust to if it's going to work.

One problem is, the release decision is always made by a civil jury. Now, imagine the average person sitting on a jury. How can they possibly go home and say, "Well, I let this guy out, and he's a convicted child molester or a convicted rapist." People can't do that so they don't let these guys out even though years have gone by since their offense and doctors say that these men have made progress.

The second problem is, staff itself is increasingly telling me they're getting pressure from politicians above them not to let anybody out, no matter what.

COOPER: Dr. Gupta, in your opinion from what you've seen are civil commitment programs effective?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think it could be effective, but I think one of the tenets, and I think what Dr. Berlin is sort of alluding to, is whether a crime was committed or not. And you can't -- the hypocrisy may be there.

But you can't get beyond the fact of whether there was a crime. And if there was it needs to be punished like any other crime would. And if it's treatment that's needed as well, maybe getting the treatment within some sort of punishment sort of area might be a better way to do that.

COOPER: How, Jake, are these civil commitment centers different from prisons? I mean, if you can be held there indefinitely in some cases or for your entire life, how is that different than being in prison?

GOLDENFLAME: Well, it's kind of like the difference between having a chair that is upholstered to sit on or a plain metal chair without any upholstery. That's the difference.

I mean, prison is a harsh place. Things are very basic. And of course, you can't leave the place. In a civil commitment program they're a little more comfortable, cosmetically it looks a little more like a treatment center or a day room than it does a prison. But you've still got the fact you can't leave there.

COOPER: Just so I'm clear, Dr. Berlin, your problem with civil commitment, besides the notion that some of these people should have gotten treatment earlier while they were in prison, is what?

BERLIN: My concern as a physician is that we not misuse the medical establishment and the notion of treatment as a pretense to simply keep these men locked up indefinitely. If we want to do that let's say that's what we're doing, but don't pretend we're treating if we're really not.

COOPER: Dr. Fred Berlin, Jake Goldenflame, Sanjay Gupta. Guys, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: On the 360 blog we asked can sexual predators be cured? A lot of you are weighing in. Everyone seems to say no. Here's what's on the radar.

Bev in Ontario, Canada, writes, "I think there is enough evidence now to show that these sexual predators cannot be either helped or healed. It certainly isn't worth the life of even one more child to give these animals a chance to reoffend. They should never be allowed to see the light of day again."

Cynthia in Covington, Georgia, says, "I don't believe a sexual predator, child molester, whatever you want to call them, can be rehabilitated. And I think it's just a waste of the taxpayers' money to even try. I agree something needs to be done with them, she says, to keep them off the streets so they can't harm any more children, but I don't think rehab is the way."

And David in L.A. puts it this way: "They cannot be cured. They need to be watched the rest of their lives."

As always, we welcome your comments. Go to the CNN.com/360blog and weigh in.

Up next, another tactic against sexual offenders. One state wants to brand predators' cars with a fluorescent green license plate. Is it going too far? Or will this actually help? The debate when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up later tonight, the struggle to save a baby. The mission would stretch all the way from Iraq to a medical team here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Neff performs hundreds of these surgeries every year, but he says this one might be one of his toughest. It's because he's not sure how extensive the nerve damage might be. So he's going to have to conduct a few tests first.

The question is, will this little boy's luck continue to hold out?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We'll find out what happens to the little boy in a rare look inside the operating room. That's ahead on 360. But first more of our special, "The Monsters Next Door: Can They Be Stopped?" Lawmakers in Ohio want to try something new. They're proposing legislation that would require violent sex offenders and child predators to place fluorescent green license plates on their cars. The bill is called Kristen's Law, after a 14-year-old girl who was raped and killed by a convicted sex offender. She got into his car.

I spoke with state senator Kevin Coughlin, who introduced the bill, and behavioral scientist Ken Lanning earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator Coughlin, you think this legislation is going to protect communities. Are you concerned that people will target these vehicles, vandalize these cars or attack the people inside?

KEVIN COUGHLIN, OHIO STATE SENATOR: No, I'm not because we don't have any data that would suggest that that's going to happen. It's been over a decade since we've been telling people exactly where sex offenders live in the state of Ohio, publishing their pictures and their crimes and their addresses on the Internet and spreading it throughout the community, and we haven't seen that.

And it's been a few years since we've had yellow license plates in our state on the cars of repeat drunk drivers, and we haven't seen vigilantism there.

People really don't want to take the law into their own hands. That's a crime in and of itself. But what they do want is information so that they can make decisions for themselves and their own safety.

COOPER: The purpose of the colored license plates, Senator, is that -- is it partially embarrassment? Is it just simply to notify people?

COUGHLIN: Well, it's one part deterrent, but it's mostly notification. If we can stop a child from accepting a ride, if we can be able to find a sex offender who is on the prowl looking over a schoolyard or a playground, maybe in violation of their release, if it helps us identify that offender, then it's worth doing.

COOPER: Ken, do you think this will protect communities?

KEN LANNING, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, I don't know. What I would really like to see is that I believe that in a free society, any legislature can pass constitutional laws to address the problem, but hopefully those laws would be passed after careful and objective study of the problem: what is the nature of the problem, what do you hope to address, and how you hope this particular legislation is going to address and solve the problem.

I do agree that there have been minor problems with vigilantism. It's not a huge issue, but I think assaulting a car is a little bit easier than assaulting an individual.

But that's a minor point. I think we need to consider as to who is going to get these license plates and what do we hope to achieve by having these license plates on the car.

COOPER: Senator, is there any evidence that this works?

COUGHLIN: Well, we would be the first state to do it. And what I want to make clear is that it isn't open to all sex offenders. We're not after the low grade sex offenders here, the public urinators or the 21-year-old who dates a 16-year-old and ends up with a sex offense on their record.

We're after violent sex offenders who rape, commit sexual battery, murder, aggravated murder, kidnapping with a sexual motivation and prey on our children. Those are the kind of offenders we're after.

And we think really it's about giving people another tool in the tool chest so that they have information on the whereabouts of these offenders in our neighborhoods.

COOPER: Ken, does that distinction make sense to you?

LANNING: No, it doesn't. What we have to understand is that the major distinction between the sexual victimization of adults and the sexual victimization of children is one simple word: consent.

With adults in order for it to be a sex crime you have to have lack of consent and violence. You can have sexual criminals, sexual assault of children, without there being any violence.

And because an offender happens to groom and manipulate and seduce a child who cooperates -- I don't use the word consent, but cooperates in their victimization, those individuals, in my opinion, can be very dangerous. They are the most persistent and prolific of all known child molesters.

And to simply exclude individuals who happen to groom and seduce adolescent children doesn't make any sense to me.

COOPER: Senator, what's to stop the predator from putting the car in his wife's name or his brother's name and thereby skirting the law? Or if the car is in his name and his son driving it or his daughter or his wife, do you worry about, you know, people looking -- seeing the license plate and assuming that person is a predator?

COUGHLIN: Well, it doesn't matter if the car is registered in the offender's name. It's whatever vehicle the offender operates.

So the offender -- you know, you can have multiple cars in a family that are registered in the offender's name, and one of them would have to have the green plate if that's the one that the individual is going to drive.

There's also -- I understand that there are people who might have financial hardships and have only one car. And we do provide for rentals here, although if you commit a crime, a sex crime while operating a rental vehicle, it's going to be an automatic five years added onto your sentence. But we understand that there will be some hardships for some families. But most families have more than one car, and not every car in the family will have to have the green plate.

COOPER: Senator Coughlin, appreciate your perspective. And Ken Lanning, as well. Thank you very much, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Interesting discussion. A look at tonight's other headlines ahead, plus the latest chapter in the astronaut love triangle. We'll tell you if the suspect still has a future in orbit.

Also beer lovers rejoice. A gadget that every couch potato will love. Yikes. It's our "Shot of the Day" when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, "The Shot of the Day" is coming up. I don't want to give too much away except to say that it's very good news for lazy beer drinkers.

First, Kiran Chetry joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin".

Hey, Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: So nice of you to tailor "The Shot of the Day" to my hobbies.

All right, Anderson. Let's get right to it. The NASA astronaut who police say tried to kidnap her ex-boyfriend's new love interest has now been fired from the space program.

Prosecutors say Lisa Nowack drove 500 miles from Houston, attempting to confront and conduct Colleen Shipman at the Orlando, Florida, airport. NASA says because Nowack is a naval officer and not a NASA employee, it can't deal with the disciplinary issues arising from her criminal charges.

Quick look at Wall Street. Reports of slowing economic growth. And more bad news on the housing market. Both of those helped push stock prices a bit lower today, the Dow finishing down just 15 points. The S&P 500 dropped 3 points. And the NASDAQ fell 10.

Turkish courts have banned YouTube after the site allegedly broadcast videos insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. According to Turkish media reports, the ban was prompted by a battle between Greeks and Turks in which Ataturk and the Turkish people were described as homosexuals.

Well, here in the U.S., a Georgia truck driver is a whole lot richer tonight after winning last night's record $370 million lottery jackpot. Fifty-two-year-old Ed Neighbors says that he plans to buy some property for himself and for his daughter with his winnings. That will be $80 million after taxes. He's the first of two to claim the Mega Millions prize. A second ticket was sold in Woodbine, New Jersey.

COOPER: I came this close.

CHETRY: So there's still a chance.

COOPER: We had a pool, it seems. It came very close indeed.

And take a look. I don't know if you've seen "The Shot of the Day". If you're slumped in front of the TV drinking a beer, watching the game, when you finish the beer and can't be bothered to actually get up off the couch to get another one, here's a machine for you. It's a problem which engineer John Cornwell designed.

Recently graduated and homesick for college life, he modified a dorm fridge to launch up to ten cans of beer. A small elevator lifts the beer out of the fridge, loads it into a catapult, then tosses the can as far as 20 feet. Super Bowl parties may never be the same.

And after a little while, as you no longer can catch it, it can hit you in the head and knock you out and make you go to sleep.

CHETRY: That's why it ends at 10, right? That's why it can only hold ten, just for safety purposes.

COOPER: Always a wise thing. Don't try that at home.

We want you to give "The Shot" a shot. If you see some amazing video tell us about it, or you invent a beer machine for yourself, CNN.com/360. We'll put some the best suggestions on the air.

Ahead tonight the latest on the Jessica Lunsford verdict. We'll also play you the confession that the jury never got to hear.

And hope for a baby. From the war zone in Iraq to a hospital in Texas, doctors a world away reach out to help a child.

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

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines