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Endorsement Fever Hits Campaign Trail; Can Huckabee Win Presidency?

Aired December 17, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Mike Huckabee, out in front in Iowa, releases a new ad, wishing voters a merry Christmas, and controversy erupts over his bringing Christ into it. We're digging deeper on that and "Keeping Them Honest" on what's behind his surging campaign.
Also tonight, "Crime and Punishment": a rapist set free with orders to educate himself. So, he goes to school and learns how to become a serial killer and how to avoid capture. We will tell you how police finally got on his trial.

And later, an American imprisoned in Nicaragua for a murder he says he did not commit. A court says he should go free, so why isn't he free tonight? Late new details on that.

But we begin with a string of new developments in the campaign. And what a campaign it is. With only a few stumping days left until Christmas and just 17 until the Iowa caucuses, things are starting to happen now bim, bam, boom.

We got big names trying to swing the outcome with their endorsements, Joe Lieberman for McCain, Bob Kerrey for Clinton, "The Des Moines Register" for Clinton and McCain, Iowa's first lady for Edwards.

The question is, does any of this really matter to voters?

We asked CNN's Candy Crowley to check the record and the "Raw Politics."


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Endorsements and reinforcements rain down. Can Hillary Clinton pull it off in Iowa? She will try with a little help from her friends.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Iowa, I want you to have some flavor of who I am, you know, outside of the television cameras, when all the cameras and the lights disappear, what I do when nobody is listening or taking notes and recording it.

CROWLEY: They call it The Hillary I Know, an attempt to soften Clinton's public persona with gauzy testimonials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And let me tell you, this is a good, hardworking friend. She's loyal to her friends. She remembers them. She remembers their kids.

CROWLEY: An endorsement of the more traditional sort came over the weekend when "The Des Moines Register" gave its nod to Clinton as the most ready to make the changes needed. "Every stage of her life has prepared her for the presidency."

It was a welcome headline for a campaign that's been off it's game.

CLINTON: I was thrilled and honored to get the endorsement of "The Des Moines Register." They put us through our paces.


CROWLEY: To the endorsee go the headlines and the bragging rights. But, before anyone gets too carried away, no Democrat endorsed by "The Des Moines Register" has ever won Iowa -- repeat, not ever.

Wives of Iowa governors have a better track record. In 2004, Christie Vilsack, wife of Governor Tom Vilsack, endorsed John Kerry, and he won, which is why camp Edwards is so atwitter that he has been endorsed by Mari Culver, wife of the current governor.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm also proud to have her support because she's going to help me win the Iowa caucuses on January 3.


CROWLEY: Barack Obama also got a piece of the news with the endorsement of "The Boston Globe" and Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack, though even he's not sure what this means.

REP. DAVID LOEBSACK (D), IOWA: Well, that's hard to say, to be honest. But all I know is that, between now and January 3, to the extent to which my schedule allows me to do so, I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can to make sure that she's the nominee, that he wins the caucuses in Iowa, that he goes on to become the nominee.

CROWLEY: And what are we to make of this? Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who ran as vice president on the Gore ticket in 2000, endorsed John McCain, who's running as a Republican in 2008.


You know, political parties are important in our country. But they're not more important than what's best for our country. They're not more important than friendship.

CROWLEY: It's possible cross-party pollination could prompt independents in New Hampshire to take another look at McCain, or maybe it will hurt McCain among Republicans, or maybe it won't matter. That's the thing about endorsements. The direct value on caucus or voting day is questionable. But, in a campaign with 14 candidates, a little attention is a good thing. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was Candy Crowley. She will be joining us again shortly.

Now Mike Huckabee making big ad buys this week in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He's also ramping up his paid staff in a campaign that, up until now, has largely relied on volunteers.

Governor Huckabee who, in past ads, has referred to himself as a Christian leader, has a new message on the airwaves.

Take a look.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you about worn of all the television commercials you have been seeing, mostly about politics? I don't blame you.

At this time of year, sometimes, it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ and being with our family and our friends.

I hope that you and your family will have a magnificent Christmas season. And, on behalf of all of us, God bless and merry Christmas.

I'm Mike Huckabee, and I approve this message.


COOPER: We will talk about that ad in a moment.

But it's that folksy style that has attracted many in Iowa to the candidate virtually unknown just a couple months ago. So, what's behind the Huckabee surge?

Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It just looks like Mike Huckabee came out of nowhere. In fact, the Huckabee surge started in August at the Iowa straw poll. Mitt Romney spent millions of dollars to come in first. Huckabee came in second on a shoestring. How did he do it? And how does he keep doing it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

JOHNS: Up close and personal, face to face, which is how it works in Iowa presidential politics.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The first thing Mike Huckabee has going for him is that he's a wonderful retail politician.

JOHNS: Copy that, but a lot of other politicians are pretty good on the ground.

What sets Huckabee apart, besides being funny and likable, is that he has credentials that many social conservatives want, but many were afraid to support him early because they didn't think he had a chance. The selling point for them is that he's an ordained Southern Baptist minister, but he's not heavy-handed about it.

AYRES: A non-threatening conservative. He doesn't look like he's ready to go out and bash people. He's not a foaming-at-the-mouth conservative.

JOHNS: Remember he answered that question on what would Jesus do about the death penalty in the CNN/YouTube debate?

HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.



JOHNS: Another upside is the fact that Huckabee is a former governor, comes out of the executive branch of state politics, far enough away from Washington to keep from getting slimed.

(on camera): "Keeping Them Honest," there are some downsides to Huckabee, too. He's not all smiles. He even admits occasionally losing his temperature. And his legacy as governor isn't all positive.

(voice-over): He's been slammed for his role in the prison release of a convicted rapist who went on to commit other crimes, which could lead to some tough attack ads.

Another downside is foreign policy. One social conservative said Huckabee was almost naive to a criminal level on foreign policy, and cited an article written by Huckabee in "The Journal of Foreign Affairs," in which he likened Osama bin Laden to Brer Rabbit.

The question, whether Huckabee is ready for prime time. Republican pollster Whit Ayres says it's not necessarily a big issue.

AYRES: Most governors do not have great experience in foreign affairs.

JOHNS: Then there's money and organization, what might be called a jumbo-jet-sized problem. Huckabee's attempt to create a big-time campaign and organization this late in the game has been compared to trying to build a 747 while flying in the air. Maybe so, but at least he's got altitude.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, he's also got a tone that resonates among evangelicals.

Here to talk about that and all the other developments of the last 48 hours, CNN's Candy Crowley, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and David Gergen, adviser to presidents from Nixon to Bill Clinton.

Tony, in this new ad, Mike Huckabee talks about Jesus. No other candidate has the faith credentials that Mike Huckabee has. And, yet, big-name Christian leaders haven't gotten behind him. Why is that?

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think, number one, if -- for instance, in the Family Research Council, in the 25-year history of our organization, no FRC has ever endorsed a candidate.

Another one that is talked is Jim Dobson, why hasn't he endorsed him. The first candidate he ever endorsed was George W. Bush his second term in 2004, when he knew exactly what he was endorsing. So, it's not unusual for evangelical leaders not to endorse. Our role is not to make a president. Our role in Washington is to shape public policy .


COOPER: But, I mean, you were talking about a third-party candidate a couple of months ago.

PERKINS: Absolutely.

COOPER: I remember speaking to you about it.


COOPER: Huckabee, though, on paper would seem to fulfill a lot of the things that a group like yours is looking for, no?

PERKINS: Oh, there's -- there's no question about it, that he is an attractive candidate. His -- his rise really began when he came to our event in Washington.

And I have to say, it wasn't just because he came to our event. It was because he began to clearly articulate these core -- articulate these core conservative positions, which he was not doing prior to that. That was an area he left to Mitt Romney. That's why Mitt Romney was doing well. He has really begun to hit those issues hard.

Those are issues that, really, we saw in 2004 that made the value voters so important to George W. Bush when he won reelection.

COOPER: So, David, Iowa was supposed to belong to Mitt Romney. He certainly spent enough there. How did Huckabee manage to come out ahead? Tony Perkins is saying, you know, he -- he started talking about core conservative values. DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, it's certainly true that Mitt Romney has spent a lot there, Anderson. He has spent more than eight times as much as Mike Huckabee has, and, yet, now he finds himself behind in the polls.

I think that, when Rudy Giuliani went on top early in this race nationwide, there was a sense that, especially, I think a number of us shared, that perhaps social evangelicals this year were going to put terrorism and the fear of terrorism above their other social concerns.

And, in fact, what I think we now know is that they were looking for a candidate. And they looked -- they thought maybe George Allen was going to run. He didn't. They looked at Mitt Romney. And he -- he had flip-flopped too many times. They thought Sam Brownback might carry that.

And then they looked at Fred Thompson. They have been shopping. And they have now settled on this most improbable candidate who has taken off like a rocket. And -- but they seem to be gathering force behind him.

COOPER: Candy, for obvious reasons, Romney has been going after Mike Huckabee hard these past couple of weeks. This weekend, he demanded that the governor apologize to President Bush, I think, for calling his foreign policy "an arrogant bunker mentality," was the quote.

But we haven't heard, really, Rudy Giuliani speak out about Huckabee. How does Giuliani benefit from a strong finish in Iowa for Huckabee?

CROWLEY: Well, I think anybody actually benefits from that, I mean, whether it's Giuliani or whether it's John McCain.

What happens here is, they're sort of looking at the chaos strategy. OK? Let's say that Huckabee comes out of here the winner. They believe that Mitt Romney looks stronger in New Hampshire, although, obviously, that Iowa bounce counts for something.

They also weren't sure that Huckabee has the money or the organization to sustain this. So, what these others are looking for is a weakened Romney, so they can then move into New Hampshire or into South Carolina, depending on where they have put their eggs, in what -- which basket.

But, nonetheless, I think the people rooting the hardest at this point for Mike Huckabee have to be John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and the like. So, they obviously would like to see Huckabee come out of here. But they're banking that Huckabee won't be as strong in these next states. And, right now, Huckabee isn't showing much strength in New Hampshire. But a lot can change when that Iowa number comes in.

COOPER: Yes, it's a dangerous strategy.

Tony Perkins, David Gergen, Candy, stay right there. We are going to continue our conversation on the other side of this break. We will also dig deeper on all these endorsements, whether they even really even matter.

Also tonight, these stories:


COOPER (voice-over): Tracking a killer who thought like a cop.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you ever think that you might be chasing another cop?

CHIEF CARL KINNISON, CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, you know, there was some speculation, of course.

COOPER: How this rapist got out of prison, went to college, and learned to become an almost unstoppable serial killer -- "Crime and Punishment" tonight.

Also ahead: anatomy of a jailbreak. A Hollywood-style escape, but the twist really takes it to another level. We will show you what they did on their way out that has everyone talking -- tonight on 360.



COOPER: John McCain today, you can almost see "I have just been endorsed by a kinda, sorta Democrat" glow on his cheeks.

Senator Joe Lieberman gave him the nod today. Over the weekend, he bagged "The Boston Globe" and "The Des Moines Register." Hillary Clinton snagged "The Register," too.

The real question, though, what does it really mean for here on out?

Back now with CNN's Candy Crowley, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Tony, John McCain certainly certain seemed a big winner from all these endorsements, his campaign, you know, left for dead just about two months ago. He's now gotten Lieberman. He's gotten "The Des Moines Register."

Does it matter for him at this point?

PERKINS: Oh, I think he's one to watch. I think John McCain is still very much in this race. He was right on the war in Iraq and the surge. It seems to be working, proving him to be -- having good foresight in his position there.

And he's a fighter. And when it -- you know, when -- David was mentioning earlier about the issue of terrorism, that still is an issue for a lot of voters, secondary to evangelical voters, but still a very big issue. That's why Giuliani does well among many voters. John McCain has just as good of credentials, if not more, on that issue. So, I think he's one to watch.

COOPER: David, in this world where, I mean, there's blogs. People -- these folks are on cable news all day along, newspapers, the Internet. How important are these endorsements? I mean, it almost seems kinds of old-fashioned.

GERGEN: Well, they -- they, in and of themselves, are not that important. "The Register," as you reported, they haven't endorsed anybody on the Democratic side who has won, actually won, Iowa or the won the nomination since 1980.

But for Hillary Clinton to get that endorsement has brought a good press to her. After a long string of bad stories about her campaign fumbling, she's finally got a story that's good. And think how much worse it would have been for her had both "The Globe" and "The Register" endorsed Barack Obama. You know, we would all be talking about his surge, Mike Huckabee and -- and Barack Obama both, you know, really, really moving.

But now this gives -- you know, this changes the -- the atmosphere in Iowa some. And I think it -- and with her helicopter tour that she's doing, these softer ads, I mean, she's obviously trying to move back from that tense debate.

By the way, if I can just add, on the Huckabee thing, I do think there are -- there's going to be a backlash against him among some other conservatives, not the evangelicals. There are some conservatives who are terrified about the prospect of him winning the nomination. They think he would be another Goldwater.

COOPER: Why, because he couldn't win a national race?

GERGEN: They think that, well, he's not a -- he's not a serious person when it comes to foreign policy, for example, that his views are -- as a former Baptist minister, his views on social issues perfectly understandable, very appealing.

But when it actually -- you look a more closely at his record, they just don't think it will stand up to the kind of media scrutiny that's going to come and the bashing from Democrats.


COOPER: Tony, do you buy that? I mean, I talked to Mike Huckabee about that. And he said, look, Ronald Reagan had no foreign policy experience before...

PERKINS: No. I think David -- David does make a very valid point.

And I think, going back to an earlier question you asked about why are some evangelicals holding back beyond what I mentioned, and that is because the conservative coalition really is made up of three elements, fiscal conservatives, foreign policy conservatives, and social conservatives.

And I think, out of respect to the other members of the coalition, some evangelicals have held back...

COOPER: Right.

PERKINS: ... because he is a challenge to some in the foreign policy ranks. And even some fiscal conservative groups are opposed to him.


PERKINS: So, to win, you have got to have all three together.

COOPER: Candy, "The New York Times" today reporting Bill Clinton has given his wife's campaign a new mantra, change, change, change.

On the trail today in Iowa, she used that word an awful lot. Let's a play the sound bite.


CLINTON: Everybody talks about change in this election. People have different ideas about how to bring about change. Some people believe you can get change by demanding it. And some people believe you can get change by hoping for it.

Well, I believe the way you get change is by working hard for it. Persistence, perseverance, even some perspiration, that is how you change lives, you change institutions. That is what I have done my whole life. That is what I will do as your president, because I intend to give America a new beginning.


COOPER: Thirty-three-second sound bite, I think the word change is mentioned seven times. Is she trying to out-Obama Obama?

CROWLEY: Well, listen, this election has always been about change, particularly on the Democratic side.

The question has boiled down to not just, do we need change -- Democrats go, you betcha -- but who is best able to bring it about? And that's where the Clinton campaign comes in and says, listen, we're the ones with the most experience. We all believe that change needs to be made, but I'm the one that can actually make it happen.

So, that's where the battle is right now, is over who can take the reins of the Democratic Party and, hopefully, for them, go to the White House and actually make that change happen.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.

David Gergen, Tony Perkins, Candy Crowley, appreciate you all being on the program. Thank you.

PERKINS: Good night, Anderson.

Overseas, a special delivery to Iran. Erica Hill has that and more in our 360 bulletin -- a new beginning.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, new questions tonight about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Tehran got its first shipment of nuclear fuel today from Russia. President Bush says the delivery gives Iran another reason not to enrich its own uranium. But Iran says it would continue the problem and insists the uranium will only be used to generate electricity.

On Wall Street, stock falling on inflation worries -- the Dow sank 172 points, to close at 13167. The Nasdaq fell 61. The S&P dropped 22 points.

In northern New Jersey, a brazen jailbreak borrowing a page from "The Shawshank Redemption" -- the search is now on for two inmates who escaped over the weekend by digging through their cell walls. And then they jumped over a 30-foot-high barbed-wire fence, took that jump from a roof.

The inmates even took time to leave a note for the guards, actually thanking them for the tools they used to escape. They wrote -- quote -- "You're a real pal. Happy holiday," even put a little smiley face at the end.

And, in L.A. -- tough to believe -- earlier today, Pamela Anderson reportedly filed for divorce again, after just two months of marriage. But now TMZ is reporting that divorce is off. She doesn't want to break up with her third husband, they say, Rick Salomon.

He, of course, is best known for co-starring with Paris Hilton in that sex tape seen around the Internet four years ago.

And they said it wouldn't last. Look, they're patching things up.

COOPER: Well, you know, what -- how would you feel if the -- your biggest claim to fame, that be you appeared in some grainy sex tape with Paris Hilton?

HILL: Not so good.

COOPER: Not so good.

HILL: Not going to lie.


Well, all right. Well, maybe he will accomplish something else in his life.

HILL: A girl can dream.

(LAUGHTER) COOPER: Erica, "What Were They Thinking?" is next. And look who has us scratching our heads tonight. That's right. It's the Zuiikin Gals gals -- back to teach us English and aerobics.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: That's right. The Zuiikin Gals make learning fun and fat-burning.

We're back in just 60 seconds.


COOPER: Erica, tonight, it's the Zuiikin Gals who have us asking, "What Were They Thinking?"

You remember, of course, the Zuiikin Gals of Japanese TV. They teach English. And they do aerobics at the same time.


ZUIIKIN GALS, SINGERS (singing): I have a bad case of diarrhea. I have a bad case of diarrhea. I have a bad case of diarrhea.


COOPER: That's right.

HILL: It's a song I can't get out of my head, Anderson.


COOPER: I know. We fell in love with them with their bad case of diarrhea. And after showing us that -- after showing that, we got a lot of e-mails from viewers informing us that the Zuiikin Gals have a whole host of English lessons for us.

Take a look.


ZUIIKIN GALS (singing): Take anything you want. Take anything you want. Take anything you want.


COOPER: You want to try that the next time you're being robbed?

HILL: I was just going to say, if you're being mugged on the street, that's definitely the phrase you want to have handy.

COOPER: And then you run away.

HILL: Perfect.

COOPER: And, if you're tired of a special someone in your life, but you don't know what to tell them, try this.


ZUIIKIN GALS (singing): I can't stand the sight of you. I can't stand the sight of you. I can't stand the sight of you.



COOPER: In some countries, you just have to say that three times, and you're actually divorced.

HILL: It would come in handy for Pamela Anderson.


COOPER: That's right. "Rick Salomon, I cannot stand the sight of you."


COOPER: And, in this one, we learn that no one likes to be made fun of.



ZUIIKIN GALS (singing): Don't make fun of me. Don't make fun of me. Don't make fun of me.


HILL: I don't -- I don't anybody who would make fun of these ladies. I mean, they have a fine sense of fashion. I love the scrunchies. And their moves are -- well, they're really good.

COOPER: See, and then every -- and then the men can get in on it, too.

HILL: Nice.

COOPER: Because it's true. No one likes to be made fun of.


COOPER: Remember that, Erica Hill.

HILL: No, definitely not.

COOPER: All right.

HILL: I would never make fun of you, Anderson Cooper.

(LAUGHTER) COOPER: Yes, I know, not to my face, at least.


COOPER: Erica, thanks.

Now here's Kiran Chetry with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."



Tomorrow, we bring you the most news in the morning, including what you may not know about asbestos. A popular game for kids has been pulled over asbestos fears. And you might be surprised to hear what else might contain it, and all of it perfectly legal.

We will show you. "AMERICAN MORNING" begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern -- Anderson back to you.


COOPER: Kiran, thanks.

Still ahead: an American sentenced to 30 years in a Nicaraguan prison for murder. He claims he didn't do it. Well, today, in a dramatic reversal, an appeals court agreed. We will speak with the mother of Eric Volz.

And, if you testify against a criminal, you expect the state to protect you, right? Well, tonight, we reveal the huge holes in witness protection programs. We're "Keeping Them Honest."


COOPER: In "Crime and Punishment" tonight: The governor of Missouri is pressing for the extradition of a 63-year-old alleged serial murderer and convicted rapist now behind bars in Illinois.

He has confessed to committing a string of murders when he was a young -- when he was much younger. Now, the cases sat cold for nearly three decades, but turned red-hot recently, and, last week, broke wide open.

The crimes are chilling on their own, but wait until you hear how the killer literally got away with murder for so long.

In "Crime and Punishment" tonight, here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He always preyed on women he could easily overpower. He always struck at night to avoid detection. When he killed, he never spoke of it to anyone. And, for decades, he was the serial killer without a face. Investigators found many of his victims in their beds, bound, raped and shot in the head. But the killer avoided suspicion in as many as nine murders with moves that were so calculated, police sometimes wondered if they were hunting one of their own.

(on camera): Did you ever think that you might be chasing another cop?

CHIEF CARL KINNISON, CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, you know, there was some speculation, of course. As you're investigating these offenses, you don't want to close any doors.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Carl Kinnison, police chief of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, didn't know it, but, as a graduate student, he and the killer, a man named Timothy Krajcir, may have crossed paths frequently in the early '80s on the campus of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

In and out of prison for rape and other sexual offenses, Krajcir was released in 1981, with a court stipulation that he get a college degree. He graduated from the university in justice administration, a curriculum designed for future cops.

KINNISON: Most of the time, it's people that are interested pursuing a law enforcement career.

MATTINGLY: Around the time he was enrolled, Krajcir killed five women in Cape Girardeau, an hour's drive from campus. Stalking strangers in other towns was one way he stumped detectives.

KINNISON: It's very difficult to track someone who -- who comes into your community, commits a crime, and then leaves.

MATTINGLY (on camera): What classes Krajcir might have been taking while he was here on campus is not really clear. The university tells us they no longer have those records. But one thing is certain: His choice of majors was a strange one. Considering his violent criminal record, Krajcir would have had no hope whatsoever of ever landing a job in law enforcement.

(voice-over): But, while he couldn't get police work, he was learning how police think.

LT. PAUL ECHOLS, CARBONDALE, ILLINOIS, POLICE DEPARTMENT : He would understand the importance of what we know today as forensic sciences, basically, latent fingerprint development and what the significance of fingerprints would be.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Police say the killer left behind important evidence at all of the crime scenes, but it was never enough to point the finger at anyone, that is, until he came to one house here in this neighborhood in Cape Girardeau.

The killer left behind a footprint, a palm print, blood, and semen. It was everything investigators needed 25 years later to finally solve this case. (voice-over) Krajcir, now 63, was already serving time in an Illinois prison for rape when his days of silence came to an end in October.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have had a conversation with him where he's acknowledged that, as the science grew, he knew that at some point this day was going to arrive.

MATTINGLY: It was the one thing Krajcir couldn't have studied in college, how breakthroughs in DNA testing one day would match him to the Cape Girardeau murders and lead to confessions in nine murders in four states.

David Mattingly, CNN, Carbondale, Illinois.


COOPER: Unbelievable.

Another kind of crime story when we continue, only this time the guy in prison almost certainly did not do it.

An American far from home, caught in a nightmarish justice system. Tonight his big break, but just moments ago we found out it is not over yet.


COOPER (voice-over): His murder trial caused a riot. Then it broke his mother's heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a guilty verdict.

COOPER: But she never gave up, and tonight a court says let him go. But there's a last-minute twist. We'll talk with his mom.

Also, they witnessed crimes. They wanted to do the right thing, but when they came forward, they got no protection. Worse, some say they weren't even told protection was available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, all they did was told us that, well, maybe you should move.

COOPER: We'll take you to the state where it happened. Holding officials accountable. "Keeping Them Honest," only on 360.


COOPER: Now, a 360 follow. Today a Nicaraguan appeals court overturned the conviction of Eric Volz, the young many you just saw there. He's 28 years old. He's an American, and he was found guilty last February of murdering his Nicaraguan girlfriend. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

We've been following this story now for months, and since his arrest, Volz has proclaimed his innocence. And his case got widespread attention in America, where details of his trial sparked outrage.

In testimony and in affidavits, ten witnesses score that Volz had been in his office two hours from the crime scene at the time of the murder.

Today's reversal was a dramatic twist in the story, but Volz is not yet a free man. This afternoon, a judge failed to show up for a hearing to arrange for his release from prison, and Volz, who's been sick, is still being held in a police hospital.

Joining me now is Eric's mother, Maggie Anthony.

Maggie, you got the news this morning that your son was going to be freed, but then that hasn't happened. What's going on?

MAGGIE ANTHONY, MOTHER OF ERIC VOLZ: We don't -- really don't know. Apparently, what happened was our attorney had made arrangements with the judge to meet her for her to sign the release documents at 2 p.m. this around.

When he arrived, he was informed that se left the court at 1:30 this afternoon and was not going to come back today and apparently has no intention of coming to the court tomorrow. So we have absolutely no idea what's going on.

COOPER: Our -- our viewers may be confused by this, but it's actually not too surprising this judge maybe didn't show up. I mean, there was a riot when -- during Eric's first trial, which we had pictures of.

ANTHONY: Right. Correct.

COOPER: Family members of yours, you know, were endangered by that. Eric had to hide...


COOPER: ... from this mob that was trying to basically kill him.


COOPER: And it seems like there was a lot of intimidation of the judges in his trial.

ANTHONY: And I might add, too, that the judge who has to sign the release paper is actually the convicting judge, so it is no surprise.

COOPER: So -- and we're seeing these pictures now of this riot which took place during the first trial.

Have you been able to talk to Eric?

ANTHONY: No, we haven't. Last we heard, there was no one allowed to talk to Eric. The American embassy had tried to get in to see him, and they were denied. Hopefully, he has gotten word at this point. We have no idea. And he might be -- even be watching me right now. So if I can slip in an "Eric we love you and we're so proud of you, and stay strong."

COOPER: Do you fear for his safety?

ANTHONY: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely.

COOPER: I mean the attorney general in Nicaragua was quoted in one of the local papers as saying that it was barbaric to free Eric.


COOPER: And I know you're hearing on local radio stations people -- people on radio stations saying they should take matters into their own hands.

ANTHONY: Absolutely. Every minute that Eric stays in jail is such a concern for us. Today should have been a day of joy, of justice and celebration. But instead, we're more fearful for his life right now than we ever have been. We're so frightened for him.

COOPER: Well, Maggie, you stay strong.

ANTHONY: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: And we'll continue to follow the story.

ANTHONY: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Thank you, Maggie.

Maggie, the mother of Eric Volz.

"The Shot of the Day" is coming up. Well, far different subject, Celine Dion. That's "The Shot of the Day." We'll have that in a moment. But first Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.


ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: A federal judge has ruled the White House must make its visitor logs public. Now, the Bush administration had resisted public disclosure of those records as it fights a lawsuit over alleged political influence of conservative Christian leaders.

Others are seeking the logs that list lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pled guilty last year to corruption charges.

In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has pardoned a gang-rape victim whose case sparked international outrage. The woman was attacked and raped by seven men. She appealed her original sentence, only to have it more than doubled to six months in prison and 200 lashes.

In Colorado, a man who was injured in the fatal shootings at New Life Church last week was escorted off church grounds yesterday. Officials thought he was volatile and might be disruptive. A senior pastor says they're actually going to seek a retaining order against Larry Bourbannais. His daughter, though, says it is all a big misunderstanding.

And caught on tape far, far away, a black hole in a death star galaxy, destroying a neighboring galaxy with radiation and energy. The cosmic violence, Anderson, captured by space and ground telescopes.

COOPER: I think Darth Vader is behind it all.

HILL: Could be. James Earl Jones? No, come on. He's "the most trusted name in news" man. You know that.

COOPER: That's right. Stay with us, Erica. "The Shot of the Day" is coming up. A tearful goodbye from -- that's right -- Celine Dion. Find out what that is all about.

And later witness intimidation. People who have seen crimes come forward to testify. Many are being threatened, some are even being murdered. The question is, what are officials doing or not doing to protect witnesses? We're "Keeping Them Honest." Back after this.


COOPER: Erica, time for "The Shot of the Day." On Saturday night, Celine Dion took a final bow at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas today as adoring fans cheered, as rose petals poured down on the stage.

I don't know what the bald guy in the back was. But Dion's show, "A New Day," got reviews that -- well, they weren't so rosy, I suppose. But that doesn't matter. She had millions of people who watched her over the years, and she stuck with it.

In five years, the show has now earned more than $400 million.

HILL: Wow.

COOPER: And has been seen by nearly three million fans.

HILL: That's amazing. By the way...


HILL: ... that's her son.

COOPER: That's her son?

HILL: His hair is longer than mine.


HILL: I'm not anti-long hair. It's just that I...

COOPER: That's Rene. Is that Rene? HILL: Rene -- Rene-Charles.

COOPER: What is the child's name?

HILL: I think his name is Rene-Charles. Or Rene-Charles.


HILL: Yes, I believe.

COOPER: I would throw up the petals, and then they will...

HILL: I am the greatest singer in all the world.

COOPER: She is.

HILL: Indeed.

COOPER: Let's watch her do it again. Whoopee!

HILL: Woo! Yay!

COOPER: I feel like I was there now. You know, I remember Celine Dion was actually part of our New Year's Eve show. I think it was ringing in 2005. I remember it like it was just yesterday.


CELINE DION, SINGER: Hi, Anderson! How's everybody doing?


HILL: Wow.


DION: How is the party doing in Las Vegas? How is the party doing? How are we doing?


HILLS: Did you get more applause than Celine during that show?

COOPER: I don't -- I don't really know. I don't know if she -- I can't remember if I talked to her. The whole thing seems surreal to me, that I -- to hear her actually say my name, you know?

HILL: That is -- it's incredible. And you know what's sad? She won't be able to do that this year. Maybe you should invite her on, since she's not going to be working.

COOPER: I think I will. We're doing this New Year's Eve show. Kathy Griffin's going to be there. I'm sure Celine Dion would love to be there.

HILL: Why not? And I'm sure Kathy Griffin would love to have Celine Dion there.

COOPER: I know she would. And maybe we'll invite Rene and Rene- Charles.

HILL: I like it.

COOPER: How do you say the name?

HILL: Rene-Charles. Just putting in some phlegm. You do it that way.

COOPER: Oh, God.

HILL: It's true.

COOPER: All right, Erica.

We want you to send us your "Shot" ideas. If you see some amazing video or Celine Dion, tell us about it: We'll put some of your best clips on the air.


COOPER: Well, up next they're called witness protection programs, but too often states have no plan and little to no protection for witnesses who come forward to testify, and people are getting killed because of this. We're "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.


COOPER: The next story is about a problem that more and more big-city prosecutors are having. Half of the big-city prosecutors surveyed considered this problem serious. Witness intimidation.

Now, there aren't national statistics, but there are some chilling examples. In Baltimore, for instance, drug dealers fire- bombed one witness's home, killing her, her husband and five children. In Pennsylvania the threats got so bad, six witnesses recanted their testimony in the murder of a 10-year-old boy. And those are just two examples.

Here's what's really outrageous. Some witnesses we talked to said they were never told about the witness protection programs that were available to them in their states.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This man doesn't want you to know his name or where he lives. What's he so afraid of? Getting killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on constant alert. KAYE: We'll call him Scott. Eight years ago, Scott and his wife witnessed a crime. Their decision to testify against the suspect nearly cost them their lives, and they're not alone. One prosecutor told Congress, witness intimidation is an epidemic.

Scott and his wife testified against their daughter's boyfriend, Keith Reynolds, after he beat her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw a 4-year-old grandson walking around with Kleenex trying to clean up Mom's blood.

KAYE: Reynolds got three years for domestic assault. Scott says his family was terrorized. They'd answer the phone and hear this: a gun being cocked. Strange cars parked outside their home. And threats arrived by mail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a threatening letter from him, saying that he was going to have us killed.

KAYE: Scott says Colorado prosecutors told him a hit had been put on his family. Still, even though the state has a witness protection program, Scott says his family didn't get any help.

(on camera) At any point did the Arapaho County D.A. or any of the prosecutors from that office make you aware that there was a witness protection program available to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, all they did was told us that, well, maybe you should move.

KAYE (voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest," we asked Arapaho County D.A. Carol Chambers if Scott's family had been offered any protection. Chambers was not the D.A. at the time but worked in the office and was familiar with the case.

(on camera) As a witness he says your office never told him about any type of protection program.

CAROL CHAMBERS, D.A., ARAPAHO COUNTY: I don't believe that to be true.

KAYE (voice-over): Scott says he spent more than $10,000 on security, cameras, even bodyguards.

Scott, his wife and 13-year-old grandson learned to shoot. And Scott never leaves home without this strapped his chest.

As a result of the threats, Reynolds was convicted of witness intimidation and sentenced to ten years in prison. That makes Scott one of the lucky ones. These Colorado witnesses were all murdered.

(on camera) It's no wonder critics charge the witness protection program is hardly a priority here. Last year, the city of Denver spent more money planting trees and flowers than the state of Colorado had budgeted to protect the lives of witnesses.

The witness protection budget is $50,000. Yet Denver spent nearly twice that making the city look pretty.

(voice-over) On average the state spends less than $1,000 per witness: on moving expenses, rent, sometimes furniture. The witness does not get a new identity, like in the federal program.

REV. LEON Kelly, PASTOR: The state witness protection program is a joke.

KAYE: Reverend Leon Kelly says most witnesses are used, then dumped. One death a decade ago still haunts him.

Darrell Gibbons asked Reverend Kelly if he should testify in a murder case. He did. But, according to Kelly, was not given protection. He ran from the courthouse in fear.

(on camera) Darrell Gibbons moved back to his neighborhood and, for months, nobody bothered him. But one morning, 1 a.m., he paid the ultimate price for testifying.

He was sitting in his car with two guys he thought were friends, one in the passenger seat, one in the back seat, when they shot him, twice in the head.

(voice-over) Gibbons' murder is still unsolved. Reverend Kelly says he was killed for his testimony, and nobody will come forward.

(on camera) Are people running scared?

Kelly: There are people that are terrorized.

KAYE: You're going to get $1,000. Is that really worth talking?

KELLY: What incentive is it? You know, if you're thinking about just getting $1,000, you know, total of incentive to do the right thing, then you look at it and you get to thinking about, my life is worth no more than $1,000?


COOPER: A thousand dollars per witness. I mean, that's -- in terms of moving expenses, that's ridiculous. And how is it possible that witnesses aren't being told that protection is even available?

KAYE: It's really hard to believe, Anderson. And we actually found something else. We were able to confirm that some law enforcement, including police and sheriff's deputies, they're not even aware that this witness protection program exists.

So things are starting to change. They're having some training for law enforcement so they do know about the program. They're having notes attached to every subpoena that goes out to witnesses so they know about the program. Notes around the courthouse to make them aware of it. Also, a state law passed last year that's supposed to get the...

COOPER: If you can't protect people who are willing to come forward, I mean, it's...

KAYE: Right. And the risk assessment survey, which is supposed to help them know the risk and learn the risk about their witnesses, still not out there, a year later.

COOPER: It doesn't stop there. When we come back, Randi brings us the story of a college graduate who witnessed the murder of his best friend. He felt compelled to testify. Find out if his fight for justice would cost him his life. That's ahead on 360.


COOPER: Before the break, we told you about witnesses to crimes who come forward, do the right thing and they show up in court and they testify. They help the prosecutors win their cases, and then they're left hanging without the protection they need. Some have paid with their lives.

"Keeping Them Honest," here's part two of Randi Kaye's investigation.


KAYE (voice-over): Javad Fields was a good kid, a recent college grad who never had trouble with the law. He planned to marry and move east.

But on July 4, 2004, something Javad saw ended that dream. He witnessed his best friend's murder and decided to testify against these men. Two were serving multiple life sentences for other crimes. All pleaded not guilty in this case.

His mother says the men threatened her son repeatedly. Colorado prosecutors have filed more than 2,000 felony witness intimidation cases since 1998. Still, Javad's mother says prosecutors did nothing to protect her son.

Before he ever took the stand, Javad was murdered. The gunman fired 11 shots as he drove along this suburban road. In a flash, Javad and his fiance, Vivian Wolfe, both 22, were dead.

(on camera) Whoever killed Javad Fields had staked out his house and confronted him twice the day before he was murdered.

One of those confrontations took place here at this sports bar. His mother says one of the suspects approached him, told him he was a marked man and told him he'd better watch his back.

Was your son ever told that there was a witness protection program...


KAYE: ... or a relocation program for him?

FIELDS: No, he was not told. There was no notification to my son at all.

KAYE (voice-over): After Javad was killed, his mother confronted prosecutors.

FIELDS: I asked them what happened, why wasn't there any measures taken to safeguard his life? And I was told that he never asked for any protection.

KAYE (on camera): Do you think it was your son's job to ask for protection?

FIELDS: No, I think it is the authorities' responsibility to notify witnesses of the dangers that's involved with being a witness.

KAYE (voice-over): Prosecutors understood the danger. In June, 2004, the D.A.'s office filed this order for protection, requesting Javad's personal information be kept secret. But it wasn't signed by a judge until one year later, after defense lawyers had already given the suspects this information, along with other trial documents.

(on camera) Does that anger you, that something so important as saving your son's life could just fall through the cracks like that?

FIELDS: I felt like the D.A.'s office used my son in a way that to win their case, but did not take the proper measures to safeguard his life.

KAYE (voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest," we asked District Attorney Carol Chambers why the ball was dropped on the protection order.

CHAMBERS: The case itself changed hands, and the follow-up was not done.

KAYE: Chambers says that won't happen again. And prosecutors now attach a notice about witness protection to every subpoena. But even that didn't start until two years after Javad's murder.

(on camera) Witnesses have been getting killed, though, for years, so why wait until 2007?

CHAMBERS: It was rare.

FIELDS: It really saddens me.

KAYE (voice-over): If Javad Fields had been relocated, his mother's convinced he'd be alive today.

FIELDS: If we cannot protect witnesses, then we're really -- our whole government and justice system is just going to collapse. I mean, we're just going to have anarchy, because no one is going to be able -- you know, people will just be able to do what they want to do.


COOPER: Already, with the whole "Stop Snitching" movement, you have people not talking to police, and then to learn on top of that, that those who do aren't being protected. This Colorado system seems so antiquated. Are all the states like this?

KAYE: Not really, actually. Colorado is unique. In fact, the prosecutors in Colorado have to lay out their own money from their own budget to protect these witnesses, Anderson. And then they have to seek reimbursement from this three-member panel at the state, hoping they get the money back.

COOPER: It's crazy.

KAYE: We have not been able to find any other state that does this.

COOPER: Thank goodness.

Randi, appreciate it. We'll keep on it. Randi Kaye.

Up ahead tonight, a ton of new developments. With just about two weeks to go until America starts picking a president, we'll focus on Huckabee's surge, how he built his momentum. Also, some of the negatives that you might be hearing for the first time. Both sides. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, what's the worst place for a serial killer to be? How about in school, studying criminology and how criminals avoid protection -- detection, I should say. We'll tell you how cops say they finally pinned a string of murders on this guy, when 360 continues.