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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Health Care Showdown; Michael Vick Apologizes

Aired August 17, 2009 - 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.

Tonight, is the White House wavering on a key piece of health care reform? It's called the public option, government-provided health insurance. Now, supporters said it would hold insurance companies accountable. But it has drawn the ire of others, who say it puts too much government into your life.

Just last month, Mr. Obama said any reform bill had to include the public option. This weekend, he and others in his administration were downplaying it, because, well, lawmakers, including some key Democrats, don't support it.

So, is the public option dead tonight? And, if so, what does that mean for President Obama and for you?

We begin with Tom Foreman and the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even with hundreds of health care reform supporters -- that's right, supporters -- cheering him on at a rally in Arizona, this was a hot day for President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Health care now! Health care now!

FOREMAN: He came to talk to military veterans, and he threw in a plug for health care.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One thing that reform won't change is veterans' health care. No one is going to take away your benefits. That is the plain and simple truth.

(APPLAUSE)

FOREMAN: It drew applause, but not enough to drown out the fire he is taking from all sides. Following weeks of Republican opposition, over the weekend, the White House seemed to play down the importance of one part of the Democratic reform plan, a government- backed insurance program to compete with private insurance companies. And liberal Democrats met that trial balloon with buckshot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER")

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: In the House of Representatives, without a strong public plan, even stronger than the one we reported out of committee, I think it would have a very difficult time getting 218 votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: As if to make clear that he may be courting legislative failure, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, issued a statement effectively calling the president out by quoting his own words back at him.

"As the president stated in March, the thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices and it helps keep the private sector honest. We agree with the president."

By midday today, the White House was trying to reassure liberals, suggesting the public plan is alive and well, driving conservatives into yet another lather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we let Pelosi and people like that direct us, we are doomed.

FOREMAN: And all that apparent seesawing is doing nothing to calm those who call themselves fiscally moderate and can't stomach the cost.

REP. ALLEN BOYD (D), FLORIDA: I cannot support this bill in the -- you know, in version it's in now. We can do better.

FOREMAN (on camera): The White House tried better to quiet the storm, issuing yet another statement reiterating the president's commitment to expanding coverage and lowering cost, telling CNN, "He still believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals."

But the question of the moment, how will he pass a bill for health care reform with such a war raging, Anderson?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tom, one of the alternatives to this government-run program is -- of the public option is getting insurance from a health insurance co-op. That sounds like something from a Woodstock commune, but, in fact, the idea of a co-op traces back to farmers in the heartland 75 years ago.

Here to explain what it might mean, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, explain to all of us the difference between a so-called public option and a co-op.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, a co-op is not government-run. You're talking about a not- for-profit organization that could offer insurance as part of this health exchange. People can go to this health exchange, choose a private insurance, or choose insurance coming from a co-op.

This is -- everyone who buys into the program, pays premiums, is essentially on the board as well. So, they are all sort of members, as well as insured people. They -- they figure out what the premiums are going to be. They figure out exactly what sort of benefits are going to be offered. So, they are members of this, as well as people who benefit from the plan.

COOPER: How does the co-op, though, exactly work? Do they have their own doctors?

GUPTA: Well, you know, you can have an organization that doesn't -- is not comprised of doctors or any health care professionals. And they basically create this organization, and that sort of, you know, tries to bid on doctor services or bid on certain hospital services.

So -- or you could have doctors and nurses as part of it that also provide care. So, there's different models of this dating back to when you said, up to now. There's are a couple of co-ops that exist like this in the country that work pretty well, in Washington State, for example, and in Minnesota.

But it -- it can be made up of a variety of things. The big issue here, Anderson, is scale. How big might it be? Would it be at a state level, a regional level, or even a national level?

COOPER: The idea of the public plan is that people who are not insured would finally be covered. Would a co-op guarantee coverage for people?

GUPTA: Well, that is a good question. And I think the answer is that it would guarantee access, much in the way that we have been talking about health care reform broadly. And what I mean by that is that, when we talk about reform, we talk about this idea that people can't be discriminated against based on preexisting conditions, for example.

From what I'm understanding -- and, remember, some of this is fluid still, Anderson, as you know, but all the programs that participate in this health exchange, again, this place that you can go if you don't have health care insurance and try and find health care insurance, none of them can discriminate based on preexisting conditions.

That would apply to private insurance companies, as well as this co-op. If you can pay the premium, then you can get health care insurance. But it doesn't mean that everyone is going to be covered automatically. You have still got to bid and pay the premium.

COOPER: So, would this co-op provide competition against these massive insurance companies? That's part of the idea, is that competition would help everybody?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, so, I think that, in part, if you look at the co-ops sort of across the board, they have a couple of things that are going for them. They are not-for-profit, for example. They also have very low administration fees, overhead fees.

So, as a result, they may be able to have lower premiums. And that would obviously be something that is competitive. That is sort of the objective part of it. The subjective part that people cite who are fans of co-ops will say that because everyone who is getting insured there is also a member of this, there is sort of a collective sort of feeling of how to do the best for its members, who are also the people who are insured.

But I can tell you this, looking at a lot of these -- these historical knowledge of co-ops. Unless you get scale, hundreds of thousands of people participating, it is going to be very hard for a co-op to compete against a private insurance company, which is why the people who are such supporters of the public option are crying foul today.

They are saying, look, the public option was a national option. It had scale. It potentially had hundreds of thousands, if not more, people involved in it. And that could compete. Could a co-op, even at a regional level, compete? It all depends on how many people join.

COOPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

A reminder: Sanjay is going to be back tomorrow night taking your questions.

And, as always, there's a lot more online at AC360.com, including a special guide to the debate.

While you are there, join the live chat. It just is under way. It just joined up.

Up next: If President Obama compromises on the public option, does he actually appear weak? We are digging deeper with David Gergen, David Frum, and Nia-Malika Henderson from Politico.

And, later, Michael Vick -- he says he is sorry. He is back in the NFL, after torturing dogs, forcing them to fight to the death, drowning some, electrocuting others. But do you buy his apology? You are going to hear it for yourself tonight, and you can be the judge -- on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama has said a government-provided option, like Medicare, is needed to keep insurance companies honest. This weekend, he backed away, then today seemed to tiptoe back.

Let's dig deeper now with senior political analyst David Gergen, Politico White House reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum.

David Gergen, I want to play for our viewers what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said to John King Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." She was asked about the public option, and her answer raised a lot of eyebrows. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING")

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: And I think what is important is choice and competition. And I'm convinced, at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those. But that is not the essential element.

JOHN KING, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING": But let me just -- quite simply, so, the public option is not a deal-breaker, from the president's standpoint?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think there will be a competitor to private insurers. That is really the essential part, is -- is, you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies, and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices. We need some competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: David, she didn't say public option is off the table, but she is also just talking about competition. And a co-op, I guess, could fit that bill. White House officials are now saying nothing has changed.

What is going on?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that when almost every major newspaper in the country led today with the -- with the fact that there seemed to be a retreat on the part of the White House, the press wasn't being hysterical here. I think that that was the logical interpretation, especially after President Obama, just the day before, said that the public option was only a sliver -- a sliver -- of his whole plan, when it seemed to be a pretty central part of it.

But I think what is going on is, the White House has essentially tipped its hand that it is willing to give it up in a much more open manner. And it is being seen as a peremptory retreat by the left, by liberals, who have always seen the public option as being the holy grail of -- of health care reform.

They -- for -- for liberals, Anderson, who believe in a single- payer system -- and that is the government runs the whole system -- the public option was the way to build up a large government system, and eventually open the door to single-payer. So, from a -- from a perspective of the left, the White House seems to be giving away this -- this -- this essential element of the plan, even before some of the tough negotiations really start.

COOPER: Nia, is the political reality that the town hall protests have rattled the White House?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: I mean, that seems to be the case in part. And, I mean, what you have seen the White House do in a way with, for instance, the death panels and kind of defanging that argument, that's essentially what they are doing here with floating this whole idea of maybe the public option isn't the best choice. It is one of many choices, like the co-op or this health care exchange. So, in some ways, they are moving to take the wind out of the sails of Republicans, who have made this argument and really talked about the government plan undermining private insurance. So, I mean, politically, it makes some sense for them. But, of course, they are angering the base. They are angering progressives.

My BlackBerry was filled up this -- all day with messages from congressmen essentially saying that it is troubling to them that the White House seems to be retreating on this public plan. The question is, are they going to be able to get -- you know, if they lose some votes or kind of support from progressives, perhaps they are going to get, you know, support from some Republicans or maybe some Blue Dog Democrats.

COOPER: David Frum, do you think the White House is getting, you know, wobbly, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: ... based on these town hall meetings?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think they are getting wise.

Look, the question always was, what is reform about? What does it mean? What are you trying to accomplish? Now, as David Gergen said, there are people on the president's left who have been -- whose idea of reform is essentially to move the United States to a much more government-controlled system and drive out private insurers. They see the profit motive as the -- as the source of the problem in health care, the reason why health care costs go up and up every year.

That just doesn't -- I don't think bears scrutiny. And from the point of view of people, the large majority of Americans who are trying to conserve and protect what they are have, the problem is that the prices keep going up. The problem is, there are abuses by these insurance companies. And they want what the health -- what White House has, increasingly shrewdly, begun to call health insurance reform, a curb of the worst elements of the private insurance system.

Nia makes a good point about the base. But, of course, the problem that a Democratic White House has is that, while the Democratic coalition as a whole is quite big, the Democratic liberal -- Democratic liberal base is small, probably only one-fifth of the country.

Democrats, even more than Republicans, cannot afford to govern from the base.

COOPER: David, there are -- David Gergen, there are some liberals who right now are saying, you know, does President Obama have a backbone to fight on any issue?

You know, there was -- he called himself a fierce advocate of gay and lesbian issues. A lot of gay and lesbians certainly don't think he is that right now. And now he seems to be willing to negotiate to, some would say early on in the process, give up what had been -- seemed to be a key cornerstone of his plan.

GERGEN: Well, I -- you know, President Obama is rewriting the -- the book on leadership in his own way. And perhaps this will work out.

But I think, from the traditionalist point of view, you know, what -- what we look to is a president who sounds a clear and certain trumpet, someone who says, follow me. Here's where we are going now, and here are the three things I want. And if I have to give up one to get the two, I will, but I will do that at the last minute as part of a bargain.

Here, the White House seems to be giving this up without getting anything in exchange. I don't know what they have picked up as a result of this. And it has antagonized the base and left a lot of the left feeling, is he really one of us or not?

And, you know, the problem he is getting into is, he is getting into a cross fire, where the left is not certain he is one of them, and moderates and conservatives believe he is too liberal.

And, so, you know, he's catching it both ways.

COOPER: David Frum, you have been in the White House under George Bush. From -- from a leadership standpoint, does this send a message to opponents that he can be pushed around?

FRUM: I don't think it would.

Look, he has -- he faces the problem his own party is not crazy about this public option. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Kent Conrad, a Democrat, has already said that he would vote against it. And, of course, the -- the fees to pay for this have to pass through Conrad's committee.

Barack Obama's core problem is -- is simply this. He placed every chip he could lay his hands on and then about 800 billion more that he could borrow on his stimulus plan delivering results in something like a short order.

We are now seeing Germany is coming out of recession. Japan is coming out of recession. France, Canada is coming out of recent. The United States is mired in it. Unemployment, plus underemployment, is now 16 percent.

And the public doesn't see benefits from this massive debt. That is why he is so weak this month, because he doesn't look like his ideas are working. If they looked better, he would be stronger. If, in the future, they look better, he will be stronger then. If, in the future, they look like now, he will get weaker.

COOPER: Nia-Malika, what happens next?

HENDERSON: Well, I think that's a great question, because, of course, he is going on vacation next week. So, there will be essentially a vacuum in terms of leadership from the White House and talking points from the White House. And it will be interesting to see how folks from the Hill kind of fill this discussion up and even out at some of these town halls if things get, you know, more heated there.

I mean, again, I mean, it is certainly possible that he has taken some of the wind out of the sails of some of -- some of his critics. But, again, I think the larger question, as David said, is whether or not he's -- you know, he's shown weakness on this idea that maybe he can be pushed around and doesn't necessarily have a spine when it comes to using his political capital for what was supposed to be a real -- you know, his signature effort.

COOPER: Nia...

GERGEN: Yes.

COOPER: Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: Can I just say -- well, I just wanted to disagree with David Frum on one point. And that is, he is right that there are significant Democrats who were not in favor of the public option, but the overwhelming majority of people in the Democratic Party are for a public option.

You know, four committees have now reported. It is now in all four committee reports so far. And do they -- but they are having a hard time holding on to those moderate Democrats.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: And -- and that's where the problem is.

COOPER: All right, we're going to leave it there.

David Frum, David Gergen, Nia-Malika Henderson, appreciate it. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Just ahead tonight: the Supreme Court doing something it has not done in nearly half-a-century -- why it granted an appeal to a death row inmate, a convicted cop-killer. See what was so different about this case -- "Crime & Punishment" tonight.

And, later, did you know, if you open up your wallet right now, chances are, you have some illegal drugs, and you don't even know it. We will tell you what drug is in your wallet right now, or at least the residue of it -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Did you hear about Mike -- the Milwaukee mayor being attacked by a guy with a pipe at a state fair after he tried to assist a grandmother who was calling for help? The mayor ended up in the hospital. We will have the latest on his condition just ahead.

But, first, Erica Hill has a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the season's first Atlantic hurricane, Bill, is gaining strength. The good news tonight, though, it is still far from shore.

Winds, though, are now topping 110 miles per hour. And the storm is on track to close in on Bermuda by week's end.

Meantime, Tropical Storms Claudette and Ana now weakened to tropical depressions -- Claudette drenching Florida's Panhandle, after coming ashore early today, while heavy rains from Ana are threatening Haiti still.

Weak consumer spending causing a major pullback today on Wall Street -- the Dow plunging 186 points. That's 2 percent, its largest drop since early July, while both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 also posted steep declines.

The Justice Department calls it the largest identify theft case ever prosecuted -- a Miami man and two unidentified Russians indicted, accused of hacking into the files of Heartland Payment Systems and stealing data on more than 130 million debit and credit cards. The company, though, has not disclosed just how many of those accounts may have actually been compromised. Still looking for that detail.

Ninety percent of paper money circulating in U.S. cities -- get this -- if you guessed before the break, contains traces of cocaine. The new study from a professor at UMass Dartmouth also found that, in some larger cities, all of the bills, 100 percent of them, had coke on them.

Isn't that amazing? They say the amount is actually minuscule. But -- and it doesn't pose any health risks -- but it happens just by bills coming in contact with one another, and it happens a lot of times in counting machines, in currency counting machines, because they're in such close proximity, that, then, the residue is left on the machines, and it puts it on to the other bill.

COOPER: Are that many people, though, doing cocaine?

HILL: Apparently, it only takes a few.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: OK.

Still ahead: A death row inmate gets a rare chance to appeal his conviction -- why the Supreme Court is giving the convicted cop-killer another shot at proving he's innocent. And what it's going to take for Troy Davis to win his freedom? His story ahead.

Plus, NFL quarterback Michael Vick back on the field, speaking out about his dogfighting days. He says he blames himself for the mess that landed him in prison. But do you believe his apology? You will hear it for yourself tonight.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It hasn't happened in nearly 50 years. But, today, the U.S. Supreme Court did something extraordinary. It stepped in and granted a death row inmate's request for an appeal.

The condemned -- condemned inmate, who is being held in Georgia, swears he is not a killer of a police officer. And several witnesses for the prosecution have recanted their testimony. There are others, though, who believe he is guilty and should pay for the crime with his life.

Is an innocent man on death row, or is he hoping to escape justice?

Gary Tuchman has more in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A jury only took a few hours to decide Troy Davis was guilty of murdering a police officer in Savannah, Georgia., a few more hours to decide to send him to death row.

Brenda Forrest was one of the jurors.

BRENDA FORREST, JUROR AT TROY DAVIS' TRIAL: He was definitely guilty. All the witnesses, they were able to, you know, to -- to I.D. him as -- as the person who actually did it.

TUCHMAN: The primary reason he was convicted? The witness testimony. The slain police officer's wife agrees.

JOAN MACPHAIL, WIDOW OF OFFICER MARK MACPHAIL: They were just so adamant about what they saw, when they saw it.

TUCHMAN: But this is how the juror feels now.

FORREST: If -- if I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. It -- the verdict would be not guilty.

TUCHMAN: What she knows now is this. Almost all of the prosecution's star witnesses have changed their stories, some saying police pressured them to say Troy Davis did it.

Darrell Collins is one of the prosecutor witnesses who signed a police statement implicating Troy Davis.

DARRELL COLLINS, WITNESS AT TROY DAVIS' TRIAL: And I told them over and over that this is -- I didn't see this happen. They put what they wanted to put in that statement.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Twenty years ago this summer, Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail was working an off-duty job here. He was providing security at night for this bus station and for this Burger king restaurant that is currently out of business. There was a homeless man in this parking lot who was being harassed and intimidated.

He yelled for help. The officer ran over. And, seconds later, Officer Mark MacPhail was shot and killed. It was tragic, horrifying, and chaotic. And, two decades later, it all still is.

(voice-over): The man who admitted to harassing the homeless person went to police the next and told them he saw Troy Davis shoot the officer. Wanted posters went up all over Savannah, a reward offered to catch the so-called dangerous cop-killer -- racial tensions inflamed. After the shooting, Troy Davis was in Atlanta four hours away, his sister says, scared for his life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, when my brother decided to turn himself in, they already had a shoot-to-kill order on him.

TUCHMAN: This man, Derrick Johnson, a pastor, got in touch with Davis. He volunteered to pick him up and drive him back to Savannah to surrender. He says, Troy Davis insisted he was innocent.

The pastor, who has never told this story to a report before, was stunned the DA's office never interviewed him.

(on camera): You were with this man four hours. You're bringing him back to Savannah into police custody. They never interviewed you?

PASTOR DERRICK JOHNSON, CONVINCED TROY DAVIS TO SURRENDER: Never talked to me.

TUCHMAN: Never asked you a question about your journey?

D. JOHNSON: Never.

TUCHMAN: What he said? If he had a weapon?

D. JOHNSON: Nothing.

TUCHMAN: If he admitted to the crime?

D. JOHNSON: Nothing.

TUCHMAN: If he didn't admit to the crime?

D. JOHNSON: Nothing.

And this is the one case where nobody wanted to know. And I don't think now, looking back, that anybody cared.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): As for the Savannah police, they have always said their witness interviews were taken properly, no coercion. And prosecutors have stood by the conviction.

But a number of witnesses have signed affidavits changing their original testimony. Dorothy Ferrell is one of them, a former prison inmate. She writes: "I was scared that, if I didn't cooperate with the detective, then he might find a way to have me locked up again. So, I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter, even though the truth was that I didn't see who shot the officer."

And a witness named Jeffrey Sapp now writes: "The police came and talked to me and put a lot of pressure on me to say Troy did this. They made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear."

And then there's this woman, who says she purposely left out testimony.

(on camera): Sylvester Coles...

TONYA JOHNSON, WITNESS AT TROY DAVIS' TRIAL: Yes.

TUCHMAN: ... came up to you after the shooting and said, "Will you my gun?"?

T. JOHNSON: Would I hold my -- yes, that's right.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sylvester Coles, he is the man who was admitted harassing the homeless person, the man who fingered Troy Davis.

We talked to Tonya Johnson near her old home, across the street from the crime scene.

T. JOHNSON: And he opened the screen door.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This screen door here?

T. JOHNSON: This screen door, which this was not here. It was just like wood. It was a wooden screen door. But this was tore out. He opened the door, sat the gun here, and shut the door back.

TUCHMAN: And you, did you think he did the shooting?

T. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: Did you ask him?

T. JOHNSON: No. But the he was acting...

TUCHMAN: How come? Why didn't...

T. JOHNSON: I was scared.

TUCHMAN: You were scared to ask him?

T. JOHNSON: Yes. I was scared -- I was scared of him. I'm still scared of him. But...

TUCHMAN: Today, you're scared of him? T. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: He is still here in -- in town?

T. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: Free man?

T. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: Do you see him occasionally?

T. JOHNSON: I see him.

TUCHMAN: And you are scared of him?

T. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: How come you are talking to me? I admire the fact that you are.

T. JOHNSON: Because I don't want to see this innocent man get killed for something he didn't even do.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): During the trial, Davis' attorneys tried to convince juror Coles was the killer.

We tried to find Sylvester "Redd" Coles to give him a chance to have his say. We talked to family members, but couldn't track him down.

MACPHAIL: I don't believe that Redd Coles is the one that killed Mark at all.

TUCHMAN: Officer's MacPhail's wife, Joan, who had a 2-year-old daughter and a newborn son when her husband was liked, looks at Sylvester "Redd" Coles in a very different light.

MACPHAIL: Sylvester came forward. And he didn't have to. I also know that Troy ran, and he didn't have to. If he were innocent, he should have come forward.

TUCHMAN: And what does she think about people like Tonya Johnson, with their new information?

MACPHAIL: Five minutes of fame.

TUCHMAN: Pope Benedict has asked for Davis' sentence to be commuted. Jimmy Carter, even death penalty supporter and former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr have asked for the case to be reopened.

Troy Davis has been hours away from execution three times, only to have the case reviewed. I spoke to Troy Davis and asked him if he thought he would be executed. He said no. He told me he has faith in the justice system, a view that, ironically, is shared by the widow of the murdered police officer. MACPHAIL: We believe in this justice system. We have to believe in this justice system.

TUCHMAN: But she is waiting for a much different outcome.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Savannah, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: In a moment, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is going to be here to talk more about this case.

And you can log on to AC360.com right now for behind-the-scenes photos of Gary's report on Troy Davis.

Just ahead: Michael Vick's shame, the emotional new interview with the football star convicted of operating a dogfighting ring. Vick said he cried in prison. But do you believe his apology? You can decide for yourself. We will play it for you tonight.

Also, late word from Randi Kaye on how much money Michael Jackson memorabilia could bring and why the court battle of Jackson's stuff is far from over.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break we told you about Troy Davis, a Death Row inmate in Georgia who today was given a rare chance to appeal his conviction by the Supreme Court.

Now, Davis says he didn't murder an off-duty police officer in 1989. Now several witnesses say they were coerced by the police to lie. These case deals with allegations of false and pressured testimony. But there are other trials where it's not the story that's being questioned; it's the actual science.

We've seen in movies and on TV shows how microscopic evidence suddenly solves a crime. We're going to talk about how reliable forensic science really is with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He has lots to say on the subject and the Troy Davis appeal. He joins us now.

You're surprised the Supreme Court would actually look into this.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Amazing. They've had the chance to look into this case before. But what they did was so unusual today. Because usually, as you know, basically what happens is a district court, a trial court decides, and a court of appeals circuit court deals with it, and maybe the Supreme Court takes it.

But there's a very unusual procedure, where you can go straight to the Supreme Court to raise an issue. It almost never succeeds, but today the Supreme Court decided to stop this execution and order the hearing, just for the first time in 50 years.

COOPER: Why -- why do you think with this case? TOOBIN: I think it's very clear. I think some of these justices are very concerned that an innocent person is about to be executed, and they just couldn't live with that.

You know, one of the interesting legal issues about this case is the court has never decided, is it -- is it unconstitutional to execute an innocent person? That legal issue, you would think it's been decided. They have never squarely faced the issue, and this case may force them to decide it.

COOPER: Scalia and Thomas disagreed with the ruling by the Supreme Court.

TOOBIN: Right. They said, and you can see their point, this case has been going on for 20 years. Many courts have reviewed it. Enough is enough. Just let the process go forward. That was their argument.

COOPER: Let's talk about forensics in general. This was about recanted testimony. But, you know, we all believe that forensics can prove things one -- you know, definitively. We all see this on "CSI." You've done a lot of research into this. Nothing is as cut and dried as we think.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, one of the things about forensics is that you have to draw distinctions with inference. DNA is the gold standard. DNA really does establish conclusively that the blood, that the semen found in one place is the same as the DNA of someone else. But once you start getting into other tests, it gets very murky.

COOPER: What about, like, fingerprints?

TOOBIN: Fingerprints are close to DNA. They're not 100 percent, because it's not mathematical. Sometimes, you know, you don't know how many matches you have on a single fingerprint. But fingerprints are very good.

COOPER: What about bullet identification? There's the belief that no one bullet has the same kind of pattern or you can -- you can identify a bullet down to what batch it came from.

TOOBIN: That's where you start to get into some very questionable decisions. Bullets. Bite marks.

COOPER: Bite marks? That's not -- that's junk science?

TOOBIN: That is -- it is often junk science. The question is how much do you rely on it? The word that is so pernicious that's used in court all the time is "match."

The bite marks match the -- the suspect's bite marks match the bite marks on the victim. But what does that mean? How certain is that? That is -- should be a scientific determination. But a lot of this science comes exclusively out of the world of criminal law, not out of the world of science. And so those sorts of quantifications have never been made, and there's a lot of very loose and misleading testimony that goes on.

COOPER: All right. Jeff, appreciate it.

Tomorrow on our crime series, crime -- crime scene fraud continues to look at who went to prison for years because of a grave error from a crime lab. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old are you, Earnest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-six.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old were you when you went to prison?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Behind bars since 1986 for a kidnapping and rape.

(on camera) Are you angry, Ernest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm angry, but I'm not, you know -- I forgive, though. I forgive, but I won't forget.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He won't forget, and he's not the only one. More allegations of a crime lab's corruption and ineptitude, tomorrow on 360.

Coming up, NFL quarterback Michael Vick in his own words. Hear what he says the suffering his dog-fighting operation caused to so many animals. Is he really sorry, though? He says he is. We'll let you be the judge

Also, the latest on Milwaukee mayor's, attacked at a state fair over to weekend. What provoked it and how is he doing now? Find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: NFL quarterback Michael Vick is back on the field, practicing with his new team, Philadelphia Eagles. After 18 months in prison, football drills in the summer heat are the first steps to getting back into the game.

Now Vick is also speaking out about dog fighting, saying he cried in prison many nights because of the guilt he felt. This is what he told CBS News and "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL VICK, REINSTATED NFL PLAYER: That wasn't the way that things was supposed to be, and all because of the so-called culture that I thought was right. I thought it was cool. And I thought it was, you know, it was fun, and it was exciting at the time. It all led to me laying in a prison bunk by myself with nobody to talk to but myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you blame for all of this?

VICK: I blame me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Michael Vick clearly trying to rehab his image as he prepares for the football season.

Joining me again, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Also with us, NPR commentator John Ridley and founding editor of ThatMinorityThing.com.

Jeff, did you buy the apology?

TOOBIN: I don't have the ability to look into Michael Vick's soul. As far as I'm concerned this is a guy who went to...

COOPER: That never stops anybody in cable news.

TOOBIN: No, I know. But I just think he paid his debt; he went to prison. He should go -- he should be allowed a second chance. I'd like to see less celebrated people get second chances, too.

What I don't care about is him saying, "Well, you know, I want to be a role model. Please. This guy is very far from a role model. He should shut up and play football, stay out of trouble, and that's what he should do.

COOPER: John, I want to play for our viewers something else that Vick had to say yesterday about his first day in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICK: The first day I walked into prison and they slammed that door I knew, you know, the magnitude of the decisions that I make. And the poor judgment and what I, you know, allowed to happen to the animals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John, what did you make of him on "60 minute"? Do you buy his explanations?

JOHN RIDLEY, NPR COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I don't mean to be too much of a cynic. He says he's sorry. Sorry, I think the question is, is he sorry for what he did or is he sorry he got caught? In that clip you just played, Anderson, he said when the door closed, I realized the magnitude of the things that I'd done. Not fighting the animals, not picking up the carcasses, not shooting the animals. "It was when I was in prison that I realized, hey, I screwed up."

COOPER: It's also -- I mean, when you look into what his operation actually did, I mean, it's you know -- it's not just dog -- it's drowning dogs, electrocuting dogs. It's pretty brutal stuff. And a lot of his mea culpas have sort of sounded pretty similar. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICK: I was wrong for what I did. Everything I did was wrong. It was unnecessary.

It was wrong. I don't know how many times I've got to say it. I mean, it was wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John do you think he was being -- he's been coached in how to apologize?

RIDLEY: Well, I hope so. I mean, this is someone who's going be asked these things over and over again, and he's got basically one chance to make a second impression on folks.

So I hope someone is saying, look, don't say too much, say you are sorry and take the blame for yourself, and acknowledge that what you did was absolutely the worst possible thing that you can do to animals. So is it coached? Probably. But it should be coached, to a certain degree. Although also I would add, I hope it's heartfelt.

TOOBIN: Yes, I mean, the whole business of, you know, "I realized later." You didn't realize when dogs were being electrocuted and drowned that it was wrong? But look, he -- he paid the penalty. And, you know, I think it's time that people accept it for what it's worth.

COOPER: Here's what he said about his actions yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICK: It sickens me to my stomach. And it was, you know, the same feeling I'm feeling right now is what people was feeling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I don't -- that one I didn't quite get, John. Sort of the feeling he's getting in the interview is the same feeling that people have watching?

RIDLEY: I -- you know, that one I don't quite understand either. To be honest with you. I think the thing is, you know, so much attention has been put on Michael Vick. And as Jeff said, he has paid his debt.

If I could just go in, I think he's kind of overpaid his debt for this. And I want to be very clear. What he did was wrong. It was bad. It was systematic. It was horrible.

But you've got a guy like Donte Stallworth, a receiver for the Cleveland Browns, killed a guy while drinking and driving, was sentenced to basically 23 days in prison, where Vick was sentenced to 24 days -- 24 months in prison.

So I think the problem is, is that we're putting a lot of focus on a bad act against dogs. And I really wonder if we should be looking at the entire system of how these individuals are looked at and how they're punished and how -- how it is all dealt with, rather than one individual because it seems so bad because it was puppies.

COOPER: It is interesting, Jeff, that some people pay more attention to this case because animals were involved than the death of a human being.

TOOBIN: You recall, when we -- when we covered this originally, I got more e-mail on this subject from viewers than I did from any human murders that I covered. I mean, people are incredibly passionate about dogs. And you're a dog owner. I'm a dog owner. We love dogs. But there does seem to be disproportion in how people react. And perhaps he got a tougher sentence than he might have, had there had not been all the attention.

But you know what? Good. Sometimes criminal law is supposed to have a deterrent effect. And in case anybody was in any doubt that dog fighting is illegal, they sure know it now, and that's only good news.

COOPER: John, he's got the Humane Society on his side and is -- going to be working with them. Do you think he actually can make a difference in terms of trying to curb illegal dog fights?

RIDLEY: You know, I think for people who are into dog fighting and already don't have the fear of God in them, I don't know that this is really going to change. It's a terrible thing. Again, I think that, in some ways, the sentence outweighs the crime.

But for some reason I just don't think the fact that he got caught -- if you can do this to animals, if you can not only fight them, as Jeffrey was saying, electrocute them, shoot them, drown them, do all these things, you know, it's like any other bad behavior. "Somebody else got caught. It's not going to happen to me."

TOOBIN: I don't understand with these celebrity cases. He's giving speeches. He should be the last person on earth giving speeches on this subject. I don't get why he becomes an expert on this subject.

RIDLEY: Yes. Because he can play football again. That's why.

TOOBIN: And if he throws for 300 yards a game, then it will all be forgotten in Philadelphia.

RIDLEY: Nobody will care.

COOPER: A lot of people talking it on the blog, AC360.com. Join the live chat. Let us know what you think.

John Ridley, thanks. Jeff Toobin, as well, thanks.

Up next, the mayor of Milwaukee attacked with a pipe. How it happened, who he was protecting, and how he's doing now.

Also, see how a massive wildfire in California is connected with the brutal drug war in Mexico.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

cooper: A trip to the state fair ended in a violent attack for the mayor of Milwaukee this weekend. It's just an unbelievable story. One minute he's with his family; the next, a guy is hitting him over the head with a metal pipe.

What prompted the assault? Once again, Erica Hill has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Until this weekend most of the questions surrounding Milwaukee mayor's future had to do with whether he's planning to run for governor. That all changed after the mayor was attacked late Saturday night while trying to help a woman and her granddaughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the emergency, 911?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My granddaughter's birth father just tried to pull her out of the car, broke my cell phone, threatened to shoot us and to shoot himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is he right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He ran down -- he ran down Orchard Street. There were some people from the fair that were walking past, and I jumped out of the car and I shouted for them to call 911.

HILL: One of the people who heard the woman's call was Mayor Barrett, heading to the car after spending the evening with his family at the state fair. But he didn't make it home that night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a beating on 88th and Orchard. There's some guy arguing with his girlfriend, and my uncle just tried to step in. The guy took a stick to him, and he hit him over the head. And he's bleeding all over the place. We need an ambulance.

HILL: That bleeding man was Mayor Barrett.

JOHN BARRETT, TOM BARRETT'S BROTHER: Tom stepped up and did the right thing. He called 911 and tried to calm the situation, protect the grandmother and her grandchild. As a result of his actions, Tom was attacked and struck repeatedly with a metal object.

HILL: An emotional Jon Barrett on Sunday outside the hospital, where the mayor was being treated.

On Monday he gave CNN more details about the attack and how his brother ended up laying op the street in a pool of blood.

BARRETT: The individual, after he knocked the phone out and stomps on the phone and says, "You're not calling," he says, "I have a gun, and I'm going to -- I'm not afraid to shoot everybody here." And then Tom's kids start to cry. So Tom says to my sister, you know, "Get the kids out of here."

HILL (on camera): But the mayor stayed and took a punch in the gut that doubled him over. He came up swinging and shattered his hand. When it was all over, the mayor had also lost some teeth, had to have plastic surgery for cuts on his face, and according to his brother, also stitches in the back of his head.

Tonight the mayor is home recovering, and a 20-year-old suspect arrested on Sunday is behind bars. The little girl's grandmother tells CNN they're both fine, while John Barrett is both proud and relieved.

BARRETT: I'm just glad that he's OK. He's my brother, and I love him. And I'm just glad that he's OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, Mayor Barrett actually got a phone call from the president today, who called to check in and make sure he was on the mend. He said the mayor went above and beyond the call of duty and he was proud, in the president's words, of his selfless act of courage.

But apparently, he's still cracking jokes in jail [SIC]. Three- hour surgery to repair his hand. And his brother says he's still got a sense of humor.

COOPER: Cracking jokes in the hospital?

HILL: In jail. Sorry, in the hospital. You're right.

COOPER: Thankfully, he's not...

HILL: He didn't go to jail. Sorry, Mayor Barrett.

COOPER: Yes, it's a remarkable case. It will be interesting to see when he comes forward and actually speaks publicly.

HILL: It will be.

COOPER: You've also got a "360 Bulletin."

HILL: Indeed, we do. We begin in central California, where crews are actually starting to get a handle on a major wildfire there, and perhaps even more importantly, they actually know what may have started it.

The blaze has now burned more than 75,000 acres in Santa Barbara County. It is now about 25 percent contained. Good news there.

We also are learning how it may have started. Officials say the fire started in the kitchen of an illegal marijuana operation, which was allegedly run by one of the Mexican drug cartels.

The Obama administration taking a rhetorical step away from the Defense of Marriage Act which bars same-sex marriage. In a court filing today, the Justice Department called the 1996 act, quote, "discriminatory" and said it should be repealed. However, the department also said it's going to continue to defend that act in court, as long as Congress keeps it on the books.

A judge in Los Angeles paving the way for the sale of Michael Jackson memorabilia. The proceeds would go to his estate. Three- sixty's Randi Kaye has learned the lot is expected to bring in $15 million. But attorneys representing Jackson's mother at the state administrators were unable to agree on a second proposal for a memorabilia exhibition. That one was worth about $5 million. They'll be back in court on Friday.

And he could be the ultimate underdog. The congressman once known as the Hammer, Tom DeLay, vocal Republican majority House leader, well, now he's going to be leading on the dance floor. He's part of the lineup for the ninth edition of "Dancing with the Stars."

COOPER: What?

HILL: Yes. Host Tom Bergeron, though, warning today it's not going to be easy this go-around. There's apparently a new double elimination in the middle of the season. He calls it a ballroom blood bath.

Tom Bergeron may not have spent some time in Washington, I'm guessing.

COOPER: Tom DeLay is used to some, you know, political bloodbaths.

HILL: That's what I'm thinking. Yes.

COOPER: I wonder if he can dance? I wonder...

HILL: I have no idea.

COOPER: Who else was -- Tucker Carlson did it. It didn't work out so well for him.

HILL: He didn't make it past the first week.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: And we'll never know about you, will we, since you refuse to dance?

COOPER: Never going to happen. Not going to happen. Just ahead on 360, as angry protests continue, is the White House wavering on a key piece of health-care reform? And what does that mean for your wallet and for the president?

Also, on a completely different note, an ancient relic. Who does that look like? Hmm. Could it be Michael Jackson?

HILL: No.

COOPER: The "Shot," just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Erica, time for tonight's "Shot." An ancient relic with a perhaps familiar face. Check this out.

This bust is a few thousand years old, part of a permanent collection of the Field Museum of Chicago. Does it remind you of anyone?

HILL: That is creepy. Straight up creepy.

COOPER: That's -- a museum spokeswoman told us it's Egyptian from around the King Tut and Ramses period, 1550 B.C. or thereabouts. An interesting bit of trivia. The museum says statues were, quote, defiled by early Christians and Muslims because they were looked at as idolatry. Taking the nose off made them less offensive. Hmm.

HILL: Taking off the nose to spite his face?

COOPER: I guess so.

You can see all the most recent "Shots" at our Web site, AC360.com.

HILL: Fine Web site it is.

COOPER: Coming up at the top of the hour, the battle for and against health-care reform. Is President Obama backing down on a big piece of it? If he is, what's your bottom line? Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Good evening, everyone. Tonight, is the White House wavering on a key piece of health-care reform? It's called the public option, government-provided health insurance.

Now, supporters said it would hold insurance companies accountable. But it's drawn the ire of others who say it puts too much government into your life. Just last month Mr. Obama said any reform bill had to include the public option.

This weekend he and others in his administration were downplaying it because, well, lawmakers, including some key Democrats, don't support it. So is the public option dead tonight, and if so, what does that mean for President Obama and for you? We begin with Tom Foreman and the "Raw Politics."