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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Bullying in America; Witness to Disaster

Aired September 20, 2011 - 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.

It is 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" on bullying in America. Yet again, another teen has taken his own life, according to his parents, after being bullied for years. He is a 14-year-old boy.

Now, time and time again on this program, we've reported on the problem of bullying, and time and time again we've announced the deaths of children, children who should not be dead, whose loneliness and desperation, not just in the last minutes of their life, but often in the years leading up to their deaths, is simply heartbreaking to imagine.

This is Jamey Rodemeyer, just 14 years old, a freshman at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo, New York. Jamey routinely blogged about his troubles. Just 11 days ago, he wrote something online.

He said: "I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so people will listen?" One week later, this past Sunday, Jamey committed suicide.

Now, often when kids die, there's no record of their pain. There's no record of what they have been there through, of their suffering. But Jamey did leave us a message. Months ago, he posted a message on YouTube as part of the It Gets Better Project, a program to spreads messages of hope to suicidal lesbian, gay and bisexual children.

Even in his sadness, Jamey was reaching out to help others. This is Jamey Rodemeyer in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMEY RODEMEYER, 14-YEAR-OLD VICTIM OF BULLYING: Hi. This is Jamey from Buffalo, New York. And I'm just here to tell you that it does get better. Here is a little bit of my story.

December 2010 I thought I was bi, and then I always got made fun of because I virtually have no guy friends. And I only have friends that are girls. And it bothered me because people would be like faggot, fag, and they'd taunt me in the hallways, and then I felt like I could never escape it. And I made Formspring which I shouldn't have done and people would just constantly send me hate telling me that gay people go to hell. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Jamey says he constantly got messages, hate messages on the social networking site Formspring, which is a site which allows kids to send anonymous messages to each other. But back then, as you hear, he said he rose above the negativity. Here's more of what Jamey had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODEMEYER: And I just want to tell you that it does get better because when I came out for being bi, I got so much support from my friends. And it made me feel so secure. And then if your friends or family is even there for you, I look up to one of the most supporting people of the gay community that I think of that I know, Lady Gaga.

She makes me so happy, and she lets me know that I was born this way. And that's my advice to you from her. We were born this way. And all you have to do is hold your head up -- hold your head up and you'll go far because that's all you have to do. Just love yourself and you're set.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: "Love yourself and you're set." And now here's the last part of his message. Perhaps the most chilling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODEMEYER: I promise you it will get better. I have so much support from people I don't even know online. I know that sounds creepy. But they're so nice and caring they don't ever want me to die.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: "They don't ever want me to die." Jamey Rodemeyer, last May. Last Sunday he took his own life. He was 14 years old.

Now we do know at Jamey's school they did have some type of bullying prevention program. It's unclear how extensive it was. A lot of schools across the country have programs like that. And more and more states are enacting new anti-bullying laws for schools.

But there are some organizations and lawmakers who say all this isn't needed. Organizations like Focus on the Family who say some anti-bullying efforts are actually just ways to promote a so-called gay agenda.

Candi Cushman, an education analyst for the group, posted this on truetolerance.org -- quote -- "What parents need to be aware of is there are activist groups who want to promote homosexuality to kids because they realized that they can capture hearts and minds of our children at the earliest ages. They will have for all practical purposes won the clash of values that we are currently experiencing." Then there's Robert Newman, head of the California Christian Coalition. His group is planning to fight new legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown that add sexual orientations to state's existing anti-discrimination laws and compel schools to teach lesbian and gay and transgender history alongside history of other ethnic and minority groups.

Here's Mr. Newman with what he said this past week (INAUDIBLE) bullying at the California Republican Party convention in Los Angeles. We found this on thinkprogress.org.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT NEWMAN, CALIFORNIA CHRISTIAN COALITION: It's part of growing up, it's a part of maturing. It's not something in which I engaged. I grew up in a Christian home. I didn't engage in that kind of behavior. People were people. We knew they were unusual behaviors, but we went on with life.

I hardly think that bullying is a real issue in schools. There's no reason to have a special bill for, let's say, 3 percent of the population, period.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Newman is not alone in that thinking. In Kentucky, House Bill 370 would prohibit bullying because of a student's sexual orientation, race or religion. A state lawmaker named Mike Harmon is fighting the bill. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE HARMON (R), KENTUCKY STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Someone just in conversation saying, well, you know, I think homosexuality is a sin. Well, we don't want that child to be bullied because they have a certain moral or religious belief. And we don't want -- certainly don't want them to be labeled a bully just because they have that particular belief.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And let's not forget the civil rights investigation going on in Minnesota's largest school district Anoka-Hennepin outside Minneapolis. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating several incidents involving bullying and harassment. The community is embattled in a culture war over homosexuality in the classroom.

Joining me now is Rosalind Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabees," the best selling book that inspired the 2002 movie "Mean Girls." Also with us tonight, Rachel Simmons who wrote the book "Odd Girl Out."

So, Rosalind, you say you know Jamey Rodemeyer. How so?

ROSALIND WISEMAN, AUTHOR, "QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES: HELPING YOUR DAUGHTER SURVIVE CLIQUES, GOSSIP, BOYFRIENDS, AND THE NEW REALITIES OF GIRL WORLD": Well, when I saw the video, of course, my heart just broke, and it also reminds me -- it reminds me of so many kids that I work with. And I have got, you know, kids right now that I'm e- mailing and talking to and their parents. And you know one day they feel that they can make it and they have got the strength to get by, and then the next day they feel that they can't.

And I think that's the thing that we see. And it's so amazing to me that people don't -- and parents and adults that we just heard from don't understand and can't understand that parents, when they look at their own kids, that they have got experiences and pain in school or in their lives and the parents might not know or feel out of control to actually make their kid safe.

And what I don't understand is why adults that we heard from don't get this. Because our kids are really in pain. And we've got to be able to be there for them.

COOPER: Rachel, to those who say that bullying is just a teenage rite of passage, what do you say?

RACHEL SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "ODD GIRL OUT": I say that person has never been to a school or certainly is not listening. We live in a -- where 60,000 -- stay home every day because they're too afraid to go to school. And anybody who spends time in a school and talks to kids knows that there is a culture both of everyday cruelty but also of protracted campaigns that kids cannot escape.

And when there are no rules at schools, when there's no consciousness and when there's a denial of the problem, kids cannot be safe and they cannot study.

COOPER: Rosalind, there are those who say -- and we had just heard from some of them on the program -- who say, look, you know, this is a way to spread the homosexuality or acceptance of homosexuality in schools throughout the country and some parents are saying, look, I don't feel comfortable with that.

WISEMAN: Well, I think that's ridiculous. Because we are not -- when we talk about kids being safe from bullying, we are not talking about a pro-homosexual agenda unless a pro-homosexual agenda is that we think all children deserve to be treated with dignity. And if that is the pro-homosexual agenda, then I, as a straight person, are -- I am completely for it.

And I would hope that we would all be behind that kind of agenda. So to think that we can in any way be against kids being safe for some kind of so-called agenda besides kids being safe makes absolutely no sense. And I believe that adults in every way when we have kids that we -- are important to us or we have relationships with, that we have got to get behind the -- beyond the politics of this and look at our children and be able to go where they are and to be useful to them and meaningful to them so they can trust us that we can be safe for them.

COOPER: But Rosalind, and there is the idea that the school district in Minnesota where they have what they call a neutrality policy.

WISEMAN: Right. COOPER: Where they're not using specific words of gay or lesbian. You say that's not effective.

WISEMAN: Well, it's not only not effective, it's actually totally counterproductive to everything that Rachel just said. Because neutrality in the face of the -- of an abuse of power is not neutrality. It is siding with the bully. So if you are going to -- if you're going to believe in what's called neutrality policy, what you're really believing is a way for kids to go after other kids and do nothing about it.

COOPER: Rachel, do you agree with that, that you have to use these terms, that neutrality doesn't work or so-called neutrality doesn't work?

SIMMONS: I do think neutrality doesn't work. I find the whole thing shocking. I mean we don't send American workers to their workplaces in this country saying, just do your job and we're not going to protect you if something happens to you.

Likewise, we can't send children to school in this country assuming that we're just going to teach you or we're not going to protect you if something happens to you. These are not children. We're not educating part of the child. We have to be mindful of the whole child if we really want to do justice to our education system and to the young citizens of our country.

COOPER: And --

WISEMAN: But I --

COOPER: Go ahead, Rosalind.

WISEMAN: I also think what's happening is, and you heard it in one of the clips, is that -- and I believe it was the politician from Kentucky, which is that he's saying, if I have this correctly, that the children who are bullying, if they believe that homosexuality is wrong and that's their value system, then they should be allowed to express that against other students.

And what that means is, is that they are able to be mean and cruel to other students. And that is an extraordinary thing to say. What you're saying is these values that we think are so important and are Christian, which I know many Christian people who don't believe this whatsoever, that those values enable children to bully other children and justify and reinforce the notion that it's to OK to bully other children.

It is unbelievable that that would be the case coming from our leaders and from adults that our children need to be able to depend on to be safe at school.

COOPER: I want to point out, we invited Mike Harmon to be on the program. We didn't hear back from him. Rachel, next month we're going to air a special report on bullying where we've actually hired a sociologist to study in a particular school why kids bully one another. And what they found is that LGBT kids are actually victimized at a higher rate than the regular student population or -- or kids who are perceived to be LGBT.

Is that in line with other research out there?

SIMMONS: Absolutely. I mean what we see is that the word "gay" particularly among boys but certainly among girls, too, is used as a substitute for anything that's weird, or stupid or odd, but it's also used to punish kids who don't live up to masculinity or femininity.

And for kids, particularly in middle school, fitting in, being like everyone else is so important. And these words are used to stigmatize over and over again. You ask any boy or girl what is the most common word used to shame someone, and it's very often going to be the word "gay."

COOPER: It also seems, Rosalind, to be the one derogatory term that teachers still kind of accept or just ignore, I mean, if someone was using the N-word, they would be hauled in front of the principal's office or talked to, but calling someone, you know, the F-word, they get a pass.

WISEMAN: Right. But I think it's also about teachers not being given the tools to know how to do that. So if you're a math teacher, for example, and this is what I do when I teach teachers. I say to them, look, you don't have to show a documentary. You don't have to do all of -- you don't have to do a big classroom.

You're a math teacher. You need to be teaching math. But when children are putting each other down, if somebody says, you know, and uses the word "gay" to put somebody down, all you say is, "Mark, you may not use that word to put somebody down in my classroom. Are we good? Are we done? Good."

And you move on. It takes 15 seconds. And every kid in that classroom knows that you are a safe teacher, you are a fair teacher, and that you care for the safety of every kid in that student -- in that classroom.

COOPER: Rosalind and Rachel, I appreciate both of you being on. Thank you.

We're going to continue to follow this issue here. In fact we've recently teamed up with, as we said, the Cartoon Network and Facebook to try to get at this from all different angles. There's now an app on Facebook where you can pledge to do everything you can to help stop bullying in this country.

To find the app, go to Facebook.com/stopbullyingspeakup. Again, that's Facebook.com/stopbullyingspeakup.

Join us also for our special series of reports, "Bullying: It Stops Here," starting October 9 on CNN. Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, @AndersonCooper. I will try to tweet tonight in the hour ahead. Up next tonight, GOP presidential front-runner Rick Perry, he's attacking President Obama's stance on Israel ahead of a vote at the U.N. on the Palestinian right to statehood. Is he trying to win over Jewish voters or is this really a pitch to gain more support from evangelicals?

We have the "Raw Politics," James Carville and Erick Erickson join us.

Plus "Crime and Punishment." The sole survivor of that horrific Connecticut home invasion testifying today about the murders of his wife and two daughters. Reliving the horrific day -- Dr. William Petit's heartbreaking testimony on the stand.

And there is dramatic new video of the crash at the Reno, Nevada, air races. An eyewitness to the disaster joins us ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight: GOP presidential front-runner Rick Perry blasting President Obama's stance on Israel. Perry held a news conference today in New York with several Jewish leaders. This comes just days before a U.N. vote to determine the Palestinian right to statehood.

Tomorrow in New York President Obama is going to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to talk about that vote. A senior U.S. official described the meeting as an effort to avoid a diplomatic showdown.

Today Rick Perry, who is obviously Obama's potential opponent in the 2012 election, called the president's Middle East policy toward Israel, quote, "naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous."

You might think he's trying to win over Jewish voters but to many he's actually trying to win over more evangelicals. Listen to what he told reporters today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, obviously, Israel is our oldest and most stable democratic ally in that region. That is -- that is what this is about. I also, as a Christian, have a clear directive to support Israel.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining us now, two of our political contributors, Democratic strategist James Carville and Erick Erickson, editor-in- chief for RedState.com.

So, James, what do you make of this? Perry, the rest of the Republican field, really hitting the Israel issue hard this week. Is it all about the Palestinian push at the U.N. or do they really think they have a shot at weakening Obama? JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know. He has talked to the Israeli defense minister, the most decorated person in history of IDF who was very complimentary of the Obama administration.

I would suggest that he talks to former president of his alma mater at Texas A&M who Bush appointed secretary of defense who was secretary of defense under President Obama and that would probably give him a little brief on what's going on in the Middle East. It'd do some good. I think he'd learn a lot more on that than referring to religious texts.

COOPER: Erick, is this aimed at Jewish voters or is this aimed at evangelical voters?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Both, but within the Republican primary. He has not closed the deal with Republicans as a lot of people expected him to with his debate performances. So he needs to solidify on evangelicals to make sure Michele Bachmann doesn't somehow get them back.

But also Jewish Republicans are a constituency that he needs to lock down. And a lot of them have been trending towards Mitt Romney. And so he wants to get those back.

This is a play for states right now. It's not a play for popular vote. And locking down evangelicals in a way he hasn't before and getting some Jewish -- or Jewish Republicans away from Mitt Romney are two strategies he's got to employ right now. And hitting Israel this week is the right topic with Ahmadinejad coming.

COOPER: James, look at the latest Gallup Poll here for Republicans voters. Michele Bachmann's support is at 5 percent, down by half in less than a month.

Is -- I mean is she the Howard Dean of the 2012 race? What has happened to her?

CARVILLE: Well, no, I mean, Howard Dean was a lot stronger than her for a lot longer. If you remember, Anderson, about a few weeks ago Ari and I got into a minor tiff. I didn't think she was serious three weeks ago. I'm not surprised about this at all. And I doubt that Erick is very surprised by it either.

It was a really boom, but you can sense it. I still -- by the way, I still think this only makes it more likely that Sarah Palin is going to get in. I still believe that she will.

COOPER: You still think she may. Really?

CARVILLE: I do. I absolutely do.

COOPER: Why? What makes you think that?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, I think that if you look at just what she's been doing and everything else, and now that Bachmann has collapsed, I think she'll look at that and sense that there's sort of a spot for her in that. And I thought that she was going to get in for a long time. I still do.

And I don't think that she's on a normal campaign schedule like anybody else. I think she has her own way of doing things and her own time -- her own time schedule. And I just -- the more this goes on, the more I think she's going to get in.

COOPER: Erick, do you think she might get in?

ERICKSON: You know, I will believe it when I see it at this point. She may very well. James is right. She's got her own schedule and she's not concerned at all what any of us think or when we think she might get it. She'll do it if she wants to do it. Right now I don't think she will, but that could change in like five seconds so we'll see.

COOPER: Erick -- with Bachmann down and Romney up -- Romney is up, is it possible that Bachmann's supporters are going to the Romney camp rather than Perry's?

ERICKSON: Yes, very much so. We see that she's down 5 and Romney is up 7. Yes, I think so. And largely because Perry hasn't been able to close the deal like people thought he would.

And you know I would say I expected Bachmann to have more staying power than this and to be able to get through. I'm surprised she's fallen so fast. And I wouldn't say the Dean comparison is apt. But I would say that her HPV-Gardasil-mental retardation blip was an equivalent to the Dean scream, the dying gasp before campaign.

It came a lot sooner than I expected it to.

COOPER: James, the last time I think you were on this program you were pretty unhappy with President Obama with the folks around him. You said it was time for the White House to panic. I think that was the word you used.

Do -- should they take their finger off the panic button at this point? Or how do you think they're doing right now after this week's speech?

CARVILLE: Well -- yes, I think that -- you know, obviously, in a way, they need to change course, they need to go in a different direction. I think that they indicated that they're doing that this week. But the question is the president always gives a good speech. He's -- very fine speech, he's a very articulate man.

And to see if there's follow-up beyond what he said. I think if he does that, that's a pretty strong indication that they're changing direction. I think the combination to the debt deal in August that ended in two elections was time to a pretty good signal that they had to do something different. And I think they respond to the signal.

COOPER: Erick, do you think the White House is kind of changing course?

ERICKSON: You know like with Sarah Palin, I will believe this when I see it. I agree with what James is saying. He gives a good speech and it was a speech that a lot of my Democratic friends were encouraged by. But even they were saying, you know, let's see. Will he cave again to the Republicans or will he hold fast?

And unlike last time a lot them blaming him for cutting a deal too good for our side, although I disagree with them. But nonetheless, we'll see what happens. And you know the day after the 2006 elections Bush fired Rumsfeld. The day after the 2010 election, Obama did not fire Geithner. And that has plagued a -- perplexed a number of us.

And from James' op-ed the other day, why are a lot of these people still there? If he wants to really move the country forward, I don't think he can do it with the same faces.

COOPER: We'll leave it there. James...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Or, James, go ahead, if you want to.

CARVILLE: No, no, no. I -- just was going to make a point, I mean, you know, best time to plan 25 years ago, second best is right now. Maybe he's starting. Let's see it. And maybe he's going to make some of these personnel changes between now and the first of the year. We'll see.

COOPER: All right. We'll watch, James Carville.

Thanks, Erick Erickson.

Just ahead an important day at the United Nations. As Libya's revolution was celebrated and President Obama vowed to protect civilians still threatened by the Gadhafi regime.

Also ahead, heartbreaking testimony in a triple murder trial. The sole survivor of that brutal home invasion in Connecticut describes the day he lost everything, his beloved wife and his two young daughters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up in "Crime and Punishment" tonight, a father relives the horrific crime that destroyed his family as he testified today about the day his wife and two daughters were murdered. This is the second trial Dr. William Petit has endured. More on his testimony ahead.

But first Randi Kaye has our "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a historic day for Libya's new leadership. The United Nations' General Assembly voted to accept the credentials of Libya's transitional government after anti- Gadhafi forces last month drove the strongman from more than four decades of power.

President Obama said the U.S. will reopen its embassy in Tripoli this next week and vow to continue to protect Libyan civilians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Difficult days are still ahead. But one thing is clear. The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. For just as it was Libyans who tore down the old order, it will be Libyans who build their new nation.

And we've come here today to say to the people of Libya, just as the world stood by you in your struggle to be free, we will now stand with you in your struggle to realize the peace and prosperity that freedom can bring.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: A former president of Afghanistan was assassinated today in a suicide bombing at his home in Kabul. Burhanuddin Rabbani was considered vital to peace efforts in his country. In fact an intelligence source tells CNN the attack took place just as Rabbani was about to meet a delegation representing Taliban insurgents.

And a NASA satellite is expected to re-enter the earth's atmosphere on or around this Friday, September 23. NASA says the satellite will break into pieces and not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere. But the space agency says the risk to public safety, Anderson, is extremely small.

Let's hope so.

COOPER: Yes, let's hope so a lot.

All right, time now for "The Shot."

Randi Kaye, if you didn't know, it is gator hunting season in Florida. I did not know that. A teenager named Tim Stroh hit the jackpot. Take a look. Tim bagged an 800-pound gator. Eight hundred pound. It was at least 12 feet long. Believe it or not. He used a fishing pole to reel it in.

KAYE: My goodness.

COOPER: Yes. Tim was gator hunting with his family when they spotted the massive reptile. His dad is a taxidermist and says he's going to mount the gator head for his son to display. Look how huge that is.

KAYE: Now the last time you went gator hunting, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes.

KAYE: What did you catch?

COOPER: Well, you know, I don't like to brag, but let's just say it was -- no, I don't have --

KAYE: I know you don't really go gator hunting. COOPER: It'd be interesting. It's be interesting. Yes, it would be interesting. We'll see.

Randi, thank you very much.

KAYE: Sure.

COOPER: Coming up, we'll have the latest on the -- the trial in Connecticut. It's actually the second trial in that home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut. Today, Dr. William Petit took the stand, testifying about what he saw, what he heard the day his family was killed -- "Crime and Punishment" still ahead.

Plus, new and dramatic video of last Friday's deadly air race crash in Reno -- we're going to have a firsthand account from a man who was there with his two sons. His son actually took this video. They watched in horror as the pilot lost control of his vintage plane. Why they say he was a hero.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. "Crime & Punishment now."

An emotional day in the Connecticut courtroom as the father took the stand in the trial of a second man charged with killing his wife and two daughters. Dr. William Petit was the only one to survive the horrifying home invasion four years ago. Petit managed to escape but not in time to save his wife and daughters from a death so gruesome, it's a wonder he can even think about what happened, let alone talk about it.

The first man to stand trial in the case, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death in December. After Hayes was convicted, Dr. Petit did speak about what helped him through -- what helped him through that first trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM PETIT, SURVIVED HOME INVASION: What matters to me most is my family and my memories, my memories of my family and trying to do good things through our foundation. I don't know. Over the last couple of weeks, I just kept trying to tell myself that good will overcome evil, and we'll keep trying to do good things and try to refocus myself on the positive and stay away from the negative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good will overcome evil.

Today, Dr. Petit testified in graphic detail about what happened the day the two men broke into his home, bringing his world crashing down around him. CNN's Deborah Feyerick was in the courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PETIT: My family is still -- still gone. It doesn't bring them back. It doesn't bring back the home that we had.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's Dr. William Petit, the only survivor from a crime so tragic, so horrific, it defies logic.

July 23, 2007, began as a normal summer day, Dr. Petit playing golf. His wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Michaela, at the beach. Seventeen-year-old Hayley was at home, where they all planned to meet for dinner. That dinner would be the last time the family would ever be together.

Investigators say two intruders, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, broke into the Petits' home through an unlocked door in the dead of night. Dr. Petit was asleep on the sunroom couch.

Today, during 2 1/2 hours of testimony Dr. Petit recalled hearing himself cry out in pain, telling the jury he did not know if he was awake or dreaming. He felt blood gushing down his face. Standing before him were two hooded intruders. One appeared to be holding a gun.

He says he remembers a voice asking him if there was a safe in the house, and when he replied no, the intruder said, quote, "If he moves, put a bullet in him." His own lawyers acknowledge that Komisarjevsky beat Dr. Petit bloody with a baseball bat.

(on camera) On the witness stand, Dr. Petit showed the jury how his wrists were bound and says he felt his way along the banister so he wouldn't fall. Once in the basement, an intruder threw down some pillows, then covered his head with a cloth and tied him to a pole in the center of the room.

(voice-over) Hours later, Dr. Petit said he heard his wife in the kitchen speaking to the intruders, saying she needed to get dressed, get the checkbook and identification. Dr. Petit said he heard his wife's voice but neither of his daughters. He heard one of the men tell his wife, quote, "Get the money and no one will get hurt."

Komisarjevsky and Hayes forced Mrs. Hawke-Petit to drive to the bank. You're watching a wife, a mother, in a desperate attempt to save her family. That's Jennifer Hawke-Petit on a bank surveillance video, telling the bank teller her husband and two daughters are being held hostage and she needs to withdraw $15,000 in ransom money.

Minutes later, Jennifer Petit leaves the bank. Police, alerted by the bank manager, were dispatched to surround the house but ordered not to approach it. They say that's normal protocol in a hostage situation.

(on camera) When Steven Hayes returns from the bank with Jennifer Hawke-Petit, it is 10 in the morning, nearly seven hours after the intruders broke into the home. Dr. Petit hears a commotion and cries out. One of the men says, "Don't worry. It will all be over in a couple of minutes." That's when Dr. Petit hears a hissing sound and says, "I realized," quote, "I had to get out."

(voice-over) In a burst of adrenaline, the desperate husband and father frees himself from his basement prison. He rolls to a neighbor's driveway, bleeding badly and calling out for help. By now, nearly 40 minutes have passed since the bank manager called 911. Police are still outside.

Investigators say, with the girls upstairs tied to their beds, the suspects used gasoline to douse the home. Screams were heard, and then the house went up in flames.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Deborah Feyerick joins me now from Connecticut along with Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor and legal contributor for "In Session" on TruTV. Both were in the courtroom today.

So Deb, Dr. Petit, face-to-face with one of the men accused of killing his family. What was it like in that courtroom?

FEYERICK: Anderson, it was almost like a day of reckoning. Here you have the sole survivor, who was describing the final hours of his wife's life and the lives of his two children, Hayley and Michaela.

And it's not just the jury that is listening very closely and taking notes, but it's also the man, who has admitted being in the house when this tragedy took place. And you have to wonder what's going through his mind as he sees the floor plans, as he sees the house going up in flames.

And there were some interesting moments in the court. For example, at one point, Jennifer Hawke-Petit's father, a reverend, crossed the aisle to speak to the defendant's father. And we heard the father say, "God bless you, God bless you, God bless you."

And later, when I asked the reverend what he had discussed, he said basically, you know, "We told him that he must be hurting as much as we are." And then the reverend paused and he said, "Well, maybe not as much." So it was just very poignant and sad, just seeing how this man's life changed so quickly and so suddenly and how close the police were to perhaps preventing this tragic outcome.

COOPER: So wait a minute. The father of the victim went over to the father of one of the alleged killers...

FEYERICK: Yes.

COOPER: ... and expressed concern over the pain that he was feeling? That's extraordinary.

FEYERICK: Extraordinary. Extraordinary. And even -- even the defendant's father realized that. And that's why you heard him say, "God bless you, God bless you."

And we actually chased Komisarjevsky's father down the road. And one of our photogs said, "Well, how do you feel?" And the only thing he said, he looked at him, and he said, "Well, how would you feel?" So it's clearly affecting him, to see his son in such a terrible position and accused of such terrible crimes.

COOPER: Yes. Sunny, Dr. Petit also testified in the trial of the other killer, who now sits on Death Row. Did he notice anything different this time around?

SUNNY HOSTIN, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": It certainly is a difference, Anderson. A very emotional Dr. Petit is who we are seeing. He's an elegant man, very stoic, calm on the witness stand. But there were times when the emotion overtook him, especially when he was recalling his wife's voice in the kitchen when she was talking to the intruders. That was probably the last time he heard his wife's voice.

And at that moment, Anderson, his face flushed red. He looked down. He covered his mouth with his hand, and he just stopped. That is the most emotion I have seen from Dr. Petit in the Hayes trial and in this trial. So just a very different case.

The facts are the same, but the players have changed. His defense team is very aggressive. One of his defense lawyers is Walt Bansley. He's the inspiration for the Tom Cruise character in "A Few Good Men."

And so this defense team is aggressively defending Joshua Komisarjevsky. And their theory of the case is that Joshua Komisarjevsky never intended to murder the Petit family. He only intended to break in and steal.

And so, when you see this sort of theory being played out in the courtroom, it must be affecting Dr. Petit. He was even cross-examined today, Anderson, and he was not cross-examined by the first defense team.

COOPER: Yes. And Deb, obviously, defense has to cross-examine him carefully, but they are trying to cast doubt on his testimony, making it seem like maybe he's piercing together -- piecing together the story from testimony that he's heard at other trials or both trials, right?

FEYERICK: Right. Absolutely. And defense attorneys gain absolutely nothing by attacking this man. That will just make them look bad in the eyes of the jury.

But what they did try to do was kind of question whether, in fact, it's really what he experienced, what he's recollecting and what he's saying is what he experienced, or whether he's filling in certain holes or gaps with testimony that he got from the first trial. So they're trying to undermine it a little.

And they brought out the fact that Dr. Petit had been interviewed four times immediately after this tragedy by police officers. And the fourth time he said, quote, the defense said, "Your memory, you told them your memory was becoming less clear." And Dr. Petit acknowledged that that was the fact.

But he also said, "Look, I have testified to the best of my ability, given my condition at the time."

So he really is -- and don't forget, he'd been beaten severely in the head with a baseball bat. He lost between five to seven pints of blood. And he was coming in and out of consciousness. So, they're trying to just maybe cast doubt as to what he heard and who may have said it, because that would go to intent and that would go to who did what, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Deborah Feyerick, I appreciate it. It's been a long day for you.

Sunny Hostin, as well. Thank you.

Coming up, dramatic new video of the deadly plane crash in Reno, Nevada. I'll talk to the man who was right there when it happened. His son took this video. He has really remarkable things to say about what it was like being there and his thoughts about it now.

Also the man who shot and -- the man who was shot and killed on Falcon Lake on the border between Texas and Mexico. Almost a year later, a lot of lingering questions about the case. Now his widow is suing the State Department, the Justice Department and the FBI, trying to get answers. We'll have it tonight, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, tonight, we have new and dramatic look at Friday's deadly plane crash at an air show in Reno, Nevada, from someone who was right there when it happened. His name is Brent Wilson, and he was there with his two sons, Ryan and Kyle. They were at the air race when things went terribly and horribly wrong before their eyes.

Kyle took the video you're about to see. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

Oh, my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Eleven people died from the crash, including the pilot of the vintage World War II era plane that crashed straight into the ground. Almost 70 people were injured.

Joining me now on the phone is Brent Wilson.

Brent, thanks so much for being with us. At what point did you realize that something was terribly wrong, because your son really captured the plane sooner than any of the other videos I've seen? BRENT WILSON, WITNESS TO RENO AIR CRASH (via phone): Well, yes, he was coming around on the third lap, as you heard in the video, from the announcer that apparently something went wrong. And the pilots are trained, you know, if something goes wrong, to call mayday and you take the plane as high as you can to give you time to react and figure out what to do. And so any time you see a plane in an air race go skyward, you know something is wrong.

As it's in the air, it actually works its way back behind the grandstands, which just never happens in an event like that. And because of that, when he comes down, his momentum is moving away from the grandstand. And so that the massive debris that you see out into the tarmac, you know, had he crashed where, you know, coming out of the race towards the stands, that would have come into the stands and we would be talking about massive casualties.

COOPER: How old are your kids?

WILSON: Twenty and 22.

COOPER: I'm amazed. I mean, Kyle's camera work is incredibly steady, having just witnessed something so horrific. What's that like, to be there with your kids and to -- what do you say after that?

WILSON: What you do is you stop and you pray. I stood there, as a father, realizing I didn't even have time to reach out and grab my sons. You know, and that shakes you, as a father, to your core.

And, you know, we've talked about it quite a bit. You know, we -- Kyle actually did not realize the video that he had. He said that, he followed -- he was following the race -- racers in the eyepiece. When the mayday happened, he tilted it skyward. He caught it in the viewfinder.

And at that point, literally just sort of brought the camera down next to his head. And he's just watching it and not looking through the eyepiece. And he just happens to be literally moving the camera where his head's moving. And so he captures, obviously, the impact and everything, not realizing that he's actually captured that till later.

My youngest son, Kyle's, really struggling with this. And he really came to the realization, he says, "We have to help. We have to help. We have to show the spirit -- the spirit of human nature, to come to each other's aid and really show the heroism of the pilot and show the heroism of the people on the ground."

I mean, the first responders, unbelievable how quickly they were able to, you know, assess, triage, treat and transport. I mean, they transported 56 people in 62 minutes. I mean one a minute.

COOPER: That's incredible.

WILSON: Absolutely incredible.

COOPER: Well, Brent, I appreciate talking to you. And my best to both your sons. And I hope -- I hope they're dealing OK with what they saw and hope you are, as well. Thanks for being with us.

WILSON: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Incredible video.

Coming up, "The RidicuList." But first, Randi Kaye joins us again with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is now history. The U.S. military's policy banning gay and lesbian troops from serving openly ended today at 12:01 a.m. More than 14,000 military personnel were discharged under the ban since it took effect back in 1993.

Georgia's parole board has denied Troy Davis clemency, but his supporters are vowing to continue fighting to stop his execution, now less than 24 hours away. Davis is scheduled to die by lethal injection tomorrow evening for the 1989 shooting of an off-duty police officer.

The prosecutor in the case is speaking out for the first time in years. Former district attorney Spencer Lawton says Davis got a fair trial, with a judgment by an honest jury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPENCER LAWTON, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There are two Troy Davis cases. There's the legal case, the case in court, and the public relations case. We have consistently won the case as it's been presented in court. We have consistently lost the case as it's been presented in the public realm and on TV and elsewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: A day after testifying before Congress about her husband's death, a Colorado widow has sued federal investigators for information about the case. Tiffany Hartley says David Hartley was shot by drug cartel gunmen on a lake spanning the U.S. and Mexico border. That was a year ago. His body was never found, and no suspects have been named.

Meantime, federal prosecutors have charged the online gambling site Full Tilt Poker with operating a huge Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of more than $440 million. The site has been shut down.

And a Chinese businessman has put down a deposit of nearly $80,000 for this 62-year-old bottle of Dalmore single malt scotch. That's right. A deposit. The full price is $200,000. That's about $12,000 a glass.

Those are the headlines. Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, "The RidicuList," why one of the world's biggest sperm banks is turning away red-headed donors. The "RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding the ginger jeer squad, the crimson criticizers. That's right: all the redhead haters.

The report that one of the world's largest sperm banks is turning down red-headed donors because there isn't enough demand for their particular specimens. The director of said sperm bank says, and I quote, "I do not think you'd choose a redhead unless the partner, for example, the sterile male, has red hair or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that's perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case."

Ouch.

I think it's time for them to demand the respect they deserve. Don't take it from me, redheads. Take it from "South Park."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREY PARKER, VOICE OF ERIC CARTMAN: We can't let this go on any longer. We should be proud of who we are. Think of all the great people throughout history who were ginger. People like -- like uh -- like...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Howard?

PARKER: Right! Ron Howard. And uh -- and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Howard?

PARKER: Right, we already had him, but right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, Ron Howard, excellent point. Who wouldn't want a kid that looks like Opie Taylor from "The Andy Griffith Show" or like Wendy's from Wendy's, who was, I think, a rip-off of Pippi Longstocking.

Can you seriously imagine any baby cuter than this one? Sure, as the parent of a redhead you might spend a little more on sunscreen over the years, but the rewards are endless.

Just think: statistically, there's a pretty good chance that your carrot-top bundle of joy could grow up to be an icon of comedy. Like Lucille Ball, or Conan O'Brien, or Kathy Griffin, or Carol Burnett or -- OK, four out of five is not so bad.

The point I'm trying to make is that redheads are very often fiery, creative, extremely talented people. Before he was grizzled and gray, Willie Nelson was a redhead. OK. Maybe he's not the best genetic specimen I could have picked.

But I must admit, a couple of the redheads around the office have been kind of blue since this news came out about the sperm bank. Now, I say, don't let the haters get you down. Plenty of people love redheads. Charlie Brown, he was quite partial to redheads, for instance. As was Matthew McConnaughey's character from "Dazed and Confused."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW MCCONNAUGHEY, ACTOR: You've got to just get in with us. But that's all right. We'll worry about that later. I will see you there. All right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.

MCCONNAUGHEY: I love those redheads, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Is there any social injustice that can't be assuaged with the wisdom of David Wooderson? I think not.

OK, fine. There may be some biological precedent for ginger bashing. There were reports recently that a red-haired baby seal in Russia was shunned from the seal colony. Poor little thing. But let us not be mean to seals, ladies and gentlemen, because in the end, we all go gray anyway. Yes, some of us sooner than others.

But in my mind, we're all redheads, each in our own way, on "The RidicuList."

OK. That's it for "360." Thanks for watching. John King starts now.