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Zimmerman's Friend Speaks Out; Trayvon Martin's Family Demands Justice; Bounty for George Zimmerman's Arrest

Aired March 26, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, 360: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.

We begin, as always, keeping them honest with major new developments, some which are complicated in the Trayvon Martin case, raising new questions, and raising tensions even higher.

New photos of Trayvon Martin tonight as an older teen. Some of the earlier pictures showed him as young as 11 years old. Also with the snapshots, more complex pictures emerging of the 17-year-old who was shot dead exactly one month ago tonight by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. We're learning why he'd been suspended from school and was not in school the day he was shot.

We're also learning more about George Zimmerman's version about what happened that night. For the first time the story he told police is out and a new eyewitness appears to back up at least part of it. Some or all of the above may explain why Sanford -- Florida police did not arrest him and have not since. It also may signal how tough it could be to bring George Zimmerman to trial and get a conviction.

I spoke today with Florida's lead prosecutor Angela Corey who warned against expecting too much too soon. She walked me through the process and the problems in coming to a decision about how to proceed.


ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: First decision will be, do we have everything we need and if we do we probably won't need a grand jury.

COOPER: And you're hoping to make that decision, you think, within the next couple of days?

COREY: No, no. Probably -- hopefully by the end of the week after next, or -- we need a couple of weeks to continue to do this. Remember, our burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. That's an extremely high burden especially in light of the "Stand Your Ground" law.


COOPER: Well, adding to the pressure, though, there's this. A "wanted" poster offering $10,000 for the capture of George Zimmerman. A fringe group called the New Black Panther Party is behind it against the wishes of the Martin family. Now I spokes with a member of the group, a man called Minister Mikhail Muhammad. I spoke to him earlier tonight.


COOPER: You were asked this weekend if you were inciting violence. And you responded by saying, an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Trayvon Martin's father today said we don't believe in an eye for an eye. Aren't you directly going against the wishes of Trayvon Martin's family?

MINISTER MIKHAIL MUHAMMAD, NEW BLACK PANTHER PARTY: Well, we love Trayvon's father, but we are military, we have to support that family. We're here to make them do their job. We will support Trayvon's family and the -- but we are military. Every nation has a military. Every nation has a defense system. So we're going to support this family but we want the United States government to do their job.


COOPER: I'll have more from that interview shortly. That among other things leading Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett today to compare his city to a tinderbox and a glass house. Tonight people there marched to the streets, too many to fit inside the local civic center where a town hall meeting was held. As the meeting began, Sanford City commissioner Mark McCarty, one of those who voted no confidence in Police Chief Lee, he suffered chest pains and was taken to the hospital.

People also rallying in at least 11 other cities today from San Francisco to Philadelphia.

Now earlier today emotions ran high as Trayvon's mother reacted sharply to the revelation about her son's suspension after school officials found marijuana residue in his book bag.


SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: The only comment that I have right now is that they've killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation.


COOPER: Well, the family attorney Ben Crump calling the story a distraction.


BEN CRUMP, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: If he and his friends experimented with marijuana, that is still completely irrelevant to George Zimmerman killing their son.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Also today "The Orlando Sentinel" reported and the Sanford Police later confirmed a leaked account of George Zimmerman's version of the deadly encounter. He told police he lost sight of Trayvon Martin and was returning to his SUV when Trayvon Martin approached him. Then he says after exchanging words, Zimmerman says Martin punched him in the nose knocking him down.

On the ground, Zimmerman said the teen, who was 6'3" but only about 140 pounds, hit him repeatedly and slammed his head into the ground. Additionally ABC News is reporting that Zimmerman told police that Martin tried to take his gun.

Now remember Martin's family has an affidavit from a young woman who says she was talking on the phone with Trayvon Martin before he was shot. She reportedly says Trayvon Martin indicated Zimmerman was following him. Today, though, another apparent witness emerged. The first who says he saw a scuffle between the two. He wants to be known only a John and spoke to our local affiliate WOFL FOX 35.


JOHN, EYEWITNESS: The guy on the bottom who I believe had a red sweater on was yelling to me help, help. I told him to stop and I was calling 911.


COOPER: It was George Zimmerman who was wearing red. This is the first eyewitness who says he actually saw who yelled for help and it was George Zimmerman. John says he locked his patio door, ran upstairs, and heard at least one gun shot.


JOHN: And when I got upstairs and looked down, the person that was on top beating up the other guy was the one laying in the grass. And I believe he was dead at that point.


COOPER: So those are the headlines. But now we have a fuller picture of George Zimmerman's account of those moments. He's been out of the public eye obviously ever since. Today in "The Orlando Sentinel," a new picture surfaced. And tonight his friend Joe Oliver spoke to me about the George Zimmerman he knows.


COOPER: Joe, I understand you spoke with George Zimmerman this afternoon. How is he doing?

JOE OLIVER, FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Well, this afternoon after speaking with George, I've learned that he is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, insomnia. He has no hunger. I had a chance to fill in the blanks that have been left out in the report that was released today. And the information that's going to be coming out once the grand jury convenes. More to validate what I believe in that George saved his own life.

COOPER: How do you mean? How can you say that?

OLIVER: Because of the account that he gave to me. And that's the evidence that is going to come out in the grand jury.

COOPER: So George told you his version of events?

OLIVER: Yes. Yes, he did. And I had him go through it. One of the reasons why we're at this point right now is that a lot of this information is just now being let out. I mean, I strongly believe that if from the very beginning, the character -- with the characterizations of George being Latino rather than white and with the information that was gathered in the investigation, if it had been let out earlier on we wouldn't be here right now.

COOPER: In terms of his event -- in terms of what he says happened, what can you shed light on? There's now a witness who was interviewed by local TV in Florida who said that he saw George Zimmerman yell out for help. Is that what George said to you?

OLIVER: Yes. George said that to me as well. But beyond that, I really can't expound on it because George has been told not to talk about the evidence that the police have. And obviously they're releasing it piecemeal.

COOPER: But from what you heard you believe that George Zimmerman was in fear for his life?

OLIVER: I do believe George Zimmerman was in fear for this life, yes.

COOPER: You know --

OLIVER: I believe at some point in that confrontation, George felt like and believed with all his heart he had to make a decision to defend himself and to save his life.

COOPER: There's now a report indicating that in the initial police report what George Zimmerman said was he was on his way back to his vehicle to await the police when he was attacked by Trayvon Martin. That that is apparently what he initially told police. Can you confirm that?

OLIVER: Yes, I can.

COOPER: So he's saying he was on his way back to his vehicle and Trayvon Martin actually attacked him?

OLIVER: Yes, he -- that's what he's saying. That's what the police report is saying. That's what he has talked with me about. COOPER: There is an affidavit that the -- Trayvon Martin's family has gotten from apparently from a young woman who was allegedly on the phone with Trayvon Martin just prior to the shooting in which she says, according again to this affidavit that the family has brought out, that Trayvon Martin indicated somebody was following him. And that he said to George Zimmerman, why are you following me? And that George Zimmerman said to him, what are you doing around here, or words to that effect.

Can you -- does that jive with what George Zimmerman has told you?

OLIVER: No, it doesn't. And again, I can't -- because of what has been released and what hasn't been released, that's more information that I can't talk about. But that does not -- that does not match George's version of what happened.

COOPER: As you know, the -- this group, the New Black Panther Party has offered a reward or they say for the, quote, unquote, "capture of George Zimmerman." Is he concerned for his safety right now?

OLIVER: That's why no one knows where he's at. He should be concerned for his safety. You know? And I now have to be concerned for my safety. Not just for myself but for my friends and family as well. Yet I wasn't there. I didn't pull the trigger. All I'm doing is standing up for a friend who defended himself because he truly believed he was about to die.

COOPER: Joe Oliver, listen, I appreciate having your voice on the program tonight. We're trying to learn as much as we can. And it's important to hear from you. So thank you.

OLIVER: Thank you.


COOPER: Moments ago you heard from the Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. Joining me now is another member of their legal team -- excuse me -- Daryl Parks.

Mr. Parks, thanks very much for being with us. You just heard from Joe Oliver. He believed George Zimmerman saved his own life and that evidence will come out in the grand jury to that effect, that Zimmerman never initially pulled his gun out. How do you respond to that?

DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Well, Anderson, I think we have to go back to all the initial evidence of the 911 tapes that we already are aware of. It's rather clear that Mr. Zimmerman thought that Trayvon was suspicious. Number r two, the dispatcher told him are you following him? He says yes. She says, you don't have to follow him.

We can have confidence in that evidence that he was being the aggressor. I know that the gentleman is a good friend of his and that's fine. However, we have very, very clear evidence to the world of what this gentleman was doing. And so for him to try and turn the tide on Trayvon right now when Trayvon has lost his life, he's dead, it is -- it is almost -- it's a great insult to this family.

COOPER: Do you think this is part of a -- sort of an organized campaign on the part of Zimmerman or his supporters to -- I mean some would say they want to get their side of the story out. Do you believe it's to somehow bolster his side and somehow impugn the character of Trayvon?

PARKS: I think it is. We've seen it often in criminal cases where a defense team will start trying to use various theories to try to put their position out there. In this case, it's very important that the American public know that when you take those two 911 tapes and the statements from his girlfriend and the phone records, Anderson, it's very clear that she was on the phone from 7:12 to 7:16 and the Sanford Police were on scene at 7:17.

Those facts aren't controverted. Mr. Zimmerman and his friends can say whatever they want to say. Those facts speak for itself. And America needs to focus on the facts. Not the innuendo that people may try to come up with.

COOPER: When I interviewed Trayvon's mother, she was very clear in believing passionately that was her son yelling for help recorded on the 911 call. George Zimmerman, according to Mr. Oliver, is claiming it was actually him calling for help. And now an eyewitness has come forward, this person calling himself John, who says that he saw that it was George Zimmerman calling for help. Does the Martin family still firmly believe it was their son?

PARKS: Yes, we do. But Anderson, go back. Zimmerman admits he gets out of the truck when they tell him not to. I think we've got to stay on the facts of the case because to go straight to the incident that happened right -- Trayvon isn't here to tell his story. Yet we have Mr. Zimmerman, he could tell us anything. Along with the few witnesses that were there. The witnesses contradict themselves. So what should happen is that since the witnesses contradict themselves, that's probable cause. Arrest him and let a court of law resolve this issue.

COOPER: Over the weekend you said in an interview that you doubt George Zimmerman will be indicted with a federal hate crime. I'm wondering why that is -- yes, why is that?

PARKS: Well, I think it's a very, very high standard. And I think that if you look at the statements that were made initially by the Justice Department is a very guarded statement. What I said over the weekend is that the standards are a lot lower in state court. So the state court is where there's a better chance of a conviction. So I was only expressing a preference more so of state court over federal court in terms of a possible conviction.

The thing that you have to do in federal court is we have to probably prove more of a racial basis for the conviction. The other part of it is this, right? I think in America we try and put a greater emphasis on the federal jurisdiction. Right? Well, in this situation here we'll be very happy even with a state jurisdiction and the state carrying out the law in this matter.

COOPER: Mr. Parks, this group, the New Black Panther Party, has come forward saying they're offering a reward for the capture of George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin's father had said I don't believe in an eye for an eye. They clearly don't seem to be happy about this group being out there.

Are you concerned that this will take focus away from Trayvon's case?

PARKS: Well, let me -- I think the statement made by the father, the statement made by my law partner Benjamin Crump earlier today at the rally is very clear. We do not condone. In fact, we condemn the conduct of this particular group and in no shape or form support it. We believe that in America, in our country and in our state, that we can get fair justice. And we are putting our confidence in the system that we have in our great state of Florida. So we don't condone those people whatsoever, Anderson.

COOPER: Mr. Parks, again, I appreciate you being on the program tonight. Thank you.

PARKS: Thank you.


COOPER: Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google Plus, follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper. I'm tweeting tonight.

Right now as always, much more at as well. And much more tonight including my interview with a member of the New Black Panther Party who is pushing for action against, as you just heard, the wishes of the Martin family.


COOPER: But you were directly going against what Trayvon Martin's father says he believes in. The family does not want you involved in this.

MUHAMMAD: Well, then, again, Anderson, you need to tell the State Department of Justice to arrest this guy. Tell the city of Sanford to arrest this guy. Tell the attorney general Pam Bondi to arrest this guy.


COOPER: Well, you'll hear more from them ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We mentioned at the top that the story of Trayvon Martin's killing is no longer as simple as it once was. More pieces of the puzzle are emerging. The facts yet still are not known. No one knows exactly what happened. We are still awaiting the truth. At the same time passions are running high, tensions are rising. This wanted poster, as we said, is fanning the flames.

A group calling themselves the New Black Panther Party putting out a bounty for George Zimmerman's arrest. It says $10,000 on the poster. They announced the amount is up to $23,000. The New Black Panther Party says they'd like to make it $1 million.

Trayvon Martin's family, as you heard Atty. Daryl Parks say, wants no part of this and does not condone this, and is against this. His father saying today, we're not asking for an eye for an eye. We're asking for justice, justice, justice. Those were his words.

Take a look, though, at my earlier interview with a man calling himself Minister Mikhail Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party. I spoke to him just before airtime. Decide for yourself what he wants.


COOPER: Mr. Mikhail, you say that your group is offering a $10,000 reward for the, quote, "capture of George Zimmerman." What exactly does that mean? Capturing George Zimmerman?

MUHAMMAD: We want to apprehend him, arrest him, and bring him to the authorities so they can charge this man with first-degree murder. He committed murder. He committed a hate crime. And so since the United snakes -- I got to say snakes -- government will not do their job even though we are supposed to be citizens, we decided to take it upon ourselves in coalition with other groups, with coalition with other black people who have had enough.

COOPER: But you say you want to hand him over to authorities. He's not been charged at this point with any crime. So under what authority would you apprehend him and hand him over to anybody?

MUHAMMAD: The citizens arrest. He killed someone and he's in hiding, Anderson. The police department is protecting him, Anderson. I have never heard in the history of America where one was able to kill an innocent human being and then be protected by the police.

COOPER: Why do you feel --

MUHAMMAD: So we decided to get involved.

COOPER: How do you say the police are protecting him, though? At this point numerous authorities, federal and state, are investigating him.


MUHAMMAD: Yes. They may be investigating on the surface, but behind the scenes they're trying to protect his life.

COOPER: You were asked this weekend if you were inciting violence. And you responded by saying an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Trayvon Martin's father today said we don't believe in an eye for an eye. Aren't you directly going against the wishes of Trayvon Martin's family?

MUHAMMAD: We love Trayvon's father but we are military, we have to support that family. We're here to make them do their job. We will support Trayvon's family, Anderson, but we are military. Every nation has a military, every nation has a defense system. So we're going to support this family, but we want the United States government to do their job.

COOPER: But --

MUHAMMAD: Y'all would do the job, we wouldn't be here today.

COOPER: But you were directly going against what Trayvon Martin's father says he believes in. The family does not want you involved in this.

MUHAMMAD: Well, then again, Anderson, you need to tell the State Department of Justice to arrest this guy. Tell the city of Sanford to arrest this guy. Tell the attorney general Pam Bondi to arrest this guy. We believe that the government is stalling. And we love Trayvon's family and we're here for them, but again, they have killed millions of black men and women. So not only are we calling for justice for Trayvon, we're talking about the millions Americans murdered who never had justice.

Don't put the spotlight on the New Black Panther Party. We didn't commit the murder. Let's put the spotlight back on George Zimmerman and --

COOPER: You say you're here for Trayvon's family, though, but Trayvon's family does not want you there. I mean, you're saying you're here for them --

MUHAMMAD: Well, you tell -- you tell the Justice Department, Eric Holder and our President Obama to get off of their ass and do the work and arrest this man. (INAUDIBLE) with that.

COOPER: You say you're calling for justice for Trayvon Martin. Aren't you really calling for vengeance, though?

MUHAMMAD: No, sir. We can make a citizens arrest but the United States government will not do they job. According to the Constitution we have that right. So again, Anderson, you cannot put the burden on the New Black Panther Party's back. You must put it back in the lap of George Zimmerman. Put it in the lap of no good Bill Lee. Put it in the lap of the no good state attorney Norman Wolf. I'm not going to tell him -- I'm not going to tell him -- I think I'm going to call him a wolf because all (INAUDIBLE) a wolf in sheep's clothing.

COOPER: But I mean just factually speaking what you're saying does not make sense that under the Constitution you can make a citizens arrest. You can't arrest somebody if they have not been charged with anything. That's still being investigated.

MUHAMMAD: Well, according to the street people law, he has been charged with murder.

COOPER: According to the what?

MUHAMMAD: We have 40, 30,000 people out here today. According to street law. According to God's law. And I want to say I don't obey the white man's law. I don't follow the American law. American law -- the American law does not protect me, Anderson. I'm not a citizen. So I have no right to respect the American law. So we decided to (INAUDIBLE) language to put pressure on the united snakes -- because these are snakes government to arrest him. Because when the people find him, he may not be alive. So do your job. Do your job.

Anderson, you're not so concerned -- you're not so concerned by Trayvon's family. You're not worried about his pain, Anderson. Talk about his pain.

COOPER: Well, sir, actually you have no idea what's in my mind or my heart or what I've been reporting on. You've been out talking to crowds so I can tell you for several days, in fact, I've interviewed them multiple times.

What I'm wondering is, aren't you just taking advantage of a situation to try to get in front of cameras and get your name out for your group which is tiny?

MUHAMMAD: No, sir. No, sir. No, sir. The New Black Panther Party has a track record or we have black men educating black people, dealing with police brutality.

COOPER: The Southern Poverty Law Center, as you know, has labeled your group a hate group. And they say you're, quote, "virulently racist and anti-Semitic." Do you really -- do you feel that this -- do you have any concerns that this will take away -- your involvement will take away focus from Trayvon Martin, from his family what they're going through and the wheels of justice? Isn't this kind of a side show?

MUHAMMAD: No, sir. Not at all. We are sincere in what we believe in. We are sincere in defending the rights and interests of black people all over the world. I will say this. The Southern Poverty Law Center, why they don't consider United States government anti-Semitic. Anti-black. Anti-red. Anti-yellow. The white man cannot call anybody anti-Semitic. He's not a Semitic person. He's a racist and he's a murderer killer. All at one time, Anderson.

So don't put it on the Black Panther Party.

COOPER: You did this weekend talked about an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Is that your version of justice?

MUHAMMAD: You're damn right, Anderson. You got to stop killing black people, OK? So you tell the Sanford police department, you tell the police departments all over America, stop killing black people, you won't have the problem. COOPER: Trayvon Martin's family, they don't want you there. They don't like what you're saying and yet you seem unwilling to listen to that.

MUHAMMAD: We represent the millions of black people that want us here today. So we love Trayvon's family and we will continue to support them in everything we do but we're calling for justice. Again, I want to say to Trayvon's family. You got to have a military, you got to have a military to defend your interests. So again, we love you, but we're going to continue to support you regardless of the millions of white folks and Uncle Tom Negroes we're going to stand up for this family, we're going to stand up for justice in America and throughout the world.

COOPER: So are you saying that they are -- to use your word -- to use your phrase Uncle Toms, are you saying that about Trayvon Martin's family because they're saying they don't want you?

MUHAMMAD: I'm talking about the Negroes who are complaining. I didn't say them. I said the Uncle Tom Negroes who were complaining about the presence of the New Black Panther Party.

COOPER: But his family is complaining about your presence.


COOPER: His family is complaining about your presence.

MUHAMMAD: Well, I would rather sit down with them.

COOPER: They don't -- apparently they don't want to.

MUHAMMAD: I think it's white folks that's complaining.


MUHAMMAD: It's white America complaining. And I got to tell you, Anderson, we're not going any damn where today. We're not going anywhere, Anderson. So again, your divisive tactics won't work today, Anderson. You got to find another sucker, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. Reverend -- Reverend Muhammad, I appreciate your time.

MUHAMMAD: I'm sorry to disappoint you, buddy.

COOPER: You're not disappointing me. I wanted to give you some time. So I appreciate that, sir. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. Did George Zimmerman use a racial slur moments before killing Trayvon Martin? Analysts at the FBI reportedly trying to figure that out right now. In the meantime, we've got one of the best audio engineers here at CNN to try and clean up the background noise on the 911 recorder. We're going to play that for you. You can decide for yourself what you hear, a slur or something else.


COOPER: Up close tonight, the 911 recording that George Zimmerman made moments before he shot Trayvon Martin. Now it's a key piece of evidence. It's incredibly important for any federal hate charges that might be brought against George Zimmerman.

Tonight, Radar Online is reporting the recording has been sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia where analysts will try to determine if Zimmerman uttered a racial slur during the call.

We asked the FBI's Tampa Office about that report. They told us they couldn't comment on specific investigative details at this time. The lead prosecutor though on this case did confirm that they will at some point be doing audio analysis of this tape.

The slur that some people hear in the recording is hard to make out. It's just two words. They go by quickly. Now last week, we enlisted the help of one CNN's top audio engineer to try to make it clear.

Even though some of the language is offensive we, we decided not to bleep anything out. As we said, it's evidence and bleeping makes it harder to hear what's being said.

So if there's a small child in the room, you might want to ask them to leave right now. But again, we think it's important for you to hear this and you can determine for yourself what you hear. Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Edit Room 31 at CNN Center in Atlanta. This is one of the most sophisticated audio edit suites in the broadcast news business.

And right here is Rick Ciara. He's our audio design specialist. He's one of the best audio experts in the business. Rick, if you can, I haven't listened to this portion of the 911 tape at all. I want to hear it raw, if you can play 10 seconds before and listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which entrance is that he's heading towards?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The back entrance.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): You may not have heard the moment in question because it was so quick.

(on camera): How long does that portion last that everyone is talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second, 18 frames.

TUCHMAN: That's about 1.6 seconds.


TUCHMAN: So let's listen to it ten times in a row if we can.

(voice-over): What we're listening for is racial slur followed by the "f" word. Some say they hear it, others say they don't.

(on camera): It's certainly a lot clearer when we listen to it this way.


TUCHMAN: Is there anything else we can do to the audio to make it clearer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did boosting at 2.2 kilohertz and 4.6 kilohertz.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): What Rick has done is lower the base.

(on camera): So why is it that you want to get rid of the low end of the audio, the base of the audio?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, to minimize the noise.

TUCHMAN: That takes away the noise and allows us to hear the voice more clearly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct. I'll boost it up a little more there. We'll give it a shot here.

TUCHMAN: That does sound a little clearer to me. Sounds like this allegation would be accurate, but I wouldn't swear to it in court. That's what it sounds like to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very difficult to really pinpoint what he's saying.

TUCHMAN: Rick, can we just play that second word, what we think the second word is and see if it sounds any different.

It certainly sounds like that word to me, but you can't be sure. Sounds more like the word using it with the "F" word before that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Only George Zimmerman knows if he used the slur, but he's not talking. So the phone call, like so much of his case, remains a mystery. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Some people on Twitter saying they hear that "C" word. Others are saying they hear the word goons. Others -- some people say they heard the word punks. We leave it up to you. We're not trying to tell you what it is one way or the other. We simply don't know. Radar Online tonight reporting that tape is on its way to be analyzed in Quantico, Virginia. We'll certainly keep you informed as we learn anything.

We're following a number of stories tonight. Isha is here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a three-day high stakes showdown over the Obama administration's health care overhaul began today at the U.S. Supreme Court.

One hundred and ten members of the public were packed in the courtroom. The nine justices heard arguments on whether they have the authority to take on the case before the law's controversial individual mandate takes effect. Tomorrow, focus will shift to the constitutionality of the mandate.

French prosecutors today charged Dominique Strauss-Kahn with aggravated pimping for his alleged participation in a prostitution ring. The former International Monetary Fund chief was released on bail. Last month, he was held for questioning in the case for 24 hours.

Whitney Houston's former husband, singer, Bobby Brown was booked on DUI charges after failing a surprise test. L.A. police pulled him over because he was talking on a cell phone while driving.

And Anderson, more than 22,000 people have signed a petition calling for Jenna Talackova to be able to compete in the Miss Universe candidate pageant in May.

The transgendered beauty queen who was born male was disqualified after she was selected as a finalist causing a big stir online.

COOPER: All right, Isha, thanks.

Rick Santorum is facing new criticism tonight after a heated exchange with a reporter.

Also President Obama got kind of tripped up by his own words while talking to Russia's president on an open mike. We'll have the raw politics ahead.


COOPER: In Raw Politics tonight, Rick Santorum won big in Louisiana, of course, over the weekend. He also gave his critics some new ammunition after he lashed out at a reporter used a curse word, all of it caught on tape.

Before we play it to you, need some setup. The reporter asked Santorum a question about something he said in a speech that he just given in Franksville, Wisconsin. Santorum told the audience that Romney shared President Obama's views on health care reform. Here's what he said.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mitt Romney agreed with Barack Obama on every single thing that he did because he put it in place in Massachusetts. It's the blueprint for Obama care. Don't believe me. Ask Obama. Why would we put someone up who is uniquely -- pick any other Republican in the country, he is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.


COOPER: After the speech, "New York Times," Jeff Zeleny asks Santorum about that last sentence you just heard.


JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: You said that Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in the country. Is that true?

SANTORUM: What speech did you listen to?

ZELENY: Right here. You said he is the worst Republican.

SANTORUM: Stop lying. I said he was the worst Republican to run on the issue of Obama care. That's what I was talking about. I have said uniquely -- for every speech I said he is uniquely disqualified to run against Barack Obama on the issue of health care.

Would you guys quit distorting what I'm saying? To run against Barack Obama on the issue of health care because he fashioned the blue print. I've been saying it in every speech. Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's bull -- come on, man.


COOPER: Joining me now, political contributor, Republican strategist, Mary Matalin and also Democratic strategist, Cornell Belcher works as a pollster and strategist of the Obama 2012 campaign.

First of all, Cornell, what do you make of that? I mean, A, did he have a legitimate gripe with the reporter and does it actually help him with, you know, plenty people dislike reporters and like seeing a candidate push back on a reporter.

CORNELL BELCHER, POLLSTER, OBAMA 2012: I'm of two minds. One part of it is we complain about a long political season. We complain about campaigns. But this is actually what campaigns are supposed to do.

The back and forth, the heated discussion, the roller coaster ride, you learn who people are in campaigns. And sort of that exchange was a genuine exchange so you see who Rick Santorum is.

Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, if you look at the great political figures in American time, modern time, whether it be Reagan, whether it be Clinton or whether it be Obama, and even George Bush had for awhile. They're not mean. They're not nasty. They're not angry. American voters tend not to like politician who are angry or mean spirited. I think in the long-term, this absolutely hurts him. He may raise some money off it, but in the long-term this hurts him.

COOPER: Mary, do you agree or do you think? I mean, is like Newt Gingrich during those debates, you know, focusing on reporter?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. It was not scripted in the way that Gingrich clearly meant it to be part of the campaign and part of the narrative. I think what's happening here and I know Cornell won't disagree with this.

There develops over time sort of a bit of a political Stockholm syndrome between the campaign and the press assigned to them. They're holding each other hostage. They need each other.

There's a built in resentment there, but there's also kind of a dysfunctional family thing. They're up late. They're getting up too early. They're eating the same crummy food. Horrible hotels. It's not glamorous out there.

Santorum knew that Jeff had heard that speech a zillion times. He knew that Jeff knew what it meant. So it's sort of like betrayal in that environment that people from the outside who haven't lived through these campaigns -- I mean, they're lovely and beautiful and all that.

But it's a day to day of it that wears you down. You get worn down worse when your prospects are less rosy than they once were. I don't think it was evidence of some personality defect or that he's an angry person. I think it just is what happens on campaigns.

COOPER: Cornell, let's talk about what happened with President Obama at the tail end of his meeting with Russia's president, there was clearly what was intended to be an off-mic moment. I want to play some of it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.


COOPER: So Cornell, Republicans are already pouncing on that remark. How much do you think that could hurt President Obama?

BELCHER: You know, I think it's much to do about nothing what you see there as honest moment. Washington Republicans try to pivot away from etch a sketch gate here is really a work of art.

And even in this case poor Mitt Romney screws that up because, you know, in the debate with Wolf, he said that Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe. What he did not know is that the iron curtain fell down. Russia is the same country that worked with us on the Stark Treaty to reduce nuclear weapons. You know, I think this has much to do about nothing.

But it's also reality. Truth of the matter is given the hyper political environment that we're in right now, common sense solutions have a hard time. I mean, no matter what the president did in that -- no matter what the president did, Republicans are going to attack him on it and call him weak.

And Newt would probably find some way to connect the two Sharia law or something. So it's just common sense.

COOPER: Mary, is this an etch-a-sketch moment for the president?

MATALIN: Well, it feeds into a narrative that the president himself created by saying he wanted to reset our relationship with Russia. He did that seeking accommodation and a reprisal -- or resetting of the relationship and he cemented our flexibility in it by not deploying.

By pulling back on ground based defense missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. That's made Poland upset and others and security people, not partisan security people, but it's different. Yes, he has a defense missile.

But that was a narrative he said. From that he's got nothing back from Russia. No cooperation on Iran or Syria or anything in the U.N. and he played right into that.

I'll go with Cornell though and say I'm with two minds. I've been with presidents and vice presidents when they're trying to have a private moment and it's unfortunate for him that was -- that one was captured. But we did not reset our relationship with Russia in any way that's been beneficial to us at this point.

COOPER: We'll just leave it there. Interesting day. Mary Matalin, appreciate it. Cornell Belcher, thanks very much.

The wife of the soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians including nine kids is speaking out. She says her husband loves kids, would not have committed the murders. Here's some of the exclusive interview next.


COOPER: Let's check back with Isha and the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, opponents of the Al-Assad government in Syria said at least 59 people were killed today in heavy shelling by government forces on the rebel stronghold.

Once again, the city of Homs bore the brunt of violence. The Syrian government blames the violence on what it calls armed terrorist groups. The wife of Robert Bales, a soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians says she doesn't believe her husband could ever commit such a crime. Karilyn Bales told NBC News this case is not what it appears to be.


KARILYN BALES, WIFE OF SGT. ROBERT BALES: I have no idea what happened, but he would not -- he loves children. He would not do that. It's heart breaking. I can't imagine losing my children, so my heart definitely goes out to them for losing all of their children.


SESAY: Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba today in the city of Santiago De Cube. He was greeted by Cuban President Raul Castro and top church officials. Tomorrow, he flies to Havana where he may meet with former leader Fidel Castro. Benedict arrived in Cuba after a visit to Mexico.

And Anderson, movie director, James Cameron has returned from his voyage to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Yesterday -- this happened yesterday in a one man submersible.

Cameron traveled nearly 36,000 feet to the Mariana Trench. This is one of the deepest known points in the world's oceans. The geek in me as you know, I have a small part of geek, thinks this is super cool.

COOPER: Yes, I thought it was cool. I share your geekness.

SESAY: No, we know you have more geek than I do.

COOPER: I don't know if you saw this -- tonight's shot. It's from Britain's Got Talent edition. It's kind of wowing people all over the internet.

It's a singing duo made up of Charlotte who's the 16-year-old pop singer and Jonathan, a 17-year-old opera singer. Jonathan says he's always been self-conscious about his size. He's been bullied. He's been made fun of. His friend and singing partner, Charlotte helped give him confidence. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jonathan, you are a future star.



COOPER: Pretty cool.

SESAY: His reaction is so heart warming.

COOPER: I heard Simon Cowell went on to say though that Jonathan should basically dump Charlotte because she may hold him back.

SESAY: Which was really rotten of Cowell, but also Jonathan said no, they came on as a duo and they are going to carry on as a duo so bravo.

COOPER: I like Simon Cowell. I'm all for Simon Cowell.

SESAY: You're just scared of Simon Cowell.

COOPER: No, I'm not. I interviewed him for "60 Minutes." I think he's a really clever guy. I think generally his viewpoint is pretty accurate.

SESAY: So are you saying Jonathan should dump Charlotte? This is what I can expect of you dumping me when you face stardom?

COOPER: No -- well --

SESAY: Good night.

COOPER: Let's check in with Piers Morgan. A look at what's coming up on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Piers, do you hear that singing? Quite good.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": I did. It brought back fond memories. It reminded me of the Susan Boyle edition. I agree with you about Simon Cowell. He's probably the second best British talent show judge we've produced.

COOPER: I assume you're thinking of yourself.

MORGAN: No, it was great. It's what those shows are about when you find those rough diamonds who come out of nowhere who just don't fit the conventional bill and sing like that. It's amazing.

I used to find those moments really heart warming. Getting to them throughout the rest could be agonizing. But anyway, coming up tonight, we've got a lot more on this Trayvon Martin case.

I'm going to talk to Chaka Khan who's got very strong views about this. And also one of Whitney Houston's long time friend, Natalie Cole is breaking her silence.

Tonight, she knew Whitney for a long, long time. She speaks for the first time since Whitney's death. Just keeping America great, Ron Paul's prescription on health care.

And only in America, farewell to the Easter Bunny, some ghastly parents doing ghastly things at egg hunts, Anderson and I will be taking them to task.

COOPER: Goodness. All right, Piers, thanks very much. Look forward to it.

Coming up, "The Ridiculist." An international shooting competition in gold medal and unexpected moment courtesy of Sacha Baron Cohen's, "Borat". "The Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, it's a bad case of the wrong national anthem at a sporting event. The sporting event in question is an international shooting competition in Kuwait.

A sharp shooter from Kazakhstan won the gold and stood waiting to hear her country's national anthem ring out in the arena. And ring it out it did. Just that it was Sacha Baron Cohen's parody version from the "Borat" movie.

The parody version complete with lyrics that are hilarious, but it's some incredibly inappropriate for the occasion.

Yes. The Kazakhstan Sport and Physical Culture Agency, which I'm sorry, but sounds like something out of "Borat" has filed a protest with organizers in Kuwait. The organizers have apologized.

They said it was downloaded from the internet and played by accident. It's not the first time that "Borat's" national anthem styling have caused some trouble. In the movie, Cohen's Borat character goes to a rodeo in Virginia. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now will sing our Kazakhstan national anthem to the tune of your national anthem. Please stand.


COOPER: So believe it or not, this also isn't the first time the wrong song has been played instead of the Kazakhstan national anthem at a sporting event. Check out this video from a skiing festival in Kazakhstan.

Yes, that was actually the first few notes of Ricky Martin's Living La Vida Loca. Anyway, the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry wants an investigation of the Borat national anthem incident.

I think we can all agree after training hard and winning the gold, nobody wants to hear a song mocking their country. But the organizers apologized and the correct national anthem was played in a second ceremony.

At the end of the day, what does an international shooting competition stand for if not harmony and forgiveness. That does it for us at 360. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10 p.m. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN" starts now.