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Trayvon Martin Investigation Continues; Presidential Race Heats Up

Aired April 4, 2012 - 22:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with new revelations in the Trayvon Martin killing that may pull you in two opposite directions about what happened and whether George Zimmerman fired in self-defense.

In a moment, a new version of that 911 audiotape that some contains Zimmerman uttering a racial slur. The FBI now analyzing it. We did our own enhancements earlier, but have now used even more sophisticated methods to uncover the truth.

Also, Zimmerman's two attorneys are speaking out about why neither one has actually sat down and looked their client in the eye. They spoke to local station WOFL.


HAL UHRIG, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Investigation ongoing in this case. There are cases where I want to hear my client's version, look in his eye and see if I believe him or not. In this case, I understand the Sanford police have already given him a voice stress test. He passed that. The evidence seems to support his version of what happened, so I don't necessarily need to look him in the eye.


BLITZER: That's something new. George Zimmerman taking a voice stress test. Sanford police won't comment on whether they put him through such a test when they questioned him, but they do say they use it, as do other Florida police departments.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, how reliable are they? We contacted an expert who did a study of the devices when used to question suspects about drug use. He says their ability to detect deception is, and I'm quoting now, "no better than flipping a coin."

Again, we don't know whether the Sanford police department subject the Zimmerman to such a test, nor if they used it as a basis for not charging him. We do know the lead investigator had suspicions about his story.

And now the mother of a 13-year-old witness to the incident says that same investigator told her so.


CHERYL BROWN, MOTHER OF WITNESS: The lead investigator from the Sanford Police Department stood in my family room and told me, this was absolutely not self-defense, and they needed to prove it. He told me, and I'm paraphrasing this quote, but read between the lines. There's some stereotyping going on here.


BLITZER: That's the mother of a young witness on MSNBC.

Now the 911 tape of George Zimmerman's call as he was pursuing Trayvon Martin through the gated community he was patrolling. We should warn you right now you're going to hear some strong language. You might want to send your kids out of the room.

The two words you will hear are an expletive and some believe a racial slur.

When the question first came up, 360's Gary Tuchman worked with one of our top audio expert to enhance the tape.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rick, can we play just that second word where we think the second word is and hear? And hear, if the sound any different.


TUCHMAN: It certainly sounds like that word to me but you just can't be sure. That sounds even more like the word than using it with the F-word before that.

SIERRA: That's correct.


BLITZER: It seemed pretty clear then, but since then we have been able to use an even higher tech method to isolate what was said that night.

Here again, Gary Tuchman.


TUCHMAN: This is Brian Stone (ph). He's one of our senior audio engineers, expert in this field.

And you have enhanced the tape and we're going to listen to it. I have not listened to this tape either. Two weeks ago, when we did this, I didn't listen to it because I wanted to listen to it for the first time on this equipment. The second version that has been enhanced, I haven't listened to. Let's play it. . 911 DISPATCHER: Are you following him?


911 DISPATCHER: OK, we don't need you to do that.

TUCHMAN: Now, that certainly sounds much clearer than the first tape we listened to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. It's extremely clear now.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Some are accusing George Zimmerman of using the racial slur "coons" in his 911 call. It was preceded by the F-word.

Can we play it again? Can you repeat it so we can hear it a few times? The problem is, this is very short. It's about 1.6 seconds.


TUCHMAN (on camera): So, once again, if we can repeat it a few times so we can hear it clearly.

(voice-over): With this new clearer audio, it's apparent the first word is a curse word. So we will bleep it out for the rest of the story. It's the second word that's important to hear.

(on camera): I don't want to say what it sounds like this time, what a lot of people are saying it sounds like. But let's play it a few times so the viewer can have an idea for themselves and make their own conclusion.


TUCHMAN: You can stop. Now, it does sound less like that racial slur last time. I acknowledge the possibility it could have been that slur. From listening in this room, and this is state-of-the-art room, it doesn't sound like that slur anymore.


TUCHMAN: It sounds like -- and we wanted to leave it up to the viewer -- but it sounds like we're hearing the swear word at first and then the word cold.

And the reason some say that would be relevant is because it was unseasonably cold in Florida that night and raining. So that is what some supporters of Zimmerman are saying, that that would make sense if he was saying the word cold.

But that is what it sounds like to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does to me. And I have not heard this.

TUCHMAN: First time you have heard it?


TUCHMAN: Can we play it a few more times?


TUCHMAN: So the key is, though, the wind, to get rid of the wind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct, wind and anything broadband noise.

TUCHMAN: That's what we have done this time as compared to last time.


TUCHMAN: And so you have basically used this plug-in to just get rid of the noise you don't want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reduces and cleans up a lot of that broadband noise. Yes.

TUCHMAN: But does it change the voice at all, could it change a word?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will not change a word. No.

TUCHMAN: Just makes it clearer?


TUCHMAN: Brian, can you play that for us one more time?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is now the clearest audio we have heard of George Zimmerman's 911 call, but it's readily apparent there will still be controversy over what he really said.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: All right, joining me now, police veteran Lou Palumbo. He currently runs a private security firm, the Elite Group. Also joining us our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Brown and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.

It's a major issue as far as the Justice Department is concerned, that word, whether it was a bad word or simply saying it was cold, F- ing cold, shall we say, because the Justice Department presumably wouldn't get involved in a civil rights case if the word is cold.


The only way the federal government has jurisdiction over this homicide is if they can prove there was some sort of racial hostility at the core of it. A simple shooting is a purely state matter and then the federal government wouldn't be involved.

There may be other evidence in the case. This is obviously very important. It's not the only piece of evidence in the case. The Justice Department presumably will investigate every aspect of this to determine it, but certainly if the word is cold, not C-O-O-N, that is highly relevant.

BLITZER: Mark Geragos, is there some way this can be cleared up, it's an important point, 100 percent.

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY: I don't know anything's ever 100 percent in the criminal justice system, but this is precisely what they do.

They go to an audio specialist, they try and bring it up or enhance it is the term that we use in the courts. Once they have enhanced it and gone through it, then everybody listens to it and tries to figure out, OK, he either said it or he didn't say it. As Jeff says, it's true.

If there was a word there that's used that is racially charged, that is going to tend to kind of make their decision a lot easier. If there isn't, then they look at the surrounding circumstances. We saw what happened with the NBC I guess enhanced tape or edited tape.

And if that doesn't play out, and it looks like it hasn't played out, then it makes it a much toucher decision for them to actually file a case federally.

TOOBIN: This is also a good example of why it's important to take your time.

I remember when Gary Tuchman did his first report on it and I sat here with Anderson and I thought I heard C-O-O-N. But this certainly sounds like cold. The FBI has the best enhancement facilities in the world. Again, everybody wants this case to be wrapped up tomorrow. This just shows why it's important to say, let's get all the best evidence we can.

BLITZER: Lou, today we learned Zimmerman was given what is called this voice stress test. You're familiar with this...


BLITZER: Tell us about it. Is this admissible, is this useful?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: It's not admissible, number one, the same way a polygraph isn't.

Simply what the test is, is a measurement of stress in your voice. In other words, they examine micro-tremors in the muscles in your voice in an attempt to determine truthfulness. I don't particularly give it much credence. I think there are some people that do.

I think what really happened here though is that this attorney has opened up a can of worms to maybe suggest that we take a full battery of tests, including a polygraph and have it administered by someone like the FBI. I didn't realize the Sanford Police Department -- and I do want to say this -- 43 states have adapted or adopted this means of screening or determining a case.

The FBI and the CIA also use this. I don't think they use it for resolution in criminal matters. They probably use it more for the purpose of screening candidates or if they have a confidential informant that's giving them a lead.

BLITZER: It's like a lie detector test, a voice stress test, but it's not necessarily all that reliable and certainly is not admissible.

Mark, let me bring you back into the conversation. We understand that in Florida, when you're arrested, an individual, the clock starts ticking to bring someone to a speedy trial. You're required to bring them to trial within 180 days. Could that explain why charges have not been brought against George Zimmerman?

GERAGOS: There are speedy trial rights in every state.

The thing here, and I haven't determined it and I'm not an expert in Florida law whatsoever, but what occurred to me at least initially, is one of the reasons why they may not have -- and mind you, everybody at least was first reporting that he had not been arrested. By any stretch of the imagination, that tape shows that he was under arrest.

What then triggers is it whether or not you have to take him to a magistrate within a certain period of time, whether you have to take him directly, within a certain number of hours, because there is U.S. Supreme Court precedents and here in California, you would have to get him in front of a magistrate in two to three days. Otherwise the case would be rejected. That I do not think, in this case, came to play.

I think there was a situation here -- from what I can gather and what the prosecutor has indicated -- that what ended up actually happening is that police had him under arrest, that there was some discussion at least internally in the police department as to whether or not the stand your ground law applied.

And now once it goes over to the state's attorney office, they don't have that pressure and they want to do frankly what most criminal defense lawyers would like to see a prosecutor do, analyze the case, interview the witnesses, make sure before you file something that you have actually done all of your homework and they have got the luxury to do that now.

BLITZER: We will see what happens.

One quick point. Go ahead.

PALUMBO: They didn't do that in the prior two weeks, everybody pretty much insisting this case be taken a look at. For two weeks, this case basically sat there on the back burner. Until the pressure was exerted by the public, no one was looking at this case.

BLITZER: They are looking at it right now.

Lou Palumbo, thanks very much for coming in, Jeffrey Toobin, of course. Mark Geragos, thanks to you as well.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook and Google+ or follow me on Twitter @WolfBlitzerCNN. I will be tweeting tonight.

A day after his three-state primary sweep, Mitt Romney now has resumed his attacks on President Obama, who's giving as good as he's getting. How do their claims about each other stack up to the facts? We're "Keeping Them Honest" just ahead.


BLITZER: With victories last night in three more primary races, Mitt Romney now looks safely on track for the Republican presidential nomination.

He's talking like a nominee and President Obama is treating him like one as well. You could see it in the governor's speech today to newspaper editors and the president's version to the same group yesterday. Combined, they're like watching a trailer for the fall campaign. But "Keeping Them Honest," how true to the facts are they?

Take this line from Governor Romney on the recession.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have said many times before, the president didn't cause the economic crisis. But he did make it worse.


BLITZER: "Keeping Them Honest," when President Obama took office, the economy was in freefall, 4.5 million jobs lost in President Bush's last year and another 4.3 million jobs lost in the early Obama administration.

But as you can see, job losses slowed. Then gains started to appear and grew. For March, for example, the economy is expected to add about 200,000 jobs on top of the 230,000 jobs in February. That means as of February, the economy under President Obama had gained back about 3.2 million of those 4.3 million jobs lost during his administration.

According to a CNN Money survey of economists, all 4.3 million jobs lost on his watch could potentially come back by year's end. Also on the economy, there's this claim about the administration's economic recovery act.


ROMNEY: The $787 billion stimulus included a grab bag of pet projects that languished in Congress for good reason for years. It was less a jobs plan and more the mother of all earmarks. The administration pledged that their stimulus would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent. It has been above 8 percent every month since.


BLITZER: Governor Romney is certainly right about the last part. Unemployment is now at 8.3 percent, up from 8.2 percent when President Obama took office, but down sharply from its peak of 10.1 percent in October of 2009.

As for the stimulus, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it increased employment, created jobs by anywhere from about a million to maybe as many as three million jobs. As for the claim that the administration pledged to keep the jobs number under 8 percent, it comes from an estimate, not a pledge, in a report written by two top Obama economic advisers during the transition back in January 2009 shortly before the president took office.

Moving on to the president's speech, no outright falsehoods, but not always the whole truth. Take this on government regulation.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You would think they'd say, you know what, maybe some rules and regulations are necessary to protect the economy and prevent people from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or credit card companies or mortgage lenders.


BLITZER: It is true Governor Romney does want to repeal the law tightening regulations on the financial industry. However, he's also said as recently as last night, and I'm quoting him now, "We, of course, understand in a free market that regulations are necessary and critical."

There's also this about health care reform.


OBAMA: There's a reason why there's a little bit of confusion in the Republican primary about health care and the individual mandate since it originated as a conservative idea to preserve the private marketplace and health care, while still assuring that everybody got coverage, in contrast to a single payer plan. Now, suddenly, this is some socialist overreach.


BLITZER: On this, the president is right. The individual mandate was originally a conservative idea, even had some conservative support, by the way, while the Obama health bill was being drafted. Listen.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandate.


BLITZER: That was Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa on FOX News, a leading conservative, supporting the mandate at the time it was being drafted.

However, "Keeping Them Honest," it's a mandate that President Obama opposed when running for office. Here is his drawing a contrast back in the 2008 debate with then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who unlike President Obama, supported the mandate.


OBAMA: ... Clinton's plan and mine is the fact that she would force in some fashion individuals to purchase health care.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Republican strategist and former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher who currently works for President Obama's reelection campaign.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Cornell, it seems as if, as far as the Obama campaign is concerned, the Republican primary is over. At least that's the impression you're giving. What do you think?

CORNELL BELCHER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, I think Pennsylvania will have a lot to say about that. It keeps going along.

Santorum wins a couple. Romney wins a couple. But I think he's not at the magical number yet.

However, I think for Democrats, it's really about whether it's Santorum or whether it's Romney, they're all sort of cut from the same radical cloth from a policy standpoint, the same sort of policies, they're all backing the same policies that in our minds would undermine the middle class. They're all for the Ryan budget plan and they're all for the Blunt amendment that would take power away from women and give it to their employees to make health care decisions for them.

So whether it's Santorum or Romney, they all have to answer for their policies.

BLITZER: Ari, you have seen some of these most recent poll numbers from the swing states, states that will be critical to these candidates in November. Disappointing numbers for Romney.

Here's the question. Throughout this process, is he emerging as a weaker or stronger candidate?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I will answer that in just a second. But first it just saddens me when people talk about Americans as being radicals. We can have our political differences left and right, conservative and liberal, but I don't call anybody a radical on the left. I have never used that for Barack Obama and I just think it's one of the reasons we're a country starting to fray at the seams instead of coming together. We should be cautious of the words we use.


BLITZER: Hold that thought, then, because let me let Cornell respond to that.

Cornell, you want to respond to that?

FLEISCHER: Well, I responded to him. So we're even.



BELCHER: When you look at some of the policies that are being put forth by the Ryan plan that really sort of does away with Medicare as we know it, something that our seniors have been depending on for years, I would argue that that's radical.

When you're trying to give power back to Wall Street to write their own rules and do the exact same things that got us into that mess, I think some of us look at that and say that's kind of radical. This is not the Republican Party of a decade ago. This is a different sort of Republicans.


FLEISCHER: Here's the problem with that, Wolf. The Barack Obama of just eight years ago is the one who said, Cornell's boss, there is no red America, there is no blue America, there is the United States of America. Now he's the one out there calling people who just don't believe in his philosophy radicals.

You can disagree and still love this country and not be a radical. That is what is so divisive about the language that President Obama and his pollster are now using, and that is why this country feels like we're always fighting instead of figuring things out.


BLITZER: In fairness, Ari, a lot of Republicans call the president a socialist. The rhetoric on both sides can be intense.

FLEISCHER: Number one, I have haven't. Number two, I don't believe Mitt Romney who is all but definite Republican nominee has. So if there are people on the side, I call them out on it too, Wolf. I'm consistent on that.

BLITZER: All right, good for you.

Let's talk about Romney. Is he a stronger candidate now or a weaker candidate?

FLEISCHER: He is weaker and he's running against a weaker president.

One of the factors going on is this Republican primary has not strengthened our front-runners. You can make the case it's actually brought them down in their favorable and unfavorable opinion ratio. But the same thing happened to President Obama. He began his presidency with a 10 percent disapproval, and it's increased almost five times now, and he's just under 50 percent in disapproval.

So his presidency hasn't served him well. The Republican primary hasn't served Republicans very well in terms of popularity. And the American people are just in a bad mood, a surly mood about almost everybody in public life. It's a warning to everybody.

BLITZER: Cornell, your team certainly had a lot of fun pointing out Mitt Romney's weakness with the conservative base. But you look at some of these exit poll numbers, and he seems to be making some real progress with a lot of those voters.

BELCHER: Well, I'm going to pull an Ari here and respond to Ari.

When you go back to 2008 and look at how -- the battle between Hillary and then Senator Obama, as the process went on, voters didn't start to dislike then Senator Barack Obama more. They didn't. They didn't start to dislike him more.

You're now looking at a nominee in Romney who's underwater in his favorable/unfavorables. And he starts off in a weaker position than most candidates. And quite frankly, you just don't want your candidate starting off underwater when by the way we haven't really begun spending money to even attack him.

So it's qualitatively different from what it was in 2008. You certainly don't see the sort of energy and the sort of crowds and the new people coming into the process wanting to vote this time around like you saw in 2008. So I think that's fundamentally different from now from what we saw in '08.

BLITZER: Ari Fleischer, Cornell Belcher, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

FLEISCHER: Thank you.

BLITZER: We have breaking news we're following tonight. The L.A. coroner has just released the final autopsy report for Whitney Houston, and there are new details about the role cocaine played in her death.

Dr. Drew Pinsky joins me just ahead. He's got plenty to say about this.


BLITZER: The Los Angeles County coroner has released the final autopsy report on Whitney Houston's death.

From the preliminary report, we already knew the singer's death was ruled an accidental drowning with heart disease and cocaine use cited as contributing factors.

The final report says Houston drowned face down in a tub of hot water about 12 inches deep. It also describes a white substance found on a counter and spoon near her body.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of HLN's "Dr. Drew," has followed the story right from the beginning. He's joining us now on the phone.

Dr. Drew, this report is a pretty grim accounting of the final hours of her life. You have gone through it. How serious of a report is this?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: Well, Wolf, the shocking thing about this report -- and I want to assure you that this -- I have a completely different interpretation from the preliminary report that was put out that somehow the cocaine had precipitated a cardiac event or that significant heart disease had contributed to her demise.

The fact is this autopsy report showed that she had nominal heart disease, almost none, not sufficient to explain what happened to her. You also mentioned she was found face down in water. How do you have a heart attack or take too much medication and slip into the water and drown and end up face down?

The way that happens is seizure.

And I add the entire score up, and I get seizure here. She had large amounts of Xanax found at her side in the bathroom. Pill bottles that had been filled with large amounts in the last two months that were empty. And yet she had very low amounts of Xanax in her blood.

She had fatty metamorphosis of her liver, which is something from drinking alcohol a lot, and yet, had very low levels of alcohol in her blood.

So it may well be that she was actually not using these substances: had been but was trying not to. And a common feature of coming off those substances is seizure. You want to really induce seizure, put cocaine into your system on top of that, and that's, in fact, what she did. Large -- moderate amounts of native cocaine was found. Meaning she had used within the last four to six hours prior to her death, maybe even minutes before.

BLITZER: Because that toxicology test measured .58 micrograms of cocaine per milliliter of blood in her right leg. As an expert in substance abuse, what does that level of cocaine specifically tell you? PINSKY: It tells me specifically -- it's the metabolites of cocaine that are more interesting and the fact that she has non- metabolized cocaine, meaning that it was used recently, moderately in all probability.

And this idea that it caused some sort of cardiac event, I think, is spurious. I think it's an inappropriate and inaccurate conclusion. I think clearly here, there was seizure activity that caused her to flip over and drown. And this was actually someone trying not to use certain substances, but unfortunately, added in a substance that commonly causes seizure and ends up in very, very serious trouble.

Again, this is -- you know, the route to demise through chemical dependency is nefarious, and here's somebody you never would have predicted this outcome, and drowning ends up the result.

BLITZER: Yes. What a sad, sad story.


BLITZER: Dr. Drew, thanks very much for joining us.

Still ahead, 360's ground-breaking study on kids and race. Tonight we'll hear from 13-year-olds. But first Susan Hendricks has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.


Human rights groups in Syria report that a new round of government attacks killed at least 61 people today. The Assad regime fired on civilian targets across the country, even launching strikes from military jets. The regime is facing accusations of escalating violence ahead of the deadline next week to comply with the latest peace plan.

A United Airlines flight has severe turbulence, injuring 12 people on board that plane, that was flying from Tampa to Houston. Most of the injuries are described as minor, but some passengers, as you see, came off the plane on stretchers, wearing neck braces.

Yahoo! announcing 2,000 layoffs today. That's about 14 percent of the entire work force. The company's CEO says this may be just the first round of cuts as he radically streamlines the company.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Susan, thanks. Tonight, we have new video from Texas, shot by a man whose family was directly in the path of one of yesterday's tornadoes. He recorded what very well could have been their last moments. That story is next on 360.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.


BLITZER: Up close tonight, we're getting a fuller picture of those terrifying tornadoes that ripped across northern Texas. Two hundred homes destroyed, more than 600 damaged, but not a single person killed. That's nothing short of amazing.

Timing and sheer luck saved so many lives yesterday. The family you're about to meet is just one example.

Here's Gary Tuchman.


BRETT BROWN, SURVIVOR: You see it coming down?


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man shooting this video is a husband and father of two. And about to experience the most terrifying moments of his life.

B. BROWN: God, you can see the debris field. Look at that. Do you see it, Michelle?

A. BROWN: Yes, I saw it.

B. BROWN: Look at it, no, look at it on there, right above your house. Look at the debris field. You got the kids in the bathroom? Get the kids in the bathroom. It's right there. Look, it's touched down. Look at the transformers. It is down.

A. BROWN: Oh, my God, did you hear that?

B. BROWN: That is a tornado.

TUCHMAN: This is the aftermath of that tornado. Here in Forney, Texas, east of Dallas, the local school, heavily damaged, more than 95 homes damaged or destroyed. This video was shot by Brett Brown, who was standing right here when he shot it, trying to pray it away.

(on camera) While you were shooting it, what are you thinking?

B. BROWN: Please don't come here.

Oh, wow. Oh, my God. Look at this. Oh, no! Get in the house! Get in the house! Go! (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Take cover. Take cover.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Brett's wife, Amber, went into the bathroom with two of her children and two neighbor children.

A. BROWN: It's terrifying as a person, for myself and extra terrifying because of my children.

TUCHMAN: Amber showed us how she put the children in the tub, and then they cried and panicked (ph). A. BROWN: It's hard to look into the eyes of your children and tell them it'll be OK, when you're not sure you're going to be OK.

TUCHMAN: At around the same time, this is what her husband was saying.

B. BROWN: Please keep us safe. Oh, my goodness. We've got debris!

TUCHMAN: Seven people in Forney were hurt in this tornado, but nobody was killed.

(on camera) The parents in this neighborhood expressed great relief the tornado hit when it did. Because 30 minutes later, their kids were walking home from school.

(voice-over) There's a lot of rebuilding to do in this part of Forney, Texas, but there is great rejoicing here that nobody died. And Brett Brown has already been told by his wife Amber he's not shooting tornado video the next time.

B. BROWN: It's nothing like you see on Nat Geo or Discovery. It's -- it's a whole different animal when it's right in front of you.


BLITZER: Gary, it's really amazing, some would say miraculous, that no one was seriously hurt. But how strong was this tornado?

TUCHMAN: Yes, this was a very strong tornado, Wolf. The weather experts are saying the top winds were between 140 and 160 miles per hour. That makes it an EF-3 tornado. EF-1 is the weakest. EF-5 is the strongest.

Now, officially an EF-3 tornado can cause severe damage. An EF-4 can cause some devastating damage, and that's what we saw at the deadly tornadoes in Illinois at the end of February.

So the video here was very dramatic, but the people here are very fortunate that Mother Nature didn't dial it up a little bit more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Gary, thanks for the excellent reporting. Gary Tuchman, reporting.

Coming up, 360's special report on kids and race. It continues tonight. This week we showed you what children as young as 6 told researchers. Our groundbreaking study commissioned by 360. Tonight, especially appropriate as we consider the Trayvon Martin case, the focus is on 13-year-olds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been bullied. Just like the way I looked. And the way of my skin at my previous school. And they just kept bullying me. I tried not to break, but I couldn't, like, hold on anymore. So I asked my mom, "Can I leave?"



BLITZER: Trayvon Martin's parents believe their son was a victim of racial profiling by an armed and overzealous Neighborhood Watch volunteer. The only thing we know for certain at this point is that Martin, a black teenager, and George Zimmerman, who's Hispanic, crossed paths on a dark and rainy night with tragic results.

The role that racial bias may or may not have played in the fatal shooting is the subject of fierce debate which makes 360's ground breaking study on kids and race, especially timely.

Here's Anderson.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight we're continuing our AC 360 special report, "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture." This project has been over a year in the making and its aim, to study children's attitudes on race and understand how and why they form their opinions.

Now, children can be a mirror of society, and that was the starting point of this report: to look to this youngest generation and see how far we've really come when we talk about racial attitudes.

We teamed up with renowned child psychologist Dr. Melanie Killen to design this study. Now take a look at this. Dr. Killen and her team showed 13-year-old children this picture and asked them questions like what's happening here? Are these children friends? Would their parents want them to be friends?

The picture is designed to be ambiguous. What's happening is in the eye of the beholder. Then they showed them this picture and asked the same question. The only difference? The race of the kids was flipped.

Both white and African-American children were tested, and the psychologist showed a similar set of pictures to 6-year-olds.

At our request, they also asked kids open-ended questions about race to understand how it plays into their own lives. The responses were raw. Some of the experiences they described were shocking. This is the reality of what kids see, hear, and think about race. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have the same skin, you can play together. But if you don't have the same skin, you can't play together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why can't you play together if you have different colored skin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because your mom might not want you to play with that friend. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it would be easy for a kid to convince his parents that it would be OK to have other types of people over?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Probably because you might get in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would a parent want you to get someone in trouble if you wanted someone to come over to your house who was a different skin color?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably because they don't allow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not? Why would parents sometimes not allow other skin colored kids to come over?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably because they might not like that skin color.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friend's mom wanted to be only her daughter's friend because he's only white and I'm black.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So it happened with your friend's mom. They only wanted him to be friends with people who were the same color?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so he didn't want you to be friends?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did that make you feel?


COOPER: There was more. Our CNN study found signs of hope and progress, as well. Watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really doesn't matter what skin color they have. It's just their personality. That's what I judge people off of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think friendship is important for that reason. Because America can grow with different races holding hands and coming together to create one United States.

COOPER: Last night we told you that, when testing 6-year-olds, the research showed a majority of white kids were negative about interracial friendships. The majority of black children, on the other hand, were positive.

We discovered, though, a big difference between childhood and adolescents. Take a look.

(voice-over) The study found when 6-year-old African-American children were asked about interracial friendships, the majority responded like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's trying to help her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Chris and Alex are friends?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how much would they like it if the two were friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really like it.

COOPER: But watch how they respond by age 13.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a bully. So she pushed Abby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Chris and Alex are friends?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Abby's parents would like it if she were friends with Carrie?


COOPER: The optimism we heard from young black children fades with age. At age 6, 59 percent of black children think the two kids in the picture are friends. By 13, a total flip: 63 percent do not think they're friends, which matches white teens' attitudes.

Our expert says experiences, like 13-year-old Jimmy's, of rejection begin to explain the disappointing trend. He says a white friend's mom forbade her son to be friends with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said it was because you're black. So you can't hang out with her and her son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So she kind of very openly said that the reason why her son could not hang out with you and your family was because you guys were black?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how did that make your mom feel when she heard -- when she heard that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It made her mad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. What was her response?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not allowed to say that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of your skin...

COOPER: Dante (ph) was bullied so badly because of his race he had to change schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been bullied just for like the way I looked, and the way of my skin. At my previous school that I went to. And they just kept on bullying me. And I didn't like it. I just asked them to stop like over and over again. And then I tried to -- I tried not to break, but I couldn't like, hold on anymore. So I asked my mom, can I leave?

COOPER: By age 13, African-American kids actually match the pessimism of white kids when asked if the different races could be friends. Our expert, Dr. Killen, says the decline happens because they've been given a sobering reality check on race.

DR. MELANIE KILLEN, RESEARCHER: They're getting a lot of negative feedback through elementary school and adolescence. And I think if you get -- have that kind of experience and you have it repeatedly over a number of years, your optimism is going to decline, because you've been told, you know, "You really don't belong here. You're really not part of us."

COOPER: Dr. Killen also says anxiety about interracial dating from both black and white parents can have a profound effect on how their kids view friendships.

KILLEN: Parents of young children do often send messages about, we can all be friends, be friends with everybody. You know, they do send the positive messages. But by adolescence, they start getting more nervous about this, and they start thinking, well, you should be friends with people like you or like us.


COOPER: Soledad O'Brien asked some kids about the issue after it came up during their tests.

O'BRIEN: Do you think your parents would be fine if you decided to start dating a black girl and brought her home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, my parents probably wouldn't be too happy, because if I was to marry a black girl, you're connected to their family now, and who knows what her family is really like?

O'BRIEN: So they probably wouldn't be that excited about it?


COOPER: Shante (ph) admitted anxiety and a double standard for interracial dating in her family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I were to date a white guy, a lot of people wouldn't have a problem with that. But if my brother were to bring home a white girl, you know, there's definitely going to be -- you know, some controversy.

O'BRIEN: From who? Your parents or you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From me. From me. Really, because I think it's more of a problem for people when a black man brings home a white woman, because it's been like that for years.

O'BRIEN: So it would matter to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think -- I think it would. You know, unless, of course, she were not to act I guess so quote, unquote, "white."

O'BRIEN: What does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, flipping the air, "Oh, my God, you know, ha ha ha ha ha. They're so ghetto." No. No.

COOPER: There was some good news in our results, as well. The racial balance of the school can make a major positive difference on how white kids view race.

The study tested kids from majority white, majority black and racially mixed schools. The difference was remarkable.

Students at majority white schools were the most pessimistic about race. Only 47 percent think their parents would improve of kids from different races being friends.

In racially diverse and majority black schools, 71 percent are positive about it. The reason, according to Dr. Killen, is friendships.

KILLEN: There's almost nothing as powerful as having a friend of a different racial ethnic background to reduce prejudice. You have that experience, it enables you to challenge stereotypes.

COOPER: These teens go to mixed race and majority black schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your color of your skin doesn't change the personality of who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all people and we can all get along.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandparents have a lot of -- they're very racist against African-Americans and, like, other races, but it's 2012, so they have to, like, push that aside. And they'll be like, "No, that's wrong to be -- you want to stick with your own race."

And I'm like, "No, I'm friends with everyone."

COOPER (on camera): We're here with Dr. Killen and Soledad O'Brien. It was pretty sobering to hear that, as black kids age, they become as pessimistic as white kids.

KILLEN: It's really true. I mean, we were struck by that. And you have to think about why is that? Why is it that young kids tend to think you can be friends with different people. And then they start getting messages.

I think part of it is from ages 6 to 13, you start getting an increasing number of messages. If you don't have opportunity for friendships, you don't have that opportunity to challenge the stereotypes, it starts getting more deeply entrenched.

But say 13, there's also other issues that start coming up, things about dating. And so that's when the messages from parents and society start getting much more negative.

As we move towards increasing intimacy, that's where people get a little bit more uncomfortable and more nervous about it. And unfortunately, it kind of backfires, because that's when kids start to back away. They start to think, well, friendships aren't possible.

And we really have to think about that, because having a friend of a different race or ethnicity really does enable you to challenge the stereotypes but also does create a comfort that you're going to have for the rest of your life.

COOPER: It was interesting to see how that notion of intimacy does change the dynamic.

O'BRIEN: Thirteen is puberty, and I think that really changes the dynamic for the kids and it changes the dynamic in a big way for the parents.

So what I think you're really measuring, just anecdotally, would be, parental conversations change dramatically. At 6, it's get along; we all have to get along. Isn't the world great, because we all get along. At 13, it's, oh, now we're talking about intimate relationships. That really changes the dynamic, I think especially for parents, and I think you really see that messaging change.

KILLEN: It does. It's sort of unfortunate, because what we find is that parents are often already sort of thinking about, well, I wouldn't want them to marry somebody of a different race or ethnicity.

And maybe that's true, but the point is that these are kids who are 13, and it's really too early to start worrying about that. If you start worrying about it at 13, you're cutting them off in really valuable, important friendships that they could have.

COOPER: What do you want people to take away from the study?

KILLEN: I really want people to think about their everyday interactions. I want parents and teachers and educators, adults, to think about their everyday interactions with their children and how -- what kind of messages are they conveying. And when can they be proactive?

If you went to the park and you saw somebody hitting somebody else, you would talk to your child about it and say, you know, "They really shouldn't hit them, and how would they feel? You might get hurt." You would use that opportunity as a teaching moment.

And what we're finding is that, when issues come up about racism or prejudice, even more benign examples, but when it comes up, parents often get -- they step back. They feel they shouldn't say anything about it. If they say something, they'll make it worse.

What we're saying is, treat that like you would treat it if somebody had hit another child. Use it as an opportunity. Talk to them.

COOPER: It's also not just one conversation. Because I think some people -- there are parents feel like, "Oh, we -- I talked about that. Now we can check that off."

KILLEN: Yes. I think one of the biggest problems we have right now is that we look at Martin Luther King Day. And so we have one day of the year where we're going to talk about those issues. And then what happens the other 364 days of the year?

We need this to be a daily kind of experience or a conversation. It's not every day, but when you're a parent or an educator or teacher, that when issues come up, to talk about it and talk about it openly and honestly. Just as you talked about it. That's really important and very valuable.

And it will go a long way -- we're a global world. We're going to interact with people from different races and ethnicities as adults. And these kinds of stereotypes, when they start in childhood and become deeply entrenched by adulthood, they're very hard to change. Childhood is the time to make a difference.

COOPER: Dr. Killen, thank you so much for your -- for making this happen. I appreciate it.

KILLEN: Thank you.


BLITZER: Really terrific, terrific study. We'll right back.


BLITZER: That does it for this edition of 360. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.