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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Inside the Jury Room; Interview with Lucia McBath and Ron Davis; Al Qaeda Behind Latest Shoe Bomb Warning?; Ukraine on Edge
Aired February 20, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Tonight the parents of Jordan Davis on their loss, their search for justice and their mission to make people see who their child really was.
Plus only on 360, one juror's battle for a guilty verdict in his murder. Juror number 8 speaks out for the very first time tonight.
Also ahead tonight, breaking news in the latest suspected shoe bombing plot. We're learning who could be behind it. And the answer is troubling.
Plus they're supposed to be America's top diplomats but they sound more like the ambassadors from the land of duh. How big-time political donators bag swanky ambassadorships to countries they know little to nothing about. They're never even been to some of these countries.
Tonight we're "Keeping Them Honest."
We begin with a 360 exclusive. New details tonight about how the Michael Dunn jury reached its verdict. Tonight a second juror is breaking her silence only on 360 about what went -- what went on inside that jury room during more than 30 hours of deliberations.
You're going to hear how tense it got, how stressful it was. As you know they deadlocked on the most serious charge, first-degree murder. Michael Dunn has never denied he shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis after an argument over loud music in a parking lot. Dunn testified he feared for his life even though police never found any evidence of a weapon in the car carrying Davis and his friends.
There's been a lot of speculation about how big a role if any race played in the killing and the trial. In a moment you're going to hear from the parents of Jordan Davis as they react to juror number 8. But first we want you to hear from juror number 8, her take. She was one of just two African-Americans on the jury. She was also the youngest juror, just 21 years old.
Here's what she told CNN's Alina Machado.
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): What did you think of Michael Dunn? CRESHUNA MILES, JUROR #8 AT DUNN MURDER TRIAL: I honestly think he was a good guy. I think he's a good guy. I don't think he hates everybody. I don't think he walks around wanting to shoot everybody. I think that he made bad decisions.
MACHADO: You still think he's guilty of murder, though.
MILES: Yes. I really think he's guilty of murder, but not guilty as charged.
MACHADO: First degree. You don't think he's guilty of first degree?
MILES: I think he's guilty of second degree. I was convinced. I was honestly convinced that he was in self-defense until he chased the car down and started shooting it more. That's where my decision-making process comes, well, even if initially you didn't have an opportunity to take yourself out of the situation, to stop, running behind a car and shooting more, that's where you completely push your limits.
MACHADO: Which person, which witness made the biggest impact for you?
MILES: Actually Rhonda Rouer. You can tell she was nervous, she was shaking, she was trembling. She could -- like she could hardly move. But yet she still got up there and told the truth.
MACHADO: What was it like inside that deliberation room?
MILES: It was wild.
MACHADO: Wild as --
MILES: Like it was shouting. There was a lot of yelling.
MACHADO: Did you take an initial vote when you first got in there in terms of where everybody stood?
MILES: We did the next day. Everybody had different --
MACHADO: Everybody was all over the place.
MACHADO: How many people were on each side?
MILES: Like initially by Friday it was two and 10. We started off Saturday morning with a prayer. We all did.
MACHADO: With a prayer.
MACHADO: What did you pray for?
MILES: We just prayed that everybody had a peace of mind, everybody was open. MACHADO: How difficult was it for you to come back into that courtroom knowing that Jordan Davis's parents were there and that you couldn't agree on a charge related to his death?
MILES: It was hard. We were confident and cool with it. But when he sent us back, we were just like, OK, this is the decision we had to make. But when he sent us back we got nervous. We got really nervous. Because we didn't know, do this means this throws out the whole case or is she going to retry him or is the court satisfied with just what happened? Is she going to do more?
Is Jordan ever going to get justice? We did not know. And walking back into there I got so nervous because I'm just like, what do we -- what if we completely messed up?
MACHADO: Do you feel like you messed up? Do you feel like the jury messed up?
MILES: No. No. I feel like we did what we were supposed to.
MACHADO: The mixed verdict, a lot of people were confused by it. There was a sense of injustice. Some people said it wasn't fair or just. Because how could you convict him on attempted second-degree murder and then not come back with a guilty for Jordan Davis's death. What do you tell those people?
MILES: I tell them we could not agree. We just could not agree. It was one way or the other. Nobody was willing to move. We could not agree. So hopefully the next group agrees.
MACHADO: Next group in terms of the retrial.
MACHADO: You hope they'll come back?
MILES: They'll come back with whatever they come back with. I'm not saying I hope they come back with guilty, I hope they come back with not guilty. I just hope they can agree.
MACHADO: The protests, you mentioned to me when we were chatting on the phone, that you -- that's the real reason why you came out here.
MILES: Yes. Because I just want everybody to understand that everybody is making this a white and black thing. And it's not. In our decision-making process nobody brought up, not one race. Never. It was never brought up.
MACHADO: If this case wasn't about race, then what was it about for you?
MILES: It was about justice.
MILES: When I walked into it, I just wanted to bring justice to whoever it was. If it was Michael Dunn I wanted to bring justice to him. If it was Leland, Kevin, Tommy or Jordan, I wanted to bring justice to them.
MACHADO: What would you tell Jordan's family?
MILES: I would tell them that from my end, I tried. I really did try. I tried to fight for his son. We -- everyone that felt he was guilty, we fought. And we fought. And we fought. And I saw the look on his dad's face when we came to nothing. I saw the look on his dad's face when we were on the stand. And I know it hurts.
And it's like, oh, you got this wound to heal and then somebody slices it open again. Because now they got to go through that whole process all over again.
COOPER: That's juror number 8. Now as we've said, she's the second juror to speak out about the verdict that's caused so much controversy. Both of the jurors that we've heard from believed Michael Dunn was guilty of murdering Jordan Davis. The question is, what does that mean for the parents of Jordan Davis?
Lucia McBath and Ron Davis have not given up on winning justice for their son. They'll be in a courtroom for Dunn's new trial. They're also planning to repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. I spoke to them just a short time ago.
COOPER: I want to start off with the juror who we just heard from. When the juror says that this wasn't about race in her opinion, for her about justice, can you separate race from justice in this case?
RON DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS' FATHER: I don't think she's being genuine. You know, for her as an African-American female, to go into this case with this type of evidence, with this type of rage, with him saying thug music, how can you as a juror not think that this was about race? Because before you even met Jordan, before you even looked at Jordan, looked at his clothes or anything else, you heard rap music.
And so you assumed that it's all African-Americans in the car. And you said I hate that thug music. So it is about race.
COOPER: Do you think she is naive? I mean, to say that this isn't about race or race is not involved with this?
LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS' MOTHER: I think she didn't want it to be about race. I think she really hoped that that was not an element of it. But it's always been an element of what's happened in our case.
COOPER: She said she thought Michael Dunn was a nice guy.
MCBATH: That was very surprising. You know, she thought he was a nice guy. Because in my mind, nice guys don't shoot unarmed teenagers. COOPER: When you heard that, Ron, what did you think?
DAVIS: Right. And if she thought he was a nice guy, that tells me she wasn't paying attention to the testimony when Miss Rouer testified, he never said that there was a weapon in the car. No gun, no stick, bottle, anything. And he drove to the hotel, ate pizza, drove back to his home the next day.
Not one time did he say there was a weapon. And who would do that? If somebody threatened you with a shotgun, you would tell the closest person to you, they threatened me with a shotgun. Never said one word. Never dialed 911. That doesn't sound like a good person.
COOPER: One thing the jury did not hear are these audio recordings of Michael Dunn in the jail prior to the trial. And I want to play two things that he said and get your reaction to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL DUNN, CONVICTED OF SECOND-DEGREE MURDER: I was thinking about that today. I was like, I'm the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) victim here. I was the one who was victimized.
I mean, I don't know how else to put it. But they attacked me. I'm the victim.
RHONDA ROUER, MICHAEL DUNN'S FIANCEE: Right.
DUNN: I'm the victor, but I was the victim, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And when I heard Michael Dunn calling himself the victim, I mean, I was shocked by that. I can't imagine what went through your mind.
DAVIS: Yes. And the second thing -- and the key word really, the key phrase, is that he said victor and victim. So he's like he's in an arena and there was a victor. Like there was some kind of fight and he was the victor.
When if you listen to the instruction it says you can use force against force. There was never any force used against him. So how do you use force against force when you had no force? Not an inch of your hair was touched. Your car wasn't even touched.
COOPER: He kept saying in those audio recordings it's like I was attacked. Well, saying it's like you were attacked is not saying -- I mean, he was not attacked. But the idea that he perceived himself or what he's claiming that he perceived himself as being attacked is kind of stunning. MCBATH: And he's been the aggressor. He was the aggressor initially. He was the aggressor throughout the entire altercation. So for him to consider himself a victim? You know, but victory is his because he shot to kill, to preserve his own life? I mean, that's atrocious in my mind, for him to have that train of thought is atrocious.
COOPER: What do you think he saw when he saw your son, when he saw those young men?
MCBATH: I think he saw in his mind what he deemed was a thug, a young black man that was a thug. I think in his mind he doesn't know this America. He doesn't know we exist. That's not been in his realm, his environment. And so therefore sometimes what you don't know what you're not exposed to you don't understand and you definitely don't see it.
COOPER: I want to play one other thing that he was recorded saying in jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNN: She found some YouTube videos of these guys. And they're all gangster rappers. You know, because when the police said these guys didn't have a record, I was like yes, I wonder if they're just flying under the radar.
DUNN: Because they were bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: See, that's the only way he could live with himself. See, when you do something that crazy, that harmful in society, the only way you can live with yourself is find a way to say that I was justified in doing. Because he has to justify even to himself. Why did I shoot these kids?
COOPER: The parent of Jordan Davis I talked to them about a lot more. We're going to have more of the conversation up next right after this break. They told me that Jordan liked all kinds of music, not just rap. And they believe he'd still be alive if he'd been playing country music or some sort of different kind of music had been blasting from that car, that Michael Dunn would have viewed him differently based on that music.
Also ahead, breaking news tonight, new and troubling information about an al Qaeda connections to the latest threat to bring down airliners.
COOPER: Welcome back. Before the break you heard from the parents of Jordan Davis and also from juror number 8 in the Michael Dunn trial. She was one of two African-Americans on the jury, just 21 years old. She said she believed Dunn was guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Davis but she also said she thought Dunn seemed like a nice guy. As for the role race played in the trial and the verdict juror number 8 said it did not.
Here's the rest of my interview with Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, Jordan's parents.
COOPER: I was talking to Jordan's aunt I believe it was yesterday. She said one thing about Jordan, he loved all kinds of music.
MCBATH: He did.
COOPER: I mean, country music. He knew -- he knew it all.
MCBATH: He did.
DAVIS: He knew it all.
COOPER: And it made me wonder if they were playing some other kind of music -- if they're playing country music --
MCBATH: I don't think it would have happened.
COOPER: You don't think it would have happened?
MCBATH: I don't think it would have happened at all. I really don't.
COOPER: Because it would have changed Michael Dunn's perception?
DAVIS: Of who they were.
COOPER: Of your son.
MCBATH: Of who they were. Absolutely.
COOPER: If they were blasting country music that would have been --
MCBATH: It wouldn't have happened. Not at all.
DAVIS: There were tinted windows. He really didn't get a good look at them. And he wouldn't have thought anything about it. But to him, as he said -- stated on the stand, rap crap. That's his perception.
COOPER: Do you have confidence in a new trial? Do you have confidence that there can be justice?
MCBATH: I think we do. There will be more evidence brought to light that was not admissible before. And so if anyone is unsure of who Michael Dunn is, at this point he's completely being exposed. And I think that people will really begin to understand his mindset. And really understand where he was at that moment. And I think people will really begin to see the truth.
COOPER: You don't feel that jurors got an understanding of who your son -- who your son is?
MCBATH: As much as we have tried to paint the picture of who Jordan really is, I still think there's an element in their mind that they're not really sure. Not quite sure. I think the picture that was painted specifically of Tommy in court was used to put that doubt in their minds that, well, maybe, you know, Jordan was hanging with a bad group of kids.
I think that was deliberately set in their minds to create the doubt, which created the verdict.
COOPER: What about Angela Corey? I mean, do you think that they overshot this? They tried for too much? What -- how do you think about how the case was prosecuted?
DAVIS: I think they all did a great job. I think they put the facts out there. And if people would just use common sense, and even the lies, even the impeachment of his own story, even the one about the weapon and his girlfriend saying no, you did not tell me about a weapon, it seems like they fly right over their heads. I mean, he impeached himself so many times, he's changed his story.
COOPER: Right. His girlfriend completely contradicted.
DAVIS: Completely contradicted what he said. And so every time he contradicted himself, I would think the jury will look at that and say, you know, he's just telling a story up here. He's telling a story. But they seem to worry about whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. I don't think that should have been the issue.
They didn't to me look at the facts of the case. So I'm not blaming the prosecutor, I'm just thinking that a jury has to more pay attention to the facts of the case rather than the 41 pages of jury instructions.
MCBATH: And every time that, you know, something was said that was not the truth, you know, our prosecutors did forcibly go right back and say, this is a contradiction. This is a contradiction. This is a contradiction. You know, so they fought. They fought for those boys. We have no doubts about that. If they had not fought for those boys, Tommy and Leland and Kevin, would not have been vindicated.
COOPER: What do you want people -- I mean, I hate to even ask this question, but what do you want people to know about your son? What do you want people to know about Jordan?
MCBATH: I want people to know that Jordan was a normal teenage boy like any other normal teenage boy. I want people to know that he had hopes, he had dreams about a future. He had a good, solid upbringing. He had a strong spiritual foundation.
I want people to know that he loved life. Jordan was -- he was the light for us because he brought that. And any situation we were in, Jordan was usually the one that you were looking at and saying, wow, there's something about Jordan, his personality. So we want people to know who he really still is. Still is.
DAVIS: Michael Dunn, I think he had a lot of thoughts about our son. So Jordan has a lot of duties as a family member to be there for us. And now because of you, he's not there for us. You know, you thought that putting three bullets in my child, letting him choke on his own blood, bullets going through his lung and his aorta, him seeing his death for seconds, his friends touching his blood and seeing his blood on their fingertips at 17 years old.
Then they get out the way of you and then you want to shoot three more bullets just missing the head of the driver. You think that that's acceptable behavior in this society? I think not.
COOPER: Well, your strength is really, I know, extraordinary. And so many people have already commented on it. But I know it gives strength to a lot of other people out there who have suffered losses as well. So thank you for being here.
DAVIS: Thank you.
MCBATH: Thank you so much for having us.
DAVIS: Thank you.
COOPER: The parents of Jordan Davis.
Next breaking news in the suspected effort to bring down airliners heading into this country.
Also breaking news in the Ukraine uprising. New fear that tanks may soon be rolling through the streets of Kiev and also reports from Venezuela tonight.
COOPER: Got breaking news tonight. The new suspected threat against air travel now has a suspected return address, al Qaeda. Yesterday we told you about the warning that went out to airlines that the bad guys may be working on new ways of putting explosives in shoes and other containers. Tonight we are learning more.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is here with details.
So when we spoke last night, we weren't sure exactly who is behind the threat. Officials now have a better idea. What do you know?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, U.S. officials tell CNN that the threat is tied to al Qaeda. You know, when the threat came out there were natural suspects, and they really were al Qaeda proper, you know, in Pakistan formerly led by bin Laden or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen.
And in particular because that's where a famous and feared bombmaker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, does his work. He's the one behind the famous underwear bomb struck on Christmas Day in 2009, though it failed to detonate, as well as other attacks.
And this is where they believe that this plot, this new intelligence about al Qaeda working on a new kind of shoe bomb ultimately lies in his hands.
COOPER: So does this mean that there's some kind of plan that officials believe is actually in the works?
SCIUTTO: No, it does not. And here's the distinction. The threat in the view of the -- many intelligence officials I've talked to is not specific. That means no particular target or timing. But that doesn't mean it's not serious. Because they do know that they've been trying to perfect a shoe bomb to get on board, to get past those security measures that we're very familiar with. Taking your shoes off, having them x-rayed.
And they've heard some chatter that they're working on a new design on that bomb. So it doesn't mean it's operational, but it does mean it's serious.
COOPER: And people flying, I mean, what does this mean for everybody who's going to be flying soon? I mean, will there be more security changes?
SCIUTTO: Well, first of all, it would only -- the new changes you'd see would only be on flights coming from overseas into the U.S. because those are believed the flights that would be vulnerable to this kind of new improved shoe bomb as it were. But you would see on those flights some new measures, things like additional swabs.
You know, those swabs they use to test for explosives residue particularly on shoes, bags, hands, that kind of thing. You should expect to see more of that. Not a whole new ring of security, but some enhanced security, some extra scrutiny.
COOPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, appreciate the reporting.
Also breaking news from Ukraine is grim and it's growing worse. The protesters down there in Kiev's Independence Square where it's now fairly quiet but very tense have now seen more than 100 people killed. That's according to opposition forces. We can't independently confirm that.
In addition there are reports that the Interior Ministry has issued combat weapons to police and authorized their use. In the words of a ministry spokesman to protect lives in defense facilities. Now the concern that far from saving lives more blood will flow and eventually tanks could roll. The latest in a crisis that when we left it last night seemed to be de-escalating before ratcheting up today. Protesters firing shotguns, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Security forces responding with automatic rifles and sniper fire.
A lot to talk about it, none of it especially hopeful. Joining us is our own Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev and Christopher Miller, editor of the English language "Kiev Post."
So, Nick, what's the latest on the ground right now in terms of where you are?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So two bizarre parallel conversations happening here. If you listen to the Polish president, he said he's spoken to Viktor Yanukovych. He may be willing to bring elections forward, perhaps establish a new government in the next 10 days and even weaken the powers of the post of the presidency. Suggestions maybe but glimmer of diplomatic route.
Remember, Anderson, you and I stood here 24 hours ago talking about potential for a truce here. So the worrying parallel conversation happening is what you mentioned, the police saying they've given weapons to their officers, the military saying it has the right to use weapons and intervene as the country is facing civil war and Viktor Yanukovych, he's blamed the opposition for the violence but being absent in public really today. That's been the surprise -- Anderson.
COOPER: Chris, the people you've spoken to in Independence Square, I understand they're bracing for an attack by police and that both sides have been using really dangerous, crudely made improvised explosives.
What specifically do you see?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER, EDITOR, "KYLV POST": On the ground today, we've seen a number of improvised explosive devices on both sides. From police we've seen some very crudely made explosives, duct taped with shrapnel that included some strange pieces of metal and nails. On the protesters' side, it looks like they're dismantling fireworks and making some kind of makeshift grenades they are launching into riot police ranks. Besides those, a number of very crudely made hand-to- hand combat type devices on the protesters' side among other things.
COOPER: Chris, I mean, we've seen fires obviously that have prevented police from moving in to clear the square. I assume the fires are not burning. So right now we hear people in the square talking on a loudspeaker, but what is stopping police from moving in?
MILLER: It seems that they may have had some orders to move back and retreat. Ministry of Interior troops and recruit officers, those are special elite riot force, they're not trained to advance when live fire is being fired at them. Today we did see some live fire, live rounds that is from protesters being fired at them. Once that began, police seemed to move back from their position. They retreated about 200 meters up one of the main streets here away from the square. And that's when protesters advanced and actually moved further up the street and expanded their ground in the square. COOPER: And Nick, yesterday, you were saying people are able to get in and out of the square. So are the protesters, are they -- do they leave for a time and then get some sleep and then come back? Is it new groups of protesters coming in? How does it work?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there are two areas here where you get a pretty solid line of defenses and then riot police at the end of it making it pretty much a standoff there. Over here to the right, people are walking in and out more or less freely. It's very organized. They've literally been across the area that was burning rubble 24 hours ago, swept it up, put it in orderly piles, and brought in new fresh tires for tire fires if they need them.
There's a man selling espresso coffee. There's a lot of organization there. There are people check -- people they're suspicious of to see if they're there perhaps to cause some kind of provocation or incident. There's a lot of organization. A lot of anxiety, too, because as we say, the police have been back to it now for about 12 hours.
Their rhetoric is very fierce, but their actions so far despite the bloodshed of this morning for the last ten hours or so have been pretty quiet. So much anxiety there about what may come next. Particularly given the silence we've heard from the president in public so far today.
COOPER: Chris, I mean, you've lived in Ukraine for years. You've been covering the protests in Kiev since November. How do you see this ending? Do you see this ending?
MILLER: It's really difficult to say right now exactly how it's going to end. We saw this resolution passed in parliament earlier today. But it will mean nothing if the speaker of the House and the president don't sign it. We've heard that at least the speaker has fled the city, and Yanukovych who's been defiant over the last three months seems as though he's not ready to give in.
It's really difficult to tell right now exactly when and how this will give, in, but the resolve of the protesters is extremely strong. And they've voiced to me and other media that they're not going to give up, they're not going to leave the square until they get what they want. And that is the resignation of the president and the lessening or at the very least the lessening of his powers and new presidential and parliamentary elections.
COOPER: Christopher Miller, be careful and Nick Paton Walsh as well. Thank you very much.
Coming up next tonight, a nice salary, swanky home overseas, we're talking about an American ambassadorship. No skills really need. No qualifications at all except for a fat checkbook. It's quite amazing how some of these ambassadors are appointed. We're keeping them honest tonight.
Later how a woman who once was a glowing face of hope in her country is now a martyr in the struggle for democracy in Venezuela. The situation there deteriorating fast tonight, a report ahead.
COOPER: "Keeping them Honest" tonight, with all the turmoil in the world today it's nice to know that the men and women who would represent America overseas really, really know their stuff. After all, American ambassadors are this country's eyes and ears on the ground. They're the voice of U.S. foreign policy, responsible for explaining and advancing American interests effectively and sensitively, in short diplomatically on foreign soil.
So it's good to know they come to their jobs with a deep understanding of their host countries, the product of years of study or long experience on the ground, like, well, like this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Have you been to Argentina?
NOAH BRYSON MAMET, NOMINEE FOR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ARGENTINA: Senator, I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there. I've traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven't yet had a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Noah Bryson Mamet, the man President Obama wants to be the ambassador to Argentina. He's never actually been there. Another presidential pick, Robert Barber, the nominee for ambassador to Iceland has never been to Iceland. The president's Norwegian ambassador designate as you'll see shortly knows next to nothing about Norway.
Colleen Bell who is area of expertise is not Hungary where she's been nominated to serve, but Hollywood where she is a producer on the soap opera "The Bold and The Beautiful." This is a big but. In addition to scanty knowledge of their host countries, these folks have something else in common.
According to the nonpartisan, Open Secrets Campaign Finance database, Mr. Mamet raised upwards of $603,000 for President Obama and other Democratic Party candidates. Mr. Barber, $778,000, plus George Sunez, the Norway nominee about $1.25 million, and Ms. Bell, more than $913,000.
Bottom line, four ambassador designates are all big money donors, fundraisers, bundlers and now they are collecting one of the perks, a political appointment some place nice overseas. Major donors get them, so do friends and big-name supporters like former Senator Max Baucus and Caroline Kennedy.
Now truth to be told though it's neither new nor unusual. Caroline Kennedy's grandfather, Joseph Kennedy was a political appointee named ambassador to the U.K. by Franklin Roosevelt. The former child star, Shirley Temple Black, was a top GOP supporter who is rewarded with a string of diplomatic positions from Nixon through the first George Bush administration.
Until the 1920s there were no professional ambassadorships. They were all patronage appointments. More recently presidents have stuck to a mix of around 70 percent career diplomats and 30 percent political appointees. According to the American Foreign Service Association, President Ronald Reagan averaged 38 percent political appointees over two terms.
Senator Gerald Ford during his time in office, less for the two Bushes and President Clinton. President Obama along with Reagan and Ford is on the high side averaging 37 percent so far and 53 percent in his second term. Most presidents make more political appointments in their second term because they can no longer be held accountable by voters.
Senator John McCain sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, he's been grilling this latest batch of nominees and not exactly thrilled. I spoke to him about it recently.
COOPER: I want to ask you on a recent hearing in the Senate. We were reporting on it. I was watching you. You were clearly frustrated. I know this is a tradition that dates back decades regardless of parties. Republican presidents do it, Democratic presidents do it. This president is doing it.
At a recent confirmation hearing for a number of this president's nominees for ambassador, you clearly were not happy with some of them. You had a pretty amazing exchange with the guy President Obama has tapped to be the next U.S. ambassador to Norway. I just want to play part of that for our viewers.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What do you think the appeal of the progress party was?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them.
MCCAIN: The government has denounced them? Are they part of the coalition of the government?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stand corrected and would like to leave my answer at they are -- it's a very, very open society.
MCCAIN: I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.
COOPER: Now, I've never heard a nominee say I stand corrected. I mean, it was incredible to me. I feel bad almost for the people of Norway who now -- what does it say about what we think of Norway that this is the guy who's going to represent the United States? And there are plenty of great ambassadors. I've met a lot of them, career civil service, career Foreign Service officers who work incredibly hard.
I don't want to take away from them. But this guy and his wife donated apparently more than a million dollars to the president and the Democratic Party. Is there anything that Congress can do or should do to change this really what's been a tradition now?
MCCAIN: Well, as you said, it's always been a tradition. Now it's dramatically increased. Since 2012 the president now more than 50 percent of his nominees have been these bundlers and totally unqualified people. You heard him refer to the president of Norway. Norway doesn't have a president.
COOPER: He's never been there. The guy for Argentina never been to Argentina.
MCCAIN: Nor had the guy for Iceland been to Iceland. The woman who's going to be ambassador to Hungary whose claim to fame is a talk show or a soap opera called "The Bold and The Beautiful" I believe it is. I'm not a regular viewer. She had no clue. And these are important countries. That's the point.
And I don't want to name the country. But as you know, there are some countries that have been traditionally because they're not too important, they may be island nations. But now we're sending people to countries like Hungary, which is going through a very tough period. Norway, one of our strongest allies.
And by the way, the defense minister of Norway, she told me that that interview has gone viral in Norway. What do the Norwegian people think of us? And so it's got to be brought back under control. I understand London, Paris, you got to have wealthy people. That's a normal thing.
But we're really the only country that has this practice. And it's like any other evil. It's grown and grown and grown, and it's now become a real embarrassment.
COOPER: Do you vote against these nominees?
COOPER: You do?
MCCAIN: Yes. I do. But remember, since Harry Reid exercised the nuclear option, where it only takes 51 votes, then they will probably get through unless the American people say enough.
COOPER: Senator McCain, good to have you on. Thank you.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, up next tonight, deadly unrest in Venezuela. It's getting really bad, a woman whose tragic killing is rallying the pro- democracy opposition.
COOPER: Keeping a close eye on the unrest that's been rocking Venezuela. Today anti-government protests escalated. Demonstrators and police faced off in the streets in a number of cities. Protesters have been raging for nearly three weeks. Many of the demonstrators are students who blame the government of Nicolas Maduro for a range of social and economic problems.
At least five people have died in the violence, including a 22- year-old student and beauty queen whose death has only fueled the outrage. She was shot in the head at a protest this week this. Photograph was taken as she was rushed to the hospital on a motorcycle. Doctors were unable to save her.
She was shot the same day opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, surrendered to authorities. He's been a driving force behind the demonstrations. Like many of the young protesters, Genesis Carmona supported him.
CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Caracas, Venezuela. He joins us tonight with the latest.
Karl, this picture, do we know exactly what happened that led to this young woman's death?
KARL PENHAUL, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Her name Genesis Carmona. That picture was taken on Tuesday, and she was shot, she took a bullet to the head, at the height of anti-government protests in the city of Valencia about three hours outside the capital. Protesters had been marching peacefully according to witnesses when a group of pro- government thugs drove up on motorcycles and started to fire into the crowd.
Genesis took a bullet to the head. Her friends took her to hospital by motorcycle. But that bullet was so firmly lodged in her brain that the following day she died -- Anderson.
COOPER: She is obviously just -- it is just one death. This conflict has been going on now for quite a while. But this photo, this image what happened to her you say has really had an effect on protesters.
PENHAUL: It certainly has for several reasons. Young people really have been at the forefront of these two-week-old protests against the socialist government. They've been calling for an end to the crime wave, which has been sweeping the country. They've been calling for the government to get inflation under control, which has been raging at over 50 percent.
And they've also been calling on the government to do something to stop sometimes chronic food shortages in the supermarkets and stores around the country. So very much Genesis Carmona's story, Genesis Carmona's reasons for protesting are the reasons for tens of thousands of other Venezuelans as well -- Anderson.
COOPER: And what is the latest tonight? I know police, National Guard troops, these private militias, thugs as you have said have been swarming through the streets of the capital over the last few days.
PENHAUL: They have. What we also have to take into account of course is the government's point of view. President Nicolas Maduro firmly believes that it is the right-wing opposition who are starting this violence and seeking to bring the country to conflict. We do know that Venezuela for the 16 years of its socialist experiment has been a deeply divided country.
But the president now calling the opposition members fascists, he's accusing the United States of meddling in this as well and saying that some of the opposition leaders have actually received funding from the United States. Right now hear in Caracas things are calm. We've just come from a student protest. That was small and pretty peaceful.
But after dark is sometimes when things kick off. Some of the opposition protesters will step fires up around their neighborhood, set trash on fire. And at that point then you might have security forces moving in to clamp down on that or you might have these armed bands of thugs roving around trying to frighten protesters off -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Karl Penhaul, stay safe. Thank you, Karl.
Dangerous days, we'll continue to follow the situation in Venezuela. I want to get caught up on some of the other stories we are following. Susan Hendricks has a 360 Bulletin -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Arizona's legislature has approved a controversial bill that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others. Supporters of that bill say it protects religious freedom. Opponents call it state-sanctioned discrimination. The bill now goes to Governor Jan Brewer.
Two L.A. Dodgers fans pleaded guilty today to severely beating a San Francisco Giants fan in 2011. One got a four-year prison sentence, but gets credit for time served. The other faces eight years behind bars. You may remember the victim, Brian Stowe, suffering massive brain trauma. He has had to relearn how to breathe, eat and still struggles to walk and talk.
A 360 follow now, a government official says it appears that two American security contractors found dead on the Maersk Alabama container ship died of a drug overdose. According to the official traces of narcotics and hypodermic needles were found with their bodies.
Another 360 follow, the mother of Jahi McMath, the young girl who doctors declared brain-dead in December said she sees changes in her daughter that give her hope. The mother writes on Facebook that Jahi is not suffering after being moved from a hospital in Oakland, California to an undisclosed long-term care facility.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still holding out hope that he and rocker, Bruce Springsteen can be friends one day. That response coming at a town hall meeting today after a man suggested the governor destroy all his Springsteen CDs since the musician has been critical of the governor. Chris Christie, Anderson, is saying look, I don't drink, I don't do drugs. Bruce is all I got. I'm staying with him.
COOPER: All right, Susan, thanks very much. We'll see what happens between them. "The Ridiculist" is coming up next. Stick around.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, I'm coming to the defense of a woman in Ohio who decided to make a change. Sheila Crabtree said she has always hated her name. It wasn't the Crabtree part the she said she had a problem with. It was the Sheila part. She went to a judge and asked if she could legally change her first name to Sexy.
The judge asked if her kids approved, which they did and also asked her reasoning behind the change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a free-spirited person. I love to have fun. This is the last piece to make my life complete.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we're granting your request.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And thus, Sexy Crabtree was born. It wasn't necessarily a given that the judge in Licking County, Ohio would approve the change. Licking County, Sexy Crabtree. According to "Columbus Dispatch," the judge once denied a request for a man who wanted to change his name to Tazmanian Devil and a woman who was tired of being called BJ, wanted instead to be called Winnie Pooh.
But thankfully for Sexy Crabtree all was in order so the judge in Licking County -- am I in an X-rated Tim Burton movie right now? All the paperwork was in order. The request was granted. Since then Sexy has gotten backlash mainly of the who does she think she is variety?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know I'm not the most beautiful person out there in the world, but it doesn't matter. It's what you feel about yourself and I'm living for me and not anyone else. So I'm just doing what makes me happy.
COOPER: I'm with sexy. By the way, that would make a great t-shirt for her husband to wear. I'm with sexy, a little hand or arrow pointing. She changed her name, big deal. When was the last time you listened to a Robert Zimmerman record? That's his real name. Open the window because I think the answer is blowing in the wind.
What about Karen Johnson changing her name? Where's the outrage there? She changed her name to Whoopie. I suppose you enjoyed Peter Hernandez's halftime Super Bowl show this year. Bruno Mars. The woman changed her name to Sexy. Get over it. She wanted to surprise her husband who calls her sexy. Now she's getting calls from all over the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not doing anything negative or attention. I'm doing it for myself. That is the best thing to do, for yourself and not anybody else. I'm not living for the people out there, I'm living for me.
COOPER: You stay sexy, Ohio. We wish you the best, Sexy Crabtree. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.