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Revealing investigations. Fascinating characters. Stories with impact. Don't miss an all new CNN Presents this Sunday at 8:00 pm ET.
September 30th, 2011
03:38 PM ET

Death by mail: The Anthrax Letters

Ten years ago, in the wake of the September 11th attacks, the nation faced a second wave of terrorism: anthrax in letters mailed to news organizations and politicians.

Five people were ultimately killed and 17 others were sickened by exposure to the letters directed to The New York Post, Tom Brokaw at NBC News, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and others.

Drawing from recently released FBI and Justice Department documents, CNN's Joe Johns tells the story of the ensuing federal investigation. 

It lasted seven years - along a path that included phony leads, blind alleys, and scientific hurdles.  Finally, after a lucky break, the evidence pointed to a rogue scientist in one of the government’s most sensitive and secure labs, an man who proclaimed his innocence and took his own life before he was charged.

Could it happen again?

The one-hour documentary, CNN Presents: Death by Mail – The Anthrax Letters, debuts Sunday, Oct. 2 at 8:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. ET and replays on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.  ET on CNN.

Filed under: Anthrax • Bruce Ivins • Joe Johns
September 30th, 2011
12:13 AM ET

Testimony continues on day 3 of Conrad Murray trial

The trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician continued Thursday, a day after jurors heard that the pop star's two oldest children were standing just outside the room as Dr. Conrad Murray worked to resuscitate Jackson.

Murray is accused of giving Jackson a lethal dose of propofol in the bedroom of the singer's rented mansion.

The man who called 911 to Michael Jackson's house the day he died testified Thursday that Dr. Conrad Murray told him to gather up drug vials around Jackson's deathbed before he asked him to place the emergency call.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren blamed Murray for Jackson's death, saying he abandoned "all principles of medical care" when he used a makeshift intravenous drip to administer the surgical anesthetic propofol to put Jackson
to sleep every night for more than two months.

The coroner ruled that Jackson's June 25, 2009, death was the result of "acute propofol intoxication" in combination with sedatives.

Defense lawyer Ed Chernoff contended that Jackson, desperate for sleep, caused his own death by taking a handful of sedatives and self-administering propofol while the doctor was out of the room.

One defense strategy is to point the finger at another doctor and Jackson as having a large role in his death, while arguing Murray was blind to what they were doing.

The prosecution contends that part of the negligence that makes Murray criminally liable for Jackson's death is the lack of monitoring and CPR equipment on hand when Jackson died.

The trial began Tuesday with prosecutors playing a stunning audio recording of an apparently drugged Jackson slurring his words weeks before his death.

Prosecutors also showed jurors a photo of Jackson's corpse on a hospital gurney.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Murray could spend four years in a California prison and lose his medical license.

CNN’s Don Lemon reports on the last 24 hours of Jackson’s life for CNN Presents: “Michael Jackson: The Final Days.”


Filed under: Conrad Murray • Don Lemon • Michael Jackson
September 26th, 2011
01:43 PM ET

Jellyfish, currents cut short Cuba-to-Florida swim

Hindered by painful stings and strong currents, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad ended her latest attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida about two-thirds of the way through the crossing Sunday.

The 62-year-old Nyad suffered jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings Saturday, while ocean cross-currents were pushing her off course, team captain Mark Sollinger said. She was pulled out of the water about 11 a.m. Sunday, about 67 nautical miles through the 103-nautical-mile passage.

Treading water before being helped out of the water, Nyad said the man-of-war stings had paralyzed some of the muscles in her back, given her chills and nausea. Doctors warned her she could suffer long-term health problems if she suffered another sting.

"I've never been in any pain, ever, like that in my whole life," she said, adding, "Now it's set me so far back, I just don't' have the lung capacity to swim the way I can."

It was her third attempt to make the swim from Cuba to Florida.  Her first, in 1978, was brought to an end by strong currents and bad weather after almost 42 hours in the water.

She made a second try in August, before she was pulled from the water after 60 miles and almost 29 hours of swimming.  She blamed a shoulder injury she suffered early in the journey, and an 11-hour-long asthma attack.

Her latest attempt, accompanied by shark divers, began just after 6 p.m. Friday from Havana's Hemingway Marina. The former world champion swimmer projected the swim would take close to 60 hours.

There was a bit of excitement early Saturday afternoon as an oceanic whitetip shark swam near Nyad, but a diver on her team faced it off and it meandered away.

The swimmer improved her performance late Saturday morning after struggling to maintain her usual stroke rate, her support team said. Fortified by chicken soup, Nyad was making good progress until the Saturday evening incident.

Nyad got back in the water at 12:20 a.m. Sunday and swam for nearly 11 hours before packing it in.

"But for each of us, isn't life about determining your own finish line?" she said in a statement on her website. "This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues."

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has followed Nyad's two-year journey for CNN Presents: “Diana Nyad Xtreme Dream.”

Filed under: Diana Nyad • Dr. Sanjay Gupta
September 20th, 2011
05:35 PM ET

Last wrongful death lawsuit from 9/11 is resolved

As the celebrations memorializing the 10th anniversary of 9/11 became echoes, the last of 85 wrongful-death lawsuits stemming from the attacks were resolved Monday, court records showed.

"This is the first time in 10 years not to be in fighting mode," said Mike Bavis, who lost his 31-year-old twin brother Mark when United Airlines Flight 175 became the second plane to pierce the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The Bavis family filed a "gross negligence" lawsuit in 2002 against United and Huntleigh USA, the security company for United Airlines at Logan International Airport in Boston, where the flight originated.

Family attorney Donald A. Migliori said the family hoped to get some accountability for the tragedy.

The family originally opted not to accept payment from the Victims Compensation Fund, but had a change of heart after a court decision this month put the burden of proof on the family and not on the airline and security firm.

The resolution of the case involved compensation, but details were not released.

United Airlines issued a statement saying that "the tragic events of 9/11 impacted all of us, and we are pleased to resolve this case."

Huntleigh's attorney didn't respond to CNN's request for comment.

"The family of Mark Bavis feels that achieved many of their goals," Migliori said. "They were able to ask target questions under oath, and got important answers they were looking for."

CNN’s Drew Griffin interviews ordinary Americans who were thrust by fate into history for CNN Presents: “Footnotes of 9/11.”

Filed under: 9/11 • Drew Griffin • Mark Bavis • United Airlines Flight 175
September 20th, 2011
12:19 PM ET

Trial begins for second Connecticut home invasion defendant

A second defendant went on trial Monday in connection with a brutal 2007 Connecticu thome invasion that left a woman and her two daughters dead.

Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, faces 17 charges in the incident, including three counts of murder, four counts of kidnapping, burglary, arson and assault.

Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters - 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit - died in the July 23, 2007, invasion of their Cheshire, Connecticut, home.

Steven Hayes, the first defendant to stand trial, was sentenced to die in December 2010 after a jury convicted him on 16 of the 17 charges.

Prosecutors allege that Hayes and Komisarjevsky went into the Petit home, beat and tied up Dr. William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, molested one of their daughters and set the house on fire before attempting to flee.
The two daughters, who were both tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation. William Petit managed to escape.

Before assaulting and killing Hawke-Petit, Hayes forced her to go to a bank and withdraw $15,000 from an account after finding evidence the account held between $20,000 and $30,000, authorities said.

Prosecutors allege that Hayes and Komisarjevsky went into the Petit home, beat and tied up Dr. William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, molested one of their daughters and set the house on fire before attempting to flee.

While he didn't present a comprehensive statement, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington briefly spoke to jurors, explaining that prosecutors believe the jury will be able to listen to the evidence and render a decision. Under the law, Dearington said, Komisarjevsky is charged both as a principal and an accessory.

Komisarjevsky's defense attorney, Walter Bansley, told jurors that his client never intended to kill anyone, that his sole purpose in breaking into the Petit home was to steal.

Bansley said Komisarjevsky did not have a weapon. He told jurors that in order to convict Komisarjevsky of capital murder, they must determine he intended to kill someone.

It was Hayes, Bansley said, who raped and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, poured the gasoline and lit the match. Komisarjevsky was a willing participant in the break-in and theft, but not the murders, according to Bansley, who recounted mounting dissension between Hayes and Komisarjevsky as the home invasion progressed through that morning.

Hayes felt the Petits needed to be killed, Bansley claimed, but Komisarjevsky refused to kill anyone.

CNN’s Randi Kaye digs into the tragic events of the home invasion for CNN Presents:  “Pure Evil: The killings in Connecticut.”

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