tv NBC Nightly News NBC July 3, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
final arguments, the murder trial that has riveted a nation, now a jury must decide if casey anthony is guilty of killing her young daughter. oil spill -- ann exxonmobil pipeline ruptures. wildfires making a big impact this fourth of july. and making a difference -- a group of young women united in finding each other and fueling a group of young women united in finding each other and fueling a passion for flying.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening on a summer holiday sunday, when so many americans were taking the day off, jurors in an orlando courthouse were hard at work. listening to closing arguments before deciding the fate of a young mother. if you were anywhere near a television today, you couldn't escape the wall-to-wall coverage, the live feed of casey anthony at times stone-faced. at times, openly weeping. anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, caylee. and after more than a month of wrenching testimony, now the countdown to a verdict. nbc's kerry sanders has been covering the case from the start. he was in the courtroom today. and joins us from orlando. good evening, kerry. >> well good evening, kate, the prosecution and the defense were each given four hours to make their closing arguments. but like so many other aspects of this case, there was an unplanned moment that unfolded
in front of the jury. casey anthony is a accused of the premeditated murder of her daughter, caylee. but today with the stakes at their highest, the personality conflicts between defense attorney, jose baez, and prosecutor, jeff ashton, that have long peppered this trial, exploded. >> he could get up here and lie all he wants. and dance around the truth, but the truth is the truth. and he, and depending on who's asking the questions, whether it's this laughing guy right here or whether it's myself. >> objection. >> sustained. approach the bench. >> it stopped the trial cold. the jury was ordered out of the room. >> enough is enough. >> a distracting sideshow in the first-degree murder case that the state told jurors today, it's proven. this morning, with casey anthony looking towards the jury and the prosecutors, ashton stitched together 33 days of evidence into a story. beginning with the silent video. >> when you have a child that
child becomes your life. this case is about the clash between that responsibility and the expectations that go with it and the life that casey anthony wanted to have. >> the life casey wanted, ashton said in closings, was a life without responsibilities. >> so she has a choice. a life tethered to a child or a life free to be 22. >> as to the defense claim caylee accidentally drowned and casey's father, george, covered it up, prosecutor ashton said the only way to conclude that was to suspend common sense. >> is a trip down the rabbit hole into a bizarre world where men who love their
granddaughters find them drowned and do nothing. >> the greatest crime lab in the country. >> in his closings, defense attorney jose baez fired back. >> they gave you two weeks of testimony that was completely irrelevant. and served only one purpose -- and that was to paint casey anthony as a slut, as a party girl, as a girl who lies. and has absolutely nothing to do with how caylee died. >> and the evidence the state presented is what baez calls fantasy forensics. >> this is about winning and nothing else. winning a high-profile case and nothing else. it's not about a search for the truth. >> the jury of seven women and five men will be given their instructions tomorrow and then they can begin deliberations. kate, one thing that i noticed while i was in the courtroom that may mean nothing, all of the jurors were looking at jose baez when he was giving his
presentation. but when the prosecution was giving his evidence, juror number five was looking away. she was tapping a pen on her knee. she never made eye contact with jeff ashton. kate? >> nbc's kerry sanders in orlando tonight, thank you so much. for more on today's closing arguments, we're now joined by kendall coffey, a former u.s. attorney in florida, who has worked on many high-profile cases. he's watching this trial. good evening to you. as you look back, which side has the stronger case after a month-long trial? >> well, the prosecution has a strong circumstantial case based on plenty of forensic evidence. but the question is, do they have without any smoking gun, evidence enough to prove premeditated murder by a mother who apparently loved her child beyond a reasonable doubt? that's why i think in the final analysis, the first-degree murder charge, premeditation, is going to be a close call. >> how important are closing
arguments? today's closing arguments? is it your experience that generally jurors already have their minds made up by this point in a trial? or can they be the clincher? >> well i think plenty of the jurors have got very strong feelings before today, as to how this ought to turn out. the closing is going to accomplish a couple of things. first of all, it can be the difference-maker for jurors who are close. and that can can sometimes lead to a hung jury and secondly, it gives jurors who have already decided which side they're going to rule for, some ammunition. so the prosecution jurors are definitely gearing up, ready to follow up on what ashton has told them, just as any defense jurors are paying close attention to jose baez and getting ready for what could be a very, very strong and animated deliberation. >> kerry talked about some of the drama in the courtroom today, some of the outbursts among the attorneys. does any of that matter to a jury? and does it matter what he mentioned about jurors not looking at the prosecutor? >> well, as a lawyer you're always concerned when a juror looks away from you. but i think this jury has seen
enough of odd turns of event, canceled court sessions, they're past all that. what they know they're dealing with is the most serious possible matter, the life or death of someone accused of the most horrifying trial imaginable. i think this jury is not going to focus on the lawyers or theatrics, it's going to focus on the very difficult question of whether casey anthony, intentionally and with malice afore thought murdered her 2-year-old child, caylee. >> do you think they will come back with a verdict very fast? or will this take a while? >> i think this jury has been sequestered together. they probably got some bonding. they're probably away from their families long enough. there's going to be a lot of pressure to reach a verdict as quickly as possible among these jurors. >> kendall coffey, thank you so much for your insight tonight. another developing story, we're following tonight, in the american west, an oil spill near billings, montana, federal and state officials are assessing the damage after a exxonmobil pipeline buried under a river
bed ruptured. polluting the river with thousands of gallons of oil. >> reporter: containment booms dot the banks of the yellowstone river in southern montana. a 12-inch exxonmobil pipeline ruptured just before midnight friday. >> this is a very unusual event. obviously, we had a large amount of oil enter the water very quickly. >> the spill is 150 miles northeast of yellowstone national park. in the town of laurel, montana. and near the end of a 55-mile pipeline. the water flowing away from yellowstone park has carried the oil past the city of billings. the extent of the environmental damage remains unclear. local wildlife officials restored water to the town overnight friday. and exxon officials assessing the spill from the air, insist ground crews are safe. >> we have not had any safety issues with any of the people or the responders. we also know that air quality is a concern to many people.
we began air quality monitoring right after the incident. and i want to confirm that we have not found any readings that would be of any danger to the public. >> officials speculate that debris carried by high water from spring runoff may have caused the rupture. and already, images of wildlife slicked in oil are prompting advocacy groups to question federal safety regulations. >> there's very little to indicate that the conditions that caused the failure were ones that should not have been anticipated by the pipeline operators. >> reporter: the spill comes almost a year after the conclusion of the bp oil disaster, which poured about 200 million gallons of oil into the gulf. exxon says up to 42,000 gallons of oil leaked into the yellowstone river. but swift-moving water may make the oil difficult to collect. adidi roy, nbc news. elsewhere, sizzling summer heat and wildfires brought no relief to some parts of the country experiencing the worst
drought in a decade. we're talking about the south and southwest. where the dry conditions are reining in some holiday celebrations. nbc's charles hadlock has the latest tonight. >> reporter: there may be a little less sparkle at some locations this fourth of july. fireworks shows are few and far between this weekend. canceled because of record drought and some of the worst wildfires in history. from arizona to florida, roadside fireworks sales are either banned or fizzled because of wildfire concerns. in drought-stricken texas, they're going ahead with a public fireworks show near austin. but firemen will keep an eye on every spark. >> there's always the possibility of something happening. but we're as prepared as we can be. >> reporter: nature is turning up the heat this fourth of july. helping extend one of the worst droughts in a century. now affecting 13 states, with temperatures pushing to the extreme. >> at least ten states this weekend already setting record highs, from 118 in phoenix, to
99 degrees in detroit. and you can see the record highs still building across the central part of the country. it looks like the heat will last all the way through the beginning of the next week. >> all roads to los alamos are open. >> reporter: as the fires and smoke move away from los alamos, new mexico -- alisha miller, who was evacuated along with the rest of the town for six days finally got to come home. >> wonderful. >> reporter: los alamos is one of the places where fireworks are banned this year, and for good reason. >> the terrains these fires have found themselves in and the weather and winds lining up with the relative humidity and the high temperatures, we've created a perfect storm for these fires this year. >> reporter: it may be the perfect storm that for now has no end in sight. charles hadlock, nbc news, los alamos, north carolina. to our north, the royal tour rolls on. the duke and duchess of cambridge, better known as william and kate are on prince edward island at this hour. despite some concerns about
anti-monarchy protesters in quebec, the couple seems to be winning fans pretty much wherever they go. nbc's kevin tibbles is there with them. kevin, good evening. >> reporter: hey, kate. well the duke and duchess, the future king and queen of canada, will soon retire for the evening at the residence of the lieu tent governor here. after all it's been a very busy day, one in which prince william even tried his hand at a new language. [ cheers and applause ] >> reporter: the royal couple stopped in historic quebec city, one of the oldest cities in north america and home to much of canada's french-speaking heritage. in a nod to the crowds, prince william thanked them for their patience with his french accent. [ speaking french ] >> reporter: no language difficulty when it came to the crowds' adoration for kate middleton. prompting a completely unexpected walk-about by the couple. the duke and duchess did not seem to notice about 100
protesters gathered about a block away. where there was one arrest. earlier in the day, they visited a local youth center to take part in a magic show. this evening, william and kate are in canada's smallest province, prince edward island. have you ever seen a prince before? >> they just look like a real, nice, happy couple. >> reporter: p.e.i. is known for its beaches and seafood. just last night the royals attended a cooking class where they prepared lobster souffle. should they want to indulge further, this is the place to be. for more than 50 years, the new glascow lobster supper has been a local favorite. >> we've got almost 50,000 pounds in the run of a summer. >> reporter: there may be another reason the royals are here, according to the british press, the duchess of cambridge has a special affinity for this island's favorite fictional daughter, anne of green gables. the setting for this century-old story of the red-headed orphan is here and the home with the
green gables still stands to this day. >> people from all overed world come to visit the site. because they're familiar with the story and they want to see where the story was set. >> at the anne of green gables shop, this woman thinks anne would have advice for kate. >> stand up for yourself. because anne always stood up for herself. >> reporter: and tomorrow they're going to put the prince to work, using his skills as a search-and-rescue pilot, to learn a water landing technique developed right here in canada. thanks so much. when we come back, the final countdown for the space shuttle program, one last mission to later, celebrating life after living through the very worst.
this week, marks the beginning of the end of an era. the final countdown for america's space shuttle program. the shuttle "atlantis" is scheduled to lift off on friday with a crew of four on a resupply mission to the international space station. tonight, nbc's tom costello looks back at three decades of stunning achievement and tragic setbacks. >> reporter: ask anyone old enough to remember april 12th, 1981, and chances are, they do. >> the shuttle has cleared the tower. >> reporter: columbia rocketed to the space with its crew of two. settle i think we've got something that's really going to mean something to the crew and the world. >> reporter: after two days of orbit it landed safely in the california desert. "atlantis's" crew of four is preparing for the final countdown.
>> we want to make sure that the thousands and thousands of people that put their hands on the space shuttle are honored by this mission and the legacy of the space shuttle. >> reporter: for three decades, the shuttle program has brought incredible triumph. the launch of the hubble telescope, john glen's return to space, the construction of the international space station, and the hubble repair mission. but also, tragedy. the loss of "challenger" and columbia. and lingering questions about whether spending 14 years in low-earth orbit has been worth the financial and scientific investment. >> it's been remarkable in what it's been able to accomplish. it's been stunning in what we've been able to learn from it. >> reporter: with the launch of the shuttle program, tens of thousands of workers across the country are losing their jobs. many in florida. until commercial rockets are ready, american will rely on the russian space program to carry astronauts into space.
but the head of nasa insists america is not giving up its leadership. >> some of my best friends died flying on the shuttle. and i'm not about to let human space flight go away on my watch. >> reporter: meanwhile, the burden of the final mission falls on commander chris ferguson. >> i hope that i paint nasa in the finest light, that we pull off the cleanest mission that is possible. because we want to finish on the strongest note. >> reporter: a strong close as america turns the page in space exploration. tom costello, nbc news, washington. when we come back, when did the united states declare its independence? the answer, believe it or not, is a surprise to many americans. because they have care 1on1. it's where the pharmacist stops and talks to me about safety and saving money with generic prescriptions. laura, let's talk about possible side effects. it's all about me. love that. get care 1on1 and talk savings, safety, and side effects
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social media. twitter's website. it all starts at 2:00 p.m. eastern time on wednesday. his name is command sergeant, major jeff mellinger. we learned today that he's scheduled to retire soon after 39 years in the u.s. army. here's what makes it different. sergeant major mellinger was drafted to fight in vietnam. back in 1972. while most of those drafted served their two years and then left the service, mellinger stayed on, serving in the army for his entire career. and now, at 58 years old, he is believed to be the last vietnam draftee to retire. and this item today, we wish it were a joke. but a new poll finds many americans aren't quite sure of their independence day facts.
for example, when did the united states declare its independence? only 58% of respondents knew it was 1776. and the u.s. gained its independence from which country? 76% correctly said great britain. but 19% were unsure and 5% named some other country. great britain, you know, it's where they play wimbledon. and today it is where novak djokovic fulfilled his boyhood dream and won the men's final. the 24-year-old from serbia beat rafael nadal in four sets. afterward, djokovic called his first wimbledon championship, the most special day of his life. and coming up next, making a difference, an extraordinary bond formed by women sharing a profound loss. hey, the new guy is loaded with protein!
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as the country celebrates its independence this weekend, it's worth remembering those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we all enjoy. they include, of course, those who have died in iraq and afghanistan in tonight's making a difference report, we meet an exceptional group of women who have lost their husbands or fiances in those wars and have joined forces to help themselves heal and to embrace life. nbc's peter alexander has their story. >> reporter: they are fun-loving and fearless. a brave group of women with something else in common, too. they are all military widows. who lost their loved ones in iraq and afghanistan. taryn davis was 21 when her husband, michael, was killed by a roadside bomb in iraq in 2007. >> one of the last things i said
to him was i love you more than life itself. >> reporter: living without michael is an everyday struggle. >> when i went out into the world i just felt like they didn't want to embrace who i was. which was a military widow. and in the back of my mind, i'm thinking, that title, it symbolizes my husband's sacrifice and my own. and if i can get through it, maybe one day it can signify my survival. >> reporter: to help her own healing, taryn began reaching out to other widows. but talking alone wasn't enough. soon, taryn started organizing events, like parasailing. surfing, even swimming with dolphins. to bring this courageous group of women together. in what she called, the american widow project. >> i found myself laughing and smiling for the first time. and i look around and here's a group of extraordinary women. and we know the level of pain that i've been through and have that want to find life again, like i do. and i kept laughing and i kept
smiling. we're like battle buddies, we're going to go through this together. >> reporter: from the golf course where they hold an annual tournament, this year raising a record amount. >> a check for $120,000. [ cheers and applause ] >> let's get on the airplane, come on. >> reporter: to the skies, carrying on the camaraderie their husbands once shared. in may, the widows took an unforgettable leap of faith, diving out of a plane at 13,000 feet. and in the process, honoring their husbands' eventous spirit. jamie patterson lost her husband, nick in 2007. >> this is the picture my husband jumped with every single time. i wanted to jump with it, too. >> reporter: a unique sisterhood. embracing life. and celebrating their husbands' memories. >> awesome, man. >> reporter: peter alexander, nbc news.
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