Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more about the case from Soledad O'Brien on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/04/art.hate.crime.pa2.jpg caption="A police car outside an entrance to the courthouse on the first day of the trial."]
Producer, CNN Presents
For nine months, the community of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania waited to learn the fate of three high school football players. A late-night street fight last July had left illegal Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez dead and these teenagers facing a range of charges, including murder. During those months, vigils were held, protesters against illegal immigration came to town, and protesters for immigration reform came to town. The case’s August preliminary hearing was briefly delayed when demonstrators drowned out the proceedings inside the court. Finally, a trial date of April 27 was set.
But there would be one more development before a jury would hear the case. Just weeks before trial, one of the teammates, Colin Walsh, took a federal plea deal and agreed to testify against his friends in court. Now there would be only two defendants – Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak. Piekarsky faced third-degree murder while both faced assault and ethnic intimidation charges.
After a summer of protests and tension, police had prepared for large groups of protesters, going so far as to enforce a quarter-mile protest exclusion zone around the court house. Local TV stations reported that Sheriff's deputies' vacations had been restricted for the trial and that all attendees would have to pass through two metal detectors to get into the courtroom.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.getty.joe.the.plumber.jpg caption="Joe the Plumber, aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, recently spoke out against gay marriage."]
Joe the Plumber, aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, sat down for an lengthy interview with Christianity Today to discuss his views on the future of the Republican party. Wurzelbacher took the opportunity to speak out against gay marriage, which he says is wrong. The unlikely conservative spokesman went so far as to say he doesn't allow openly gay people "anywhere near" his children.
The word "queer," Wurzelbacher noted, "means strange and unusual."
Christianity Today: In the last month, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa and Vermont. What do you think about same-sex marriage at a state level?
Wurzelbacher: At a state level, it's up to them. I don't want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it's wrong. People don't understand the dictionary–it's called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It's not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we're supposed to do–what man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we're supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I've had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn't have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they're people, and they're going to do their thing.
In the vein of George W. Bush and Michael Steele, Joe the Plumber also indicated that he wouldn't run for public office until the Lord had given him a cue. "God hasn't said, 'Joe, I want you to run.' I feel more important to just encourage people to get involved, one way or another. If I can inspire some leaders, that would be great." Joe added: "I don't know if I want to be a leader."
Tonight on AC360°, two white youths acquitted in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant. Now, calls for federal charges. What’s this case say about our current state of race relations? Was this a hate crime? Soledad O'Brien has the report. Anderson will discuss the topic with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and John Amaya from the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. You can join the conversation here.
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The markets clearly liked what they saw today.
A better-than-expected housing market report sent the Dow soaring 214 points. The S&P added nearly 30, and the Nasdaq rose 44. Today’s gains erased all - or nearly all - of the year’s losses for the major indexes. Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi will explain what the rally and housing numbers mean for the economy overall—and for your bottom line.
Police in Chicago are asking for the public’s help in solving a brutal murder over the weekend. A 15-year-old high school student was found dead from a gunshot to the head; his body had been severely beaten and burned. Alex Arellano is the 34th Chicago public school student to be killed this year. Police say the 10th grader had no ties to gangs and no criminal record. Tonight, David Mattingly reports on the wave of killings claiming so many young lives in Chicago.
We’ll also have the reaction to the verdict in a Pennsylvania hate-crime trial. Three white teenagers were accused of beating to death an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. One pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation before the trial and testified that his friends had used racial slurs during the attack. On Friday, an all-white jury acquitted the two teens in the death. Latino rights proponents are enraged—and the small town where it all happened is struggling to deal with the media spotlight. Tonight Soledad O’Brien digs deeper into racial tensions in the town.
We’re also keeping a close eye on swine flu. The virus is still spreading, but there are some signs the worst may be over – at least for now. In Mexico, many public spaces are reopening. And in New York, a Catholic school that closed after an outbreak also reopened today. Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta joins us again with the latest.
And, a former co-worker of a suspected serial killer is speaking out. He worked alongside John Floyd Thomas, Jr., a 72-year-old California man arrested last week. Police believe he may have killed dozens of women during two killing sprees decades ago. Looking back, were there any missed clues to his alleged double life? We’ll take a close look tonight.
All that coming up.. see you at 10 p.m. eastern.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
Health officials wait to cross the road near the quarantined Metro Park Wanchai Hotel on May 3, 2009 in Hong Kong, China.
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Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on
In Session Anchor
By all accounts, President Barack Obama will appoint a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court seat soon to be vacated by Justice David Souter. The short list is made up almost entirely of women: women governors, women judges, women law professors.
In fact, women hold dozens of seats on the nations’ appellate courts, deanships at top law schools, and some of the highest political offices. It is, quite simply, a different landscape than almost 30 years ago when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the highest court: Two hundred women are federal judges; one hundred sit on state supreme courts; And, one-third of chief justices of those courts are women. Seven governors are women.
But, even if a woman is appointed, let’s not be fooled into thinking that full equality is a reality.
This cover of Stand By Me was recorded by completely unknown artists in a street virtual studio all around the world. It all started with a base track—vocals and guitar—recorded on the streets of Santa Monica, California, by a street musician called Roger Ridley.
The base track was then taken to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Grandpa Elliott—a blind singer from the French Quarter—added vocals and harmonica while listening to Ridley's base track on headphones. In the same city, Washboard Chaz's added some metal percussion to it.
Program Note: Tune in tonight for an update on the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
Special to CNN
The rapid spread of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (also known as swine flu) from Mexico to at least 19 other countries in less than 10 days is a cause of major concern.
It emphasizes the need for the public to become familiar with how influenza is spread and which preventive measures they can use to reduce their chances of becoming infected.
Although little information is available at this time, it appears that this influenza virus spreads from one person to another in the same way as other influenza viruses - by "droplet spread."
Respiratory droplets are generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes and expels droplets of fluid. Those droplets travel short distances (usually less than three feet) through the air and can be deposited on the mouth or in the nose of people or on surfaces.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/04/30/westside.killings/art.mugshots.lapd.jpg caption="John Floyd Thomas Jr. may have begun his killings as far back as 1955. "]
A man who Los Angeles police believe raped and murdered dozens of women decades ago was arrested by cold case investigators this month after a computer matched his DNA to evidence from two killings in the 1970s.
John Floyd Thomas Jr., 72, may have begun his killings as far back as 1955 and he could be one of the worst serial killers in United States history, according to Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton.
"We have yet to reach the depths of what he has done," Bratton said Thursday.
Until his April 2 arrest, Thomas was a Los Angeles insurance adjuster. Police now call him the "Southland Strangler" - named for the geographical section of Los Angeles County where they suspect he killed at least 30 women and raped many more.
Thomas, who sits in a Los Angeles jail, has been charged with two killings - in 1972 and 1976 - but prosecutors will likely add more cases when he faces arraignment on May 20, Bratton said.
While Thomas was arrested "a number of times between 1955 and 1978" for sex crimes and burglaries, detectives did not have the technology to identify him as a suspect when the region was terrorized by a series of killings then blamed on the "Westside Rapist," Bratton said.