tv This Is Life With Lisa Ling CNN December 23, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm PST
have your wristbands out, your bar code facing up. >> and the jail's daily cycle and challenges continue. >> top tier, mental health walk. >> so if you could choose any one of these dresses. >> right. >> is there one that you've seen that you just covet? >> that's pretty. with a little simple train. >> a week from today, 44-year-old taquita is marrying the love of her life. but it won't be a story book wedding. >> so what's jerome going to be wearing? >> he has to wear the same jump suits that they wear still. he's not going to be wearing a suit.
>> her fiance, jerome, lives halfway across the country in a maximum security prison. >> i hurt her so many times. but even in my darkest days, she knew my heart. >> prison love sounds like something ripped from the tabloids. high profile criminals and adoring fans. but the headlines are far from the whole story. >> did think you would have someone like shelby in your life? >> absolutely not. i didn't think i deserved it. >> to commit your life to someone you may never be with physically? that's a decision you are comfortable with? >> it's a struggle, but we work through it. >> tonight i am meeting felons and the women who committed their lives to them. to hear love stories that defy the odds and witness a union in the unlikeliest of places. >> in a million years, you could have never told me i would be doing this. ♪
>> picture this. a woman swept off her feet by a man behind bars. it reads like an affair splashed across the evening news. >> mass murderer charles manson set to wed behind bars to a 26-year-old woman. >> eric's wife began correspondence with him after watching the first trial on television. >> scott peterson convicted of killing his pregnant wife has received hundreds of letters from women while sitting on death row in california.
>> to go behind the wall and look beyond the cliches and you might find a love story as genuine as it is unconventional. >> i have never believed in love at first sight, but it was love at first sight. i think my purpose in this life is to be with her. >> at the pendleton correctional facility, a maximum security prison in central indiana, 48-year-old jerome is nearly a decade into his sentence, serving time for burglary. >> is this your cell in the corner? >> this is where i'm at. >> and yearning for his long-time love, taquita. >> look at all the photos. >> oh, yeah. this is what i look at daily.
it gives me joy to look at her face. >> she is a wonderful woman. does it ever make you sad to look at these photos? >> no. this is where i receive my joy. when i'm having a sad day, this is where i retreat. i could look at her all day. we had a beautiful time when we were together. other than the bad times. when it was good it was good, when it was bad, it was bad. >> jerome's downward spiral began in his teens. raised by a single mom in the indiana suburbs, he began experimenting with drugs. first marijuana and alcohol and then cocaine. he dropped out of high school, worked a string of odd jobs and spent his nights getting high. >> i was unstable. that's the only place i found peace. under the influence at a nightclub somewhere. everybody i knew did the same thing. the only stable person in my
life was taquita. >> jerome and taquita first locked eyes at an indiana mall in 1996, at a time when both of them were struggling to get back on their feet. >> what was going on in your life when you met her? >> i just lost a job. i was in a bad state. bad time. she just caught my eye. she was pregnant. the guy left her. she just needed someone to show her some love. >> in the 20 years since that first meeting, much has changed. despite jerome's incarceration and takita's move to arizona six years ago, they kept the spark alive. >> can we see some of the videos that you two have exchanged? >> absolutely. >> they stay connected through kiosks in indiana's prisons, who let inmates exchange videos with loved ones. >> that's why arizona is
arizona. it's so beautiful. >> i love you. >> so you can really see her all throughout the day. >> absolutely, all throughout the day. ♪ ♪ please don't take my sunshine away ♪ >> every 30-second clip is a lifeline. videos keep jerome in touch with her and the world outside prison walls. and videos recorded by jerome -- >> happy valentine's day, babe. i hope you are having a wonderful day. >> allow taquita to hold out hope. >> who was that? i love you. >> you don't give up on somebody you love. even though we had trials and
tribulations and he had a problem, i couldn't get him off of my heart. >> taquita hasn't seen jerome in six years, but soon she is making the trip to indiana. in five days behind prison walls, she and jerome are getting married. >> i'm super excited about our day. i can't wait to call you my wife. >> there are no solid statistics on how many of america's two million plus inmates marry while they're locked up, but marriages take place across the country. most offenders marry people they knew before they were incarcerated. others find love on websites where women and men logon to meet pen pals. some couples connect by chance. just outside of providence, rhode island, shelby's phone rings morning, noon and night. on the other end of the line is
cody, a man convicted of first-degree murder. >> i have a prepaid call from an inmate. >> some folks say he is not like everybody else. he's in prison. >> hi, how are you? >> hi, honey. >> he's still a human being. the prison thing for me, it just isn't a deal breaker. >> as a teenager, cody got involved with drugs. in 2006 after a crack deal went awry, he made local news for setting fire to the dealer's home. unbeknownst to cody, an elderly man was sleeping inside and died from his injuries. cody was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. when he met shelby he was five years into his time and shelby was getting a ph.d. in education. >> i was really always drawn to working with vulnerable populations. i felt more connected to the
underdog. >> why did that resonate with you? >> because of my personal experience. home life was challenging when i was young. my dad suffered from addiction to alcohol and drugs. when he was drunk, there was lots of yelling and lots of things breaking. i used school as an escape and i really excelled in academics. i realized that i could encourage that in the lives of other people and empower them to find their freedom through education. >> four years ago shelby started teaching writing part-time in rhode island's prisons, and cody was one of her students. >> do you remember cody well from your class? >> great writer. would always do his work. diligent. most students were. he wasn't really somebody who shouted out to me.
>> shelby said it was after she was no longer teaching at the prison that cody made his move. when he got his cousin to ask for her number on facebook. through letters, cards and phone calls, their friendship blossomed into something more. >> he always has people make me these beautiful cards. >> that's pretty. >> yeah. >> cute. it's really thoughtful stuff that most guys don't do for women. >> it's silly stuff, but it like to me it's tender, and i appreciate it. >> after three months of nonstop communication, cody popped the question. >> he sent me a ring and a dozen roses. >> did you need time to think about it? >> no, no. >> you were certain? >> oh, yeah. absolutely. >> have you had a lot of long-term relationships?
>> a handful, yeah. but nobody that i have dated in the past have i had that depth of communication. with cody we would talk about our pasts, our beliefs, our visions for the future, and everything aligned. the depth of the intimacy that is not about physical intimacy is something that i haven't experienced in any relationship. >> he's in prison for murder. how does that sit with you? >> who would be comfortable knowing that somebody they care for is doing time for killing a human being, but he is still capable of transformation. >> do you believe he is a transformed person? >> absolutely. >> cody can call shelby once an hour for 20 minutes at a time. the prison denied a request to film with cody, so for now these calls are our only chance to get to know him. >> hello. >> hi, honey. i'm here with lisa.
>> hi, cody. how are you doing? >> i'm doing good. >> so cody, i just wonder, what do you love about shelby? >> everything. >> the perfect pinkies, the laugh she has. i love how she cares about me and it makes me feel complete and whole. >> did you have a crush on her from the moment you saw her? >> absolutely. the minute i seen her, absolutely. i was in love. this is the woman i was meant to meet. >> when you think about the situation kind of logically, it's crazy. but we can't always determine when those connections are going to happen. >> i love you, sweetheart. >> i love you too. >> cody and shelby want to marry, despite the fact that the soonest cody could go free is 2026.
but other obstacles stand in their way. a century-old law and an incident from shelby's past. welcome to the high life. ♪ we've got the beer ♪ miller beer there it is. wow... this holiday season, people have a lot to say about the chevy red tag sales event. this thing is a beast. steel or aluminum? steel. why? science. it's gonna hold up over aluminum, big time. you can get special holiday pricing and when you find your red tag, you get thousands more cash back. that's two deals in one. two deals sound better than one. that's a for-sure thing for me. during the red tag sales event, get two deals in one. find your tag for an average total value over ninety-six hundred dollars on chevy silverado all stars. find new roads at your local chevy dealer. [ crowd noisewhoa. [ gears stopping ] when your pain reliever stops working, your whole day stops.
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real cute. >> yeah, that's pretty. >> the past is always in the back of her mind. >> i was born in indianapolis and i was the baby of six. all my sisters and brothers are older than me. i started out a loner. i wanted to be connected in a way where somebody showed me that they cared for me. >> how would y define the relationships you had with other men before you met jerome? >> young. and dumb. absolutely. when i met jerome, i was pregnant. i was scared. he was just like a knight in shining armor at the time. he embraced my pregnancy. he was so kind. he was so compassionate. no one else had ever cared for me like that. i was a very lonely person. he came in and i wasn't lonely anymore. >> 20 years ago, jerome and taquita set off on a whirlwind romance, moving in together just
two weeks after their first encounter. but what had first seemed like a perfect match eventually began to fray. >> slowly things were changing. he would leave and not come back two or three days at a time. i realized something was going on. he admitted it. it was a drug problem. >> jerome's disappearances were part of a larger pattern of drug addiction and petty crime. over the years, he was arrested for receiving stolen property and other misdemeanors. in 1998, two years into his relationship, jerome was convicted of burglary. when he got out of prison, he vowed to stay clean. and taquita took a leap of faith and she agreed tmarry him. >> i thought the struggles with the drugs were over. he got a job and we were happy. then they laid him off. he would get depressed because
he wanted to provide. it was really shortly after all of that that he went back into the streets again. >> jerome's infractions caught up to him again in october, 2007. unarmed and high, he broke into an antique shop and stole jewelry and $300 in cash. at his trial, prosecutors argued that as a repeat offender, prison was the only place jerome belonged. and the judge handed down an extreme sentence. >> it was in the newspaper. man gets 50 years. the release date was 2032. long time. that's when i went to the pastor of the church and he was like that's a long time. that's terms of leaving. you can let go. >> was it hard to ask for a divorce? >> yeah. yeah. i still saw him as an old man
rocking in the chair next to me when we were in our 70s. i never wanted to give up on him. i just -- i had to let go. i wanted to go where no one knew my name. so i came to arizona and started all over again. >> taquita made a new life for herself in the southwest and she went back to school, started her own business, and discovered a landscape where she could heal. >> i didn't think the desert would be beautiful, but it's beautiful. when i go to the top of the rocks, i can breathe up there. i can free my mind. and the heat warms my body to where i don't feel the pain. >> 1700 miles away in indiana, jerome had to make a choice of his own.
stick to his old ways or start over. >> when i first got in here, all i would think about was the things that i have done, you know, to her or to my family. that haunted me. it was torture. but as time went on, i got my g.e.d. and completed substance abuse classes and started to feel like -- >> are you all right? i said are you all right? >> okay. >> nowadays, jerome is a model inmate. he has been trusted to mentor offenders in the mental health unit. >> what's going on, man? you doing all right? >> jerome is a good mentor around here. a lot of times they are acting out and all of that. they don't want to talk to authority figures. >> he's a good guy. >> it's not just the prison that noticed the change. >> babe, can you hear me?
>> despite the divorce and years apart, jerome and taquita never lost contact. >> i can't wait to see you. >> taquita feels certain of jerome's transformation. so much so that she is willing to give him another chance. >> how did he ask you to marry him? >> he did not. i asked him. one night we were talking on the phone and it was just a real rare feeling that came over me, almost like i had a whisperer saying that's your guy. i said you know what, i would like to take that name back. i never wanted to give that name away. can i have the name back? >> i'm sitting there shaking inside, because i've been waiting on that. >> i think i'm going to have to
do two suitcases. that dress, i don't want to smash it. >> the wrinkles won't stand a chance, babe. i'm sure your curves will get it right. >> before they can take the next step, they have to meet the prison's guidelines. >> choosing to make that person your number one is different than getting wrapped up in the emotion of the love. >> at pendleton, inmates hoping to wed must take four marriage counseling classes led by chaplain matt peterson. >> i try to get them to go into the process with the eyes wide open. >> why do you do that? >> i've been married and divorced three times. i kind of know what not to do and i'm trying to save them from going through that. >> keeping a marriage alive can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. imagine making it work when phone calls are monitored and physical contact is highly restricted. >> you've had an emotional
conversation. you have to have courage to say, okay, i'm starting to get a little heated, i need to take a break and walk away. >> chaplain peterson helps these men navigate the obstacles. >> at some point in a relationship you have to miss your partner. say we don't talk for two days and i say something nice. it wouldn't have the same effect if i talked to her every day. >> i can talk to my woman every day. every hour. i enjoy talking to her and i enjoy laughing with her. >> having the deep meaningful conversations where you are both vulnerable builds intimacy in the relationship. >> today was the final of a four-class series that the men take together before they get married, and i can see how what they have learned will help them in their relationships. in fact, i think every man should take this class. tomorrow taquita flies to see jerome for the first time in six years. the day after that will be their wedding.
they have pinned their hopes on a shared dream, that jerome will be joining taquita soon in arizona, but that's a big if. jerome is appealing his sentence. it's up to the courts to shorten his time. >> he is confident that if he presents this case to the judge that the judge is going to say okay, you are out. his confidence is inspiring my confidence. >> what if he is denied? >> if he's denied, i'm willing to just ride this and see what happens. it's a decision that my heart is making. my soul is making. i'm following my heart. plan wit, 4th, and 5th line for free. yep - unlimited data, talk and text for your whole crew. (vo) and now, buy one samsung galaxy s7, for people with hearing loss, get one free. visit sprintrelay.com
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don't let directv now limit your entertainment. only xfinity gives you more to stream to any screen. >> in this country freedom to marry is a civil right. but in the state of rhode island, some inmates are denied that liberty by a law that's over 100 years old. >> the system makes cody as if he is dead and can't love or can't have a relationship. i just disagree with the philosophy entirely. >> rhode island is one of two states in the nation that enforces the civil death statute, which says inmates with life sentences are dead to society. it's a law that shelby and cody are fight with the help of the
aclu and attorney sonia dao. >> so tell me about this statute. >> it only applies to inmates with life sentences. it prevents them from filing suit, owning property, even having personal property in prison. and what it says is that those inmates with life sentences cannot be married. marriage is a fundamental right. what we have is a statute that restricts those rights too much. >> according to sonia, until recently, they were not consistently enforcing the civil death statute. >> my research shows somewhere along the lines of seven or eight inmates in rhode island who married who had life sentences. as of the last year, they have been enforcing the statute. prior to that time, they were not. we could speculate as to whether that had something to do with shelby. >> the department of corrections refused to comment while the
aclu's lawsuit is ongoing. but shelby believes they are using the law to keep her and cody apart because of a chain of events set off in 2014 by a letter shelby received from another inmate in one of her classes. >> this letter started i think you are hot and want to pursue something with you, but i had no connection with that student. i decided ultimately, you know what, i'm going to respond and say kind of a thanks, but no thanks. i thought i responded appropriately and professionally. >> but the inmate who wrote shelby was already on the prison's radar. he had a history of attempting escape. on top of that, the prison said shelby violated a central rule. it's forbidden for those working at the facility to correspond with offenders without permission. a rule shelby claims she was never told. >> in the training to teach in correctional facilities, were there any rules about corresponding with inmates? >> i never received any rules
about corresponding with folks inside. but internal affairs said what you were supposed to have done in that situation was immediately alert authorities, because you didn't do what we thought you were supposed to do, you can't come back to this facility. >> it was three months after shelby lost her job that she and cody started talking. and when she tried to visit him for the first time, she learned just how serious the prison was. >> went up to the visiting room. cody came out. we gave each other a hug and we were chatting for ten minutes, and a correctional officer came over to us and said you've got to leave. so we had a ten-minute visit in july, 2014. >> so you have never been able to see him again since that day? >> that's right. >> it's really hard to see everybody go to a visit and come back with a smile on their face
because they get to see their loved one. it's painful. >> i know you love shelby, but is it worth it? >> yes, it's worth it. she's my freedom in every sense of the word, and i don't mean just walking outside of the door. >> since that first and only visit, shelby and cody have asked repeatedly for permission to see each other. each time the prison has denied them, claiming shelby acted in ways that posed a security risk, an accusation she denies. while shelby is banned from the facility, we are not. because i'm from out of state, i can go in and visit an inmate without getting a background check. i'm going to try to go in and see if i can at least meet cody. shelby and cody rely on vicarious visitations like this one. while her friends and family visit with cody, she parks across the street, waiting for them to bring news from inside. >> oh, my goodness, how'd it go? >> it took a few minutes and then he came in.
i think he was kind of surprised that i was there. he's a very, very good-looking guy. i also saw the tattoo, shelby, on his arm. you haven't seen that. he said if you are going to see shelby soon, tell her i love her and i'll call her tonight. >> thank you. >> it must be bittersweet. on the one hand you're happy that i got to see him but the fact that you can't see him must be really hard. >> yeah. >> he's up for parole in ten years. that's a daunting amount of time. i just worry that you are wasting your life somehow just waiting.
>> that's provided the assumption that a relationship is the only thing that gives somebody worth, and that's not the only thing that i judge my happiness and my success with. my relationship is another journey. as time goes by, there will be new challenges. i'm not frightened by it. >> there are a lot of things to admire about shelby and cody's relationship. they spend so much time really communicating. some of the best things to me about a relationship are being in the same room with someone and not speaking at all. or being able to watch your partner be an incredible parent to your children. she is only 30 years old and i just wonder if five, ten years down the line, she will have that longing. on a february morning past dawn in pendleton, indiana, chaplain matt peterson is getting to work preparing to meet with students of his marriage counseling class. this is a class that the men and
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meet with students of his marriage counseling class. this is a class that the men and women take together and it will be the first time they will have seen each other in six years. >> taquita arrived here from arizona yesterday. she enters the facility with little more than her i.d. and a heart full of anticipation. on the other side of the wall, jerome is shaken down for contraband. for taquita, the moments before the reunion seem endless. >> i'm gonna kiss him, hug him. i'm so excited. it's overwhelming. >> i love you, baby. >> i miss you.
you are beautiful. >> in attendance for the class are jerome and taquita and john and his fiancee, linda. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> in the midst of the excitement, chaplain peterson had some hard truths to share about maintaining intimacy behind bars. >> keep your communication healthy and positive. when we say something negative to the one we love, it hurts. how many positive comments do
you think it takes to counteract one negative? >> a lot. >> 20. >> it's simple advice, but for these couples it could be invaluable. marriages in which one partner is incarcerated are significantly more likely to end in divorce. >> this is a very dehumanizing place. there are going to be times when we lock the place down and, therefore, he misses the 7:00 phone call. the next thing you know intimacy is breaking down, relationships are breaking down. >> everyone we have spoken with are so optimistic. do you think that is sustainable? >> they're forever labeled as that ex-con. society doesn't look favorable on that. to deal with that you need to make a choice of loving someone through the good times and bad. >> taquita and jerome have a long road ahead of them.
despite the odds, they plan to wed tomorrow. until then, jerome returns to his cell house. taquita makes the 30-mile journey back to indianapolis to the house where she and jerome used to live as husband and wife. >> which one is it, that one on the left? >> yes. wow, it looks so different now. it's been a long time. >> i get the feeling it's not of comfortable for you to be back here? >> oh, absolutely not. it makes my stomach tight because it's reliving these moments again, you know, turning these corners. >> this is the neighborhood where jerome would vanish for days at a time, moving from one drug house to another. one time he was gone for 30 days. that hurt so bad. >> did you go out searching for him? >> all the time. dark streets, dark alleys. words cannot explain those
feelings that i had when i got out of my car and looked for him. i knew he had a sickness and i felt like i could save him. >> how does it make you feel when you think back on all those nights that she went out looking for you? >> it tears me up. i never wanted her to see that side of me. that's where the distance came. but that part of my life is over. i will not let her down. >> when you come back here and you relive a lot of these painful memories, does it make you at all question getting back together with him and marrying him? >> i know sometimes i may be thinking that he owes me my life back. jerome owes me my life back. any time i think of that, you are losing things. losing my husband. i've always had to lose the things that meant the most to me.
always. but i know he loves me. that's what brings the tears of joy, you know? i have those as well. >> taquita has made so many sacrifices and tomorrow she is going to be marrying jerome inside of a prison. it's another very big sacrifice that she is making. i hope it's worth it. and preservatives liquid gels delivers the powerful cold symptom relief you need without the unnecessary additives you don't. store manager: clean up, aisle 4. alka-seltzer plus liquid gels. it has long been called storm of tiny bubbles, the champagne of beers. ♪ if you've got the time welcome to the high life. ♪ we've got the beer
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in a motel room on the outskirts of town, taquita is preparing for a new beginning. in less than an hour, taquita and jerome will be married. this is the culmination of an over 20-year relationship. one filled with a lot of love but also a lot of pain. inside this maximum security prison they will commit their lives together. >> your dress is pretty. >> thank you so much.
>> it's probably the shoes. >> the prison allows no more than six guests for a wedding. two of jerome's fellow inmates have been invited, along with taquita's childhood friend kia and jerome and taquita's sons from previous relationships. >> so how are you feeling? >> like a palm tree in the middle of the desert. >> you're ready? >> i'm ready. absolutely. ♪
>> wow, you're beautiful. >> you ready? >> yes, i am. wow. mm. >> the ceremony is held in an attorney booth in the visitation room. officiated by chaplain peterson. >> good afternoon. we are joined together today for the marriage of jerome and taquita. >> despite the humble circumstances, it's as moving a wedding as any i have attended. >> i jerome take you taquita. >> i jerome take you taquita. >> to be my wife. >> to be my wife. >> i taquita. >> take you jerome. >> take you jerome. >> to be my husband. >> to be my husband -- again.
>> jerome, please take taquita's ring. put the ring on her finger. >> it fits. >> love you. >> i love you. wow. >> we're together. >> the marriage process is a human process. it takes a strong family to make that transition back into society. to become a better person. it can bring love and light to an otherwise dark place. >> ready? one, two, three. >> for two short hours jerome and taquita can linger in the visiting room. it's the closest thing they will get to a honeymoon for a long time.
when the visit is up they go their separate ways. >> i love you. >> i love you, too. bye. >> and when they will be together next is uncertain. if jerome's appeal for early release is turned down it could be decades before he and taquita are reunited for good. you just got married and you're going back to your cell. how do you feel about that? >> quite naturally i would love to go home with my wife. we stand firm that a blessing will come our way, so we're patient. >> so, married lady, how do you feel? >> looking in his eyes i felt like 20 years ago, you know? i felt like i got my man back. >> what was it like to leave him? >> devastating. very devastating. i didn't want to leave him, you know. but as soon as i hear his voice on the phone, it will be joyful all over again.
i'll just keep that hope. my new beer, stella artois, hey cois finished. the people will love it. the party's starting! ♪ ♪ ♪ originally brewed for the holidays. enjoyed ever since. stella artois. host one to remember therthere is nothing typical about making movies. i'm victoria alonso and i'm an executive producer... ...at marvel studios. we are very much hands-on producers. if my office... ...becomes a plane or an airport the surface pro's perfect. fast and portable but also light. you don't do this 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for... ...decades if you don't feel it in your heart.
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generosity is its oyou can handle being a mom for half an hour. i'm in all the way. is that understood? i don't know what she's up to, but it's not good. can't the world be my noodles and butter? get your mind out of the gutter. mornings are for coffee and contemplation. that was a really profound observation. you got a mean case of the detox blues.
>> and their fight to marry continues. >> come here. >> is she trying to get all the attention? >> yeah. she's sitting on my lap now. so she is getting all the attention. >> their lawsuit against the rhode island department of corrections is ongoing. until the courts make a decision cody and shelby are in limbo. >> when you think about your future with cody what does it look like? >> i imagine us living somewhere in the woods, somewhere quieter with the dogs. >> so you're going to go to the law library and do some work? >> yeah, somebody had asked me to -- >> i'm not going to romanticize it. some days are more difficult than others. however, i have learned value in having patience for the things that matter. he matters. i'll talk to you later. >> bye. >> bye. >> taquita's back in arizona.
jerome is still behind bars in indiana. >> how are you? >> all right, beautiful. how was your day? >> but even with half the country between them, they are inseparable. >> look at my husband. i got you full screen. before i didn't understand how women married somebody in prison. i used to call it prison groupies. i have turned into a prison groupie. can you see that? boom, baby. >> i'm going to show you what the mountain looks like today. i will see you soon. >> no doubt. >> we are older now, we're wiser, and we still love each other. as old as i am and i have never felt different. it's time to follow what i know which is we belong together.
look at that sun. that's what you are to me. i love you, sweetie. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com oh, man! >> freeze. what did you see? a few seconds of video. four cops dragging a black man down a hall. easy to jump to conclusions if this clip went viral. so let's rewind this scene and play it back from beginning to end. >> it's a real person. he's holding a female inside. refusing to let her go. >> he's off his medications. >> so apparently, the man is being very, very aggressive with the woman. >> you're not in trouble. >> i'm going to die.