tv NBC Nightly News NBC September 21, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight, life and death. tonight's execution in georgia and why so many people have been fearing an innocent man being put to death. finally free. two young americans held captive in iran for over two years, safe and on their way home. "it gets better." that was his message to the world about being bullied, until it all became too much, even for him. and you paid for it. $16 muffins, $10 brownies. you didn't get to enjoy them, but they are on your tab as taxpayers. but they are on your tab as taxpayers. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening.
no execution has received this much attention in decades. in this case it's because so many people are convinced of his innocence. troy davis was condemned to die for the murder of an off duty police officer back in 1989. for the past few days and into today, all those who could have stopped the execution did not. now tonight his lawyers have appealed to the u.s. supreme court. we want to begin tonight with nbc's thanh truong outside the prison in jackson, georgia. thanh, good evening. >> reporter: brian, still no word from the u.s. supreme court but there's been a delay as they wait to hear from the u.s. supreme court. this execution originally scheduled for 7:00. >> free troy davis! >> reporter: ahead of tonight's execution, the protests spread far beyond the prison gates in jackson, georgia. >> stop the execution! >> reporter: from california to the nation's capital they shouted. >> they say death row, we say hell no! >> reporter: their chants echoed overseas in london, paris, and
rome. the message -- spare troy davis's life. >> this evidence is in doubt. they do not have true evidence that this man is guilty. >> it blew my mind, quite honestly, that it's even possible that we are talking about the execution of a man who might be innocent. >> reporter: davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of savannah police officer mark mcphail. witnesses testified davis shot mcphail in the face and chest as he helped a homeless man. seven of the nine witnesses later recanted their testimony. several claiming police coercion. no dna evidence links him to the crime. pope benedict and former president jimmy carter are among prominent voices saying there is too much uncertainty. >> people like that, when we have doubts that they could well be innocent, we shouldn't be executing them, period. >> reporter: for 22 years, davis maintained his innocence but failed to clear his name. today his last minute offer to take a polygraph test was rejected. davis's family can only pray. >> we are very upset by this.
i want people to understand that our family is hurting, too, but we will not give up this fight. >> reporter: through numerous appeals and three halted executions, officer mcphail's family and prosecutors never wavered from their belief -- davis deserved death. >> it's over. it sounds terrible but i can finally close this book and hopefully get some peace. >> reporter: before his execution davis issued a statement saying in part, this struggle is for all the troy davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. but i will not stop fighting until i have taken my last breath. davis spent six hours today with family and friends. when he was offered a choice of a last meal he declined it. davis instead was served the prison standard meal of a cheeseburger, baked beans and potatoes. brian? >> thanh truong in jackson, georgia, starting us out. thanks. overseas tonight after two years and two months in captivity in iran, those two american hikers have been freed.
their families received the first glimmer of real hope days ago. it came up during an interview of the iranian leader mahmoud ahmadinejad by our own ann curry who pressed him on the subject. ann is here in the studio for the end of this chapter. ann? >> that's right, brian. good evening. it was a very emotional day for two young americans and their families, a day for everyone to breathe a sigh of relief. finally, long awaited joy as the jet landed in oman. shane bauer and josh fattal ran down the steps to a crush of waiting families and news cameras. free men after 781 days in an iranian prison. >> we are so happy we are free and so relieved we are free. >> two years in prison is too long. >> reporter: convicted last month of crossing the border illegally and spying and sentenced to eight more years. earlier today they were rushed from iran's capital with the help of the swiss ambassador to iran. >> they are leaving right now
and i am very, very grateful for this. it has been a long time for them. we have done a lot of work. >> reporter: the families of shane and josh released a statement. today can only be described as the best day of our lives. we now all want nothing more than to wrap shane and josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years, and make a new beginning for them and for all of us. the release comes just a day before iran's president mahmoud ahmadinejad is to address the united nations, but eight days after he told nbc exclusively their release was imminent. >> i think these two will be freed in a couple of days. >> in a couple of days? >> yes, in a couple of days. inshallah, they will be freed. >> the delay in the release exposed a power struggle inside iran. >> all the circumstances around the release of the hikers highlight the deep divisions amongst the ruling elite here in iran, something president ahmadinejad wanted to avoid before addressing the world
stage at the u.n. this week. >> president obama also in new york for the u.n. meeting commented late today. >> it was the right thing to do. it shouldn't have been done, but we're glad they're going home. >> reporter: tonight the two will rest in oman, finally reunited with their families. shane's fiancee sarah shourd, the third hiker who was released last year is also in oman tonight along with the parents of both young men who never stopped fighting for their release. brian? >> after the role you played in the drama, what a roller coaster it's been back then up to today. ann curry, a pleasure. thanks. meanwhile here in new york tonight, president obama has gone directly to the palestinian president mahmoud abbas to try to talk him out of his plan to ask for statehood at the u.n. conference in new york this week. the palestinian dispute has taken center stage and this morning when the president addressed the general assembly
he defended the u.s. position and tried to prevent a u.n. crisis over this statehood issue. our report from our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell. [ applause ] >> reporter: a year after calling for a palestinian state, president obama said it could only happen through direct negotiations with israel, not by a shortcut at the united nations. >> peace is hard work. peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the united nations. if it were that easy it would have been accomplished by now. >> reporter: but the showdown isolates the u.s., forcing the president to defend israel against most of the rest of the world. >> one side's actions in the united nations will achieve neither statehood nor self-determination for the palestinians. >> but i think that standing your ground. taking this position of principle which is, i think, the right position to achieve peace, i think this is a badge of honor. >> reporter: his partnership with israel's prime minister is
awkward for mr. obama. the last time they met, benjamin netanyahu scolded the president for his middle east policies right in the oval office. this as arab uprisings throughout the middle east have created even more sympathy for the palestinians. so today the president was forced to work the u.n. like an old-fashioned political convention. lobbying unlikely power brokers like nigeria which has a vote on the security council and pressuring the palestinian leader to accept compromise. >> a lot of it depends on what it is that obama comes to the table with. if he's going to reiterate the same formula i don't think there will be a backing down. >> reporter: republicans are exploiting the president's dilemma. yesterday, rick perry called his middle east policy appeasement. today it was mitt romney. >> the president's failure to stand by israel in a time of need over the past couple of years has been unfortunate for that part of the world. >> reporter: today the french proposed a one-year deadline for peace talks, but the palestinians didn't buy it. tonight the president and hillary clinton are double teaming the palestinians. if they don't back down the u.s. will try to bury the palestinian
statehood application in a u.n. committee just to buy some time. brian? >> on israel, do you buy into the view that they are as vulnerable in a way as they have been in decades? >> i think they are more vulnerable than any time since 1967. they are surrounded by arab uprisings, they have lost their key allies egypt and turkey and are at risk of losing jordan. and syria is unstable on their other border. >> that's why it's an important week in new york among other things. andrea, thanks, as always. many palestinians are of course disappointed by president obama's speech at the u.n. today. back home, this was a day of strong support for their leader, president abbas. our veteran middle east correspondent martin fletcher reports tonight from the west bank. >> reporter: all the symbols, the drums, the flags, the v for victory. palestinians celebrating today. >> i want my whole country but
for now i will settle for this. >> reporter: rallies in all the major towns in support of mahmoud abbas and statehood, the day off for civil servants and school kids. [ chanting in foreign language plaintiff's exhibit -- >> reporter: down with israel, they chant, up with palestine. police confined the rallies to city centers to avoid clashes with israeli soldiers. it didn't work everywhere. but there were no serious injuries and clashes didn't spread. the rallies stayed calm. the main message here today is to thank the palestinians who died in a struggle but fighting against israel but also to support their president mahmoud abbas in the united nations. to find out how true this really is we revisited alla sanakrai. he was a leader of the militant martyrs brigade. his two brothers were killed by israeli soldiers. he took an amnesty. now he's a 29-year-old security officer with the palestinian authority. he swapped bombs for babies and
says, i thank god for this. no more. all i want now, he said, is for my children to live in peace. but abbas had better come back with something real, people said, or all bets are off. martin fletcher, nbc news, the west bank. back at home in fullerton, california, a big update to a story we have been following. two police officers are charged with murdering a mentally ill homeless man. the incident shocked the community and all those around the world really who saw and heard the video. our report tonight from nbc's miguel almaguer. >> reporter: in court today, fullerton police officer manuel ramos was charged with second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. corporal jay cicinelli faces involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. he pled not guilty. both are accused of beating to death a schizophrenic homeless
man, 37-year-old kelly thomas. >> the biggest shame about the case is that it didn't have to happen. it could have been avoided. >> reporter: the victim's father, a retired sheriff's deputy, was in the courtroom, relieved by news of the charges. >> i am elated. this is really what i wanted. >> reporter: cell phone video captured the july 5th beating and kelly thomas's final cries for help. [ screaming ] >> reporter: but the district attorney says it's unreleased video that clearly shows the brutal beating. the d.a. says kelly was choked, tased and punched repeatedly. an audio recording captured the words of the responding officers. >> he said, now, see my fists, they're getting ready to f you up. >> reporter: two officers sworn to protect the law are tonight accused of breaking it. if convicted they face 4 to 15 years in prison. miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles.
>> still ahead tonight, a teenager who put on a brave face for the world, but it all became too much. tonight his parents have a message for other families about their son and bullying and the devastating toll it can take. also, as promised, we are tracking the giant piece of space junk looking for a place to land here on earth. and later, wait until you hear what you paid for food consumed at a conference in washington.
bullying gets better, about how tough it can be growing up gay, but, again, "it gets better," was his message. in his case, it did not and his message of hope didn't work. he took his own life. his story tonight from nbc's kate snow. >> hey, jen. i just wanted to say i love you and how amazing you are. >> reporter: like a lot of 14-year-old boys, jamey rodemeyer was quiet and insecure one moment, joking around the next. his online videos were part diary, part empowerment. >> you should give respect for everyone no matter gay, straight, bi -- >> reporter: the most haunting in hindsight from may of this year. >> i'm just here to tell you that it does get better. >> reporter: jamie talked of feeling supported by friends after he came out, but he clearly struggled with comments people made about him. >> people will be like faggot and they taunt me in the hallways. i felt like i could never escape it.
>> reporter: dan savage created the "it gets better project," messages to gay teens submitted by celebrities and ordinary people like jamey. >> even in his pain, and he must have been in terrible pain, he was reaching out and trying to help others. >> reporter: on september 8, jamey wrote on his daily blog, i always say how bullied i am, but no one listens. just over a week later he was found dead outside his buffalo home, an apparent suicide. his mother said she wants to carry on jamey's work standing up for bullied teens. >> this was so important to him. it took him away from our family way too early. >> reporter: people from all over the world are pledging the same in online comments now. >> sometimes hope isn't enough and the future is too remote. at those times, your heart breaks. >> hold your head up and you'll go far because it's all you have to do. just love yourself. >> reporter: if only he could have convinced himself.
♪ that's me in the spotlight ♪ losing my religion shocking news out of athens, georgia, today. tonight the music world is reacting to the end of r.e.m. led by the instantly recognizable style of michael stipe, r.e.m. has been making music for 31 years. they were trail blazers and became an iconoclastic band. they left behind 15 albums and some real landmarks. for their fans, like the song of the same name, "it's the end of the world as we know it." speaking of which, this is
the nasa telemetry tracking the dead satellite the size of a school bus that is getting in lower and lower orbit and will crash into the earth. best guess now is that it falls on friday. probably best to wear a hat to work. if you are really worried about it and want to track it from home, you can link to it via our website. as we reported here last night tony bennett's under fire for his remarks on howard stern's radio show where he said, in effect, the u.s. brought on the 9/11 attacks by its own actions in the middle east. he also said president bush 43 told him six years ago the iraq war was a mistake. well, today, tony bennett posted a statement on facebook saying his experience in the battle of the bulge taught him that war is the lowest form of human behavior. he said there is no excuse for terrorism and added, i'm sorry if my statements suggested
anything other than an expression of my love for my country. you can call this photo the cost of good intentions. take a look at this poor guy. actually you can't see this poor guy just because the president of the united states chose that second to wave at the camera. so we wanted to make things right for his friends and family members. this is his picture. turns out he's the president of mongolia, tsakhia elbegdorj. oddly, it was an event at the u.n. about transparency in government. up next here tonight, when you hear this story about government spending, you're going to wonder how we'll ever get a handle on our finances.
finally tonight, this is just the kind of story that makes people crazy like those examples over the years of crazy government spending from toilet seats to ashtrays. this time it happens to be catering. the food served at a justice department conference. as you hear these amounts think about what the money could buy for a family on the down side of this recession. our report from nbc's pete williams. >> reporter: at best buns bakery in virginia they are especially proud of their bran muffins. >> our sourdough wheat bran muffins are made fresh daily and are only $2.20 apiece. >> reporter: but at a 2009 conference at this washington hotel, says a new government audit, the justice department
spent more than $16 apiece for muffins. and $10 each for brownies. examples, says the department's own inspector general, of wasteful and extravagant spending. at a 2007 conference in denver justice department organizers spent more than $5.50 each for cans of soda. in 2008 in san francisco they paid $32 a person for snacks consisting of cracker jack, popcorn and candy bars. at the same conference the amount spent for coffee came out to $1 an ounce, the same as this $25 bottle of california pinot noir. >> set an example like you would with your family. you wouldn't spend $16 for a muffin in your family. we shouldn't be doing it in the federal family. >> reporter: this report is a follow up to one four years ago after the justice department was caught paying $5 apiece for meatballs. conference planners say they
sometimes paid more for food in return for getting hotel meeting rooms at no charge. though the report says they failed to see if paying for the room and finding another food source would be cheaper. the department says wasteful spending will not be tolerated, that it tightened rules for conferences and so far this year the costs are down. after learning taxpayers paid $8 a cup for coffee the justice department hopes the new rules will keep it out of hot water. pete williams, nbc news, washington. >> that's our broadcast on a wednesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com