tv NBC Nightly News NBC October 3, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight, free and clear. a stunner in an italian courtroom. amanda knox is free to come home after four years in prison. up in flames. a huge fire at a chemical plant in texas. school children nearby are evacuated and now the questions about what this has done to the environment. ready to retire but not sure they can. an enormous setback this economy has handedillions of american women who are looking for their golden years. and making a difference for children with autism. the legendary lion king puts on a special show. the legendary lion king puts on a special show. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening. the case of amanda knox always had all the elements required to focus public attention. a grisly murder, a beautiful young american girl from the pacific northwest who was then held for four years in italy while the justice system ground through various fits and starts. and while millions of americans watched back home. it all came down to today in an italian courtroom. millions watching live around the world had to wait for the translator hoping they heard it correctly. but the verdict was unmistakable. she exploded in tears when she heard it. she is free to go, free to return home to the united states. lester holt starts us off tonight in perugia, italy. lester, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. this was all an appeal to her 2009 conviction on six criminal counts. today, the judge ruled that five of those counts would be thrown out. the lone remaining conviction, a
slander charge related to her false accusation of a suspect early in the investigation. that, said the judge, carries a three-year sentence. she's been in prison four years. now we expect her to leave italy as soon as tomorrow as a free woman. after a four-year struggle to clear her name the final verdict for amanda knox took just minutes. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> reporter: the 24-year-old seattle native collapsed into the arms of her lawyers as her family gathered in the courtroom and swept each other up in their arms after the jury overturned her conviction in the murder of her roommate meredith kercher. her sister deanna spoke to reporters afterwards. >> we are thankful amanda's nightmare is over. she suffered for four years for a crime she didn't commit. >> reporter: cheering was heard from inside the prison where knox and her former boyfriend
raphael solocito awaited the verdict. outside the courthouse a different reaction. italians, angry over the handling of the case jeered the prosecutors. the stage for the dramatic decision was set this morning when knox stood to address the court. the final word before deliberation. nervous and tearful at times she declared her innocence saying she wasn't even there when it happened and if she had been she would have been killed, too. she accused the police of betraying her trust and called kercher her friend and someone she was sharing her life with and finally told the court -- [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> reporter: i want to go back home. i want to go back to my life. tonight, seattle friends of knox who came here for the verdict are anxious to see her go home. >> i'm so relieved and so happy she's out. >> i'm so grateful they get to go back to prison for the last time and then go home. >> reporter: also in the courtroom the family of kercher who appeared emotional after the verdict. earlier, they asked the world to
not forget the ultimate victim in this tragedy. >> four years on the one hand is a very long time. on the other it's still very raw. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> reporter: the case against knox at times seemed to put the italian justice system itself on trial, especially after critical dna evidence against the pair was discredited by the court's own independent experts. tonight, legal experts here say that in the end the system worked. >> it did vindicate itself in a certain way. i think the appellate court acted in an equitable way. it gave a fair hearing to both sides and explored all the evidence. >> reporter: less than two hours after the verdict, a car carrying amanda knox left the prison for the first leg of her journey home. so is the case over? for knox it is. the prosecution in italy have the right to appeal this to the supreme court but getting it accepted to the italian supreme
court could take weeks. in the meantime, sources close to knox are telling us she will leave as soon as tomorrow from rome on her way back to seattle. brian? >> lester holt in italy tonight. thanks. this live coverage today was watched around the world. no one was watching today's verdict more closely than her friends and supporters at home in seattle. that's where stephanie gosk is tonight. stephanie, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. her friends and supporters started gathering at this hotel behind me at around midnight. many of them have been supporting her cause from the very beginning. there was hope and even confidence that by the end of the day she would be set free. they were up all night, anxious, waiting for this verdict. >> knox, amanda is free. [ cheers ] >> reporter: when it came -- >> thank you, god. thank you. >> reporter: unrestrained joy.
>> i feel like passing out. i'm just so overwhelmed. >> reporter: it was the end of a four-year fight. they hugged and cheered and sobbed. >> this is what we were waiting for. we're very happy. we'll take her any way we can get her. >> it really restored our faith in the system. it really did. tom wright, the founder of the group friends of amanda had a message for knox. >> your light shines still. god speed, safe travels and see you soon. >> reporter: amanda knox could be back as early as tomorrow. her friends and supporters know probably what she'll need is time alone with her family. they say when she's ready they are going to throw her a very big party. >> after four years what a homecoming that will be. is stephanie gosk in seattle for us tonight. stephanie, thanks. the other big trial we continue to watch tonight, of course, jurors in the trial of dr. conrad murray were told today that the e.r. team on the
night of michael jackson's death never had a chance to save him. he had died long before he arrived in the emergency room. that was the testimony from an e.r. doctor that took the stand today in l.a. she said dr. murray told her she -- he had given michael jackson small doses of a sedative but never mentioned that he had administered the powerful anesthesia propofol to help jackson sleep. in texas, a huge chemical fire is still burning tonight about 30 miles south of dallas. this was covered live today as it happened, too. it brought the e.p.a. to the scene because of what could be in the cloud of smoke that has spread for miles, say nothing to what happened on and in the ground. nbc's jay gray is outside the plant for us. jay, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the fire has been burning and continues to burn at this point. started mid-morning. firefighters say it's at least 85% contained at this point. they believe now that a chemical reaction likely sparked the blaze. for several hours flames
swallowed parts of the magnablend plant. 85 people were evacuated. when you see the intense flames it's hard to believe there were no serious injuries. a company website indicates magna blend manufacturers about 200 chemical products for services ranging from oil field services to industrial cleaning. that website says some of the products are considered hazardous. at one point chemicals poured from the building moving a river of fire toward the train tracks and tankers filled with highly flammable fuel. fire teams were able to stop that tide, but as the flames washed up against the rail cars, an elementary school was evacuated. so were a college, homes and businesses. about 1,000 people were moved to safety. brian, as you indicated, the e.p.a. is in the area. they started field tests here, testing the air. they will test the ground once things cool down. right now they have found nothing that indicates there is
a serious safety hazard here. those evacuated should be able to return by this evening. >> jay, that smoke cloud was so big the folks at our dallas-ft. worth station said it showed up on radar like a weather event today in the sky. jay gray, thanks. now to the presidential politics front. the associated press is reporting we should know in the next 48 hours or so whether new jersey governor chris christie will become a gop presidential candidate. and in the meantime today's political drama had to do with the trouble for the texas governor rick perry. our report from our political director and chief white house correspondent chuck todd. >> congratulations. >> reporter: chris christie today carrying out one of his official duties as governor of new jersey. sunday it was a more presidential looking event, inspecting the new jersey national guard. aides say he's within a day or two of a final decision about
running for president, even asking some prominent republicans to hold off endorsing any current candidates but long-time gop campaign strategists believe time may have already run out. >> i think some of the wealthy people in new york and some of the conservative intellectuals who were pushing him into the race haven't thought it through. >> reporter: today, christie got a brush-off from the president. >> a guy thinking about running for president is going to say a lot of stuff. in republican primaries saying nasty stuff about me polls well. >> reporter: the buzz grows as rick perry deals with fallout from a report alleging a ranch leased by perry and his dad since 1983 continued for years to have a racially offensive name painted on a large, flat rock greeting visitors. >> the n-word is probably one of the most vile, negative words in our culture. i just found it insensitive that they allowed it -- that he allowed it, his family allowed it to be there so long. >> reporter: the perry campaign quickly responded. mr. cain is wrong about the perry family's quick action to
eliminate the word on the rock, but is right the word written by others long ago is insensitive and offensive. in new york today for a courtesy call to donald trump, cain was asked about the latest perry explanation. >> yes, i'm satisfied with it. next question. >> reporter: when pressed by reporters, cain grew frustrated. >> i don't care about that word. they painted over it. end of story. i think it happened -- i accept governor perry's response on that. i'm ready to talk about what's important to the american people. >> reporter: earlier today white house press secretary jay carney also gave rick perry a pass. he said of the story, the name is clearly offensive, but from what i have read, the governor shares that opinion, too. but mitt romney, brian, was not so differential. -- deferential. he said, i followed the story from afar. i think it's offensive. i think most people recognize it's offensive. with regard to the involvement the perry folks had with the situation, that's something governor perry has to address. tougher words from mitt romney than the white house, brian.
>> all right, chuck todd at the white house for us tonight. chuck, thanks. now we turn to the story that's been unfolding on the streets of this city and others. the movement that started here in new york about a month ago with a small group of protesters blaming wall street for the nation's economic problems. it now has thousands of people joining in and it's spreading across the country. nbc's michelle franzen is on wall street with the latest of the protests that have netted hundreds of arrests so far. good evening. >> reporter: good evening, those protesters are surrounding our live shot holding signs and rallies united by what they see as corporate greed and social injustice playing out around the country. they are demanding change but by design they have no set plan or end goal in mind. but that hasn't stopped the movement from gaining strength
in numbers. >> trickle down economics is working! >> reporter: on the march, demonstrators dressed in suits, faces painted, turned out to rally against bankers on wall street, government corruption and social inequality. >> we got sold out! >> reporter: what began as a small sit-in at this park in lower manhattan. >> i work 40 hours a week so i can struggle! >> reporter: has swelled into a chorus of hundreds and on some days several thousands where anyone dissatisfied with just about anything has a voice. >> this is the melting pot. >> reporter: that melting pot of gripes turned into a nationwide movement. protesters in chicago, l.a. and boston are also taking to the streets. inspired in part by the writings of anti-wall street authors like david degrau. >> it's people fighting back against what they consider economic oppression. >> reporter: protesters may have found their biggest support yet. major unions including the
steel, health care and transport workers are joining in. >> we're going to bring attention to the idea that working families are getting shafted in this country right now. >> reporter: as you can see, they are very passionate about their cause, brian. a few arrests today -- about three arrests for people wearing masks that concealed their faces but nothing like the 700 arrests we saw over the weekend. >> all right. michelle franzen in lower manhattan tonight. thank you. when we come back here this evening, the millions of american women left wondering in this economy if they can ever stop working and afford to enjoy their golden years. and for one special audience on one special night they changed kwtd the lion king on broadway. we'll explain in our making a difference report tonight.
research, they are the least prepared financially for their later years. our report tonight from nbc's chris jansing. >> we're going to need more needles. >> reporter: terry has been a nurse for 42 years. the last 12 at a school where many students have medical issues. >> that doesn't look bad, whitney. >> reporter: it's rewarding. >> what is this? >> one of my kids is in the hospital. >> reporter: and exhausting. >> it's caught up with me. i would really like to slow down a little bit. >> reporter: at 64, she has no big pension coming, no real savings. after a divorce with two small children she lived paycheck to paycheck. >> i don't want to be dependent on anybody. that's my biggest fear. >> reporter: so now she's not sure when she'll be able to retire. terry lives in cleveland. her story is playing out in neighborhoods across the country. 40% of boomer women, 17 million of them, are single. for many, retirement is a financial time bomb just waiting to explode.
as they head into retirement, a shockingly low 10% of women boomers have pensions. only 32% have 401(k)s. >> it's very bad. >> reporter: jane hawes advises women with little or no savings but an average life expectancy of 85 years. >> i don't think any generation of women has faced so many changes at one time. >> reporter: when nan crawford's husband died she discovered they were in debt and had to borrow to pay for his funeral. so at 66 she's back at work in california. >> little girls growing up are told, get married, have children, take care of a house and a husband and that's your future. >> reporter: nan's had career counseling and said she's happy to have found a job at all. >> it's like going two steps forward, one step back. but you're a little bit further ahead than you were yesterday. >> reporter: a generation that
well, here's something you don't see every day, let alone for the last week. that swirling, mammoth low pressure system that's made life miserable and unpredictable from minnesota to maine and then some. it affected the baseball playoffs, a lot of weekend plans, a lot of flights along the way. with nothing to push it, it just crept eastward for nine days. we are told by tomorrow we should be rid of this slow-moving visitor. we're always looking for statistical evidence of how america has changed over the past few years. here's a big one.
the average american now gets a personal handwritten piece of mail once every seven weeks on average. this is from the folks at the postal service, their own survey as the postal service tries to figure out what's happening with the mail. the answer remains the same. it's the internet. the other way of looking at this, of course, if you want somebody's attention, write them a note and mail it. we found these pictures just plain interesting today. video from a british tv program back in 1985 showing what prince william and prince harry were like when they were very little, ages 3 and 1. in these pictures, princess diana is just 24 years old. she lived another 12 years after these pictures were taken. up next here tonight, a different lion king just for one night making a difference for a very special audience.
theater world in new york had a blockbuster idea, one that's now making a difference. our report from nbc's anne thompson. ♪ >> reporter: 7-year-old evan's piano lessons widened his world narrowed by autism. with limited communication and social skills he has a tendency to scream when stressed. his parents thought going to a broadway show like "the lion king" would be one more joy autism presented. >> he sleeps with simba. so he really likes it. >> reporter: this week, evan, his sister grace and their parents got the chance. >> what do you want to see? >> lion king. >> reporter: in a first of its kind broadway performance for families with autistic children. >> to have an autism friendly theater that's a safe place for a family to be with their child who has autism, nothing could be better. >> reporter: a toned down show for children often sensitive to loud noises and bright lights.
30 autism educators handed out relaxation routines, ear plugs and toys. the event put on by the theater development fund working to make theater accessible to all. >> one of the things that's important is that this be a real performance. this is not watered down. ♪ it's the circle of life >> reporter: lisa stevens brought her 11-year-old daughter sydney who doesn't speak. >> i kept saying i want to go see "the lion king" but i never thought i could bring her with me to do it. >> reporter: and see a story that parallels their own. >> "the lion king" deals with two issues. who am i? and how do i fit in my family and my community? >> reporter: in keeping with tradition this performance is also a sell-out. in fact, organizers say demand was so strong they could have sold out the show twice. evan gave it a standing ovation. sydney -- did you like the show? some reviews need to words. anne thompson, nbc news, new york.
>> great story to end our broadcast on a monday night. thank you for being here with us. as we start a new week, i'm brian williams. you have heard of little pink houses. here's a big one. the white house is pink tonight for a great cause. 25th anniversary of national breast cancer awareness month. we'll see you back here tomorrow evening. we'll see you back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com right now at 6:00, for the rst time in months, rain in the bay area. you see all the green on the radar maps. it might be sticking around for a while. good evening and thanks for joining us on this monday. i'm raj mathai. >> and i'm jessica aguirre. tonight, police in the east bay are