tv The Dying Game MSNBC October 16, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
>> yep. >> shhh. >> go back and fix anything in your life, would you? >> yes. >> where is this house located? >> in flint. >> do you know what street it's on? >> oklahoma. >> the incident began at a house on oklahoma avenue in flint, michigan. a 19-year-old waitress, danielle taylor went to visit a group of friend she hadn't known for
long. within days, the friend were behind bars facing charges including kidnapping and assault. the friends claim they were making a movie that night. and danielle was acting in. she said she knew nothing and that she believed she was going to die. when the film was eventually made public many people in flint were shocked. and asked themselves how their young people could possibly have thought this was a game. >> it's hard to blame anybody for what happened that night. blame the town of flint for being so boring that there's nothing to do that these kids have to do these kinds of stuff to entertain themselves. >> when general motors closed most of its factories it had a big impact floion flint. jobs are scarce and has the highest crime rates in the u.s.
>> jimmy. hey, what are you doing? >> jimmy and derek are two of the defendants. they both have grown up in flint. >> do you still want to hang out and whatnot? yeah, i know. average day. it's friday. still nothing to do. ♪ >> the my mother wanted me to stop going towards oklahoma because she knew there were bad elements there that could possibly get me into trouble and it turns out mom was right. i got ahold of jimmy and decided let's go out and hang out together tonight and party. we got together about 6:00. ended up going back to the house. and after we got back there, we
sat around, drank. watched some movies. christina, me, john, jimmy were there. >> at 11:00 p.m. the mood suddenly changed when travis reached for a camera. what you're about to see is from the unedited tape shot that night picked over for clues ever sense it reveals a terrifying ordeal. but it is all that it seems? among the many twists and half truths in this case lies one central mystery, was danielle taylor a willing participant? >> say hello. >> hi. >> okay. i have a question for you, you just said hi. >> ah-ha. >> if you had one thing to say, if this was your last day on earth, what would it be?
[ inaudible ] >> take a drink. do me one favor. say ready, set, go. >> no. >> all right i'll say it. ready, set -- jimmy. >> do you want me to go. >> how are you doing? i take it it's been better, huh? what do you think? you're better now than you'll be in half an hour that's for sure. you can move all you want. you can scream even if you like. if you like i'll help. somebody help. >> travis is really outspoken, not afraid to state his opinion at all. he's a man's man, travis is like a man's man, you know. very athletic.
very competitive. he's a ladies man too. we call him the ladies gnome because he's short. >> john, jimmy, smile and say hi. >> hi, mom. >> those are my boys. >> mom, i'll going to be a little bit late for school today. i was too busy, you know, killing some girl. >> i love you. i'm sorry for everything. to you guys i don't have much to say to you guys because i can't say nothing. that's logistics. ♪ ♪ medicine that can't wait legal briefs there by eight, ♪ ♪ that's logistics. ♪ ♪ freight for you, box for me box that keeps you healthy, ♪ ♪ that's logistics. ♪
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>> we're going to be called heroes. >> hey, derek, you're an accomplice, why don't you say hi? [ inaudible ] >> the thing is -- she's kicking like a little [ bleep ] >> do you know what pain is? >> hey, derek, give me a smile. >> what really makes me tick is getting under people's skin. making them aggravated and make them think about what their beliefs are and maybe that they are wrong. >> if you scream and you fight we put a gag in your mouth own throw you in the trunk. >> no. >> if you relax and accept death and what's coming to you, and take it like a real woman would,
then you just accept fate and realize what's is going to happen and stop fighting. >> don't. >> don't struggle. she's watched many of these. >> this is psycho. >> really? >> you're the one that wanted to hang out over here. >> i never realized you guys are psycho. >> this is your debut. >> great, man. >> i'm feeling granny, man. >> i'm a fun loving guy. i always try to get everybody to laugh. comfort people when they are sad. we're not bad people. we're not violent people. we're just bored, drunken kids. you know, we're just out looking for fun. >> any movement that you even so much as sneeze for half an hour i'll slit your throat.
>> well, i want to be comfortable -- >> since everybody finally realizes you're behind this plot in getting the girls over here. say something into the camera. >> a little something into the camera? that's my girl. >> me and christina never got along and i don't like to talk about it too much because a lot of this has to do with it's all her fault. the reason this happened is because of jealousy. >> for a second i thought somebody was at the door. >> four of the friends leave the house and put danielle in the back of a car. christina is driving.
derek stays behind. danielle is taken to woods half an hour outside of town. >> every demon, every governmho your past, everything you want to say, i'm sure we'll all be dead or in prison but you might as well say them right now. >> travis, he's the strong one. he never breaks down. and nothing could ever hurt travis. that's what a lot of girls think because he's so big and macho and that's what i thought about him. he has that image where you couldn't ruin his image. he had to be that strong person and that's how he was. >> last girl she said nothing in this car ride. you know why? she never made it out of the house. she was in the trunk. >> in this section of the tape danielle's apparent terror and use of knife is crucial evidence for the prosecution. >> have a million people that
[ bleep ] you can't let it bother you. all right. you have, i don't know, a countdown. you have 15 seconds to say whatever you want to say. >> as they approach the woods, travis tells danielle to say good-bye to her family. >> everybody, i love you. i'm sorry for everything. as to you guys i really don't have much to say to you guys because i can't say nothing. >> why can't you say anything? isn't life good? >> it was. >> did you think that before you came over? >> yeah.
>> within days, the film is in the hands of the police and the five friends are all in custody. >> ow. >> i woke up to probably seven state troopers in riot gear swarming up the stairs into my bedroom and shotguns in the face. they took me and they ripped me out of my bed. threw me around, hand cuffed me on the floor. tossed me down the stairs and then all of a sudden we're on the news being seen as serial killers. i felt like jeffrey dahmer. over kill. way over kill. >> people versus carlisle, number 0675, cockerell 0674. >> now the defendants have to face danielle taylor in court.
if convicted they face a minimum of nine years and maximum of life in jail. >> date and time set for preliminary examination, prosecution ready to proceed? >> yes, your honor. >> call danielle taylor. >> two questions lie at the heart of the case. did danielle know she was acting in a movie and was she taken from the house into the woods against her will. >> you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give in the cause now pending the truth so help you god? >> i do. taylor. >> do you recall whose home you were at in the evening hours of march 6th? >> travis. >> and do you remember who else was present on the light evening hours of march 6th? >> yes i do.
christina, jim carlisle, derek, travis and john cockerell. at approximately 11:00 p.m. we were just hanging out, having fun, drank a little bit and supposed to just be a little get together. >> quite frankly it was one of the most repulsive sadistic things i've ever seen in 24 hours. >> within two months all the defendants have been released on bail until their case is resolved. but the prospect of life imprisonment hangs over them. >> abc 12 michael rosenfield spent the day in court. >> this is the first time we heard the victim in the case. >> the tape is released by one of the defense lawyers. >> it was all a frank.
>> this is not the only time she hung out there. >> it was demented if you think about it. >> the videotape shows four individuals who are extremely mentally traumatizing another individual. >> local journalist jim smith has been following the case from the start. >> this kidnapping is one of the strangest things i've ever covered. for me this is in the top four or five anyway of all the cases that i've covered in 20 years. so you had such diverse opinions on both side of this case. you had people who thought it was nothing and you had people who thought it was extremely serious. the community was totally split over whether these kids were the most evil thing that ever happened or they were just kids that pulled a prank. >> he said that they were going to bury me alive, they were going to slit my throat and they were going to leave me there and that i was going to die.
shoot the girl was legitimately scared, and i didn't think she was faking. and i had to watch at it few times for it to really sink in. >> danielle absolutely knew what was going to take place that night. she was over at their house the night before. they had sat around and talked about having done this before and doing it the next night. >> i walked into the house and they had the camera on. travis asked me to speak to the camera. out of the corner of my eye i had seen something and i moved to the other side of the room. >> jimmy. >> they started attacking me. they wrestled with me until they got me to the ground. i was fighting with them, trying to get away. i didn't manage to get away. one of them tied my feet together first. i was still fighting.
and then they managed to get one hand tied. they flipped me over and then they tied my other hand behind my back. at one point travis said not to fight, scream, kick or anything, or i will die. >> and were you participating in some type of a play or a movie at this point? >> not that i know of. i didn't believe that i was. >> we told her in advance anyway. she knew about this four or five days in advance. told mr. that, you know, we would kidnap her, take theory a hole and we had nothing written down, everything was ad libbed. we told her we were going to get her one night so be prepared. >> you guys are psycho. >> really? >> you're the one that wanted to hang out over here. >> i never realized you guys are psycho. >> you realized just in time.
this is your debut. john, you watch her for just one second, all right. >> they all started talking amongst themselves. and i do believe it was john who blindfolded me. >> and after you were blindfolded do you remember any other statements? >> still if i kicked or screamed or fought that i would not make it out of the house alive. >> do you remember who said that? >> travis did. >> defense lawyers focus on the detail of the tape to make their case. they claim danielle's announcement that her hands were untied shows she was joining in with the film. >> i don't care about the rope. >> they gave her specific threats at that point in time telling her she would be harmed if she's trying to get away. she's trying to make them under i'm not trying to escape. >> there's a part where she
reaches up scratches her nose and puts her back behind her back. unless she's triple jointed she could never do that. she put her hand back behind her back and they continued filming. >> danielle -- >> right before she gets in the car and scratches her nose we're given a situation where they give her a clear choice. we'll do this the hard way or easy way. at that point in time too she's sort of tried to placate them and play along snipe can believe she was scared or anything like that. i thought he was going to kill her with a knife that was taped. >> defense focuses on the fact that the knife blade was covered with tape. >> i'm looking at the knife right there and you can see there's something around the end it but it's very thin. i don't know how that would
disguise the end of a knife. she's moving her head and he's got that knife right in front of her head. >> if they said stopped we would stop. she never said stop. if she would have we would have done it. she never said stop. we never thought honestly she was frightened. we never thought she thought her life was in danger or we would have stopped. >> you can't let me bother you. nothing can get in your way of you and what you want to do unless you let it. >> she's a darn good actress if she's acting there. i think she's clearly confused. i think at that point she's got some questions about what's happening. she has no idea what they are planning and i think that sort of summarizes the case. you got half the people that think it's a joke, and the other half who is thinking like she is that she's terrified. here's this knife she can't see,
and he's touching her with it. >> jimmy out on bail having served two months is living back home with his father. >> i want my name cleared. it's scary. i don't know what's going to go on. i don't know if i'm going to walk out of the courtroom on the last day or if i'm going to be handcuffed and sent to jackson prison, you know. my whole life is riding on 35 minutes of a drunken movie. >> this whole incident has flipped my life upside down kind of. the only thing on any of our minds that i was aware of was hey let's get together and watch some movies and party. and that's pretty much what i did and found out all this other stuff kind of happened around me. truthfully at some point i do think she looked scared and that
might come with maybe she was acting. i don't know. i really couldn't comment what really went on. i wasn't around it. >> it took two days for danielle to go to the police. and the way in which the tape reached them the office raise questions about her state of mind after the filming. defense suggests perhaps she was not so afraid of her attackers after all. >> the fact that she wasn't afraid to go over there. she wasn't, you know, she allegedly afraid for her life from these people that had threatened to kill her and she really believed it was true, but yet the next day or two days later she goes over there on her own volition to steal the tape. >> two days after the incident, danielle went back to oklahoma avenue to retrieve the tape. defense lawyers claim this proves she was a consenting
participant in the film and that her motive for is going to the police was not fear, it was romantic revenge. they questioned why she would ask jimmy to drive her back to the house if she had ever been truly afraid for her life. >> she wanted somebody to come pick her up that night when we all watched the film together. so we drove and i picked her up and she rode with me from here to the east side of flint. >> you indicated to trooper rogers that you wanted to get the tape. >> yes. >> is that correct >> yes. >> why did you want to get the tape? >> because if they found out i had gone to to the police they could destroy it. if i acted i was friends with them and went over and watched the tape they wouldn't believe that i would get the tape or take this to court. do i believe they didn't know that i was that upset about it. at first it was just talking,
hanging out. i asked to watch the tape. we didn't sit down and all watch the tape together. but i ended up watching pieces of the tape. i just left it in there for a little while and then everybody had gone out of the room, nobody was anywhere to be seen so i took the tape out and switched it with a different tape. >> we never noticed that the tape was gone. there was nothing of our concern anyways. because we didn't know that she was planning anything like that. we didn't know she was actually terrified. if she's that terrified why did she ride alone with me in the car and why did she put herself in danger to come back to us? >> if danielle was in on it why would she report her friends to the police? the defendants claim the clue to danielle's true motivation lies in the tape itself.
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here's what's happening. indycar driver dan wheldon died in a wreck at the indy 500. it smashed into a wall. three other drivers were hurt. national guard troops join the search today for missing 10-month-old lisa irwin in missouri. her parents say the baby was snatched from her crib in the middle of the night october 4th. now back to "the killing game." i'm going to ask you a series of questions. i'm trying to be nice, all right. what originally made you actually start coming over here? >> travis. >> what was it about travis that
made you start hanging around? >> i thought and he was nice guy. >> i've been trying to be nice through this whole thing. >> she had a crush on travis. it was plain to see. easy to see she had a crush on travis. >> did he have a crush on her? >> no, no. >> travis had a variety of girls, i guess. girlsi inkind of flocked to him. he was seeing sarah or christina. tan yel h danielle had a crush on him snipe don't know what it was to tell truth. it was his eyes. it was his eyes. i didn't explain why i was attracted to him. i was. it's something you fall into. >> at the time of the incident, travis was living with christina. but danielle and sarah both had their eye on him. >> christina and danielle were
competitive against each other because they both had a crush on travis so they were competitive, a lot of tension. they didn't care for each other. >> the day after the alleged kidnapping danielle called oklahoma avenue and spoke tol christina and then to travis. she had an odd question to ask. >> you contacted certain individuals at the home after this incident took lays? >> yes, i did. >> you mentioned my clients christina who was your friend in high school, correct? >> not friend. >> you spoke to her about the availability of travis? >> yes. >> potential relationship with travis? >> yes. >> there were a lot of girls that were interested with travis but they didn't have a chance. they thought they did. they tried to get him to like them. tried to do anything. they tried too hard. obviously he didn't like that.
>> you said you talked to travis? >> yes. >> was that by phone? >> yes. >> what did you talk to him about? >> why did you do it? >> he said you know how much power we had over you when we did that. it was basically a power trip and it's a rush. >> people in flint had to ask, did their city have so little to offer that a group of friend were driven to entertain themselves this way? >> i asked flint, many grievances with this city. no jobs, nothing to look forward to. nobody wants to be the person 20 years from now still stuck in this nothingness.
week before the night that i stopped over there, they went through another skit with a different girl. went through this struggle scene and this and that with her. like, you know, i like movies but i don't know if i'm into that. so i took off. >> the woman derek saw it happen too is sarah. the recollections of the events of that night differ. >> one day i just walked into travis's room and they just started wrestling with me and throwing me on the ground and just saying, you know, we're going kidnap you and blah, blah. i'm okay, guys, really, i'm not in the mood today. this isn't funny. i don't want to do it. they kept doing it more. okay just stop. >> the reaction we got out of sarah would have been awesome to get on tape because that was better than any acting, that was
oscar-winning material flight. >> i was not scared. >> she absolutely flipped out. she -- we stopped, she was so scared we stopped. we did it for three minutes and stopped. we were afraid she was is going have a heart attack, go into convulsions or seizures. she absolutely flipped so we stopped. >> it was muddy when they did it to me. so they tnt stick me in the hole. i remember saying and i feel horrible for even saying this, i remember they got the handcuffs out or the rope out and i was like why didn't you guys videotape that. you could have made so much money off of that. two weeks later my friend get arrested for kidnapping. >> apparently sarah wasn't the only person subjected to this. christina had this done to her. >> they told me they were going to do it before they did it.
i remember where we were sitting when they said it. >> sarah of told beforehand. i don't know if christina was or not. >> why didn't you tell danielle? >> she didn't know us as long as the other girls did. she didn't know us as long and as well. we didn't want to scare her or flip her. we wanted to film. so we wanted her permission for that too. >> if the defendants are claiming that she knew that they were is going film her and do something, but she didn't know what, you still have the problem in this case in a kidnapping crime that if you're going to move somebody, abduct them against their will, then that is the crime. if it starts off that hey we're just going film you doing something and then they end up gagging her or binding her and threatening her that goes beyond what they originally told her. if she does not give them consent to do that whether it's
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six months after the incident, the strain is taking its toll on friendships within the group. >> i have lots of hostility from all of this. i mean, travis -- all i want to say i can trust him as far as i can throw him and that's not too far. i couldn't say that. i don't know. i have different convictions about different people's roles and what happened that night and how i got in trouble that kind of get to me still and personal reasons on how they treat different girls that i'm friends
with. >> in august 2002, the defendants claim it was a pre-planned movie is undermine. christina agrees to a plea bargain. she claims no one told danielle what was going happen that night. the defense now focuses on the final scene at the grave site. >> danielle, danielle. danielle stop right now. you're talking. you're talking. >> christina agrees to testify that danielle was not told about the prank in advance. she pleads guilty to reduced
charges of attempted felonious assault and given a six month sentence which is suspended after a successful completion of probation. >> christina got upset. so i don't know, i've heard lots of rumors. really didn't have much involvement in what went on or know what went on. just kind of the unlucky eyewitness. >> christina also confirms that derek passed out on the couch early on. his charges are reduced and he receives a $200 fine. >> my concept of friendship has kind of changed. i start hanging out with friends that i probably should have been hanging out with all along. i still hang out with jimmy once in a while but we're both working and we've been friends for a long time and we can't
turn our backs on each other even if we have different views of what happened that night. >> the other defendant's cases remain open. jimmy explains the charges he faces. >> felonious assault without intent to harm, that carries up to four years. there's conspiracy to felonious without intent to harm. and then conspiracy which carries up to 50 years. all together i'm facing 58. >> now that christina has agreed to testify for the prosecution, the final moments of the tape as danielle are carried into the woods are even more critical for the defense. >> travis carried me down to the boat. i knew i was outside. it was cold. i knew we were stepping on snow but that's all i knew.
>> shhh. >> you guys sit her down in there. >> go. >> sit her down. face up. >> jimmy and john placed me in the hole. they said it was my grave. i was going to be buried alive. >> danielle, danielle. danielle, stop right now. >> i didn't do anything. >> you're talking. you're talking. listen. they are going to sit you down. as soon as you say one word i promise you christ you won't say another. we're giving you the chance for what it's worth enjoy what you have left. >> we'll let you know what's going on. >> john was whispering in my ear, telling me step by step what they were going to do. he said that they were going to bury me alive, they were going to slit my throat, and they were going to leave me there.
>> what did you think at that point? >> that i was going to die. >> danielle, i'll ask you one last time, while we still have time. if you can go back and fix anything in your life, would you? >> yes. >> you honestly would. >> yes. >> i'm not sure who said they wanted me to see this, they wanted me to look at where i was at. someone took my blindfold off. >> do you know who? >> i'm not positive right now. >> when your blindfold was removed what did you see? >> saw i was sitting in a grave. travis was talking to them. they were still recording. christina had the camera then. >> do you really hate me, danielle? even though i'm a bitch too, your don't hate me? thanks.
>> well, what do you say, guys? >> i think it's time. >> time. >> yeah. >> i get the honor, right. >> yeah. >> travis said that it was his kill. it was his turn to do it. then he managed to get over the hole and act like he was slicing my throat. >> where is the blindfold? >> on my throat still. >> what did he do with the knife? >> he put it across my throat in a slicing motion. >> what did you feel? >> i felt blade but it wasn't like touching my neck really hard. >> congratulations. you're dead. welcome to the after life. >> she's clearly acting because we know her throat wasn't slit. we know she's not dead. but she pretend. she acted. she went along with the play as she was doing all along. >> if a person is having their
throat slit do they really know what it feels like. number one. number two, if he didn't do a good job she leans forward she thinks she can fane her way out of this. >> that's never happened to me in real-time so i don't know how i would react. i don't know if i would be waiting for the blood to run out or what. but i just think it's hard to make a case that her reaction to that proves it's a movie. you know, she may be stunned, she may be shocked, she may still be confused. it doesn't mean she's part of it. probably try this. what is it? degree deodorant. the more you move the more it works. ♪ [ sniffs ] yep. it's working. [ male announcer ] get low prices every day on everything you need to stay fresh. like degree deodorant with motionsense, only $3.83. backed by our ad match guarantee.
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i'm blushing. >> killer number one. >> christina, the driver. ? jimmy, he's the fat man. the victim. >> i can't remember her name. >> danielle. >> and the director, me. >> good job. >> who wrote it? >> we did. you did, mostly. >> thank you to the crew. let's get her out. >> i survived and i'm freezing and my arms hurt. >> at the end of the tape there's just a brief flash where she's crying and seems very relieved and happy and i think anybody who thought or would do this mind game and it's a very significant mind game would be relieved. >> with the reaction you would expect to be one of anger, one of like, you know, with a lot of
foul language i didn't believe you guys did this to me. this was a very cruel, cruel and inhumane joke to play on a person. you wouldn't expect to be oh, like -- >> she's still with these people. she's not free of them. anybody would be careful not to do something that would further antagonize these folks. >> i can't remember her name. >> danielle. >> because he doesn't know her name that enhances the prosecutor's case she's not part of the act. she doesn't get up and take a bow and get her credits. >> i think these five kids know the difference between right and wrong. i think the problem was that in their kind of strange group dynamics, this to them wasn't wrong. this was a joke. this was some kind of prank. and they never equated it with the fact that the victim didn't
have any clue what was going happen to her. and so to them for some reason they didn't recognize that as wrong. >> i think they took it too far mentally. they shouldn't have maybe tore a person down that much for their own enjoyment. i think that's wrong. >> if you could say something to danielle right now, what would it be? >> i'm sorry if i caused you any pain. we didn't plan to cause you any pain. i don't know what went on. what's going on in your head, but we meant no harm. meant no harm. i'm sorry if we did harm you. but --
i want to be who i was. >> in 2003, jimmy, travis and jonathan all plead no contest to charges of kidnapping and assault. jimmy is sentenced to four months. travis and jonathan each get eight months. all three have their sentences suspended, pending the successful completion of probation at which point the kidnapping charges will be removed from their records.