updated 12/13/2005 10:10:12 AM ET 2005-12-13T15:10:12

Guests: Vernell Crittendon, Jan Handzlik, Bernard Parks, Bo Dietl, Richard Parker, Matt Dalton, Scott Lazar, Martin Guggenheim

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refuses to stop Tookie Williams‘ execution.  Schwarzenegger‘s decision not to grant clemency coming just minutes after a federal appeals court refused to step in.  The co-founder of the Crips gang now set to die just after midnight for killing four people. 

And an actor who played a wannabe gangster on “The Sopranos” and in movies is now accused of murdering a real-life police officer.  We talk to a former New York detective who knows the actor. 

Plus, a Florida court rules a father must pay child support for a child that DNA proves is not his.  The father‘s here.  And the program about justice starts now. 

Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, Stanley “Tookie” Williams‘ execution will go forward as scheduled.  At least that‘s what it appears as of now.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied Williams‘ request for clemency, meaning it sure looks like the 51-year-old four-time convicted murderer will be executed by lethal injection at one minute after midnight tonight. 

In part, the governor‘s decision read, quote, “Clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception.  After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments, and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency.  The facts do not justify overturning the jury‘s verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case.”

My take:  Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty, this was not the case where the governor was going to take the unusual and controversial step of effectively overruling the courts and granting clemency.  Problems with the trial that Williams‘ supporters cite do not mean that he was innocent, and that‘s generally the only way someone‘s going to get off death row. 

Death row is not created for rehabilitation.  His good deeds should be commended.  His books encouraging kids to get out of gangs should be distributed. 

But, look, there are a handful of people on death row who have done worthy things.  That‘s not the test.  A sentence is a sentence.  It‘s been over 20 years, and there‘s no indication he‘ll be able to show that the jurors got to wrong. 

Now, to some, this case will be an argument to abolish the death penalty as we know it.  OK, fine.  Let‘s debate it.  But this is not the case where the governor should say the courts clearly got it wrong. 

MSNBC‘s Jennifer London joins us now from the prison.  All right, so, Jennifer, what‘s going on over there?

JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, as you mentioned, the word here is spreading that the clemency request for Stanley “Tookie” Williams has been denied.  Also earlier today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition from Williams‘ attorneys to stay the execution.  This came on the heels of late last night.  We also got a denial from the California Supreme Court. 

So it appears, at this time, that, with all legal avenues exhausted and the governor denying Williams‘ grant for clemency, that the execution will take place as scheduled one minute after midnight tomorrow morning. 

Now, we‘ve been hearing from prison officials that the preparations for the scheduled execution have been taking place all morning.  Stanley “Tookie” Williams, for his part, has been meeting with his supporters and his attorneys this morning and throughout the day.  We are told he has the option to continue meeting with his supporters until 6:00 p.m. local time. 

At that point, Williams will be moved to a special cell near the execution chamber.  At that point, he will only be allowed visits from the warden and a spiritual advisor that he has chosen. 

So, despite when we were waiting this morning to hear word from Governor Schwarzenegger as to how he would act on this, the prison was saying that they were going forward with the preparations.  Now that we know the governor‘s decision, we understand those preparations are in full swing for the scheduled execution tomorrow at 12:01 a.m.—Dan? 

ABRAMS:  All right, Jennifer London, thanks very much. 

Before we check in with the prison, let me play this piece of sound. 

This is Tookie Williams on November 28th on Rita Cosby‘s show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STANLEY “TOOKIE” WILLIAMS, DEATH ROW INMATE:  I accept no last meal. 

I don‘t want anyone to be there.  Who would I possibly want to see me die? 

So I would have no one there.  I want no meal from this place. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is Vernell Crittendon, public information officer for San Quentin Prison.  That‘s where California‘s death row is.

Vernell, thank for you for coming back on the program.  All right, so as a practical matter, what happens now?  Does the governor‘s decision about clemency change anything with regard to where Tookie Williams is, what happens to him at this particular moment? 

VERNELL CRITTENDON, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS:  No, Dan.  It doesn‘t.  Everything has been moving forward as if we were going to carry out this execution, and we are continuing to move in that fashion. 

Stanley, as was reported, has been out on visits since 7:30 a.m. this morning.  He‘ll continue to be on visits throughout the day, until 6:00 p.m., when we‘ll be removing him from the visiting and taking him over to the execution chamber and turning him over to the execution team, placing him in the death watch cell. 

ABRAMS:  Vernell, as a practical matter, is there a phone there, some way they can get a last-minute reprieve?  I mean, we do know that the U.S.  Supreme Court could, of course, at the last minute, decide to step in. 

CRITTENDON:  Yes, we actually do have a system in place.  But we‘ll have a deputy attorney general who will be in very close proximity to a California State Supreme Court justice.  There will also be one in very close proximity to the governor, in case there is any second decisions regarding clemency or possible stays that may be put in place by the courts. 

ABRAMS:  What has Williams been doing today, as far as you know? 

CRITTENDON:  At about 7:30 a.m., he left his assigned cell under escort and was taken to the visiting room, where he met with his legal team, representatives from his legal team, and then, shortly thereafter, he had some supporters that arrived and visited with him.  And then he had a celebrity that also came out and visited with him, Reverend Jesse Jackson.  And he is still at this moment in the visiting area, where he will remain until 6:00 p.m.

ABRAMS:  You know, Vernell, you speak about some of these celebrities, et cetera, that he‘s had supporting him.  I‘ve heard some of them going after you in particular.  Let me read—this is number 8 -- you‘ve made some comments about this situation.  I want to read something that you‘re quoted as having said.  And then I want to have you respond.

“When you look at the totality of what has been occurring, that leads to me seriously question this man of peace.  A con will always say one thing to you while the whole time he has another agenda.  I‘m concerned that possibly this marketing that‘s going on leads the public to hear the words but not to see that sleight of hand.”

You have been criticized for making those sorts of comments.  What is your response? 

CRITTENDON:  What I‘m reporting on is the observations that we have had here at the prison regarding Stanley Williams‘ 24 years here at San Quentin State Prison.  And I am very aware of those he associates with here at the prison and his behaviors here at the prison, and that‘s what those statements were reflecting, those observations.

ABRAMS:  So you stand by those words.  Because some have said that you‘ve been chastised, you‘ve been scolded by higher-ups, et cetera, for some of the comments you‘ve made. 

CRITTENDON:  No.  Those comments that I have made were made by observations by our staff here at San Quentin.  And that was what I was referring to. 

ABRAMS:  I just wanted to give you a chance first, because I know you‘ve heard this criticism, Vernell, and I just wanted to give you a chance to publicly respond to it.

And that‘s it.  So Vernell Crittendon, thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.  As always, we appreciate it. 

CRITTENDON:  Dan, thanks a lot.

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, one of Tookie Williams‘ attorneys, Jan Handzlik, joins us and former California prosecutor Paul Pfingst, who is an MSNBC analyst. 

All right, Mr. Handzlik, what happens now?

JAN HANDZLIK, TOOKIE WILLIAMS ATTORNEY:  Well, there are legal avenues open to us still.  An emergency petition will be filed in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay and also seeking to have the habeas corpus action that was filed in the Ninth Circuit activated. 

ABRAMS:  And why don‘t you explain to us what that means.  Now, as a practical matter, what I think the layperson reads here is that you all have gone to just about every court.  You‘ve filed habeas after habeas appeal with the United States Supreme Court.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today refused to get involved. 

What is it that you can do that‘s different in the next eight hours before Tookie Williams is supposed to die? 

HANDZLIK:  Well, in responding to the question what happens now or where do we go from here, there is this one legal avenue open to us.  The arguments will be made to the Supreme Court, and we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will decide to at least stay the execution of Mr. Williams, while the very serious and important constitutional issues that we‘ve raised are considered. 

ABRAMS:  Paul Pfingst, as you know, it is not usual to see a death penalty stayed.  It is not unusual to see the actual execution delayed while courts resolve issues.  But I think, in this case, it‘s a tougher argument because of the amount of time that has gone by since this trial. 

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER CALIFORNIA PROSECUTOR:  In California, it‘s the norm, not the exception that executions get stayed.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court that covers this district, is notorious for doing just that. 

But, in this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal has turned down today‘s request for a stay.  And if anybody thinks that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to grant the stay when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California has turned it down, I think that‘s a lot of—that‘s wishful thinking. 

Everything that can be done legally for Tookie Williams has pretty much been done.  So it looks as though, at this point, this execution‘s going to go forward.  But in California, you can never say never. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Handzlik, what is the issue that you will ask the court to consider? 

HANDZLIK:  Well, the issue, of course, relates to the trial and the adequacy of the evidence against Mr. Williams, back in 1981.  We have alleged that there were serious problems in the trial, especially with regard to the jailhouse informant, ballistics evidence, and otherwise. 

And I agree with Mr. Pfingst; the chances of the Supreme Court doing something different than the Ninth Circuit, very, very slim.  But nonetheless we feel that these are issues that are deserving of a full and fair hearing. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Tookie Williams again on November 28th, when asked why he shouldn‘t be executed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Well, first and foremost, I‘m innocent.  And, secondly, being allowed to live enables me to continue disseminating my positive message to you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Paul Pfingst, look, did he have a better chance here by claiming and maintaining his innocence or by talking about how he‘s been rehabilitated?  I mean, I have never heard of someone being released from death row simply based on a claim of rehabilitation. 

PFINGST:  And neither have I, and especially in California.  But what I think hurt him in this case, Dan, is that Tookie Williams took a two-pronged strategy. 

One is, in one group, in the courts, he said, “I‘m an innocent man.”  And in the public consumption, “I am the reformed man.”  And when the governor had to consider whether to commute his sentence, it seems as though those two strategies were working against each other. 

ABRAMS:  Well, you could argue, Paul, that he admits that he was a founder of the Crips.  He admits that he was involved in gangs, et cetera.  And in that sense, he claims he‘s reformed, in the sense that he‘s writing these books about why kids shouldn‘t get involved with gangs. 

PFINGST:  I think you could claim that, but most people who deal with the idea that “I am a rehabilitated, reformed person” would say you have to acknowledge what you did before you can be reformed and you have to try to make peace or reach out to the people that you harmed before you can claim to be reformed.  And he has never done that.  And I think that really hurt him in the governor‘s office.  We‘ll never really know, unless...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You don‘t really think it would have made a difference, though?  I mean, the bottom line is we all say that, Paul.  And I think, as a strategic matter, of course you‘re right.  But as a practical matter, he wouldn‘t have gotten clemency anyway. 

PFINGST:  He was a long-shot legally, and he was a long-shot on the rehabilitation, the reformation.  Both were long-shots.  But I think they became longer when he tried to do both simultaneously. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what Tookie Williams had to say when asked why he wouldn‘t express remorse, for exactly the reason you‘re saying, that maybe the governor would be more inclined to grant him clemency. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  It would be craziness of me to express remorse for a crime or crimes did not commit.  That would be totally against my convictions.  It would be wrong to express remorse for something I didn‘t do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

ABRAMS:  Mr. Handzlik, why do you think that this case has gotten so much attention?  I mean, there are other cases of death row inmates where they had demonstrated that they had found God, and that they had changed, and that they were different people than that were at one time.  What is it about this case that you think makes it unusual or special? 

HANDZLIK:  Well, I think it relates to Mr. Williams‘ conduct over the past dozen years or more.  After emerging from solitary confinement, where he had been for a number of years, he came out a changed person. 

He confronted himself.  He confronted his demons and his past.  He set those aside, put them behind him, and has expressed great remorse for all of the actions that he took that were improper in the past, even in the prison setting prior to the time that this happened and then, over the past 10, 12, 15 years, has compiled a remarkable record. 

So I think that, combined with the recognition of this excellent record by many people in the community, not just Hollywood...

ABRAMS:  Yes, fine.

HANDZLIK:  ... but numerous people in the community. 

ABRAMS:  Jan Handzlik...

HANDZLIK:  And I agree. 

ABRAMS:  Thanks very much for coming on the program.

HANDZLIK:  ... a clemency conversion was not in the works. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  OK.  Appreciate it. 

Paul Pfingst, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, Hollywood celebrities not the only ones backing Tookie; so are members of the Crips gang he co-founded.  The question:  Is it possible there‘s going to be violent reactions now that the governor has said no to clemency?  We‘ll talk to a former L.A. police chief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Continuing with our special coverage, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announcing that he is not granting clemency to Stanley “Tookie” Williams, scheduled to die now just after midnight tonight.  Williams co-founded the Crips, one of the most violent, well-known street gangs of Los Angeles.  He was convicted of four murders. 

The question:  Could there be problems in L.A. if the execution goes forward as planned?  Joining me now, Los Angeles councilman and former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bernard Parks. 

Mr. Parks, thank you for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  So what do you think? 

BERNARD PARKS, FORMER LAPD CHIEF:  Thank you.  Well, I think the issue is, is that it‘s been a long process.  I was a member of the police department when this case first was initiated.  I watched the prosecution, watched the 25 years of appeal. 

What I have dedicated myself over the last several weeks is to really talk to our community about, whatever the outcome—certainly everyone supports the fact that freedom of speech, freedom of demonstration—no one likes to see anyone lose their life.  And once the...

ABRAMS:  And are people listening?  I mean, do you get the sense that

because there‘s always been the call for calm, and sometimes it‘s heated and sometimes it‘s not. 

PARKS:  Well, I think that, as always, there are those who listen and understand that there‘s some positive nature and demonstration, but also that there‘s got to be calm and safety.  But as always, when you have an incident or issues that could be volatile, all it needs is one or two or a small number of people that can create an incident. 

So there‘s no way that we believe we‘ve touched all 4 million people in the city.  But certainly, it does not mean that we‘ve not tried to send that message out of calm and safety for everyone. 

ABRAMS:  Are you worried about the gang folks in particular?  I mean, some of the—you know, again, he co-founded this gang.  And although he has distanced himself from it during his time in prison, there is still support for him.  Are you concerned that some of them may try and cause trouble?

PARKS:  Well, I think you‘re always concerned that anyone that is even thinking about it, but also we have to realize that, quote, many of the young people that call themselves gang members today may not have been born when this incident occurred, so that they are basically addressing an issue that they‘re not personally familiar with.  How strong that allegiance to their commitment to create a problem in the city, no one knows.  I just think we have to be vigilant and take every instance that we can to talk about what kind of conduct is acceptable in the city of L.A.

ABRAMS:  Do you think that the police are going to have to send out extra officers tonight after midnight? 

PARKS:  Well, I think, as a normal practice, to be prudent, certainly if we can deploy for a special event, such as a concert or a variety of other things, certainly this requires some special attention.  I don‘t think it‘s a need for over reaction, and it‘s certainly not a need for immediately going on attack alert and those issues. 

But I think you have to be vigilant and prepared for anything, because there‘s no assurance that it could happen today, tomorrow or the next day.  But you have to be vigilant, as we always are when there‘s a potential.  And that‘s what we‘ve got to do, is listen to the public, understand there‘s a potential, and be prepared as best we can to react to it. 

ABRAMS:  Councilman Parks, thank you for your time.  Appreciate it. 

PARKS:  Thank you.  Appreciate you calling us. 

ABRAMS:  Now to a story about life imitating art literally.  Lillo Brancato Jr. starred opposite Robert De Niro in “A Bronx Tale” and had a recurring role on HBO‘s “The Sopranos.”  Then Brancato started getting involved in drugs.  Now he and another would-be gangster will soon be charged with murder for the killing of a New York City police officer. 

There he is, Daniel Enchautegui.  This weekend, “DATELINE NBC‘s” Edie Magnus has the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDIE MAGNUS, “DATELINE NBC” REPORTER (voice-over):  In the movie, “A Bronx Tale,” Robert De Niro begs his son, played by Lillo Brancato, to stay out of trouble. 

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR:  ... the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.

LILLO BRANCATO, JR., ACTOR:  Oh, I don‘t hear this.

MAGNUS:  As it turns out, it‘s advice the actor could have used, as well.  In a real-life twist that‘s sadly ironic, Brancato is about to be charged with murder for allegedly participating in a Bronx shootout Saturday that took the life of a young New York City police officer.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. 

COMMISSIONER RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT:  He wanted to be a cop, and that‘s all he wanted to be.  It‘s a tragic loss. 

MAGNUS:  Police say Officer Daniel Enchautegui, a patrolman on the force for three years, was at his home when, around 5:00 in the morning, he heard the sounds of glass breaking next door.  He called 911 to report the suspected burglary and then went outside himself, service weapon in hand, to investigate. 

Someone heard the officer shouting, then a furious exchange of gunfire.  The officer managed to hit two fleeing men several times, despite being shot in the chest, a wound that would prove fatal. 

KELLY:  They were at very close range.  And it was, again, an example of remarkable courage and accuracy in shooting.  He had eight rounds in his pistol.  And he hit this individual with all eight rounds. 

MAGNUS:  When police arrived, they found the two suspects, 48-year-old Steven Armento, the alleged gunman, along with the actor Brancato, both shot numerous times by the officer. 

(on-screen):  It‘s the second recent blow for New York‘s police department, which lost another officer less than two weeks ago.  Officer Enchautegui attended that funeral; now he is being mourned as a man who, even off-duty, didn‘t hesitate to risk his life. 

And amid the grief, there are questions about how a promising young actor who once starred in a major Hollywood movie ended up in the middle of the tragedy which happened here. 

(voice-over):  It was a stunning turn for Brancato, whose career began in 1993 when he was just 17.  He was spotted by a casting agent who noticed his likeness to a young Robert de Niro.  For the unknown who had a knack for wiseguy talk, being in “A Bronx Tale” was a dream come true. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, WRITER, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  He was plucked from obscurity.  He was basically spotted swimming in Jones Beach, and that old Lana Turner, “We‘re going to make you a star,” kind of cliche became a reality for him. 

MAGNUS:  Michael Musto, a writer for New York‘s “Village Voice” newspaper, met Brancato right after his first big movie. 

MUSTO:  It‘s a bit much for anybody of that age.  Suddenly, you‘re thrust into, you know, all new opportunities, all new parties, and limousines, and a whole scene that you‘re not used to.  And it‘s head-spinning. 

MAGNUS:  More movies followed, as the young submariner who fixes the radio in “Crimson Tide.”  And then in 2000, came the stint on the hugely popular series, “The Sopranos.”

MUSTO:  It‘s very easy now to look back and say, “Oh, of course he would end up in trouble.”  There really were no hints of that. 

MAGNUS:  No hints until last June, that is, when Brancato, who was living with his adoptive parents in Yonkers, was arrested after police say they found him with a controlled substance. 

(on-screen):  While Brancato found himself on the wrong end of the law, another young man was making his way up as a police officer.  Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel Enchautegui, who‘d wanted to be a cop for a long time, was assigned a tough beat, a precinct in the South Bronx. 

(voice-over):  Enchautegui, who was single, lived with his parents until two years ago when he moved into this basement apartment, in a place neighbors say was quiet and peaceful, until Saturday morning‘s bloody shootout. 

KELLY:  I hate to see this particular incident overshadowed by the notoriety of one of these thugs. 

MAGNUS:  An outstanding officer, says his boss. 

KELLY:  He took action.  That‘s what police officers do.  It‘s in the

DNA.

MAGNUS:  And a wonderful brother, says his sister. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... coming to my house and spending time with my kids.  He was the best uncle in the world. 

MAGNUS:  A man who‘s life brutally collided with that of a young actor in a real-life Bronx tale, one that has left the officer‘s parents mourning the loss of their only beloved son, one of New York‘s finest. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  That was “DATELINE NBC‘s” Edie Magnus. 

Coming up, we‘re going to talk to a detective who spent years in the New York City Police Department and later came to know actor Lillo Brancato.  Bo Dietl is here. 

And a judge rules a man must pay child support for a child, even though DNA proves the kid is not his?  We‘ll talk to him.

In our continuing series, “Manhunt:  Sex Offenders on the Loose,” our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike, today our weeklong search begins in Indiana.  Authorities need your help finding Muhammed Abubakr.  He‘s 35, 5‘9”, 170.  Abubakr was convicted of molesting a child.  And a warrant has been issued for failure to register with the state.

If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Indiana Sheriff‘s Association, 1-800-622-4779.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, an actor who played a wannabe gangster on the “Sopranos” and in movies now accused of murdering a real-life cop.  We‘ll talk to a former New York detective who knows the actor.  That‘s ahead.

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So that‘s—you‘re going to be an actor?  This is you your career? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hope so.  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is what you want to do? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, apparently, everything did not go as plan.  That was Lillo Brancato Jr., co-star of “A Bronx Tale” in an interview promoting the movie back in ‘93, he was sure of his path then, but now he‘s waiting to be charged with the murder of New York City police officer Daniel Enchautegui, fatally shot early Saturday morning after responding off duty to a robbery in at a neighboring house. 

After being fired at, Enchautegui returned fire, hit Brancato and his friend Steven Armento six times.  Both remain in the hospital in stable condition awaiting charges.

Joining me now, someone who knows Brancato and was also once a police detective himself, Bo Dietl, chairmen and C.E.O. of the investigative securities firm Beau Dietl and Associates.  Bo, good to see you.

All right.  So, what you do make of this?  I mean, that I know that your first reaction is going to be condolences and sympathy for the police officer, right? 

BO DIETL, BEAU DIETL AND ASSOCIATES:  That‘s the first thing I‘m going to talk about is this cop was a real hero.  We did it by the book.  He went and called 911.  Said I‘m an officer.  I‘m going to be out there with a gun.  He had a shield around his neck.  He is a hero.  And what they could have done is they could have given up to him.  Why did they have to shoot this young man?  It‘s—I feel so horrible for this young man.  All he wanted to do was his job, someone was breaking into a house.  It was stupid burglary, that‘s all it was. 

ABRAMS:  When you say he went by the book.  We should explain even more.  Basically, he hears the window broken, he calls the super next door and says, all right.  Did you here that.  Super says no.  All right.  I‘m going to call the police.  He calls the police.  Says look I‘m going out there.  Here‘s what I‘m going to be wearing. 

DIETL:  His badge around him. 

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  Badge around his neck.  The point being, I don‘t want any friendly fire.  I want to make sure that I do everything right in this case. 

DIETL:  This young man is a real hero for this city.  And that‘s the first thing I want to put down right.  I give my deepest sympathy to his family and we lost a real hero here in New York City. 

As far as Lillo goes...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let‘s move on now to Brancato.  Now, how did you know this guy?

DIETL:  Well, I met him when we were doing a film.  I was doing it with Marty and Michael Bregman.  We doing a film called “Table One.”  And we casted him along with Chuck Zito as a chef.  And I got to know him then.  And he seemed like a pretty nice person.  Obviously, he‘s not that nice of a person to be involved in something like that. 

ABRAMS:  Well, you know, I had read someone saying today that he had a particular affinity for the police.  Meaning would sort of talk all the time about what great work the police do, et cetera.  Did he say anything like that to you? 

DIETL:  When he knew I was a retired detective, he really became friendly.  I used to see him in restaurants.  I spoke about him—I was down in Palm Beach on Friday night.  I was talking to Noel Ashman, a big club owner her in New York.  He was talking about Chazz Palminteri writing a screenplay about Noel Ashman.  And they were thinking about Lillo to play the part. 

And he said to me that night, I said, oh I love Lillo.  What a nice guy.  He would be great to play the part.  This past Friday night when, I heard this job in Palm Beach, I was shocked.  And I‘m still shock that this kid could go so far down into the sewer to be involved.  And this other creep that shot this poor, young cop, I mean, what was the reason for it?  You get caught for breaking the window—attempted burglary, whatever it is, you‘re going to get maybe a couple of months.  But to kill a human being, a cop like that, it‘s horrible. 

ABRAMS:  Did you know about his drug problem, Bo? 

DIETL:  I did not hear about it.  When I read was the first time I knew.  When I would see him, I would see him up at restaurants up in Nino‘s on First Avenue, he‘d come over, Bo, how you doing?  What‘s going on? 

And I just—I always liked the kid.  He was really a personable person.  And it just shows you what drugs can do to you and alcohol can do to you and your judgment.  Him hanging around with this other guy, this other guy has a sheet on him.  He‘s been arrested a few times.  Even Lillo, I see, has been arrested for drugs also.  I did not know that prior.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Bo, a final word on—let‘s end with a thought about the police officer. 

DIETL:  All I can say is that my heart goes out to this family and that poor officer Dillon that died last week.  These are our real heroes.  Without them out there, there would be anarchy.  People robbing our houses and people would be killing people.  These are the real heroes.  And this young man is a real hero.  And my heart goes out to him and his family.

ABRAMS:  Bo Dietl, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, imagine having to pay child support for a child that is not yours.  Courts ruled one man in Florida has to do just that.  I think it‘s insane.  He joins us next. 

And later, it is the Scott Peterson book everyone is going to be talking about.  I‘ve got the exclusive interview with a former lawyer on Scoot Peterson‘s defense team that says there is evidence that would have and could have saved Peterson from death row. 

I‘ve also got the tough questions for him coming up tomorrow.  We‘ll show you a clip tonight.  Your e-mails, abramsreport@MSNBC.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Why should a man have to pay monthly child support as part of a divorce settlement after DNA tests proves the child isn‘t his?  That‘s what happened to Richard Parker, married in 1996.  Parker‘s wife, Margaret, now his ex-wife, gave birth in ‘98.  Richard believed the child was his.  It wasn‘t. 

Margaret Parker was seeing another man.  And she kept up the deception throughout their divorce in 2001, telling Parker and the court that he was the father.  Now Florida courts have ruled that evening though he is not the child‘s daddy, Richard has to keep paying $1,200 a month in child support anyway, because his claim that she defrauded him about the child wasn‘t filed within a year of their divorce. 

My take.  Florida‘s court ruling against Richard Parker seemed interested in one question.  That‘s what‘s in the best interest of the child.  And that‘s an important question that should take precedence.  But it shouldn‘t mean biology or common sense are irrelevant. 

Think about it.  If we only look would the at the best interest of the child, we could justify taking infants from poorer parents and granting parents to richer, more nurturing ones.  Biology should mean something.  And fraud should mean something.  Courts shouldn‘t be in the business of rewarding adultery and deception.  But in this case, Florida‘s court, and many other courts around the country, seem to be doing just that. 

With me now, Richard Parker, the stepfather who is ordered to keep paying child support for a child that isn‘t his.  Scott Lazar, Richard Parker‘s attorney and Martin Guggenheim, a family law professor at New York University and the author of “What‘s Wrong With Children‘s Rights?”

All right.  Mr. Parker, let me start with you, when did you find out -

when did you suspect that the child wasn‘t yours? 

RICHARD PARKER, PAYING CHILD SUPPORT TO CHILD THAT ISN‘T HIS:  I was at a party with my present wife, Julie, and I showed a picture of Mason to her grandmother.  It was about two, maybe three years ago.  She looked me right in the eye and said that‘s not your son. 

ABRAMS:  How did she know? 

PARKER:  She‘s 90-years-old.  She knows. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Fair enough.  And then you did what? 

PARKER:  At the time, Mason was living North Fort Lauderdale.  There was a billboard for DNA testing.  I went and had him tested. 

ABRAMS:  And what do you say to those who say well, you know, you‘re going to start breaking up families, that you brought up this child, that this was your child and to suddenly pull the child support from him is not in the best interest of Mason? 

PARKER:  Obviously, not.  You have to understand, I was an adopted child.  When I was 13, the courts were required to have the adopted parents tell their children that they were adopted.  Mason will be in this similar situation at around this time, when he‘s old enough to understand what it means. 

In the interest of Mason, and really, the issue, the bigger issue is with my wife, Julie.  We are showing Mason love and understanding and kindness and caring and all the nurturing that a child should give and get from a parent.  Unfortunately, I‘m living in Boston now and I don‘t get to see him enough.  We‘re seeing him over Christmas and his mother is letting us take Mason Christmas Eve and then we have to bring him back to where she is. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Lazar, let me ask you a legal question.  Does the biological father have money, as far as you know? 

SCOTT LAZAR, ATTORNEY FOR RICHARD PARKER:  He has some money.  Child support is calculated based upon your respective incomes.  So you know, it‘s directly in line with what he makes.  So it‘s not, you know, he has a certain amount of money and that‘s what the child support is based on. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what the ruling of the Florida court said.  And I want to then ask the Professor Guggenheim about this, “the effect of our conclusion is to create a one year window after the divorce to perform any DNA testing, or be forever barred.  There may be some merit in telling divorcing fathers who are in doubt to test now, or forever hold your peace.”

Professor Guggenheim, the problem is, he had no reason to be in doubt.

And this was a clear case of fraud.  She knew it.  She lied to the court.

She lied to him.  So why should he have to continue paying? 

MARTIN GUGGENHEIM, NYU FAMILY LAW PROFESSOR:  Well, so far, we‘ve only stressed how the father has been a loser in this.  Let‘s recognize that he‘s also a winner.  He has the great privilege to be this child‘s father.  And there are benefits that flow from that.  Remember, this also means the biological father has no right to intervene in this relationship.  That‘s a good thing.

ABRAMS:  But why can‘t the person who has been duped make that choice?  I mean, that‘s nice.  Those are sort of nice comments in general about life and society, but why can‘t the person whose been duped get to make that choice? 

GUGGENHEIM:  Because we just don‘t want to disrupt relationships that have come into being. 

Look.  This man lived in the same home as the husband of the mother and held himself out as the father of this child for three-and-a-half years before the couple broke up.  That‘s a very long time and a rather harsh concept that he can some day, later at his will, say I choose not to be recognized. 

ABRAMS:  Choose not to.  It‘s not about his choice.  He didn‘t know until later on that his wife was a liar and an adulterer. 

GUGGENHEIM:  Well, biology isn‘t everything. 

ABRAMS:  But it‘s something, isn‘t it? 

GUGGENHEIM:  It‘s something.  But you know until recently, we didn‘t have these means of proving this.  And just because we can now prove with certainty who are biological parents, doesn‘t mean it makes sense to always take that into account. 

ABRAMS:  Look.  I‘m not saying that biology should always be the only issue.  What I‘m saying is it seems that biology is completely being ignored in this case, and fraud, more personally to me, is being ignored in this case.  The fact that his wife, who I don‘t know, but I do know that there is no dispute that she lied to him, she lied about having an affair and then when she got a divorce, she lied about who was the father, even though she knew it wasn‘t him and now he‘s still got to pay. 

GUGGENHEIM:  Well, yes, she committed a bunch of fraudulent acts.  That‘s right.  But the question is, when do we consider these relationships to be fixed?  Florida has chosen to consider it fixed one year after the divorce is final.  That‘s somewhat arbitrary, but don‘t think that‘s a crazy rule.  The idea that Mason has the right to know who his father is, who the law will recognize as his father, is a good thing. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s a good thing.  It would be nice if his mother told the truth.  And as a result, everyone can get some honest answers here.  Mr.  Parker, let me ask you this, are you doing this in part because you‘re just furious at your ex-wife? 

PARKER:  Absolutely not.  I would like to be able to control where the money goes.  I‘m not interested in buying shoes for Mason‘s mother.  My wife and I are setting up a college fund so that, God willing, he‘ll be able to go to school. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Bottom line, Scott Lazar, any hope on appeal at this point? 

LAZAR:  Well, the fourth district court of appeal which is the one that ruled against us did acknowledge that another district in the state of Florida had ruled a different way.  So they‘ve certified conflict.  So we have a direct pact to the Supreme Court of Florida should we choose to take it. 

I think that the real question is, is the fourth district is essentially saying to all fathers out there, hey, look, whether you doubt it or you don‘t doubt it, if you don‘t test while you‘re getting divorced and you don‘t find out within a year after you get divorced, you‘re out of luck. 

ABRAMS:  I agree.  So they‘re basically saying always suspect.  Never believe.  If you‘re going to get a divorced and your wife is telling you it‘s your kid, well, automatically say wake wait a second.  Wait a second.  Maybe it‘s not. 

LAZAR:  To the extent that they‘re trying to protect children by this decision, they‘re actually forcing the reverse because they‘re forcing everyone to go test while the divorce case is pending. 

ABRAMS:  Well, Richard Parker, I hope you continue to try and do what‘s best for Mason.  It sounds like you‘re still trying to do that despite what I view is an improper ruling.  Scott Lazar and Professor Guggenheim, thank you very much.  Appreciate it. 

LAZAR:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, many of you are still writing trying to justify the silly brouhaha over whether you call it a Christmas or a holiday tree.  And my exclusive with author Matt Dalton, a former member of the Scott Peterson defense team.  He‘s written a book out tomorrow, detailing why Scott Peterson should not be on death row.  We‘ll show you a portion of my interview in just a minute. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose” our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  We‘re in Indiana.  Authorities need your help locating Jason Flowers.  He is 24, 5‘11, 168.  He was convicted of criminal deviant conduct.  Hasn‘t registered with the state.  If you have got any information on his whereabouts, contact the Indiana Sheriff‘s Association.  And here‘s the right number, 1-800-622-4779.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I have had my say.  It‘s time for your rebuttal.  In Thursday‘s “Closing Argument,” I criticized the handful of people who are making a big fuss over whether to call it a Christmas tree or a holiday tree.  I said who cares what we call it?  They look nice.  Let‘s just see it our own way.  Try to keep up the holiday spirit.  Still getting e-mails.  Sandra Wilson in Indiana, “we celebrate Christmas because it is a very basic part of who we are.  It makes a big difference what Christmas trees are called.  To deny the name Christmas tree would be denying my Lord.” 

Sandra, no one is trying to deny you the right to call it a Christmas tree.  We‘re talking about the trees in public places.  But unlike a nativity scene or a Menorah, there‘s no specific religious significance to the tree.  In fact, it was originally used by pagans.  So, why not just call it what you want and let anyone call it what they want, too? 

Lisa Cooper in New Jersey, “do I care what they call the tree?  Yes, I do.  Because the separation of church and state.  I do not think that Christmas trees, nativity scenes, menorahs or any other religious items should be displayed at the White House or any government buildings.”

Again Lisa, a tree is different from the others.  We can have holiday trees and Christmas trees and maybe other symbols as well. 

Finally, Sandra Brown, “the only group that should be complaining is the Save A Tree Foundation.  And I heard nothing from them.”

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show. 

Coming up, there is a new book out on the Scott Peterson trial arguing that Peterson‘s attorneys didn‘t do so hot.  Scott Peterson should not be sitting on death row.  A portion of my exclusive coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Scott Peterson is innocent!  It‘s not what I think, but former Peterson defense attorney Matt Dalton argues his new book, “Presumed Guilty.”  I got the exclusive interview with him.  I had some tough questions.  Dalton said Scott Peterson should not be sitting on death row. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  You‘re not saying Scott Peterson is actually innocent? 

MATT DALTON, FRM. PETERSON DEFENSE TEAM MEMBER:  I am saying that.  I believed the witnesses.  And I believe he is innocent.  Six witnesses in Scott and Laci‘s neighborhood saw Laci walking her dog around the block the day after she was supposedly killed. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what the defense team and the prosecutors would say.  They would say that the reasons those witnesses weren‘t presented is, first of all, because the police witnesses talked about the fact that there were these supposed Laci sightings.  And the reason they didn‘t want to present these witnesses was because the stories did not make sense in the sense they weren‘t consistent with one another.  And they simply weren‘t credible. 

DALTON:  I personally interviewed each of the witnesses.  They were all credible.  Each of them independently and separately reported this to the police. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to be on the “Today Show” tomorrow in the 7:30 half-hour with the exclusive interview there.  And then we‘ll show you even more of it right here on the program about justice at 4:00 and again at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time.  That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you  tomorrow.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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