updated 3/2/2006 10:49:32 AM ET 2006-03-02T15:49:32

Guest: Michael Daly, Clint Van Zandt, Joe Coffey, Larry Kobilinsky,

Candice Delong, Kyle Maclachlan, Robert King, Steve Drizin, Joshua Marquis

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, New York police race to find the—quote—“mummy maniac” who sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered a criminal justice student before he might strike again. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Detectives release new information about Imette St. Guillen's gruesome murder, hoping someone recognizes the blanket her body was wrapped in.  They also want to talk to the unidentified man who called 911, alerting the authorities to where her taped up and mutilated body had been left.

And actor Kyle Maclachlan stars in a new show about lawyers trying to free the wrongly convicted.  The “In Justice” star joins us live.  Then we debate whether there really are that many innocent people behind bars. 

Plus, a new poll shows more people know the characters in “The Simpsons” than the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.  But I ask, is that really as bad as it sounds? 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, the gruesome case of 24-year-old Imette St. Guillen studying to be a criminal justice expert in Manhattan, found Saturday evening nude, bound, gagged.  Her face wrapped in clear packing tape, a sock in her mouth, a blanket covering her body when she was found in a desolate area of Brooklyn, New York. 

She had reportedly been sexually assaulted and tortured before being suffocated and strangled to death.  Her mother and sister spoke out for the first time on MSNBC last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE ST. GUILLEN'S MOTHER:  I used to called her (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know the queen, because just the way she carried herself and she really had such a presence about her.  If you talk to anyone, they'll tell you that she was just—she was like—when she walked into the room, the room just lit up, and she was just—she just made things fun and you just felt so much better in her presence.  She was a beautiful girl, but she was a bright girl and she was a good person, such a good person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  NYPD has released this picture of the blanket the killer or killers used to wrap her body and are asking anyone who might recognize it to let them know.  Two corners of the comforter were stitched and fitted.  It's got a white liner, had two manufacturer tags on it.  One for a king-size Springmaid quilted bedspread, the other for the Spring Mills company of South Carolina. 

Police are also looking for the man who made an anonymous 911 call from a diner near where her body was found.  Now there are indications he might at least know something about this horrible crime. 

Joining me now, Michael Daly, a “New York Daily News” columnist who has been following the story closely.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program. 

We appreciate it.  All right, so it's now been a couple of days, anything -

·         any developments today? 

MICHAEL DALY, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS” COLUMNIST:  I don't know of any big developments myself.  I mean they're playing this a little close and I think they should because the important thing is not for us to know you know this or that.  The important thing is to get this guy. 

ABRAMS:  All right, then lay out what you have been reporting up until now about the details.

DALY:  What we've been reporting is that she was in the bar on the Bowery, which is no longer really the Bowery, which is you know a safe part of town.  She was drinking with a friend and the friend decided to leave.  She wanted to stay. 

She apparently went on to another bar and then that was early Saturday morning and then Saturday evening, the police get a call from a pay phone by a diner in Brooklyn, saying that if you go here, you'll find a body and they went there and they found this poor young lady. 

ABRAMS:  Now that phone and that area has been reportedly used by mobsters in the past. Do you know anything about that? 

DALY:  It's been used by pretty much everybody in Brooklyn that had a body they wanted to get rid of.  I mean not just mobsters, drug dealers, mobsters, jealous boyfriends.

ABRAMS:  Why that area? 

DALY:  Well it's desolate.  There's a lot of weeds.  There's no witnesses around and you can get on and off the Bell Parkway (ph) pretty easily from there. 

ABRAMS:  There is a videotape, correct? 

DALY:  A videotape of her at the bar...

ABRAMS:  Correct.

DALY:  ... outside the bar...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DALY:  ... yes I believe there is. 

ABRAMS:  And do you know what they show—you can see her talking to her friend before they part ways, right? 

DALY:  That's—as I understand that's about all it shows, yes. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michael, if can you stay with us for a minute.  I want to bring into the conversation forensics expert and professor at John Jay College of criminal justice where Imette was a student, Larry Kobilinsky, former NYPD homicide detective Joe Coffey who helped crack the “Son of Sam” case and MSNBC analyst and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.

I want to talk about the evidence first.  I want to talk about what we know and what we don't know.  Clint, how important is it that they find the clothes, identification that seems that they haven't found personal belongings, et cetera? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well, everything in a case like this early on, Dan, has two potential reasons.  Number one, the killer may have just disposed of the clothes, the I.D. and everything else to complicate the police department's ability to identify her, or if this is a working serial killer or a serial killer in the making, in a worst-case scenario, he or they could be keeping these as some type of trophy. 

So it's early on in the investigation.  No, you can't err on one side or the other right away.  That's why law enforcement has got to keep all these cards on the table and see.  But of course if her credit cards are used, if her driver's license is used for identification or if her cell phone has been used, these are all things that law enforcement will hopefully key in on, and try to find out where—how can we take her from the bar where she was last seen to the body disposal site, what happened in between, and has anybody tried to use these items since her death. 

ABRAMS:  Joe, how important is it that they're putting out this picture of the comforter? 

JOE COFFEY, FORMER NYPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE:  That is extremely important, because looking at it from a police point of view, it looks like a blanket that would be found in a motel or a hotel or some type of premises like that.  This case is probably well along the way to being solved by the New York City detectives.  After all, they're the best in the world and it's going to be solved by good old-fashioned detective work, combined with forensic evidence. 

ABRAMS:  What kind of evidence, Joe, can they get—we're putting up some of the evidence that we were laying out as to evidence they could get from either the tape that was on her face and on her body and the comforter, fingerprints, hair, blood, fibers, DNA? 

COFFEY:  Well the tape is very important because they can trace that back to the manufacturer and they can trace it back to even down to a hardware store where it might have been bought.  Also I understand that under her fingernails, there was skin.  That's extremely important from a forensic point of view.

Forensic and DNA and all that stuff is very good if you're watching crime scene or “CSI”, but in a case like this, the detectives, they have to go on the leads, they have to talk to the girlfriend, what male approached her in that Bowery bar, why she didn't want to stay with her.  The cell phone is very, very important here.  Her cell phone I'm assuming they haven't found that, but the records will show on that cell phone what contact was made in and out of...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Michael Daly about that.  Michael, what do we know about her cell phone calls? 

DALY:  I think the only thing I'm aware of is that her friend called her on her cell phone about a half-hour after they parted and that she said she was in another bar and that she didn't sound in any distress.

ABRAMS:  Did she say anything—we don't know if she said anything about being with other people, right? 

DALY:  Not that I'm aware of. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Larry Kobilinsky, first let me just ask you before I ask you to put on your expert's hat, any news coming out of John Jay about what's been going on at John Jay with regard to the investigation? 

LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC EXAMINER:  Well I can tell you this, that we're dedicated at John Jay to providing any support, any way we can help law enforcement track down this perpetrator, we're there.  We're they're for the families.  It hurt every single one of us whether we were faculty, administrators, or students.  There are students at the college that are in fear.  The female students, because, you know, it could have happened to anyone...

ABRAMS:  Well and let me ask you, Larry.  Are you getting the sense that there may be a connection to her having been a criminal justice student? 

KOBILINSKY:  Well of course there is all kinds of speculation going on, but the likelihood is that is not the case.  My own feeling is that this is something that was random.  She happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, running into a psychopath, a sexual deviant, and she was inebriated. 

We'll know more from the toxicology report, but you know, she put herself in a bad situation, and this is nothing to do with blaming the victim of course.  She was an innocent, very bright person, with a tremendous...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KOBILINSKY:  ... future in front of her. 

ABRAMS:  And we'll talk about victimology later in terms of how a predator goes about seeking out who to attack.  Here's what we know.  At least this is what we believe to know at this point.  That she was sexually assaulted, sodomized, suffocated.  She was nude.  Her hair was cut short, a tube sock stuffed in her mouth.

Her face was taped from forehead to chin with clear packing tape.  She was wrapped in floral commercial grade comforter.  Her genitals were lacerated.  Her hands and feet were bound and there were marks on her chest.  Clint, before I  ask you about that, Michael Daly, is that accurate information as far as you know? 

DALY:  Yes, I would say so.  I mean her mother talked about her lighting up the room when she came in and you're looking for a guy who darkens the room wherever he goes.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clint Van Zandt, what do you make of all those facts?  I mean that does give you at least leads to go on. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, it does, Dan.  One of the things it suggests is you know many times, as Larry indicates, she may well have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but sometimes a killer will just grab a woman like this, haul her in the alley, assault her, hit her in the head with a brick and then run away. 

This offender or these offenders it looks like may have spent some time with her, by cutting off her hair, I mean this can be anywhere from trying to dehumanize her, trying to degradate (ph) her to taking the hair as a trophy.  I mean they're, you know, you don't want to get too far a feel on this one, but the investigators, the profilers, the forensic examiners, they all have got to put their collective hats on and say what could it be and then what do we think it is and start narrowing in the focus.  But if there's not been a crime like this recently in the New York City area whatsoever and this offender seems to know his way around, then you have to say did he specifically target her or was she this...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  ... victim of opportunity. 

ABRAMS:  Here's her sister again speaking out for the first time on Rita Cosby show last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE ST. GUILLEN'S SISTER:  I would just plead with anyone who knows anything.  Imette was so, so loving and you know her whole commitment to criminal justice and to you know just her belief in what was right and you know I just ask that people honor that and honor her commitment to justice and you know, know that if she had seen anything, if this had happened to somebody else, and she had seen anything, she would call and she would come forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Michael Daly, how important is the 911 call to the authorities as far as you know? 

DALY:  I would imagine it's—what they want to know—I've been told is they want to know could it have been the guy himself, could it have been a friend that this guy called after he did what he did and wanted help disposing of the body and then had an attack of conscience?  Could it have been someone who was there doing something he doesn't really want other people to know about but he might have seen something or heard something that's important, such as what kind of car the guy was driving or what the guy looked like.  I mean I think all that is important to them.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Joe Coffey, as a former NYPD homicide detective I would assume that that's your focus in many ways right now.

COFFEY:  Without question that's the focus.  That's number one,

probably right up there with investigating the patrons of the bar, the

first bar she was in and of course the second or even third bar.  This has

·         we can speculate quite a bit here.  It could be a ritual killing.

It could be a serial killer.  It could be a lot of thing, but the way it was done so haphazardly, it looks like a spontaneous event, a spontaneous crime, and it looks like it wasn't planned, so I think the detectives are probably right behind this guy and I would venture to say that this thing is going to be solved very shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I would say there's got to be—the city of New York is never that empty.  There's got to be somebody in this town who saw or heard something between the time she was in downtown Manhattan and the time she was found in Brooklyn. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

COFFEY:  I'll tell you, Dan, another avenue the detectives are taking I'm sure is that at the exact time the following evening and subsequent evenings, they will go there and canvass drivers driving by that scene, just in case somebody as a routine where they drive by that place every night coming from work, going to work or whatever and sometimes that gives you a great clue.  It's called a canvass.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michael Daly, thanks a lot...

DALY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... and keep up the great work.  We appreciate you coming on the program. 

DALY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Larry, Clint and Joe are going to stick around.  Coming up, the question, what kind of person would do this, profiler.  What can investigators tell about the murder by studying the victim?  We're going to talk to two of the best profilers around. 

And forget playing a Park Avenue doctor.  Kyle Maclachlan is now starring as a lawyer fighting for justice, trying to free the wrongly convicted.  He joins us live.  Then we ask, are there really that many innocent people behind bars? 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. ST. GUILLEN:  She just loved life.  She loved to travel.  She lived so much in just a short period of time and she would have been 25 -- this Thursday is her birthday.  And it's just not—just wasn't enough time.  Everyone has lost something.  Not just us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was the mother of Imette St. Guillen on MSNBC last night.  Again, this is a gruesome murder case that is concerning many in the New York area for a number of reasons.  First of all, because of what happened, and the brutality of the crime, but also the concern that it could happen again.  That this could end up being a case of a serial killer. 

Joining us now along with the panel is Candice Delong, former FBI agent and author of “Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI”.  All right.  Candice, what do you make of the facts of what we know about the circumstances of the crime, of the 911 call, how do you begin profiling this person? 

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI AGENT:  Well, one of the things that struck me about it in particular the 911 call is a very interesting component of this case.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time, and this is an if, if it was the killer.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time that an individual who killed someone was also the one to either call the cops or on a search for the victim, they're the ones that find them and it's done for different reasons. 

Sometimes the killer might do it because he feels bad about what he did and he wants the body found quickly.  Sometimes he does it to taunt the police.  Sometimes he does it because he wants the investigation to get going, he wants people to know what happened, and that's certainly one of the things that struck me about this. 

ABRAMS:  Here's her sister talking about who may have done this and the concern about this person doing it to someone else. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. ST. GUILLEN:  The person who did this obviously, you know, needs to be brought to justice.  This could happen again. 

(CROSSTALK)

A. ST. GUILLEN:  This can happen to someone else, you know.  Imette, if anything, you know, bring her some peace, that this person doesn't do it again. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And a former NYPD homicide commander was quoted in the “New York Daily News” saying he may have killed before.  This is pretty strong for a first offense.  You're dealing with a psychopathic sexual sadist.  These people will kill again.

Of course, he's referring to the fact that again there was this duct tape, clear duct tape on her—not duct tape, but wrapping tape on her face and sock in her mouth.  Candice Delong, does that indicate to you that this is someone with serial killer potential? 

DELONG:  Yes.  The detective that you had on earlier said he didn't think it was a premeditated crime and I would disagree with that only in that I believe this was premeditated in the killer's mind.  This was premeditated in fantasy.  He's gone over and over in this scenario.  There's some very interesting components of this crime that make it look ritualistic in nature. 

The cutting of her hair, the tape from her forehead to her chin.  He might have had—that might have been part of what we call a rape kit or a kill kit, he brought it with him, and he was looking for someone that he wanted to do that to, to kill, to rape and kill that night.  I agree with the detective in that this may not be his first kill.  This is pretty sophisticated for the first time out of the chute. 

ABRAMS:  Joe Coffey, you think it's possible this is an isolated incident, right? 

COFFEY:  Oh yes, certainly, but you can't put all your eggs in one basket either.  You have to evaluate all possibilities.  As far as the serial killer is concerned, in the “Son of Sam” case, the initial killing that he did was supposedly investigated as a random killing on the street where two girls were shot in a car. 

That went on for almost seven, eight months before they realized it was a serial killer.  You can't really speculate as to who, what, where, when and how right now.  It looks to me like an operation here that was haphazard to begin with, and also, I believe if it is a serial killer, he will strike again, without question. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clint, let's talk about the victim for a moment...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... and I don't mean in terms of who she is and we've been talking about that and we've been getting...

VAN ZANDT:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... a lot of that from her family members.  And that in and of itself is heartbreaking...

VAN ZANDT:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  ... but talking about—looking at this scientifically, she was alone...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... intoxicated, small stature, very early in the morning. 

Does that tell you anything about the killer?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, it tells me that whoever did this is one of two things, Dan.  It's either someone who specifically targeted her, who was looking for her perhaps somebody she had rejected in the past, former boyfriend, somebody she refused to go on a date with, all of these things the police would be looking for, or else as Larry is suggesting, a victim of circumstance.  She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She appeared very vulnerable.

She was by herself.  She was intoxicated.  She was of small statute and she may have met the fantasy profile of this killer, so she had all of those things working against her.  You know there's an article I wrote on your Web site recently.  One of the things I talked about was never leaving your wingman, that someone like this, whether you're a college student, whether you're a grown adult like she is, you should always be with one other friend.

You know 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning by yourself, I'm sure she's done that in the past. It doesn't mean she's responsible for this, but all of us are responsible for our own safety to some degree and she violated some very basic tenets of personal safety. 

ABRAMS:  Larry Kobilinsky, I look at the courses that one would study at John Jay where you are a professor, victimology, criminal law, crime mapping, deviant behavior, sociology of crime, investigative techniques, crime scene investigation, and I've just got to keep coming back to the fact that the authorities have to be looking at the possibility that a bizarre and gruesome killing like this might have some connection to her studies.

KOBILINSKY:  Well, I really think it's unlikely.  Obviously, the police have questioned people at the college that knew her, had some relationship with her, and as far as I know, they've ruled all of them out.  She also studied at George Washington University as an undergraduate.  She obviously was involved in the field of forensic psychology.  And it just...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KOBILINSKY:  ... very sad that something like this happened to one of our own. 

ABRAMS:  Candice, but I've got to believe that you look at that and you rule that out, right? 

DELONG:  I'm sorry...

ABRAMS:  I was saying you rule out the possibility of the connection to her studies?  I mean, again, people have called this sort of tragically ironic in the sense that she was probably...

DELONG:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... studying about killers like this. 

DELONG:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) well, of course investigating that component of her life would be part of the routine investigation into a murder.  Who was she studying with?  What courses was she taking?  Could there possibly be a link?

I agree, however, with Professor Kobilinsky, it's probably going to end up to be not related.  Sadly, Dan, as bizarre and strange as this is, hundreds of female murder victims a year die like this, in a bizarre and unusual and sadistic sexual homicide, hundreds. 

ABRAMS:  Hundreds meaning this gruesome, because Clint has pointed out to us that this for him is one of the most gruesome that he has ever heard of. 

VAN ZANDT:  And this is the same thing that the medical examiner said in New York City.  She said...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  ... it was the worst one she's ever seen, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  That's what makes this thing—you know what bothers me about this too is Candice is talking about this ritualistic aspect, the cutting of the hair, I mean that suggests to me, this is somebody who spent some time with her, who wanted to denigrate, degradate (ph), who wanted to take away this woman's femininity as he or they spent time with her.  So you know this is not a killer who just fell off the turnip truck. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  This is somebody who's had this fantasy who's either carried it out in the past or he's plugged it all into this one event.  But as been suggested, if this is not...

ABRAMS:  All right.

VAN ZANDT:  ... specifically targeted at her, this guy or these people will be back. 

ABRAMS:  That's the number, 1-800-577-TIPS.  If you've got any information, please call the authorities, because as many of my guests have pointed out, there have got to be people out there who know something and that can only be helpful. 

Candice Delong, Clint Van Zandt, Joe Coffey, Larry Kobilinsky, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you, Larry.

COFFEY:  Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, actor Kyle Maclachlan is here, the star of “Blue Velvet”, “Twin Peaks” and “Sex and the City” takes on a new role as a lawyer, fighting to free the wrongly convicted. 

And then later, we debate whether there really are that many innocent people behind bars. 

And a new poll shows more people know “The Simpsons” than the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.  I ask, is that really such a bad thing?  It's my “Closing Argument”.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Our search today is in Nebraska.

Police searching for Gregory Rossow, 48, five-ten, 205.  He was convicted of lascivious act with a child, has not registered his address with the state.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Nebraska State Patrol, 402-471-8647.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We're back.  A new crime drama called “In Justice” on ABC is looking at the other side of the criminal justice system, focusing not on the cops making the case and putting people behind bars, but instead on lawyers finding cases of injustice and trying to correct them.  The leaders, David Swain, a charismatic talented attorney with questionable ethics and his chief investigator Charles Conti, a former cop, who is set on seeing justice served.  In the premiere episode, the group fights over which cases to take. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 30 years at Folsom for a double homicide.  Now there's issues of search and seizure.  He left his knapsack at his friend's apartment. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) gangbangers are bad news.  Judges hate them for one thing.  What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  I met a very interesting man on death row.

(SOUNDS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, come on, give it a chance. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No death row, unless he's Nelson Mandela.  I'll be 60 when I win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anybody else?  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, we go with the mission...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What about Jane McDermott?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What about her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Jane McDermott, 32, she was accused of killing her father during a robbery. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, patricide.  Got to love the patricide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You conducted the pre-interview? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I did.  Look, nice lady but major inconsistencies in her story. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well I wouldn't say inconsistencies, it's more like bad facts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right, bad facts.  Like lying to the police. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well she explained all that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, she tried to explain all that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa, whoa, whoa, is it just me or is there a lot of sexual tension in here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

ABRAMS:  Joining me now Kyle Maclachlan who plays the charismatic attorney David Swain and Robert King the executive producer and co-creator of “In Justice”.  Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks, Dan.  Thanks for having me.

ABRAMS:  All right, Kyle, let me start with you.  Tell me about your character and then I want to ask Robert King about how he decided to create this program, but your character is what? 

KYLE MACLACHLAN, PLAYS DAVID SWAIN ON “IN JUSTICE”:  First of all, can you feel the sexual tension...

ABRAMS:  Yes, well you know...

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  ... that's the first thing I was thinking and I appreciate you pointing it out. 

(LAUGHTER)

MACLACHLAN:  David Swain, a lawyer of questionable ethics.  He is a wonderful character.  He's the creator, founder of our particular justice project.  He is a man who has rediscovered a passion for the law with this new organization, formerly a corporate lawyer.  He is—he's brash.  He's over the top.  He's a bit of a peacock and—but ultimately he is about righting the wrongs of the justice system.

ABRAMS:  And it's not just about finding cases where DNA will help exonerate someone, right?  It's actually about going and finding the bad guys too. 

MACLACHLAN:  Yes, that's—it's a two-pronged approach so we spend a little time in the court and a lot of time out in the field, which is where my co-star Jason O'Mara spends a majority of his time in doing the investigative process.

ABRAMS:  Do you now personally have people saying to you, you know, there's a great story you guys should do.  I know this person who was actually innocent or a friend of a friend says there's...

MACLACHLAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... this great story you guys should do. 

MACLACHLAN:  Some of these things are beginning to filter in from what I hear back from ABC, some of the e-mail contacts they have and the blogs that they have, people are saying hey I need to get in contact with you because I've got a case, so...

ABRAMS:  Robert King, how did you decide to start the show?  I mean as you know, some people are going to say that there is a political statement effectively being made by this program, that there are just tons of people being wrongly convicted. 

ROBERT KING, “IN JUSTICE” EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:  We didn't start that.  We just saw that there were so many investigative shows on the air that were just kind of taking it from one side and it just started with the thought that we just wanted to do something different.  We wanted to see the case from the other side. 

ABRAMS:  I read in one of the articles that you said that—you described your wife as liberal and you as conservative? 

KING:  Yes.  We wanted to see the dynamic played out between Kyle's character, which was much more from the Clinton side of the universe and Jason's character, Conti, which has a little more of a conservative bent.  Someone who comes—he's a policeman, an ex-policeman, who had a bad experience and now is working with someone that he can kind of appreciate, tolerate at the same time, and we find that same dynamic played out between my wife and me in writing these shows. 

ABRAMS:  So is this—quote—“ripped from the headlines” as the “Law and Orders” are? 

KING:  Not the same way.  Stu Bloomberg, our other executive producer, called it ripped from the heart and in many ways we always find situations in stories that we find the core of anger, the thing that makes our characters angry and makes us angry and then we make up a story based on it and also, we play off what's going on currently in some of the junk science that is being debunked.  We always have some element of something that is happening today, but the stories themselves are fictional. 

ABRAMS:  Is it different as an actor to be involved in a program that does reflect a national debate? 

MACLACHLAN:  You feel tremendous responsibility.  And my research, I take my research much more to heart...

ABRAMS:  You're going and talking to lawyers...

MACLACHLAN:  Yes.  You know we—but most recently I was up in—at Santa Clara University talking with the organization up there, really getting a feel for what they do.  I mean these are people that are actually doing this, so I'm there to absorb their energy, their passion, their commitment.  And it was very helpful to be a part of something, because I took it back to my other cast members and we talked about it and realized that what we've created, what Robert's created, all of us have created is not so far from the real deal. 

ABRAMS:  Kyle Maclachlan thanks a lot for coming in.  We appreciate it.

MACLACHLAN:  Thanks...

ABRAMS:  Robert King, appreciate you coming on as well.  You can see “In Justice” on Friday nights on ABC at 10:00, 9:00 Central Time.

Coming up...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... a topic very related to this, we keep hearing about all these people wrongly convicted, but how many are there really?  We're going to dig into that one. 

And later, last night I sat on this set and shared a lovely drink of wine with a hot new winemaker who also happens to be a porn star.  Many of you wanting to know whether I even cared about the wine.  I am insulted.  Your e-mails are coming up. 

Abramsreport@msnbc.com, please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond to those inappropriate questions. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the new show we've been talking about make it looks like there are a lot of innocent people behind bars, but is that really true?  We'll figure it out, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jane McDermott, 11 years into a life sentence, murdering father, Henry McDermott, good family. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good lawyer on her side.  What do you think, Jill?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She's been clean for 10 years. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, well the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, that's a bad fact.  It's a really bad fact. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What?  What is it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I'll be back. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  God speed, mystery man. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We've been talking to the makers and star of a new television drama called “In Justice”, which details the stories of innocent people falsely convicted of crimes.  Now there are legitimate cases in real life of innocent men and women who have served hard time, some on death row, only to be cleared later by DNA evidence or other circumstances, which show the person couldn't have possibly committed the crime. 

But is the problem really that pervasive?  Are there really thousands and thousands of men and women behind bar who should not be?  Joining me now district attorney for Clatsop County, Oregon and vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, Joshua Marquis and clinical law professor and legal director for Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions, Steve Drizin. 

Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, Professor Drizin, let me start with you, how pervasive a problem is it? 

STEVE DRIZIN, CENTER ON WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS:  The truth is, is we don't know how pervasive a problem it is.  What we know is that it's far more frequent than we had ever imagined before DNA evidence. 

ABRAMS:  And when you say...

DRIZIN:  We know...

ABRAMS:  Sorry.  Go ahead.  I'm sorry.  I was just...

(CROSSTALK)

DRIZIN:  There have been 174 DNA exonerations and we know in every one of those cases, the person who was wrongfully convicted was actually innocent and we know that those cases make up only a fraction of the wrongful conviction pie, because in most cases, there are not—there's not DNA evidence and in many of the typical kinds of crime, burglaries, robberies, there is no DNA evidence and in many of the murders and rapes where there may be DNA evidence, the evidence has been destroyed or degraded, so that gives us a sense of the problem...

(CROSSTALK)

DRIZIN:  ... but no one can say with certainty how big it is. 

ABRAMS:  Joshua Marquis, if you listen to that and you watch the program “In Justice”, you sure start to feel like there are thousands of people who are being wrongly convicted. 

JOSHUA MARQUIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CLATSOP, OR:  Oh, if you watch this program, their original promo was that every year thousands of innocent Americans are wrongfully convicted, based on true stories.  Now they've apparently backed off that, because this is largely fiction, and there are, as you say, people who have not done it, people who are innocent. 

The question is, there are about, I'd agree, about 170 people who have been exonerated by DNA.  The question we have to ask is out of what universe.  And the answer is about—out of about 20 million convictions.  There was a study done by a professor named Samuel Gross presented at a symposium at Northwestern University in which I participated last year, in which they said that they studied from 1989 to 2003, not just DNA cases.

They were able to identify 380, 400 roundup cases where people and they thought there were more.  Let's assume that they were wrong by a factor of 100, that there were 100 times more people wrongfully convicted than they say.  That means that if that were true and there were 40,000 in that period of time, we'd be talking about a rightful conviction rate of 99.997 percent.  Now, admittedly, and I'm sure Steve will say well, if you're one of those wrongfully convicted people, that's one too many.  That's true.  The question is do we have a problem that's episodic or epidemic?

ABRAMS:  Steve.

DRIZIN:  Well no one is claiming that it's epidemic.  What we're claiming is, is that the problem is substantial and that focusing on the numbers really minimizes the scope of the problem incorrectly.  When we have a plane crash or a train wreck or a coal mining disaster, we're not asking about the safety record of the airlines.  That's not the first thing you ask.  You ask what went wrong and what can we do to prevent this from happening again.

And too much focus on whether this is episodic or epidemic minimizes the fact that lives are involved here.  Human tragedies.  People's lives are destroyed and we should be trying to minimize that in whatever way we can. 

ABRAMS:  Joshua...

MARQUIS:  People's lives...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

MARQUIS:  Sorry—people's lives are destroyed daily.  I'm in court every day.  We have millions of Americans who are the victims of violent crime.  Our legal system is intended to make—to err on behalf of the defendant and if we were to be really worried about the injustices that are occurring every day in the United States, it's probably going to be about wrongful acquittals, not wrongful convictions.  That doesn't mean that we don't try to do better.  And the American justice system has evolved enormously in the last 20 years. 

ABRAMS:  What do you make of this program, Josh?  When you heard about them making this program, did you get up in arms?  I saw you wrote an op-ed piece where it's the first line of your piece?

MARQUIS:  I got pretty fired up because prosecutors from around the country wrote me because this show was being promoted during bowl season and you had Brent Mussburger (ph) and all these big time people intoning these very words, every year, thousands of Americans wrongfully convicted, so you're right, I did get fired up and “The New York Times” printed an op-ed about a month ago in which I said look, this is largely drama and fantasy.  That's fine if you take it for that, but let's not try to believe that what's happening on Kyle's show is that much different than some of the characters he played when he worked for David Lynch. 

ABRAMS:  Steve, do you believe that thousands of people are wrongly convicted every year? 

DRIZIN:  I have no doubt about it.  I can't give you an exact number, but if you just were to take the fraction of cases involving non-DNA cases and you were to sort of extrapolate what we know about the DNA exonerations, there would be thousands.  We get between 50 and 75 letters a week from people in Illinois and around the country claiming that they're innocent and we can only look at a small fraction of those cases, and when we look at that small fraction, there are very serious claims of actual innocents in those cases. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joshua Marquis, Steve Drizin, it's an interesting topic, and one which we have discussed and we'll continue to revisit on this program because it's that important.  Thanks to both of you.  Appreciate it.

DRIZIN:  Thank you. 

MARQUIS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a new study says more Americans can name the characters on “The Simpsons” than can name the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's my “Closing Argument”.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Our search today in Nebraska.

Authorities would like your help locating Jacob Maciejeski.  He's 29, five-five, 200.  He was convicted of first-degree sexual assault, has not registered his address with the state.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, Nebraska wants to hear from you, 402-471-8647.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—is this new study that has high school teachers around the country shaking their heads in disbelief really that disturbing?  Only 28 percent of people polled could name more than one freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment while almost twice that number, 52 percent, could identify more than one character from the animated TV show “The Simpsons”, according to a McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum poll.  The number is even more disparate when it comes to naming all five Simpsons versus all five rights granted in the First Amendment.

Twenty-two percent could name Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie while only one-tenth of one percent recalled freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and the right to partition the government for redress of grievances.  Sure, it sounds bad and it is bad, particularly the 17 percent who believe the right to drive a car is protected by the First Amendment.  The car was invented 100 years after the First Amendment was ratified, but like all polls, it depends on how you look at it and I tend to look on the bright side.  More people, 72 percent could identify one right, freedom of speech, than were able to name one Simpson, Bart, at just 61 percent. 

And that blew away the number who could identify one judge on “American Idol,” Paula, the most recognizable with a paltry 49 percent.  So some of those civics lessons are sticking at least a little.  And then there's a flipside to watching “The Simpsons”.  Sure, it's sometimes a politically incorrect animated comedy to some, but according to a team of Scottish researchers, there are lessons to be learned from Homer, Marge and the gang. 

They believe that watching “The Simpsons” can help teach children science, in particular, recycling solar power, DNA and nuclear energy.  Maybe some of those polled learned about civics and “The Simpsons” in college.  We found 10 colleges and universities that offer classes about “The Simpsons” and society or “The Simpsons” and satire, including the University of California at Berkeley, Rice, and Columbia College. 

And is knowing your rights more important than knowing your family?  Well according to the “St. Louis Dispatch”—quote—“no shows since Ed Sullivan has united more families in front of the TV.  Look, it's unfortunate that 21 percent of those polled thought the First Amendment grant citizens the right to own and raise a pet.  It does not.  It seems Bart may be more of a constitutional scholar than that.  He correctly pointed out that—quote—“the First Amendment does not cover burping.”

(SOUNDS)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, last night I sat here and enjoyed a lovely glass of wine with an up and coming new winemaker who also happens to be a porn star.  A lot of you had comments about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Anyone who watches this program knows I like wine and last night on the program I spoke to porn star Savanna Samson about a new wine that she made that has gotten a great review from the most influential wine publication in the country. 

Jennifer Cox in Tampa, Florida, “Did you like your guest's new wine? 

Or do you think she should just stick to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) her day job?”

From Sisters, Oregon, Denice Vogel.  “What were you thinking?  Aren't there more important things going on in this world that you could talk about?  Maybe you like more than just her wine.  I must say that I've lost a lot of respect for you.”

Come on, Denice, lighten up.  I'm going to do serious stories and occasionally I'm going to try and have a little bit of fun.  That was fun.

John Putt, III in Jonesboro, Arkansas, “You seem to be more into the porn star than the wine.  Tell the truth.”

From Chicago, Casey Gilmore, “Getting paid to drink wine with a beautiful porn star must be nothing short of terrific.”

C.J. Kopitar in Marion, Connecticut, “You were falling all over yourself while drinking wine with the porn star.  You need to get out more.”

And I had seen my boss, the president of MSNBC walking up after the segment.  I was worried whether I was going to be here today and get in trouble.

Ruthie from Santa Rosa, California asks, “I hope you didn't really get in trouble having the adult star and her wine on.  It was a nice break from the really bad news.”    

I understand apparently, Joe, there is something here from the boss. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here you go.  It is a gift from Mr.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Oh, wow, all right.  So this is apparently in response to what we did yesterday. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I was wondering if we were going to get in trouble.  Oh, Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill flavored citrus wine. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  That is so kind of him.  Really going all out.  I guess cheap wine for a guy who took a cheap shot—that being me—by having the porn star on.

Got to go. 

END

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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