updated 7/5/2006 12:24:38 PM ET 2006-07-05T16:24:38

Guests: Paul Pfingst, Michelle Suskauer, Margaret Finerty, Liz Daulton, Larry Sutton, Mark Edwards, Georgia Goslee

SUSAN FILAN, GUEST HOST:   Coming up, John Couey confessed to police that he buried Jessica Lunsford alive, but a jury will never hear about it after a judge throws the confession out.  We‘re going to play that confession for you, up next. 

The program about justice starts now.

Hi everyone.  I‘m Susan Filan.  First up on the docket, what you are about to hear is something the jury in the Jessica Lunsford case will never hear.  John Couey, a convicted sex offender, telling police how he raped, tortured and buried alive 9-year-old Jessica with her favorite stuffed anima.  We‘re warning you this confession is extremely disturbing and graphic.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

DETECTIVE:  As soon as I walked in this room, you told me that you had done something to Jessica and she underneath the back...

COUEY:  I didn‘t mean to do it, though.

DETECTIVE:  OK.  Johnny, listen to me.  You‘re all right.  Like I told you before...

COUEY:  I‘m sick.

DETECTIVE:  It‘s a disease, Johnny, and we‘re going to help you out with it.

COUEY:  I‘ve never done it before in my life.  I mean I...

DETECTIVE:  It just happened, didn‘t it?  Like I said, it went one step too far, didn‘t it?  John, listen to me.  I know it‘s going to be hard, but you‘ve got to tell me from the start what happened that night.

(CROSSTALK)

COUEY:  We come off of that party. 

DETECTIVE:  Come off of that party?

COUEY:  Yes, the one y‘all was talking about and we done some crack, my sister --  I was going high and I was drunk.  I went over there and took her out of her house.

DETECTIVE:  Whose?

COUEY:  Her house, her own...

DETECTIVE:  Who?  Who we talking about?  

COUEY:  Jessica‘s house.

DETECTIVE:  How do you get into her house?

COUEY:  The door was unlocked.

DETECTIVE:  OK.  So she gets up and she walks out of the house with you.

COUEY:  Yes, sir.

DETECTIVE:  Where did you go?

COUEY:  I take her to my house. 

DETECTIVE:  Into your bedroom?

COUEY:  Yes, sir.

DETECTIVE:  She climbs up that ladder with you.

COUEY:  Yes, sir.  Yes, she went in first.

DETECTIVE:  OK.

COUEY:  Then I went in behind her. 

DETECTIVE:  What happens next?

COUEY:  Then I sexually assaulted her.

DETECTIVE:  Did she know that we were out there looking for her?

COUEY:  Yes, she knew.  I told her y‘all were.  And I told her ya‘ll -

I said they‘re out there looking for you and she seen it on TV too.

DETECTIVE:  What happened next?

COUEY:  I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it, buried her.  I pushed—I put her in a plastic bag, plastic Baggies. 

DETECTIVE:  Was she dead already?

COUEY:  No, she was still alive.  I buried her alive.  Like it‘s stupid, but she—she suffered.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

FILAN:  Chilling, gruesome, but today, Judge Richard Howard ruled that John Couey‘s confession about killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford had to be thrown out.  Why? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF JUDGE RICHARD HOWARD, CITRUS COUNTY, FL CIRCUIT COURT:  He said no les than eight times in 46 seconds the following phrases.  I want a lawyer.  I just want to talk to a lawyer.  I want a lawyer here present.  I want to talk to a lawyer because I mean something I didn‘t do.  I said I want to talk to a lawyer to get this thing straight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  Well that‘s bad news for the prosecution.  It may not be fatal to the case.  Judge Howard also ruled that evidence found after Couey confessed was admissible, including Jessica‘s body and blood from a mattress in the mobile home where Couey stayed that matched Jessica‘s DNA.

Joining me now, Michelle Suskauer, a Florida defense attorney, Judge Margaret Finerty, a retired New York criminal court judge and Paul Pfingst, a former San Diego County district attorney.  Paul, let me start with you.  How bad a ruling is this for the prosecution and how bad a mistake was this on behalf of the police? 

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER SAN DIEGO COUNTY D.A.:  Well, the police were faced with some very difficult problems.  They did not know whether Jessica was alive or dead, so they pressed the margins, they pressed the envelope, and the judge was right to say they went too far.  That having been said, this is not the only statement that is admissible against the defendant, so there‘s another confession that can come in. 

DNA evidence can come in.  Circumstantial evidence can come in.  This man—the prosecutors still have a very strong case against this man, so this may be a lot of stress because the precise details of the killing won‘t be known to the jury, but the jury I think will get a very good idea very quickly as to who did it. 

FILAN:  Michelle, take a listen to what the sheriff‘s office had to say in—about this confession and how the police did their interrogation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF JEFFREY DAWSEY, CITRUS COUNTY, FL:  I will tell you that if I had the decision today to who I would send to interview John Couey, I would not change my decision.  Those were two excellent investigators.  They did not do anything deliberately or maliciously to violate John Couey‘s rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  Michelle, what do you say about that?  The judge clearly said (UNINTELLIGIBLE) soluble, that‘s out, and yet you‘ve got the police defending it. 

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  It‘s such a big mistake.  It‘s unbelievable to me that they would defend that.  This is basic police techniques 101, that if somebody asks for an attorney and you know as a prosecutor, Susan, you stop.  This wasn‘t a questionable, it wasn‘t I‘m not sure if I need an attorney and it was over and over again, just like the judge said, so for the law enforcement to say I would send the same guys and it wasn‘t done maliciously, well no one is saying it was done maliciously, but it was such an overeager move.

It was stupid.  It was not smart and the prosecutors, although they do have a very compelling case, they wanted this confession to come in.  They needed this confession to come in, too, and it‘s not going to. 

FILAN:  Judge Finerty, you know there may have been mitigating circumstances.  It‘s possible that they thought that this little girl was possibly still alive, police desperate to find her, yet take a listen to what the judge said about this police interrogation and this confession. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD:  They ignored his statements.  This court cannot ignore those statements.  Such police misconduct is not a mere technicality.  A technicality is signing an order in the wrong color ink, or stapling a paper in the wrong corner, or a police officer using the wrong batteries in his recorder.  This is a material and a profound violation of one of the most bedrock principles of criminal law. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  But Judge, in real life, there‘s always competing interests between police trying to save a life, police trying to solve a crime, and judges trying to apply the law.  Do you think the right call was made here today? 

MARGARET FINERTY, FORMER NY CRIMINAL COURT JUDGE:  I think based on the facts that I know the judge did make the right call.  I also understand why the police probably did what they did.  They thought if an attorney was brought to the scene, then they‘d never get a chance to find out where this little girl was or if she was still alive. 

However, the defendant was in custody and he had the right to invoke his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.  Now initially he agreed to speak with the police.  They did properly advise him of his right to remain silent, his right to an attorney, but then when they started to question about Jessica and say, well would you like to take a polygraph, he said whoa, wait a minute, I want an attorney, and he invoked his constitutional rights.  And at that point, it‘s very clear under the law they should have stopped questioning him and gotten him an attorney and they didn‘t do that, so I think the judge had no choice but to suppress a confession that was made in Georgia to those detectives.

FILAN:  I mean, Judge, these are some of the toughest calls that a judge has to make.  You can just imagine the judge sitting on the bench thinking rights, smites, this guy confessed to the most brutal horrible rape, torture murder of this little girl and yet the jury can‘t hear about it. 

Paul, what I want to ask you, I want to take a listen to what Jessica‘s dad had to say in response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA LUNSFORD‘S FATHER:  I know the prosecutors are going to do their job.  I know that the sheriff‘s department has done their job, you know, as far as bringing up the evidence, and, I, you know, I don‘t—

I‘m not worried about it.  I know that justice is going to work for Jessie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  I mean as a prosecutor, you‘ve got to do justice for Jessica, and you‘ve got to make that father, his faith in the system come true, and he sounds like he‘s putting his confidence in the prosecutors.  What would you say to him, Paul? 

PFINGST:  I would say the prosecutors still have a very strong case and relax.  I know how important it is for the family.  I‘ve dealt with crime victims, homicide victims‘ families for a very long time.  This is on the strong edge of cases.  There‘s still a lot here.  People should not over read the fact that this single piece of evidence is gone. 

This defense team is still facing an extraordinarily high uphill battle and in all likelihood, they‘re going to lose and because of the evidence in the case, in all likelihood, this man will get the death penalty because historically with this type of evidence, history teaches us that juries vote to convict and they vote to execute.

FILAN:  Paul, if this does go to a death penalty phase and he‘s convicted and there is a sentencing hearing, do you think the confession could come in at that point or do you think once it‘s out, it‘s always out?

PFINGST:  Well I think what‘s happened it‘s out—it‘s always out.  The judge did the prosecutors a favor.  They took the biggest appeal issue out of this case.  If these prosecutors had attempted to admit this confession and the defendant had been convicted and he had been sentenced to death, this issue would have been case one going into the federal courts and in all likelihood the conviction and the execution would have been reversed and it would have been a retrial. 

So I think the judge did the prosecutor a favor.  The prosecutors have enough evidence, and I think at the end of the day the result will be unchanged.  A strong case is still a strong case. 

FILAN:  Michelle, OK, so there‘s a victory for the defense today but listen to the kind of evidence the prosecution still has to introduce against John Couey.  This is from a jail guard.

Couey called the other guard over to his cell and said I don‘t appreciate people saying things about me.  I didn‘t mean to do what I did.  I didn‘t mean to kill her.

So he confesses again, prison guard overhears it.  That‘s clearly admissible.  As a defense lawyer, so the confession is out, but he‘s still going down, wouldn‘t you agree? 

SUSKAUER:  Oh, I agree.  I mean this really is a compelling case and what‘s interesting is in Florida, although if we—assuming that we get to the penalty phase, when the jury makes its recommendation, assuming it‘s going to make a recommendation of death and they won‘t hear about the confession, the judge is still obviously going to have it in his mind, he‘s heard it, he‘s made the ultimate decision, so it‘s still out there and I think that ultimately, we‘re going to have a conviction in this case.  Ultimately he will be sentenced to death.  I think all the evidence, the DNA evidence...

FILAN:  Tell us about the other evidence, Michelle.  Tell us about the other evidence.

SUSKAUER:  Well there‘s—well, you have—first of all, you have the proximity to—of Couey‘s location to where Jessica lives.  You have the compelling DNA evidence that‘s in the house.  You have obviously the body, which is coming in, the judge ruled, and the way that the body was found, what she was found with, which is really horrific, horrific, terrible evidence.  You have...

FILAN:  Michelle, what kind of DNA evidence does the prosecution have? 

SUSKAUER:  I believe that there‘s blood in the house that was found, if I‘m not mistaken, and so if the blood that matches Jessica, if the blood is in his home, obviously how did it get there.  Even though he didn‘t confess, I think that‘s going to be very compelling. 

I don‘t know how the jury is going to be able to ignore something like that.  So therefore the proximity of the body, the blood in the home, the proximity of the location of where she was taken, and his trailer, I think that‘s pretty much going to do it, plus any statements against interest that he made to any guards, that‘s going to come in against him...

FILAN:  Judge Finerty, how difficult is it to preside over a case as disgusting and horrible as this one, and yet still appropriately apply the law as needed, and keep this case on track so you don‘t get a jury making an erroneous decision based on emotion but you get a fair verdict based on evidence? 

FINERTY:  Oh it‘s incredibly difficult.  I mean this is such a tragic sad case and the judge is a human being and he no doubt feels tremendous sympathy and compassion for the family of little Jessica, but the judge has a job to do and he must apply the law to the facts as he finds them, at least at the hearing stage, and I think that‘s clearly what he did.  And I agree with Paul‘s point earlier that he did do the prosecution a tremendous favor, because this would have definitely been an issue on appeal if this confession were allowed into evidence and I think would have been grounds for reversal of a conviction ultimately if the jury ended up hearing it.

FILAN:  I think that‘s a great point.  And Judge, let‘s say you were presiding over this case.  Let‘s say the penalty phase came to you not to a jury for whatever reason, either it wasn‘t a capital conviction or it was just a straight guilty and you had to do the sentencing.  You come across a guy like this, you hear the facts as they‘re alleged and as the jury will hear them, even though the jury won‘t hear the confession, you‘ve heard because you had to rule on it to suppress it, and you know that his priors include fondling a child, drug possession, drug paraphernalia possession, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly intoxication, driving under the influence, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, fraud, larceny, and insufficient funds.  How do you keep your head on straight and do justice in this case?

FINERTY:  Well, it‘s very difficult, but you have to ultimately look at the evidence, and I do think the evidence in this case seems to be very compelling and of course you have a recidivist sex offender, a former child molester, and in this case if the allegations are true it‘s not only child molestation, but it‘s murder, and this little girl died in a horrific manner, so...

FILAN:  And Judge, would you be able to keep that confession out of your mind even though you‘re not allowed to use it against him? 

FINERTY:  Well as I said before, I think the evidence is so compelling, it doesn‘t even matter that he made that confession...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right.

FINERTY:  ... because everything else just points to guilt in this case. 

FILAN:  Right.  Michelle Suskauer, Margaret Finerty, Paul Pfingst, thanks very much for joining us. 

Coming up...

SUSKAUER:  Thank you.

PFINGST:  You‘re welcome.

FINERTY:  You‘re welcome.

FILAN:  ... for the first time we‘re finally learning why and how Mary Winkler says she killed her preacher husband and what she says drove her to do it.  Plus, for the first time, her kids visit her in jail.  We‘ve got the details up next. 

And the parents of one of the Duke lacrosse players charged with raping a stripper speak out in an exclusive interview with Dan Abrams.  You may have seen part of it on the “Today” show, but we‘ve got much more of this interview for you. 

Your e-mails send them to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN BOOTH, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION:  I was upset at him.  I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) criticizing me for things, the way I walked, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everything.  It was just building up to this point.  I was just tired of it.  I guess I just got to a point and snapped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  Just snapped?  That‘s what Mary Winkler told police after being arrested for killing her preacher husband.  Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Brian Booth read her statement on the stand in court today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOTH:  He had a shotgun he kept in the closet in a case.  I don‘t remember going to the closet or getting the shotgun or getting the gun.  The next thing I remember was hearing a loud boom.  I remember thinking that it wasn‘t as loud as I thought it would be.  I heard the boom and he rolled out of the bed on the floor. 

And I saw some blood on the floor and some bleeding around his mouth.  I went over and wiped his mouth off with the sheet.  I told him I was sorry and that I loved him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  So after weeks of speculation about why she would kill her husband, it looks like Mary Winkler says it was a fight over money?  Joining me now is Liz Daulton of WREC Radio, reporter in Memphis.  So Liz, what happened in court today? 

LIZ DAULTON, WREC RADIO (via phone):  A whole lot of testimony, but no decision.  That‘s really what happened today.  There were several witnesses called to the stand, a little bit of evidence brought out by the prosecution, but there was no decision and the judge has an indefinite amount of time until he makes that decision.

FILAN:  And what was the question that he was going to decide today? 

DAULTON:  The question—the basic proceedings of today was whether Mary Winkler can be released on bond.  Now the defense is hoping that she‘ll be released on conditional terms because they alluded to the fact that the judge said that this is being considered a capital case in his mind. 

FILAN:  But when you say the judge has—did you say unlimited time to make this decision? 

DAULTON:  Well, he‘s the judge, so basically whenever he feels like making the decision, filing in the proper papers, he can do so.  Of course, you know there are the several proceedings that will be coming up, obviously he‘d want to make a decision before August, so it‘s likely that it will happen within the next week, but there is no set time that it has to be made by.

FILAN:  Did he tip his hand in any way, give any indication to which way he was leaning?  Was his statement that he‘s considering this a capital case an indication that she‘s not likely to get bonded out?

DAULTON:  I wondered that myself.  Now the defense did allude that he had said that, but they also said that they‘re hoping it‘s going to be a release on conditional terms, such as release with supervised custody, things like that, maybe she‘ll have to wear an ankle monitoring device and have employment during that time, maybe probation of some sort, so...

FILAN:  Liz...

DAULTON:  ... which could go either way.

FILAN:  ... what did she look like when she was in court today and how did she react when you watched the sheriff read her statement?

DAULTON:  There was really no reaction from her other than when they read the autopsy report, and then there was like an emotional breakdown at that point in time, but that was really the only outstanding moment in time where she hung her head down and had an emotional breakdown. 

FILAN:  I mean what surprised me in listening to this is although we‘ve been speculating something really huge had to have happened to make her shoot him point-blank, close range in the back with a long gun and what we‘re hearing is they fought over money and he picked on her and she got sick of it.

DAULTON:  That‘s a possibility.  I mean we‘ve all heard so many different kinds of theories been dropped around and all these different ideas of what the defense could be mounting as their case, but the prosecution did weigh heavily into those bank statements and the different bank accounts that were opened in Mary Winkler‘s name.

FILAN:  Liz Daulton, thanks so very much.  It‘s good to know what court was like today.  Mary Winkler recently had a reunion with her kids in jail for the first time since she was arrested about three months ago, and my next guest is from “People” magazine and had an exclusive interview with Winkler‘s attorney about this surprise visit. 

Joining me now, “People” magazine senior editor, Larry Sutton.  Hi, Larry. 

Thanks for joining us.

LARRY SUTTON, “PEOPLE” MAGAZINE SENIOR EDITOR:  You‘re quite welcome. 

FILAN:  So what‘s the story?  What happened during the surprise visit with her kids?

SUTTON:  Well she wasn‘t counting on it because for months and months, she‘s been in jail for three months now, she had requested that her three children come visit her in jail.  Those requests were first met by silence and then just a few days ago on a Sunday, her in-laws took the three daughters to the prison to meet with her and it was quite an emotional reunion.  There were tears everywhere.  They were crying.  The kids were going and putting their hands up to the glass wall, the glass partition...

FILAN:  Oh she couldn‘t touch them? 

SUTTON:  No, she couldn‘t touch them.  She was behind a barricade and she could look at them through a glass wall but she couldn‘t touch them.  As a matter of fact, she asked the in-laws, could you please bring my youngest one up a little closer so I can see if she still remembers me.  She‘s only a year old, so we couldn‘t tell of course whether she remembered her or not. 

She asked the little one too to walk around the room and crawl.  She just wanted to see what kind of progress she made as a 1-year-old, but as I say, the theme of the afternoon was tears.  She told the kids when they came into the room, look I know there‘s a lot of emotion, if you‘ve got tears inside you, if they‘re welling up, just let them all out and they did.

FILAN:  And did the kids say anything that was particularly of note that seems like it might...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... hit to the defense? 

SUTTON:  Sure.  There was one remark made by the oldest daughter who‘s about 8 years old, who said gee, mom, look at your hands.  They don‘t seem so marked up anymore.  Now, we asked Mary‘s attorney, Mr. Farese, what does that mean.  He didn‘t want to go into any kind of speculation one way or another.  Some people say well maybe gee, she had bruises on the hand before, now she doesn‘t have bruises.  We don‘t know for sure and that didn‘t come out in court today.

FILAN:  Right.  The thing about that to me though is she‘s setting up the battered women‘s defense, using her kids as leaks.  I think it‘s just so exploitive and also if she was a battered woman and it showed on her hand, everybody would have seen her hands.  Hands aren‘t a secret, so I just wonder about that...

SUTTON:  That could be, except that you know there‘s so much that we don‘t know about her background.  What little we learned today, you know, this motive of I had money problems and I snapped, well, what led up to those money problems, and were there other things there that were sort of building and building and building in Mary Winkler before she took that terrible decision and got the gun and shot her husband. 

FILAN:  Most people in those situations get a divorce, Larry...

SUTTON:  Or they walk out the door. 

FILAN:  What‘s her relationship like with her in-laws? 

SUTTON:  With who, pardon me.

FILAN:  Her in-laws.

SUTTON:  Her in-laws, it‘s not that great at the moment I have to say.  I think for a while there it‘s because the in-laws are taking care of her children, she thought perhaps they‘d be on her side and they did go visit her in the jailhouse, but the lawyer, Mr. Farese again, tells us that, you know, she shouldn‘t count on them to be great character witnesses for her when the trial finally comes about this fall. 

FILAN:  And do you think there‘s any motive behind why the in-laws let the kids visit her now right before this bond hearing today?

SUTTON:  Well I think there might be a little bit of a motive in that she doesn‘t want—they don‘t want to appear as if they are totally abandoning her.  As I said, these requests were made to visit months ago, and the fact that they come about just sort of a few days...

FILAN:  Yes.

SUTTON:  ... before this hearing, may be—looks a little suspicious, maybe it isn‘t.  I don‘t know.  Maybe they just, you know, you‘ve got to give the in-laws, the grandparents a lot of credit.  They‘re—you know, here‘s a couple, elderly couple—elderly—they‘re in their 50‘s, but they didn‘t expect to get a whole new second family forced upon them out of the blue and they‘re dealing with a lot and they‘re taking care of the kids doing a good job. 

FILAN:  Larry, thanks so much for joining us. 

SUTTON:  You‘re quite welcome.

FILAN:  Coming up, for the first time the parents of one of the players in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation breaks their license in an exclusive interview with Dan Abrams.  They say their son is innocent, has an alibi and that D.A. Mike Nifong is motivated by politics. 

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

Police are looking for John Lennon.  He‘s 38 years old, five-foot-eleven, weighs 150 pounds.  He was convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child and has not registered his address with the state.  If you have any information on his whereabouts, please call the Wisconsin State Police at 608-240-5830.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY ELLEN FINNERTY, SON CHARGED IN DUKE RAPE CASE:  He explained it very briefly, because literally they were in a rush to get down to the police department and basically said, don‘t worry, you know this—nothing happened, but there was a party, there was a stripper, she claimed there was a rape, and we‘re being questioned now, and asked to give our DNA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  The parents of one of the Duke lacrosse players charged with raping a stripper at a team party back in March break their silence.  Collin Finnerty‘s parents sat down with our own Dan Abrams for an exclusive interview and they‘re more convinced now than ever that the accuser is lying, nothing happened in the house that night, and their son is innocent.  They tell us their side of the story from the beginning when they first heard these allegations back in April. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC GENERAL MANAGER:  Were you concerned that there had been some sort of rape, that Collin wasn‘t involved in, in that house that night? 

KEVIN FINNERTY, SON CHARGED IN DUKE RAPE CASE:  To tell you the truth, we know the boys on the team very well.  We know most of the families.  We know most of the boys, and quite honestly, it would be totally inconsistent.  These are good kids, good families, and quite honestly, it didn‘t sound right from the get-go. 

ABRAMS:  So there was never a point where you thought to yourself, oh, boy, maybe something got out of hand in that house that night, even if Collin wasn‘t involved, that could just be bad for all of them?

(CROSSTALK)

M.E. FINNERTY:  Well based on the way it was told to us, we were confident in what he was telling us.  We knew he was telling the truth. 

ABRAMS:  What does he say happened that night at the party? 

K. FINNERTY:  Nothing happened.  Zero.  Nothing happened. 

ABRAMS:  Just that there were strippers there and that they eventually left and that nothing happened? 

K. FINNERTY:  I think there were clearly strippers there, they were there for a brief period of time.  Collin had nothing to do with the arranging of their arrival, he was in the room, he saw them come, he saw them go. 

M.E. FINNERTY:  He...

(CROSSTALK)

M.E. FINNERTY:  No, he didn‘t see them go.  He left early. 

ABRAMS:  When you first heard that Collin was on this short list of people who might be indicted, what did you think?

M.E. FINNERTY:  Terrified.  Devastated.  Didn‘t make any sense to us.  We knew that he had nothing to do with it, and nothing happened and, you know, why this nightmare was beginning.  We had no clue. 

ABRAMS:  Were you stunned to hear that Collin was one of the ones who was going to be indicted? 

K. FINNERTY:  Oh, absolutely.  Totally.  It was...

M.E. FINNERTY:  It was—we were blown away.  I mean the only thing I could describe it as is feeling like you got hit in the stomach with a baseball bat.  All three of us were totally shocked. 

ABRAMS:  Have you ever for a moment wondered whether it‘s possible that he could have been involved in something like this?

M.E. FINNERTY:  No. 

K. FINNERTY:  Absolutely not...

M.E. FINNERTY:  Totally innocent.  Totally not Collin.  Anybody that would—that knows Collin, he‘s a very gentle boy, and it‘s not within his character at all, and nothing happened at all with any member of the team. 

ABRAMS:  How has he been holding up through all of this? 

M.E. FINNERTY:  It‘s been difficult.  But I think given the difficulty, he‘s actually doing as well as could be expected.  You know, I think he‘s got a strong faith.  I think he‘s got huge support from his siblings, from his friends, from his girlfriend, from our extended families, and truly that‘s what gets us all through every day. 

K. FINNERTY:  You know, I think in addition to that, Collin is innocent, he knows he‘s innocent, he knows where he was, he knows who was with him.  I think he takes great comfort in knowing the truth. 

ABRAMS:  We‘ve heard a lot about Reade Seligmann, one of the other young men that‘s been indicted, alibi.  There‘s photographs at an ATM.  There are witness accounts.  There‘s cell phone records.  There‘s the time that he swiped his...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... card into the—into his dorm, and we haven‘t heard anything about Collin‘s alibi.  Does he have one? 

K. FINNERTY:  He does and a very good one.  From the outset, our legal team, our counsel is adamant that they will not reveal our evidence in the media.  That said, Collin has significant exculpatory evidence.  He has numerous eyewitnesses every step of the way, every minute of the night. 

Clearly there was two DNA tests done and obviously no DNA.  He has numerous phone calls around the time in question, many incoming, many outgoing.

M.E. FINNERTY:  Restaurants.

K. FINNERTY:  He has receipts and he also swiped himself with his card back into his dorm.

ABRAMS:  So you‘re saying that he, like Reade Seligmann, has an alibi that would make it impossible that he could have committed this crime? 

K. FINNERTY:  Impossible. 

M.E. FINNERTY:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  You‘re entirely convinced that she is just making this up, totally lying?

K. FINNERTY:  Totally. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FILAN:  Coming up, more of Dan‘s exclusive interview with Collin Finnerty‘s parents.  Wait until you hear the real reason they think the D.A. is prosecuting the case. 

Plus, a lot of you have a lot to say about Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave getting off with little or no prison time compared to male teachers convicted of having sex with their students.  We‘ll read your e-mails up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FILAN:  Did the D.A. in the Duke rape case use the accuser‘s story to help win his own election?  More of Dan‘s exclusive interview with the parents of one of the suspects in the case up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FILAN:  Back now with more of Dan Abrams exclusive interview with Collin Finnerty‘s parents about the Duke lacrosse rape case.  They say they think the D.A. indicted their son to help his election campaign and they tell us why they think the accuser made up this story and why they think she picked their son out of a photo lineup. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  The accuser looked at a photo lineup of various Duke lacrosse players.  As Collin‘s photo was shown, she stopped and she said, that‘s one of the guys.  Why do you think that she stopped on Collin? 

M.E. FINNERTY:  Could have been anybody there.  I just think it was sort of a pin the tail on the donkey. 

K. FINNERTY:  I think it was totally random.  There are numerous conspiracy theories out there about why she might have picked one boy over another, but to tell you the truth, I think everybody knows on that team that nothing happened, and everybody knew that they were looking for somebody, and that the D.A. was committed to having three people arrested, and as we‘ve all read, they only showed pictures of lacrosse players.  They basically said pick three.  Pretty unbelievable. 

ABRAMS:  Are you at all worried that someone who was at that party is going to say well I saw something that is inconsistent with Collin or the other young men‘s stories? 

K. FINNERTY:  No, we‘re not.  Not at all. 

ABRAMS:  So no one is going to turn...

K. FINNERTY:  Nobody.  No one is going to turn, because there‘s nothing to turn on.

ABRAMS:  Are you angry? 

M.E. FINNERTY:  Sure.  I‘m angry that my family and the Seligmanns and the Evans that we‘re going through—what we‘re going through right now.  But I hope that, you know, I have faith in the justice system, and faith that the truth will prevail, and we will all move forward when this nightmare ends. 

ABRAMS:  The D.A. has said that he is convinced there was a rape.  That he believes her story and he‘s moved forward in this case against your son.  Why do you think he‘s doing it? 

K. FINNERTY:  I think this man was looking for a case that he could hold out to the public before that May Democratic Primary, and this came along and man, he ran with it. 

ABRAMS:  So in an effort to get reelected, you think he indicted your son? 

M.E. FINNERTY:  It‘s a frightening thought, but yes, I do think that‘s what happened. 

ABRAMS:  You‘re convinced the accuser is lying.  What do you think her motivation is, money? 

K. FINNERTY:  Quite honestly, I don‘t think it‘s money.  I think that this woman, who was by all accounts, impaired, if not significantly impaired, found herself with the police on her way to jail.  And I think whether she came to or she realized where she was going, and I think defense mechanism, she did what she had to do to get out of that predicament and personally I think that‘s why she did what she did. 

ABRAMS:  There‘s been a lot of talk about three rich white kids and a African American woman of lesser means and a lot of people have framed this story in that context.  What do you make of that? 

K. FINNERTY:  I think this is about the truth.  What is the truth? 

What happened and what didn‘t happen.  It has nothing to do with class.  It‘s not anything to do with money.  This is about the truth.  And we know that the truth is on our side and we know that Collin is innocent and we know that all the boys are innocent, and we know that nothing happened that night. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s been months now and the two of you have remained silent.  You‘ve been asked to do interviews again and again, why have you decided to go public now? 

M.E. FINNERTY:  Well, I think the time was right now.  I think that public opinion is shifting.  There‘s so many positives for the boys.  It‘s time for the public to know them. 

K. FINNERTY:  And at this point, having seen what is theoretically all of the evidence that they have, that the D.A. has in this case, we realize that there is no case or there shouldn‘t be a case.  We know that Collin is innocent and we have actually been waiting patiently to get this story out that Collin does in fact have a lot of exculpatory evidence. 

ABRAMS:  So you‘re convinced that Collin‘s alibi is as strong as Reade Seligmann‘s? 

M.E. FINNERTY:  Yes.

K. FINNERTY:  Airtight. 

ABRAMS:  Meaning he couldn‘t have done it? 

K. FINNERTY:  Absolutely not.  Couldn‘t have and wouldn‘t have. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FILAN:  Coming up, what does our legal team make of Dan‘s exclusive interview?  Is it time now for D.A. Nifong to drop the charges or should he stick to his guns and go ahead with this case? 

And we‘re not the only ones debating the apparent double standard between male and female teachers accused of having sex with their students.  So are you.  Your e-mails up next. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  This week we‘re in Wisconsin.

Police need your help finding Willie Morris.  He‘s 40 years old, six-foot-one, weighs 258 pounds.  He was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child, hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you have any information on his whereabouts, please call the Wisconsin State Police at 608-240-5830.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

K. FINNERTY:  Collin has taken and has passed with flying colors, no surprise, a polygraph test, and so Reade and Dave and Collin have all taken and all passed polygraph tests. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FILAN:  Dan Abrams gets the exclusive interview with the parents of one of the men charged in the Duke rape case.  They say they believe the victim is lying, the D.A. indicted three players to ensure his reelection, their son is innocent and he‘s got an airtight alibi to prove it. 

Joining me now former prosecutor Georgia Goslee and North Carolina criminal defense attorney Mark Edwards.  Mark...

MARK EDWARDS, NC CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... is this going to be the thing that gets D.A. Nifong to change his tune and drop this case because this boy‘s mom and dad believe he‘s innocent, got an alibi, and it‘s airtight? 

EDWARDS:  I don‘t think so, no.  I think he‘s still going to prosecute the case. 

FILAN:  Well do you think this is significant? 

EDWARDS:  No, I think what has been significant are all the things that have come out about the evidence or the lack of evidence in the case.  Someone asked me the other day whether I thought the prosecution‘s case was unraveling.  I told them after hearing all this evidence I don‘t think it was ever raffled.  I don‘t think there ever was a case.  I don‘t think this case should have been indicted at all. 

FILAN:  Well it is kind of newsworthy I think that the parents are now telling us that this is not only an alibi for Collin Finnerty, but it‘s the second allegedly airtight alibi in this case.  Don‘t you think that‘s significant for these boys? 

EDWARDS:  Well, it‘s significant to a certain extent, but I think what‘s even more significant and the bigger problems that the state has with the case are the problems with the case that existed well before there were ever-even charges brought.  The number of times she said different numbers of people were involved in this rape...

FILAN:  Right.

EDWARDS:  ... the way that the allegations were brought as his father...

FILAN:  Oh, sure, I mean yes, we‘ve certainly heard all the witnesses in the case, but Georgia, now we‘ve heard another boy has an alibi, supposedly airtight, his mom and dad vouching for him.  Who would know their own son better than mom and dad?  What do you think? 

GEORGIA GOSLEE, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, let me say this, Susan, Dan Abrams did an excellent job interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Finnerty and quite frankly, they look like very nice people and you can certainly see his expression of compassion for the situation they find themselves in.  Not only is this insignificant, in the context of a criminal trial, it‘s really irrelevant...

FILAN:  Wait, Georgia, you can‘t say alibi is irrelevant. 

GOSLEE:  Listen, Susan, this interview can be summed up in one word, they‘re his parents for Christ‘s sake.  Parents will fall on a sword for their children any day.  And listen, sometimes parents are like a wife whose husband has been cheating on them.  Sometimes they‘re the last to know and...

FILAN:  OK, well wait a second.  Let‘s say yes, it‘s just mom and dad, so who cares.  They‘re going to say anything to save their son.  What about the fact of the alibi?  Now they‘re saying receipts.  They‘re saying restaurants.  They‘re saying...

GOSLEE:  Susan, we haven‘t seen anything.  We hear a conclusion taking

the word alibi, we haven‘t seen anything that‘s definitive not only Reade -

even in Reade Seligmann‘s case, they‘re saying that they have an airtight alibi on one side, then the other side, they‘re saying completely that there are total inconsistencies, so if you‘re absolutely certain that you have an airtight alibi against which set of facts are you lining it up with. 

FILAN:  Georgia, let me ask you this.  You‘re the prosecutor in this case, you‘ve got a victim who‘s got a lot of inconsistencies in her story, there‘s a lot of things that don‘t add up, a lot of corroboration that doesn‘t exist and now you‘ve got alibis.  You can‘t tell me that you are thinking twice about walking through that courtroom door and starting this trial. 

GOSLEE:  Susan, listen, that‘s not the way our judicial system works.  When all of the evidence was turned over, or all of the discovery was reviewed by Dan, and we kept asking, why should Nifong not drop the case, you simply don‘t give a jury all of the discovery and let them read through it and then ask them are they guilty or innocent.  That‘s not the way the system works.  All I want is for this young lady to have her day in court. 

The mom says clearly she has a great belief in the judicial system and so do I and I would assume that you do too.  I just don‘t see why you‘re trying to constantly suggest that the defendants in this case get a free pass.  Why would Nifong drop the case?  It doesn‘t make sense. 

FILAN:  Georgia, let me just—just head on this question for me, please.  Are you as the prosecutor a little nervous, a little worried? 

GOSLEE:  No...

FILAN:  Not at all?

GOSLEE:  Listen, he is not worried.  I‘m not worried, because we believe just as adamantly as you do, you‘re ossified in your belief and so am I, and I have to believe that Nifong is.  No, we‘re not nervous because all he has to do is establish the elements of the rape and it‘s believed the defendants will be convicted, so there‘s no reason to be nervous. 

FILAN:  All right.  Mark...

EDWARDS:  He should be nervous. 

FILAN:  Georgia—Mark said he should be nervous.

GOSLEE:  I don‘t think so. 

FILAN:  Thanks for joining us.  Coming up, should there be a double standard for women teachers who enjoy private sex-ed with their students?  Your e-mails up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FILAN:  Time now for “Your Rebuttal”.  A lot of you writing in about the ongoing debate over whether there is and should be a double standard when it comes to female teachers who have sex with their male students and male teachers who have sex with their female students. 

From Tampa, Florida, Maria R. “Give me a break.  Justice is supposed to be blind, not dumb.  Any teacher, male or female, should go to prison or at least be prosecuted if they‘re found to be having sex with a minor student male or female, period.”

Virginia Klein writes from Sequim, Washington, “I am absolutely appalled that the statements made by Geoffrey Fieger saying that there should be double standards.  To look at the crime individually is not acceptable because if we start doing that, then it opens too many windows for justifying this action over that action.  Laws have to blanket the whole.”

And some of you upset with our guest, defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger.  From New York City, RLB.  “Geoffrey Fieger has got to be kidding.  I‘m absolutely outraged by what he said regarding teachers and students engaging in sexual acts.  There‘s absolutely no excuse.  Teachers are supposed to be role models, not sexual partners.”

But Monument Beach, Massachusetts, Don Atripes (ph), “Having had my first sexual experience at 14 with a 22-year-old woman, I can tell you that the double standard is both appropriate and should be observed as a biological reality.”

And from Los Angeles, Charles writes, “Enough is enough already.  As usual, Geoffrey Fieger is the voice of reason amongst seemingly endless packs of hysterical—not funny hysterical, but neurotically hysterical—prosecutors who seem to have their own psychological problems, mostly having to do with not having yet attained adulthood or in part out of an intense personal need for retribution based on faulty ideas as to what constitutes real life.”

Let me tell you something, I know what real life is.  Send your e-mails to the abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We‘ll go through them and read them at the end of the show. 

That does it for us.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Bye-bye.

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

END   

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