updated 10/12/2007 11:56:32 AM ET 2007-10-12T15:56:32

Guests: Steven Rothman, Katrina Vanden Heuvel

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  It was hard to believe five years ago today, the United States Senate voted to authorize military action against Iraq.  And now, five years later, some of the Democrats elected in large part to end the war seem to be finally putting their toughest “Out of Iraq” plan yet, pledging not to vote for any more funding for the war unless it‘s a timetable for withdrawal attached.  Politico.com even saying, quote, “This may be the beginning of the end of the Iraq war when back in July, 17 Democrats in the House made the pledge.  Now the Democrats have added at least 17 more to their ranks, 87 in all.  They‘ve written a new letter to the president.” 

But the question remains, where are the rest of them?  And is this really the beginning of the end?

Joining me now, U.S. Congressman Steven Rothman, a Democrat from New Jersey, he‘s one of the 87 who signed the letter.  Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of “The Nation” and MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan.  Thanks to all of you coming on.  Appreciate it.  Congressman Rothman, let me start with you on the practical question—is this really the beginning of the end?

CONGRESSMAN STEVEN ROTHMAN, (D) NEW JERSEY:  Well, I sure hope so.  It‘s in America‘s national security interests to get our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.  President Bush says he has no intention of pulling our troops out of Iraq before he leaves the White House.  And so, it‘s incumbent upon the Congress as a co-equal branch of government responsible for spending the money of the taxpayers to say spending money on the continuation of this war is wrong.

ABRAMS:  Alright, Congressman, but here‘s the problem.  And I want you to listen to this piece of sound.  This is your colleague, Representative Adam Smith, the fellow Democrat on this program describing to us the problem with what you just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SMITH, (D) WASHINGTON:  Our choice is—cut the funds off entirely from the Department of Defense for the 160,000 troops in a war zone, or, accept the president‘s policies?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  (inaudible)

SMITH:  And yes, you‘re right.  We‘re not willing to accept the

consequences of cutting all the money off on troops because the Republicans

are too stubborn and too -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  And so, I think the problem, Congressman Rothman is that many of your own colleagues, many of the Democrats in Congress, still seem unwilling.  But you‘ve gotten 17 more.  The question is—is this really a trend?  Is this really going to change things?  The fact that you have 17 more today than you did in July, reflective of a real shift?

ROTHMAN:  The answer to that question is yes.  But just remember, think of what happened a week ago when the majority of the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans voted for the first time to demand the president come up with a plan for withdrawal from Iraq.  I think part of it was too little, too late but we couldn‘t have gotten that vote last week a year ago.  And yes, there is progress in getting most Democrats to say to the president, “We‘re not going to give you the money to continue this war without end.”  The real problem, though, is getting the Republicans to join with us because we do not have a “veto-proof majority” in either the House or the Senate.

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  And Katrina, that‘s what the Democrats who don‘t want to vote for this say or that‘s what the Republicans are saying.  They‘re effectively saying that we don‘t have the votes to override a veto.  But the problem is, this is a Democratic majority that was elected in large part to end the war.  Don‘t they have some sort of obligation simply to make the vote at the very least?

KATRINAVANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION:  It‘s good to hear the congressman speak about the moral, military, and economic disaster—catastrophe we‘ve witnessed in the last past five years.  You have to remember Dan, a majority of the House Democrats voted against the war authorization.  And you see today, 87 Democrats of conscience—understanding that you - they are a co-equal branch of government and they use the funds to protect and bring back the troops.  That is the real meaning of support the troops?

ABRAMS:  Do they have the political will to not just have -

VANDEN HEUVEL:  The House -

ABRAMS:  Not just have 87 of them write a letter which is going to have no impact but to actually get the steam going.  They got 17 more than they did in July.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Here‘s the problem - here‘s the problem, Dan—you

made this out to be something fairly new.  This is been going on—the

members of the progressive caucus in the House have been working very hard

over this last - this last year to put forward a legislation to protect the

troops and bring them home.  The problem is, first of all—the

obstructionist Republicans.  Second, you have a Democratic leadership

because of the media in this country; they fear being painted as Democrats

who have undercut the troops but in reality, this legislation to use the

funds only to bring the troops home, which will then lead to the

possibility of -

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Regional diplomacy—of dealing with the humanitarian catastrophe that a military occupation can never deal with, that is where we need to bring our attention.  But you know what?  It‘s going to be in the presidential—I fear it would be left to our president in 2009.  That is what President Bush has told us.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I think you‘re right.  And I think you‘re -

VANDEN HEUVEL:  We need a presidential candidate who will speak clearly about a re-elected strategy.

ABRAMS:  Well, let me - let me bring in Pat on this.  Pat, I - look, we‘re talking about this you know, a sort of almost philosophically and theoretically.  You‘re very practical about this stuff.  I mean, is there, the fact that there‘s 17 more than there were in July, does that mean that we‘re going to see 17 more in a couple of months from now and 17 more after that?  And maybe that it‘ll snowball and get quicker and quicker and they‘ll finally have the majority they need?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Eighty-seven votes is exactly, if you do the math, one-fifth of the House of Representatives and it‘s a Democratic house.  This is meaningless.  This is 87 mice who were signing a resolution to the cat in the White House.  That‘s all it is, Dan.  We‘re going—and Katrina is correct in this sense.  you‘re going to wind out in November of 2008 and January of 2009, I would guess, for around 120,000 American troops in Iraq or however many Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush believe ought to be there.  The Democrats do not have the courage to cut off funds and stop sending the money to the troops and saying bring them home.  They just do not have it.  The leadership doesn‘t have it.  The majority of Democrats don‘t have it.  And the Republicans aren‘t with them.  Not yet (ph).

ABRAMS:  Right.  Congressman Rothman, quick response and I‘ve got to move on.

ROTHMAN:  First of all, the Democrats are getting there.  I think the Democrats are a little bit behind the American people on this—American people want us to get out right away.  But the Democrats are far ahead down the road, much further than our friends on the Republican side of the aisle who are supporting the president‘s stay-of- course policy to a person.

ABRAMS:  Alright.  Moving on: The Bush administration continues its twisted legal logic in a new brief before the Supreme Court saying that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, quote, “( Detainess) enjoy more procedural protections than any other captured enemy combatants in the history of warfare.”  It‘s part of the administration effort to prevent the courts from reviewing habeas corpus petitions from any foreign Gitmo detainee.

My take.  C‘mon, suddenly the administration is comparing the detentions at Guantanamo with other wars.  How many times we heard this war is different that these aren‘t prisoners of war as they were another conflict?  But they‘re enemy combatants.  They can‘t have it both ways.  Furthermore, the comparison‘s useless.  Because unlike other wars, where the enemy is released in the end of the conflict, there‘s no end in sight for this war on terror.  So, there must be some additional procedural protections, why are they so afraid of the courts having any say at all over even last-ditch appeals.  Pat, what do you make it?

BUCHANAN:  Look, excuse me, but the administration‘s got this point. 

In world war II, we had tens of thousands of German prisoners in the United

States of America who had no rights whatsoever.  You know when the six we

captured who snuck ashore, their secret trial was held, eight of them—

two of them defected.  Six of them were tried and executed with the

approval of the Supreme Court in one week.  These fellas are not prisoners

of war per se, they‘re not fighting for a state, they‘re fighting for a war

of terror and they kill -

ABRAMS:  But Pat, but what about my point—you can‘t have it both ways.  You can‘t on the one hand say they‘re different.  They‘re enemy combatants and therefore, we never had a war like this.  And then on other hand, in legal papers say, “Oh yeah, I‘m going to compare the way they‘ve been treated to prisoners of war as the way they‘ve been treated in previous conflicts.”

BUCHANAN:  I think they‘re exactly right.  As I‘ve said the Germans had no rights here.  These guys do have rights but they are not soldiers, they are terrorists or suspected terrorists who murdered civilians.  In wartime, under the Geneva Convention, you can take them out and shoot them.  And they are—they do have protections in the United States, maybe they‘re not all folks would like but they do have protections here that no other prisoners of war have ever had.  That‘s a true statement.

ABRAMS:  Right.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Excuse me, Pat.

ABRAMS:  Katrina, go ahead.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I mean, the United States—the United States Supreme Court would disagree with you, Pat.  And this is a court of Bush appointees for the most part.  They have rebuked this president and this vice president for unprecedented expansions of executive power and for violating the Geneva Convention for U.S. law and international law in the way they‘ve treated these detainees.  But the main point, it seems to me, Pat, is that the Bush strategy has not only been ineffectually morally reprehensible, it‘s made us less secure.  The use of torture, the use of torture which is un-American, has now permitted—you cannot take these cases to a U.S.  court because they will be thrown out.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I have little bit of experience here.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Thrown out.

BUCHANAN:  My great grandfather fought for the confederacy.  He was captured in Atlanta, and he went to that camp I believed it was O‘Donnell or something in Illinois which is a brutal camp and a lot of them died in that camp and never got home to the South.  Now, how many people have died who have not killed themselves in Guantanamo?

ROTHMAN:  Dan, if I can enter this discussion?

BUCHANAN:  My understanding is zero.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s see. Yes, Congressman, you can come in.  But I want to focus again on what I view as the hypocrisy of the particular statement.  But go ahead, congressman?

ROTHMAN:  First of all, there‘s lot of differences between World War II and this war on terror.  These individuals are not wearing uniforms and there was no trial like there was of the secret folks who were secretly tried and World War II as Pat alluded to.  First of all, Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Rice have agreed with many of us that Guantanamo should be closed—number one.  Number two—I think it‘s a disgrace, a national dishonor for the United States to be holding people without charge without finding out if they‘re innocent or guilty and holding them for years.  That‘s un-American.

ABRAMS:  Look, but what I am trying to focus on here is this new legal filing that is made that basically they‘re saying the courts should have no oversight.  They should not been able to hear last-ditch appeals and the bottom line is, I don‘t know why—we‘re not talking about a long protracted drought (ph), habeas petitions here.  And I think that it‘s shameful Pat, that they‘re so afraid of the courts.

BUCHANAN:  But Dan, what would you say -

VANDEN HEUVEL:  They shredded the Constitution, Dan.  You would follow that in this show.

ABRAMS:  Let me give Pat a final word on that.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, what would you say that the German prisoners, someone who held up in Northern New Hampshire if they petitioned the court that their rights are violated in World War II.  Are you kidding?

ABRAMS:  I know.  Pat, so what?  So, the courts - the courts will throw it out.  Don‘t worry so much about the courts.  They‘re not crazy.

BUCHANAN:  Tell it to the Germans who are tried in the secret courts and executed.

ROTHMAN:  But they got a trial.  These individuals have not been charged let alone given a trial.

ABRAMS:  But my concern is the primarily on the fear of the courts on this.  To Congressman Rothman, thanks a lot.  We appreciate you‘re coming on the program.  Katrina and Pat are going to stay with us.

Up next: A lot of people are talking about the possibility of Al Gore stepping in to the race for president.  Tomorrow, he might even win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Is it also possible if he does run, and win the primary, that he could be the best candidate for Republicans to beat?  And a columbine copycat narrowly avoided in Philadelphia.  A 14-year-old boy‘s bedroom jam packed with over 30 rifles in Neo-Nazi literature we got late-breaking details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight, there‘s increasing talk about whether Al Gore might, could, actually, will run for president.  Yes, the supporters even took out a full-page ad in the “New York Times.”  He said he does not intend to run.  But intend doesn‘t mean certain.  Tomorrow, the now Academy-award winner could even win the Nobel peace prize.  Would he be a Democratic hero?  Or is he the one candidate Republicans could beat?  First, here‘s NBC‘s David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  He has become both a global force tackling climate change and a celebrated figure now in the running for the Nobel1 peace prize.  But does Al Gore still want to be president?  This summer, he said no, but not ever.

AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE-PRESIDENT:  I don‘t have any plans or intentions to be a candidate.

GREGORY:  Today, an advisor said even a Nobel prize is unlikely to change his mind.

MICHAEL FELDMAN, FORMER GORE ADVISER:  I think all of this is very exciting and interesting but he remains focused on the issue that he‘s been working on for more than 30 year and that‘s how to solve the climate crisis.

GREGORY:  Supporters aren‘t giving up.  There is a DraftGore website and yesterday backers placed a full page ad in the “New York Times.”

BILL MCCORMICK, DRAFTGORE.COM:  He offers two important things. One is eight years of experience in the White House and, second, he offers an ability to win the general election.

DAVID GREGORY (on camera):  Politically, Gore is seen by some as a potential savior in the ‘08 race with questions of frontrunner Hillary Clinton‘s electability in a GOP field leaving many Republicans dissatisfied.

(voice over):  His entry may be a long shot, but Democratic strategists say he could immediately change the race, that eclipsing the campaigns of Barack Obama and John Edwards.

FELDMAN:  He‘s gone from being somebody who left the stage to somebody who it turns out is right about every major issue whether its the war, the deficit, or now on global warming.

GREGORY:  In an interview for “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” of MSNBC, Senator Clinton dodged a question about Gore‘s impact, saying she hopes he wins the Nobel prize.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think we got great candidates running and we have a wonderful field.  You don‘t have to be against anybody.

GREGORY:  If the elusive Gore does not run, the only question left is who is he for?  David Gregory, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ABRAMS:  With the Gore speculation reaching a fevered pitch, are people really asking the most relevant question—would he be the strongest candidate to take on Rudy, Romney, or Fred Thompson?  Is it possible that Hillary, Obama, or Edwards have a better shot of actually winning?  Still with us Pat Buchanan and Katrina Vandel Heuvel.  Katrina, what do you make of the Gore candidacy?

VANDEL HEUVEL:  I think he would be the most electable.  I think he would - he‘d be the toughest for the GOP to beat.  He has the substance, the experience.  He even now has the buzz to take on, for example, an Obama.  He‘s reinvented himself.  He‘s become a crusader on one of the most important movements and issues of our time—climate change, global warming.  And he as - he‘s the man who feels like freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, he‘s kind of reinvented himself.  The question is, has our political system reinvented itself to allow someone to come forward who could speak his mind in the way that I think Al Gore is now doing in the citizen crusading space he‘s occupying.

ABRAMS:  You know, Pat, I think in 2004 that you know, Gore was viewed as a “has been.”  And I think that that was clear in terms of his endorsement, etcetera.  And I think that he‘s completely reinvented himself in the last four years.

BUCHANAN:  You know, I think you‘re right.  Let me say this—I think of Al Gore, depending on if he‘s lost weight and he really wants to run and if he steps out frankly and looks good, he would be I think the end of Edward immediately.  He would eclipse Obama.  And frankly, that would be a problem for Gore for there‘s an awful lot of African-Americans and others who have devoted to that candidacy and he would move him aside and I think he would give Hillary a run for this reason - as Katrina says - first, he is right on the environment which is a hugely important issue.  Secondly, he was from the Democratic standpoint right on the war.  He opposed it before it began.  He stood up and said, “Don‘t do it, no, it‘s wrong.”  And so, I think he could get some in the Liberal wing of the Democratic Party and also in the Senate.  And I think it would be a two-person race between Hillary and Al Gore.  I don‘t know which would be stronger right now—against the Republicans on paper but it‘s Al Gore.

VANDEL HEUVEL:  But I think Al Gore - I mean Pat, he‘s also the man who won the popular vote in 2000 as you said on the war, very important.  I also think, you know, some polls—of course, Hillary is very polarizing and the polls show in swing districts in tough states where you could bring the Senate back to a Democratic - a real Democratic majority, I think Al Gore has coat tails.  Now, the problem is, would he come in at a moment when he is enjoying the world and the life as citizen Gore, as kind of prophet on the environment?  And giving that up and coming in—what a Shakespearean showdown would it be—between Hillary Clinton and Al Gore.  He may wait for her to stumble.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  And Pat, he go from - he go from a guy being celebrated by so many.  Everywhere he goes, he‘s winning the Academy Award, he may win the Nobel peace prize. He goes from that to the - to the nitty, gritty ugliness of politics again.

BUCHANAN:  Well, Gore is such a large figure that I - even he doesn‘t have to do the same kind of (inaudible) candidates who are lesser known have to do.  But I will say this - I think he doesn‘t realize this Obama problem, I mean an awful lot of people—I mean, look, Obama has got more small givers than anybody.  He‘s got tremendous commitment to him.  You trample on the kid in order to get to the front of the line, and you‘re going to alienate and anger and enrage a lot of people.  Edwards is dead if Gore gets in.  What do his people say?

ABRAMS:  Right, got to wrap it up.  Pat and Katrina, thanks so much, appreciate your coming on the show.

VANDEL HEUVEL:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: DNA frees a Texas man from prison after 14 years for a rape he did not commit.  And now we find out the Justice Department hasn‘t spent any of the $8 million set aside by Congress for DNA tests to help some prove their innocence?  And Fox News Channel moves Guantanamo Bay from Cuba to Puerto Rico.  That‘s up next in “Beat the Press.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press.” Our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing peril of live TV.  First up: I got to believe that Charles Gibson over at ABC News must have realized on what he said on last night‘s show wasn‘t exactly accurate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES GIBSON, HOST:  There was a political fight in Washington today over something that happened 92 years ago.  In 1915, as many as a million and a half Americans were killed by Ottoman Turks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Americans?  No.  Armenians?  Yes.

Next up: My pal at Fox, John Gibson, formerly host, now co-host of the 5:00 p.m. show over there has gloated that he was one of the first to call out Don Imus on his comments about the women basketball team.  On his radio show yesterday, John was talking about the 14-year-old that shot four people in the high school in Cleveland.  Not only does he stereotype how a black or white killer would act differently, he suggests a black killer would kill more people rather than shoots himself and repeatedly refers to blacks as hip-hoppers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN GIBSON, HOST:  I knew the shooter was white.  I knew he would have shot himself.  Hip-hoppers don‘t do that.  They shoot and move on to shoot again.  And I could tell right away because he killed himself.  Black shooters don‘t do that.  They shoot and move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  John, I remember you said if you made the comments Imus made, you‘d be fired.  I don‘t want that to happen, I hope you‘ll just apologize.  I like John; I have for a long time.  He‘s out of line.

Finally, many are demanding that the U.S. government shut down the detaining camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  On Fox, it seems they have an alternative location pick out.  In their news scroll all night, they informed viewers that approximately 330 men accused of links to al Qaeda and Taliban are in held in Guantanamo in Puerto Rico.  It could have been a typo although was on the screen three times during O‘Reilly show.  Then again, there in Hannity and Colmes, four times, it said they‘re being held in Guantanamo Bay in Puerto Rico.  Still—no one caught the error then.  Then, again during other shows—two more times, the Guantanamo camp in Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  An alert viewer caught that one again and again.

We need your help beating the press.  If you‘ve seen amusing, absurd, just right or wrong, just go to our Website: Abrams.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: Breaking Details tonight about a teen who allegedly assembled an arsenal of knives, hand grenades, and over 30 rifles in his room.  Watch DVDs about Columbine then tried to recruit another boy to help him carry out the massacre.  One of the guns allegedly purchased by his mom.

Plus: An extended stay at San Quentin Prison, a convicted felon tells us he‘s committed additional crimes, even though his case has not appealed and we hear from one of the few release from San Quentin‘s death row about what that was like.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re getting late-breaking details about a 14-year-old now under arrest for allegedly plotting a Columbine-style attack on a Philadelphia school.  Police found a stash of weapons in his home ranging from knives, to swords, to hand grenades, to a 0.9 millimeter assault rifle that was apparently given to him by his mom.   NBC‘s Ron Allen has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  Worried parents picked up the children from this high school outside Philadelphia today after police had found an arsenal of weapons at the home of a former student.  A 14-year-old boy, whose identity not made public, who police say has confessed to plotting a Columbine-like attack.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was scared to death.  It‘s a terrible thing. 

This is not even close to home.  This is home.  

ALLEN (voice over):  One of the boys‘ friends alerted authorities after he had been recruited to help with the planned attack.  Police found an assault rifle with a laser sight, several dozen pellet guns, a live hand grenade, violent books and DVDs.

BRUCE CASTOR, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  There was no ammunition that we located after searching the boy‘s home that fit this weapon.  So, therefore, I do not think an attack was imminent.  

ALLEN (voice over):  The boy‘s parents removed him from the school 18 months ago because of bullying.  Police may charge the parents for letting all this happen.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everything is taken care of.  Everything is under control.  

ALLEN (voice over):  School officials trying to remain calm, reassuring the community none of the weapons was ever in the school.  But most students are still at home. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s not enough kids left to actually get anything done.  

ALLEN (voice over):  It‘s a community where school violence had been discussed.  Students had been warned to be vigilant.  And tonight, police say that they have helped prevent a disaster.  Ron Allen, NBC news, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ABRAMS:  Former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt joins us.  All right, Clint, I covered Columbine, all right. 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Sure.  

ABRAMS:  I remember at that time, there was this absolute shock at the idea that a kid could come to school and shoot other students, in that case, kids.  And yet, yesterday, we had, again, in Cleveland, another kid coming to school with a weapon.  It seems that - I‘m not going to call it an epidemic, but it is far more common place, it seems, than it was, you know, even just a few years back at the time of Columbine.  

VAN ZANDT:  Well, there‘s been almost 40 incidents of shooting in schools since Columbine, Dan.  So, my challenge here is that most of these, when you go back and look at them, know that I‘m not giving any credibility to the shooters - it‘s a terrible thing to do, but bullying seems to be the issue.  But the challengers - it used to be kids were bullied and beat up or something.  And, you know, they dealt with it and they went and got the big brother to do it.  Now they go home and get a gun and go back and try to even the score with the great equalizer, a gun in their home.  

ABRAMS:  But why?  I mean, is it that guns are more readily available? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, Dan, there‘s, you know, a little over 300 million Americans, a little over 280 million guns in this country.  So whether the NRA likes it or not, you know - I mean, I know that people don‘t kill - you know, guns don‘t kill, people kill.  But the availability of guns and parents, adults, care givers - when we don‘t lock these guns up, or if we let a 14-year-old accumulate an arsenal like this and say, gee, I didn‘t know my son had that many guns, and in this case, where the mother allegedly gave him a 0.9 millimeter.  That‘s the gift that keeps on giving in the wrong way.  

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Clint Van Zandt.  As always, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.  

VAN ZANDT:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Now an amazing story in Texas.  After spending a decade behind bars, Ronald Gene Taylor is a free man tonight.  Taylor was convicted of raping a woman in 1993.  But now DNA has helped set him free.  Fourteen years of his life lost, Taylor says he holds no grudge.  Courtney Zavala from our Houston affiliate KPRC has details. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COURTNEY ZAVALA, KRPC REPORTER (voice over):  It‘s a moment Ronald Taylor waited 14 years for - freedom.  It‘s a moment that has yet to sink in. 

RONALD GENE TAYLOR, EXONERATED CONVICT:  I was just glad.  I had waited on it a long time.  I had a - I kind of like knew it was coming one day.  I felt like that anyway.  I believed that anyway.

ZAVALA (voice over):  Taylor was convicted in a 1995 rape case.  At the time, police said, there was no DNA evidence found at the scene.  This summer, a bed sheet from the scene was retested and found DNA matching this man - Roosevelt Carol, making Taylor innocent, the third man also to be released from prison because of mistakes made by the Houston Police Department‘s troubled crime lab. 

BARRY SCHECK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, they knew they were understaffed.  They knew they didn‘t know what they were doing, and they knew they were getting bad results.  And now, everybody‘s got to pull together to rectify a legacy of the injustice.  

ZAVALA (on camera):  After spending several years in the legal system, Taylor amazingly says he holds no grudges, and he says he knows there are more innocent people serving time behind bars.  

(voice over):  Wasting no time, Taylor with his attorneys and family, made his way to city hall, making sure the innocent are not forgotten.  

TAYLOR:  There‘s a lot of people that can‘t get no help.  They don‘t have finances - they don‘t have nobody to help them.  And I think something needs to be done about that. 

ZAVALA (voice over):  Taylor says he‘s now concentrating on starting over and getting married.  In downtown Houston, Courtney Zavala, KVRC, Local 2.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Taylor‘s story is just one example.  “USA Today” reports the justice department is sitting on $8 million of funds for testing prisoners who say they were falsely convicted.  The DOJ spent $214 million already to update crime labs DNA data bases.  But apparently, none of the $8 million has been used to prove anyone‘s innocence?  We‘re joined by the former prosecutor, Susan Filan, who is now MSNBC‘s senior legal analyst. 

And back with us is congressman Steven Rothman, Democrat from New Jersey.  All right, Congressman, explain to us - you‘re on the appropriations committee.  Now why is the justice department not spending the money? 

ROTHMAN:  That‘s a good question.  The first I heard about this was reading the paper today, “USA Today.”  I saw it on the front page.  And the justice department hasn‘t come to the congress to say, you know, you gave us the money to find out if people behind bars and our death row are innocent.  We haven‘t spent any of it because there‘s a problem. 

Apparently, they say that they haven‘t spent the money because states find it too difficult to comply with the law.  But why didn‘t the justice department mention that to the congress? 

ABRAMS:  And, Susan, look, you‘re a get-tough prosecutor.  You‘re

always sort of talking about getting laws that make it tougher for

criminals to get out.  But I would assume you also would support the idea

of making sure we‘ve got the right people behind bars and so the justice

department should be spending this money.  >

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST:  It is my worst nightmare that an innocent person goes behind bars.  I have zero interest in getting the wrong guy.  I have every interest in getting the right guy and making sure that‘s who‘s locked up.  We have technology today that didn‘t exist before.  We‘ve got DNA.  If that can exonerate somebody, the funds are there.  We absolutely have to do the test. 

What‘s the problem with that?  There‘s no prosecutor that wants injustice; we want justice.  You get the right guy, convict him, lock him up.  You get the wrong guy, test it, retest it, and set him free.  

ABRAMS:  So Congressman, what are you going to do about this, now that you know there‘s $8 million apparently sitting there, that the Department Of Justice could be using? 

ROTHMAN:  Well, tomorrow morning, the justice department is going to get a telephone call from my office and we are going to inquire of them why they haven‘t spent the money.  And if they think the law had some problem, what exactly do they think they need in this new law to fix that problem. 

Because the bottom line is we don‘t want to put innocent people behind bars.  And we have the technology to make sure that that doesn‘t happen, and it has to be spent.  Again, I‘m very distressed that the justice department didn‘t tell us after over a year that this program and this money has been available to them, that they had any problem with the law that directed them to spend this money to see if people on death row and, otherwise incarcerated for years, aren‘t there by mistake because they‘re innocent.

ABRAMS:  Susan ...

FILAN:  But Dan, I‘m not even sure ...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

FILAN:  I‘m not even sure that - sometimes there‘s something we call prosecutorial inertia, which is if you‘ve already convicted somebody, you really don‘t want to have that undone, because either you look bad because you made a mistake, or you know, why go back and retry what you‘ve tried.  That‘s just wrong-minded thinking amongst prosecutors.  We have to be open minded to new technology.  And if the funds exist and technology exists, do the test.  

ROTHMAN:  I agree with you, Susan.  That‘s was the whole point of the congress appropriating the money.  

FILAN:  Right.  

ROTHMAN:  And I‘m hopeful the justice department gets it now and they will spend that money.  

ABRAMS:  Congressman, let us know what happens, all right?

ROTHMAN:  Will do. 

ABRAMS:  Appreciate you coming on the show.  Susan Filan, as always, thank you.  

FILAN:  Good night, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, MSNBC‘s “Lockup” series goes on an extended stay inside San Quentin.  And we get a rare look at death row, the closest cameras are allowed.  A former death row inmate now serving life talks about what it‘s like to be there and face execution.  And later, Britney Spears makes a surprise appearance in court, asking the judge to give her more time with her kids.  Does that make her tonight‘s big winner or loser.  Coming up.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know San Quentin was originally built to hold 550 death row inmates, and now holds 620?  Up next, MSNBC‘s “Lockup” series goes on an extended stay inside San Quentin.  Tonight, a rare interview with a man who spent nearly two decades on death row.  He tells us what it is really like there. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAR DENT, FORMER SAN QUENTIN DEATH ROW INMATE:  Death row is the worst place on the planet.  I mean it‘s - you‘ve been sentenced to die - extinction.  You know, that‘s it.  It‘s over with.  A lot of people can‘t deal with it, so they commit suicide or they become introverts and start to go crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Omar Dent, a former San Quentin death row inmate, now serving life without parole.  MSNBC got a rare look at San Quentin‘s death row, the closest cameras are allowed in a new episode of “Lockup, San Quentin:

Extended Stay,” along with a look at a man convicted of multiple home invasions, he‘s serving 11 life sentences and he tells us he‘s guilty of many other crimes as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  San Quentin‘s condemned row houses the most heinous criminals, such as the 1980s night stalker Richard Ramirez; the man who killed Polly Klaas, Richard Allen Davis, whose crime led to California‘s three strikes law; and Scott Peterson, convicted of murdering his pregnant wife.  Though denied access to condemned row, our producers found an inmate that lived there for nearly 20 years.  

DENT:  When I arrived on death row, it was on the winter of ‘91.  I remember because it was real cold.  There were icicles on the ground.  

The condition for the death penalty was the double felony, the murder, then the robbery.  But, you know, if you move a person from one spot to another and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  He is kidnapped.  So they claimed it was kidnapped and the other felony on there.  During that time, I was young.  I have wild.  I was angry.   The jury verdict was - it wasn‘t something I didn‘t expect.  So, you know, at that time and point, I wanted the death penalty to be honest with you.  Because I wanted to come up here and, you know, hang on until I was executed.  But then, that changed as time went on. 

Death row was the worst place on the planet.  I mean - you‘ve been sentenced to die, extinction.  You know, that‘s it.  It‘s over with.  The finality.  You stay in your cell for orientation for several days until you meet the committee.  Then you go meet the committee.  That‘s when the process really starts.  From that point forward, that‘s when you start to realize you‘re on death row.  

DAVID SILVA, SAN QUENTIN INMATE:  I‘ve been a pretty successful robbery.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Level 4 inmates, the worst in California, are housed in San Quentin while awaiting permanent transfer to other facilities.  

SILVA:  I used to rob stores.  That in itself is a rush that you can‘t explain.   Like, whew!  I can - I own the world.  I can do whatever I want.  I can - better than any CEO in the world.  I can instruct you to do whatever I want you to do when I - pistol to you. 

You know, that‘s an adrenaline that you can never get from anything else.   Unfortunately, there‘s a consequence too.   Because I‘m - I got a strike.  My years was doubled, which is like up to 521 years.  I got 11 consecutive life sentences.  I know why I‘m here.  I can‘t to see why most of you are here.  Hell, it‘s stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  In our three months of taping, we never heard an inmate so willing to detail his own crime, especially with an appeal pending.  

SILVA:  I‘ve invaded many a home, not necessarily the ones I was convicted for.  I invaded other people‘s homes, you know, people that played the same game I played, sold drugs, whatever.  I go in this home.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  How did you get in? 

SILVA:  Through the front door.  How do you get in? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Was it locked? 

SILVA:  Of course.  If it‘s locked, you go through it.  Break down the door.  Alarm goes off.  Each of us, take a room.  Got to cover everybody at one time because it can be dangerous.  You can get killed just as well.  But once you got it under control, it‘s going to sound like a dirt bag.  But I‘m just keeping it real - you can actually sit down, drink one of their sodas, make one of their salads, you can watch an hour of TV if you want.  You can leave in their car when you‘re done.  

ABRAMS:  Final episode of “Lockup, San Quentin: Extended Stay” slamming in the slammer premieres Friday at 11:00 p.m.  Eastern on MSNBC.

Up next, will tonight‘s big loser of the day be a man accused of breaking a $1 million bill?  Thieves caught on tape breaking into a jewelry store?  Or Britney Spears who went to court today, hoping to get a break in her custody battle with Kevin Federline.  We‘ll break down what happened with somebody who was in court next in “Winners and Losers.”

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 11th day of October, 2007. 

Loser - a trio of masked men who robbed a south Florida jewelry store in broad daylight.  The burglars armed with crowbars smashed their way through the store‘s glass display cases, pocketing $100,000 in Rolex watches and jewelry.  The bandits make their getaway and are still on the loose.  

Winner, Paul McCartney‘s ex Heather Mills ,who some would say, effectively robbed a jewelry store today.  She and McCartney were in court to try to resolve their divorce.  The press reports say she will now walk away with more than $100 million from the former Beatle.  Money can‘t buy you love but $100 million can buy a lot of other stuff.

Winner, a rare two-legged Chihuahua named Ruth.  A lost and abandoned pup was found wandering the woods of North Carolina this week and was brought to a local vet by the hunter who found him.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Strange, pretty bizarre.  

ABRAMS:  Before this, many would have said a two-legged Chihuahua is about as real as a $1 million bill. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yo quiero taco bell. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Loser, a Pennsylvania man who actually tried to cash a $1 million bill.  66-year-old Samuel Porter walked into a Pittsburgh grocery store Saturday.  His request simple enough - can you break a million, please?  His funny money rejected by the cashier, landing the counterfeit crook under arrest.  For the record, the largest bank note ever printed was a $100,000 bill.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  $1 million.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  $1 million isn‘t a lot of money these days.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We hold the world ransomed for $100 billion. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But the big winner of the day?  Hungarian Houdini David Ruini (ph) who seems to have broken the world record for the longest time submerged underwater holding his breath for 10 minutes and 16 seconds.  Chained in handcuffs, the escape artist matched the old record by more than a minute to pull off the breathtaking feat.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But first, kiss me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The big loser of the day?  Formerly breathtaking beauty, Britney Spears holding her breath as a California court decides whether to give her more time with her two sons.  Britney, struggling to keep her head above water, finally showed up at court this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY:  Ms. Spears did speak.   Her voice was soft and respectful.  The visitation order has been modified to permit one overnight visit per week of the kids with Ms. Spears. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is Jim Moret, chief legal correspondent for “Inside Edition.”  He was at the courthouse today.  So Jim, she now gets one visitation per week.  Is this a victory for Britney? 

JIM MORET, “INSIDE EDITION” CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well it is.  I mean, she really wanted some overnight visit.  It‘s a monitored visit.  She was getting none.  She wanted more than one.  But both sides reached a compromise.  And on the surface you‘d say, she‘s the big winner.  But I don‘t think so.  She came off as the big loser, because, you see that there‘s our reality and then there‘s Britney‘s reality.  You know, she didn‘t come to court last week when the judge urged both parties to show up. 

And then, a week later they file an emergency motion because she needs time with her kids.  She‘s passed one, maybe two drug tests.  According to her, she just needs to see them.  But what does she do?  She goes, sends her lawyer to court, they didn‘t even file paperwork until later this morning.  And then she doesn‘t show up until after the lunch hour.  It shows disrespect, I think for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) process. 

ABRAMS:  I want to ask you about that.  Here‘s Britney Spears making just a few comments outside of court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  How was court? 

BRITNEY SPEARS, AMERICAN POP STAR:  Good.   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Did you get your kids back? 

SPEARS:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  You know, we said it was a few.  It was a few.  Jim, I don‘t understand, she doesn‘t show up in the morning, and then what?  Does someone call her on the phone and say, you‘ve got to get here.  This is serious.  

MORET:  I think that‘s what happened, to be quite honest with you.  I think she should have shown up earlier.  Let‘s face it, if you want to show the judge you‘re serious and really want your kids, you show up.  She didn‘t.  I don‘t know what she was doing all morning.  Maybe she was watching coverage.  Her lawyers said she didn‘t want to come she was afraid of the media crush.  Who do you think called the media?  We didn‘t just find out from the court.  This was an ex-party motion filed by her side.  

ABRAMS:  And you said it was filed by her side.  I mean, look, there‘s an order in place that basically says until further notice, the kids stay with K-Fed.  Is there a concern now about having the kids stay overnight with Britney Spears at all? 

MORET:  No.  Not in the sense that they are monitored.  This does not

give her free rein.  She‘s going to come back to court as will Kevin

Federline on October 26th.  Both sides are ordered to show up.  And that‘s

when the judge will look at extending or reconfiguring this order in some

way.  And that‘s what‘s so strange about today.  They knew they were coming

back to court on the 26th.  I don‘t understand the emergency.  But clearly

Britney‘s world is different than yours or mine.  She‘s entitled to

different things in her mind

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, Jim Moret, as always, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Up next, the premiere of “Family Ties,” two young parents were locked in a bitter custody fight that soon leads to murder.  See you tomorrow. 

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 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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