updated 4/28/2004 10:28:51 AM ET 2004-04-28T14:28:51

Guests: Karen Steinhauser, Natasha Lapiner-Giresi, Jeralyn Merritt, Dean Johnson, Gretchen Von Helms, Stacey Honowitz, Patrick Holland, Ron Lazisky

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi everyone.  Coming up, we have new details about what the defense has been asking about the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant case.  It is graphic.  Plus, what the defense team doesn‘t want the jury to see at his rape trial. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  (voice-over):  A bloody T-shirt, a taped police interview with Bryant from just hours after the incident.  Will the judge throw out this key evidence?  The defense hopes so. 

A second letter to the Scott Peterson judge claiming to know who really killed Laci Peterson.  It‘s complete with hair and fingerprint samples.  Are the authorities obliged to test evidence from every crackpot who sends a letter to the court? 

His father murders his mother, gets a life sentence, but dad refuses to give up his parental rights.  Now 14-year-old Patrick Holland is fighting in court to sever all ties.  We‘ll talk to him about his story. 

The program about justice starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ve got new information to report on the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case about exactly what Bryant‘s attorneys have been asking the alleged victim‘s boyfriends and previous sexual partners in closed door hearings.  You are not going to hear this information anywhere else.  Warning, some of it is very graphic. 

NBC‘s Jennifer London joins us now from outside the courthouse in Eagle, Colorado with the details.  Jennifer, what do we know? 

JENNIFER LONDON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well good afternoon, Dan.  The pretrial hearing is still going on here in Eagle County.  Over the last few days we have heard a lot over this defense motion to strike Colorado‘s rape shield law.  We have seen a parade of witnesses testifying over the last few days including three young men, each who was sexually involved with the accuser. 

Now, these hearings are closed, but NBC News has learned what some of the questions have been presented to these witnesses and Dan, as you mentioned, and it‘s worth mentioning again, some of these questions are of a graphic nature.  They are as follows—the defense asking these witnesses, what sexual position were you in.  Also asking, if the accuser bled during sex.  The defense also asking, who initiated the sex act and also asking, did she do anything out of the ordinary during the sex act and also asking did she do anything out of the ordinary during the encounter.

Now, Dan, these questions go to the heart of the defense‘s motion to

strike the Colorado rape shield law.  Obviously the prosecution wants very

much to keep the accuser‘s sexual history out of this case and today we

know that a nurse, who worked at the hospital where the rape examination

was conducted, she was in court today testifying for more than three hours

·         Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jennifer London thanks very much for that report.

So, we‘ve heard you know about all these efforts to introduce the evidence of the accuser‘s sexual past.  Let‘s get right to our panel—

Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor, Jeralyn Merritt, Denver criminal defense attorney and Natasha Lapiner-Giresi.

All right, Karen, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to hear this and say, isn‘t there a rape shield law in Colorado.  I mean you hear the graphic nature of those questions that all the ex-boyfriends or sexual partners are being asked and it makes you wonder is there even a rape shield law there? 

KAREN STEINHAUSER, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, you know, we may know questions that are being asked, possibly, depending on what people are saying when they come out.  We don‘t know what the answers are.  We don‘t know what the facts are.  And the judge may rule that nothing that comes out in these hearings is every going to get before a jury.  So we may never know what the actual details are, what the facts are...

(CROSSTALK)

STEINHAUSER:  ... and that‘s what the rape shield law is designed to protect. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  But the alleged victim is still being called to come in and testify about this stuff, is being asked graphic details about her sexual past, now we hear about the sort of detailed questions about sexual positions, et cetera that are being asked of her former partners, and you‘re saying that that‘s always going to be fair game, that nothing in the rape shield law will protect that? 

STEINHAUSER:  Well, the judge is still going to decide if this evidence should even get before a jury.  Obviously, what the defense attorneys are trying to do is show that the injuries that she had after the alleged sexual assault with Kobe Bryant could have occurred from someone else.  I still don‘t believe that the judge is going to automatically find that that‘s relevant...

ABRAMS:  But...

STEINHAUSER:  ... that that should come in front of a jury. 

ABRAMS:  But wait.  Natasha, if the goal of the rape shield law is sort of a public policy goal, right? 

NATASHA LAPINER-GIRESI, PUBLIC DEFENDER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  I mean it‘s to try to make sure that alleged rape victims will come forward and feel comfortable coming forward, I‘ve got to tell you, whether it‘s admissible or not admissible, the fact is that she‘s still being forced to talk about it, being in open court or being in a private session, her old boyfriends and sexual partners are being called in to talk about sexual positions, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... that‘s not really a very effective public policy, is it? 

LAPINER-GIRESI:  Well it is—right now you‘re having the hearings and during the hearings as the law stands, they are allowed to ask these questions because this hearing has been ordered by the judge to decide what if anything is an exception to the rape shield and what‘s relevant.  And look, it‘s a sex crime.  There are going to be uncomfortable questions in a sex crime and the linchpin of the defense‘s argument is these injuries that you say came from Kobe Bryant because he used force, it‘s a forcible rape in this case, did not come from him.  And how else can you find out unless you ask the boyfriends who have had sex with her what happened.  Did she bleed?

ABRAMS:  All right.  So...

LAPINER-GIRESI:  ... what position?  You have to. 

ABRAMS:  So, let me get clear then Jeralyn.  That in every case where a sexual assault is alleged, the defense is going to be able to call in any people that the alleged victim has had sex with in the past and ask them very graphic and personal questions about the sexual positions, et cetera, that they had with the alleged victim.  In every case that‘ll be the way it works? 

JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  No, that‘s not the way it works in every case.  And what happens is first, and it was done in this case, the defense makes an offer of proof to the judge showing why the defense needs to have a hearing under the rape shield law to show why the rape shield law needs to be pierced and information needs to come out.  The judge in the Kobe Bryant case has previously ruled that their proffer of evidence was sufficient to hold this hearing. 

The defense has gone through in their pleadings, which are available on the court‘s Web site and you can read them all, and shown why they‘re asking the questions they are.  With respect to the sexual positions, they are saying that she may—that they need to ask those questions because she may—because of credibility issues.  She may have said she never had sex with anyone the way she alleges Kobe had sex with her.  If that turns out not to be true, and her former boyfriends would say yes we had sex that way all the time, that directly affects her credibility. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean—you know I get that.  I mean you know and it‘s not that I don‘t understand what‘s going on here.  I mean I really do when it comes to specifically the issue of bleeding.  I mean they found blood on Kobe Bryant‘s shirt.  They‘ve got to figure out how you know how it might have gotten there.  It just seems to me that you know if you look at it from the outside and it doesn‘t seem like this rape shield law is a whole lot of a shield. 

STEINHAUSER:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STEINHAUSER:  I think you have to look at what the purpose was of the rape shield law to begin with.  It was really never designed to protect sexual assault victims from the media to protect them from having these kinds of questions being asked behind closed doors.  The whole purpose, why we have the rape shield law, is because before this law, defense attorneys would bring these victims into trial in front of a jury and start asking these questions that had no bearing on the guilt or innocence.  They were only designed to humiliate and intimidate victims in front of the jury...

ABRAMS:  All right.

STEINHAUSER:  ... and let the jury hear evidence that they shouldn‘t be hearing. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask—and Natasha, let me switch gears for a moment.  The defense trying to exclude evidence of an interview that Kobe Bryant did with the authorities, also trying to exclude that shirt with the blood on it, do they have a shot on either of these? 

LAPINER-GIRESI:  I think they have a great argument on the statements.  I mean the reason the police officers are there allegedly is to execute a warrant, to take specific pieces of evidence from Kobe Bryant to test it.  That‘s not a probable cause to arrest.  It was to get the evidence to see if they had probable cause.  They were supposed to execute it during daylight hours, 9:00-5:00.  When are they there?  Around 2:00 in the morning.  One of the officers has a tape recorder hidden in his jacket.  Their motives are really questionable.  And the argument of the prosecution is well Kobe spoke to them voluntarily.  And the defense is saying no, they executed the warrant improperly, improper police procedure, and it was...

ABRAMS:  You know...

LAPINER-GIRESI:  ... custodial interrogation and they didn‘t Mirandize him.

ABRAMS:  Karen, this sounds like a lot of technicalities, I think, to the outsider.  They‘re going to say you know wait a second.  So, they‘re trying to exclude a statement that Kobe Bryant made to the police because they were supposed to be executing a search warrant and while he may have made it voluntarily, you know, they may not have disclosed everything.  I mean what do you make of this motion by the defense? 

STEINHAUSER:  Well, I think you have to start with the statement and issues of Miranda.  And if a person is in custody and the way in custody is defined is not like a lot of people think of, person in handcuffs, things like that.  It‘s that if they don‘t feel free to leave, if a reasonable person in Kobe Bryant‘s position wouldn‘t have felt free to leave that night that he was being questioned, he is considered to be in custody which means that the police have to give him his Miranda warnings. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STEINHAUSER:  We also want statements to be voluntary that defendants make.  So you know the issue may come up that he was in pain, that he may have been on medication, things that may not have let him be thinking clearly.  So that‘s one of the issues.  The other issue has to do with this search and I really don‘t think that‘s going to be an issue.  The fact that something was done at 2:00 in the morning when the statute says it should be done in the daytime.  The fact is there are all kinds of situations where officers may need to execute warrants to take the evidence...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STEINHAUSER:  ... other than daytime. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I disagree...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got...

(CROSSTALK)

MERRITT:  You know the statute...

ABRAMS:  I...

MERRITT:  ... is very clear and if they wanted to do a warrant at night, they had to ask for specific...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know.  But that doesn‘t necessarily...

LAPINER-GIRESI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... mean that the remedy...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... is that you exclude it from evidence...

MERRITT:  ... but let me just address the T-shirt for a minute, Dan...

ABRAMS:  You may be right about the statute but that doesn‘t mean the remedy is you say we‘re going to exclude it.  I mean...

MERRITT:  You may...

ABRAMS:  ... you may...

MERRITT:  ... but also the T-shirt, they asked Kobe Bryant what T-shirt he had been wearing and then he gave...

ABRAMS:  All right.

MERRITT:  ... them the T-shirt.  If his statements are inadmissible because that entire interview...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap...

MERRITT:  ... is inadmissible because he was in effect in a custodial setting, then that...

ABRAMS:  All right, I‘ve got to wrap...

MERRITT:  ... T-shirt may be excluded. 

ABRAMS:  ... this up.  Karen Steinhauser, thanks.  Jeralyn and Natasha...

STEINHAUSER:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  ... are going to stay with us. 

Coming up, Mark Geragos dropped as Michael Jackson‘s attorney, could he now be called as a witness. 

Plus, we‘ll get a live report from the Scott Peterson case, another letter from someone claiming to know who really killed Laci.  This one included a hair and fingerprint.  Do they really need to test this? 

And a 14-year-old goes to court to cut all ties with his father who murdered his mother.  We‘ll talk to the young man later in the program. 

What do you think?  Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, could high-power attorney Mark Geragos find himself on the witness stand at the Michael Jackson case now that he is no longer representing Jackson? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  With the shakeup in Michael Jackson‘s defense team, could his former attorney now be called as witness?  The answer, maybe.  Some now discussing whether Mark Geragos could be called to testify.  Now with the attorney-client privilege, an attorney is required to protect any conversations with his client.  But the judge could order Geragos to testify about things that he observed, such as what he witnessed during his time as Jackson‘s attorney, not what Jackson actually said, but his presence at any time when the alleged victim was visiting.  He could testify about certain things that he saw, behavior, demeanor, what the boy‘s family may have said, et cetera.  And the defense might want it.  Keep in mind, Jackson has the option to waive the attorney-client privilege, freeing Geragos to discuss specific conversations, but that‘s not likely. 

Let‘s bring in our legal team to find out exactly how this might work, if it‘s going to happen—former California prosecutor Dean Johnson, California criminal defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms and criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt.

All right, Dean, so what‘s the law on this regard and is it likely that it would happen?  If so, how? 

DEAN JOHNSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well the law is, of course, that a client—or an attorney has an obligation to protect his client‘s secrets and confidences and that‘s a lot broader than the attorney-client privilege.  Under California law, an attorney has an obligation to protect even at peril to himself, the client‘s secrets and that can be any information that he learned in the course of the representation, whether he learned it from the client, from third parties, from public records.  It can include anything from behavior that he‘s observed in the client, erratic behavior and so on.  Geragos would be under an obligation to appear if he were subpoenaed.  He could be put on the stand, but as soon as anything like that was asked of him, he would have to say look, that‘s confidential.

ABRAMS:  Even what he saw, for example?  I mean you know there‘s a lot of questions in this case about why Mark Geragos started preparing a defense even before and presumably, there was even a true investigation ongoing.  Anything about that that Mark Geragos might have to disclose? 

JOHNSON:  He might very well be ordered to disclose things that he observed during visits to the Never Neverland Ranch or discussions with witnesses, things that he saw in terms of behaviors.  Obviously, communications, whether with Jackson directly or through a third-party would be privileged, but incidents that he saw, he very well could be ordered to disclose.  Now, that‘s putting—that‘s the legal situation.  The practical situation, do either of the parties want to call Geragos?  I‘m not sure.  Remember, there‘s no love lost between Geragos and D.A. Tom Sneddon...

ABRAMS:  Yes and Gretchen, the thing that I keep thinking about is the fact that these prosecutors have been going after the defense investigators, you know executing search warrants at their offices.  I mean this seems like a no-holds-barred execution.  I don‘t think it‘s out of the question that the prosecutor would subpoena Mark Geragos for one reason or another.

GRETCHEN VON HELMS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t think it‘s out of the question, but Mark Geragos would be able to say hey that‘s privileged communication...

ABRAMS:  No matter what?  Even if it‘s not a communication? 

VON HELMS:  Well, it‘s—as Dean said, it‘s—you‘re to protect the secrets and confidences.  So that can be saying Michael was acting strange on a particular day.  He‘s his champion, his warrior.  Just because he‘s no longer working for him, doesn‘t mean he doesn‘t have to protect those secrets and confidences.  So, no, he would not be forced to testify about those observations.

Now, if the defense called him and said hey we would like you to testify about what this kid did or said or what...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

VON HELMS:  ... you saw—observed about the child, then Mark Geragos is a precipitant witness about the child‘s behavior or the parent‘s behavior.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VON HELMS:  So yes, then he would call—be called by the defense and come and testify for the defense...

ABRAMS:  Right...

VON HELMS:  ... about something...

ABRAMS:  But Jeralyn, that‘s a dangerous road to go down, is it not?  I mean because then you start getting Mark Geragos on the stand testifying for the defense and I can just hear the prosecutor saying he‘s waiving the attorney-client privilege.  He‘s waiving it, right?

VON HELMS:  Right...

MERRITT:  That‘s right.  Because...

ABRAMS:  That‘s for Jeralyn.  Go ahead.

MERRITT:  ... selective invocation, what we call selective invocation of a privilege is very, very difficult, where you say I want someone—I waive my privilege to let him testify as to X, but not as to Y.  And so that is very, very difficult.  In addition, though, however, the rumors have been or what we have heard is that Mark Geragos was representing Michael Jackson after the documentary at a time when the accuser‘s mother came to him and signed an affidavit in his presence, saying that nothing...

ABRAMS:  Right.

MERRITT:  ... happened with her child.  Now, the defense may well want to get out what the mother told Mark Geragos and if that—if they can separate that out from advice that he gave to Michael Jackson and separate it out from attorney-client secrets and confidences, then it‘s possible...

ABRAMS:  All right...

MERRITT:  ... he might be able to testify as to that...

ABRAMS:  Dean, do you think that‘s a likely scenario? 

JOHNSON:  I don‘t think that‘s a likely scenario for two reasons.  For everything I‘ve heard about Tom Mesereau, I don‘t see him playing these kind of games.  And secondly, as Gretchen points out...

ABRAMS:  Why is that a game, though?  I mean the bottom line is if Mark Geragos was there when the alleged victim‘s mother comes to him and signs a document and says nothing happened, why is that a game? 

JOHNSON:  Well I think it‘s very difficult.  It‘s an ethical issue to put a former attorney on the stand at any time and put him in the position where he has to assert the confidentialities of the client that you‘re representing.  But the big problem is, of course, the practical strategic problem which is that as soon as he testifies to that sort of event...

ABRAMS:  Right.

JOHNSON:  ... he is potentially waiving another privilege that we haven‘t talked about, which is the attorney work product privilege...

ABRAMS:  Right...

JOHNSON:  ... and he opens the floodgate to talk about the entire surrounding circumstances of any of those events, which is may lead to some very embarrassing facts...

ABRAMS:  Gretchen, thank you very much.  Appreciate it. 

VON HELMS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Dean and Jeralyn are going to stay with us. 

Coming up, the Scott Peterson judge gets another letter saying I know who really killed Laci Peterson, but this one is accompanied by a hair and fingerprint sample.  Does the court really have to order tests of every oddball so-called evidence that they send in the mail? 

Plus, a man who murdered his wife and was sentenced to life in prison refuses to give up parental rights to his son, forcing the 14-year-old to go to court to try to dissolve their relationship.  We‘ll talk to the boy and his guardian coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to the Scott Peterson case, where opening statements are set to begin in three weeks, still a lot of issues on the table, one seating a jury to a defense motion expected to be filed on Friday where the defense is going to ask the judge you know either move the trial another time or have separate juries for the guilt and penalty phase or allow us more opportunities to dismiss potential juries, all of which he‘ll probably reject.

Also yesterday in court, the judge received another anonymous letter from someone who claims to have the ultimate answer.  This person says he knows who killed Laci Peterson.  This is the second letter the judge has received along those lines, but this time the letter included a hair sample, a fingerprint, and a list of people who the—quote—“tipster believes may have been involved in the murder.”  The letter was provided to attorneys, not made public.  Defense attorneys indicating they would investigate the claims.  But before we ask, do they have to test every piece of evidence from every wacko out there, Susan Siravo from NBC station KNTV is outside the Redwood City courthouse. 

So Susan, how is jury selection going? 

SUSAN SIRAVO, KNTV CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, after today, we‘ll only have six more days of jury selection.  This is the second phase known as hobequadeir (ph) when the attorneys and the judge have the opportunity to sit with each juror one by one and basically interview them to see if they would be appropriate to serve on this case.  The court must qualify 70 before moving on to the next phase on May 13.  This has been a painstaking process, very methodical and there‘s been two main obstacles here in trying to seat a jury.

One is the level of prejudgment in this case.  A lot of people here in San Mateo County already believe that Scott Peterson is guilty of killing his wife, Laci and their unborn child.  They bring these preconceived notions into court with them and that makes them not able to serve on the jury.  The other main obstacle is the death penalty.  A lot of people here opposed to the death penalty and if you oppose it, you cannot sit on this jury.  So each day we see a number of people released from jury duty because of those two main obstacles. 

Also want to note, everyone who comes here obviously has a different background.  Yesterday we saw a woman who was qualified.  Her husband was convicted of murder and then he was killed while he was in prison.  But nevertheless, the judge thought that she could certainly keep her mind open and would qualify to serve on this jury.  Another issue we‘ve heard a lot about is the stealth jurors that Mark Geragos talks about. 

The first one was a woman who went on a bus trip to Reno.  He says that she spoke about this case and how she thought Scott Peterson was guilty while she was on that trip.  She was disqualified.  Another woman is a college student, supposedly, she was on a chat room, according to Mark Geragos, and talked about the case on the chat room and how she wanted to convict Scott Peterson.  She was also released from jury duty.

We want to give you an update on the numbers as they stand right now. 

So far, 998 people have come to the courthouse to fill out questionnaires,

317 have been asked back.  And as of today, 54 of those people have been

qualified to possibly serve on this jury.  Now as you mentioned, Dan,

Geragos is expected to file a motion on Friday.  He‘s asking for three

remedies.  He wants either a change of venue.  He‘s spoke many times that

he wants this case moved to Los Angeles County.  He also wants to possibly

seat two juries, one for guilt or one for penalty and also wants more

preemptory challenges.  Opening statements are still scheduled for May 17 -

·         Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Susan, thanks a lot.  And again, we should point out just because someone qualifies for jury pool doesn‘t mean that they‘re going to actually make it on the jury because each side then gets an opportunity to knock off prospective stiff jurors.  But you know apart from that, what to make of this anonymous letter?  A hair sample, a fingerprint, a list of possible suspects?  Should it even be tested?  My take, not without more.  You know you can‘t test every crackpot theory.  Judges get these letters all the time and that does not mean they should start testing everything that is sent back in.  I think the defense should investigate, should look into it.

Let‘s bring back our “A team”—Stacey Honowitz, Broward County Florida prosecutor, who‘s in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit over there, criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and former San Mateo County prosecutor and current defense attorney Dean Johnson. 

All right, Dean, do you think that they should be testing this mysterious hair and fingerprint that someone sends to the judge in an envelope? 

JOHNSON:  Well, Dan, you know, having worked around the Redwood City courthouse for about 20 years, I can probably take you to three or four different guys who have solved the Laci Peterson murder case.  There are a lot of nuts out there and most of these anonymous letters turn out to be nothing.  But given that there‘s a fingerprint and a hair sample and given the fact that a big part of Geragos‘ defense thrust is going to be to say look, the prosecution has never gone down these alleys, some of which may be blind alleys, some of which may lead us to the real killer.  You might as well have it tested.  Let the defense test it.  Let the prosecution test it and foreclose that blind alley, if it indeed it is a blind alley...

ABRAMS:  Really, Stacey?  I mean look, then you get into the position where anyone can send in pieces—you know, their hair or fingerprint in the hope that they can start causing trouble for the prosecutors who got to begin testing all sorts of random—I mean I‘ve just got to tell you from covering all these high-profile trials, people always come out of the woodwork.  In the JonBenet Ramsey case...

STACEY HONOWITZ, ASST. FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY:  Always, always...

ABRAMS:  ... the number of people in the Ramsey case who supposedly either killed JonBenet themselves, knew who killed JonBenet, knew who didn‘t kill JonBenet and it was all nonsense. 

HONOWITZ:  I mean this happens all the time.  You get letters.  You get confessions from people that didn‘t commit the crime, that send things to the judges and to the prosecutors.  And certainly in this case, you have to look at the timing of all of this.  He‘s getting the letter now during jury selection.  This case has been pending for a very long time...

ABRAMS:  You say don‘t test it, Stacey?

HONOWITZ:  I don‘t think it‘s—I mean certainly, you can turn it over to the defense and ask them if they want to do it because you do run the risk of the defense getting up and saying look at the prosecution.  They had an opportunity.  But I think in the long run, if you start testing all these things, if you start holding up all these cases, you open the door for any whacko, any person to send in hair samples or fingerprint samples.  In this case, I don‘t think there‘s any kind of obligation to test it. 

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn.

MERRITT:  I would test it if I was the prosecution for the reasons that Dean said.  I think if the prosecution doesn‘t test it, then the defense is going to get to use it.  In terms of whether it should be tested aside from the prosecution, I would say that you would have to look to the reliability of the information that came in the letter along with the fingerprint and along with the hair sample. 

And as you pointed out, Dan, during JonBenet, I think that there was a private citizen who submitted some kind of physical evidence to be tested while the case was in front of the grand jury and the prosecution did not test that.  One of the problems is going to be chain of custody to the evidence.  Even if it should link to someone, how do we know where that hair came from and who handled the hair in between time that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

MERRITT:  ... it first was seized or obtained and then got to the court...

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn, you make the point that the defense is going to use it, but I think it‘s dangerous for the defense to start making arguments as if this is somehow credible.  Oh, here‘s how we know the prosecution didn‘t really investigate this case.  Many, many months later, when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) jury selection, there was an envelope sent to the judge with a hair and a fingerprint and it was someone who had a list of potential suspects and they didn‘t look at that.  I mean that to me seems to be one of these things that‘s just going to undermine the credibility of the defense if they do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know Dan.  I think...

MERRITT:  ... I don‘t think so...

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn...

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  I think...

MERRITT:  I don‘t think so.  I think—you know I think what happens just picture the closing argument.  This was shoddy police work.  The police made up...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MERRITT:  ... their mind it was Scott Peterson.  They ignored any lead that didn‘t point to Scott Peterson...

ABRAMS:  Well that I expect to be the defense...

MERRITT:  ... including this anonymous letter...

ABRAMS:  Well that I expect to be...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well I agree with that...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON:  Exactly.  Exactly...

ABRAMS:  Let me let Stacey in here.  Go ahead Stacey.

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  I think...

ABRAMS:  Stacey, Stacey...

HONOWITZ:  ... you know I‘ve been a prosecutor for a long time and I have to agree with Jeralyn on this.  I mean there are several times when the defense will get up and their closing argument is just based on the bad police work and what the prosecution didn‘t do and juries will acquit because of that. 

ABRAMS:  So...

HONOWITZ:  So you have to be very careful...

ABRAMS:  So Stacey, you‘re changing your view now?  You‘re changing your mind—you think that they should test it?

HONOWITZ:  No, no, no.  I‘m not changing my mind.  I‘m just telling you in trials.  I mean you could talk about all these things now, preliminary, you know nothing happened yet, we didn‘t go to court.  But I‘m just telling you the reality...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

HONOWITZ:  ... of when you‘re actually in trial, it could pose a problem for the prosecution. 

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON:  Yes and one of the problems...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up, Dean.  I‘m sorry.

JOHNSON:  Sorry.  OK.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  No, but I apologize to you because I would love hearing what you say.  Dean Johnson, thanks a lot.  Stacey and Jeralyn are going to stay with us. 

Coming up, a mother brutally murdered by her husband—this is an unbelievable story.  Her teenage son is now fighting to keep his father, the guy who killed his mother, from having a say in his everyday life.  We‘re going to talk to the boy and his guardian.

And later, why it‘s time to just stop expecting anything from certain widely watched Arab television networks.  It‘ll be my “Closing Argument”...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Six years ago, Patrick Holland found his mother dead, her bloody body lying on the floor of her bedroom.  He was only 8 years old at the time.  His father, Daniel Holland, had broken into their home, beat his wife, and then shot her eight times.  Holland had violated a restraining order meant to keep him away from his wife and their son.  Patrick is now 14 years old and lives with his legal guardians Ron and Rita Lazisky.  His father was convicted of murder in 2001 and is serving a life sentence.  Although Patrick hasn‘t seen his father in 6 years, Daniel Holland remains the legal parent and still has the legal power to be involved in his son‘s life and he‘s making requests for various items. 

Now Patrick is trying to change that with the help of Social Services.  He‘s gone to court, essentially trying to sever all ties both legal and emotional from his father.  Patrick‘s legal guardian and the Social Services Department who support Patrick‘s petition were in court today.  A judge has set a trial date for July.  Patrick Holland and his guardian, Ron Lazisky, join me now.  Thank you both very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No problem. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Patrick, let me start with you.  You know it‘s sort of obvious why you would want to do this, but why don‘t you tell us what has led you to feel the need to go to court to sever this relationship? 

PATRICK HOLLAND, TRYING TO DIVORCE HIS FATHER:  Well he tried to get legal records of mine, which was school and baseball and therapy records.  And I thought he had no right to have them at all because, you know, I figured that if he really loved and cared about me, then why would he do what he did, which was kill my mother. 

ABRAMS:  Do you still remember that moment, finding your mother?

HOLLAND:  Yes, I do. 

ABRAMS:  And I‘ve got to believe that that‘s—that haunting image is sort of what drives you when it comes to this case.  I mean it—you know it just sounds so outrageous the idea that there‘s someone serving life in prison for killing your mother and now he has the power, somehow, to demand records, et cetera.  Did you know that he had this ability, this authority to ask for these kinds of records? 

HOLLAND:  I didn‘t know at all.  I just—I thought he was away for life and you know he couldn‘t do anything, but I guess I was wrong. 

ABRAMS:  Does he try and contact you?  Does he write you at all? 

HOLLAND:  No, he doesn‘t and I‘m thankful for that much. 

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mr. Lazisky, you know, is there a big impediment here or do most people expect that this is going to be a pretty easy legal development? 

RON LAZISKY, PATRICK HOLLAND‘S GUARDIAN:  Well, I thought it was going to a legal development when we first started about two years ago when we filed the first petition and it wasn‘t until probably after the second continuous that I was told that this was basically a landmark case and no one has ever done it.  So, I knew that we were headed for an uphill battle at the time.  I didn‘t realize it would be this much uphill battle.  But we did win—we did get a victory today and, a minor victory, and we‘re going to be trial with this and hopefully we‘re going to prevail. 

ABRAMS:  Do you have to pay legal bills for this? 

LAZISKY:  Yes, I paid about $7,000...

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LAZISKY:  ... for the first five continuousness that ended up to be to no avail because we were asked to leave the Massachusetts court by the judge and go to New Hampshire.  And I felt as though that was all moot to go to New Hampshire because we would have to start all over again and by the time that this case would be heard in New Hampshire, Patrick will be 18...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LAZISKY:  ... and he could sever his own ties with his parents...

(CROSSTALK)

LAZISKY:  ... with his father

ABRAMS:  Patrick, is a lot of the reason you‘re doing this emotional?  I mean you know we talk about the legal ties—I mean I assume that yes, I mean you don‘t want him accessing your records and things like that, but I‘ve got to assume that a lot of this is just wanting to get your distance as much as possible? 

HOLLAND:  Well, that, too and I kind of want to say to him and everyone else that he‘s not my father anymore and Ron Lazisky is my father. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  Well Patrick, I‘ve got to tell you, I can tell that you are a kid who knows what he wants, well spoken.  I‘m going to ask you both if you could just stick around for a moment.  I‘m not going to bring you into the legal fray here, and I happen to very much agree with your legal position here, but I want to bring in our legal panel in a moment just to talk about the legal issues surrounding this.  Because it‘s hard to believe that this man has to spend $7,000 to fight the idea of the killer, the murderer of this boy‘s—all right.  Anyway, you get it. 

Coming up later, if you watched Arab TV, you‘d think U.S. troops only killed civilians in Iraq.  You‘d see al Qaeda terrorists portrayed as martyrs.  My “Closing Argument”—why it‘s time to finally put those Arab television stations in the proper perspective.  Coming up...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘ve been talking about a 14-year-old boy, Patrick Holland,

who is trying to terminate the parental right of his father, Daniel

Holland, who is serving life in prison for killing his wife, Patrick‘s

mother.  And although Patrick now lives with his two legal guardians, his

biological father is still considered his legal parent and therefore can

influence his son or ask for certain documents, et cetera.  My take on this

·         this boy should be able to dissolve his relationship with his father period.  Generally I‘ve very sympathetic to biological parents‘ claims of parental rights.  When dad kills mom and is convicted, it seems absurd that the father can continue to have any sort of parental control and particular of a child who doesn‘t want it. 

Let me bring my legal panel back in here.  Natasha Lapiner-Giresi, do you agree with me? 

LAPINER-GIRESI:  Well this is a very—in this specific case, I can sympathize with this young man and it‘s a very fact specific case, but of course, we‘re lawyers.  We follow the law and this is going to be a precedent-setting case.  And the question we always ask ourselves in the law, if he then gets to divorce his father, so to speak, or get...

ABRAMS:  Right.

LAPINER-GIRESI:  ... rid of those rights, what will happen when the next person comes in...

ABRAMS:  Oh, you mean when the next murderer comes in. 

LAPINER-GIRESI:  No, no, no...

ABRAMS:  And then he—I‘m happy to let the next murderer not be able to have access. 

LAPINER-GIRESI:  ... I‘m saying it‘s fact specific, but some will try to apply this case to a case that is not this fact specific, someone who perhaps goes to jail for a robbery, has nothing to do with family members, and the kid says...

(CROSSTALK)

LAPINER-GIRESI:  ... dad‘s in jail. 

ABRAMS:  Wait a second...

LAPINER-GIRESI:  I don‘t want to see him anymore.  I want to divorce it.  Will that law, if this child gets to divorce his parent, will the next kid be able to apply it to something different?

ABRAMS:  Stacey, this seems to me an easy case to distinguish. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  If you kill mom, you lose parental rights.  If you murder mommy, you‘re no longer daddy.  I mean...

HONOWITZ:  I don‘t even know how you can think about it any other way.  I agree with what the other attorney is saying that every case is different, but I don‘t think you could look at this case and say let‘s not do something because you might open the floodgates of litigation and all these young are going to come forward.  You look at this case and you say what reason would he be—how—what kind of parent could he possibly be?  This is what the child should definitely do.  It‘s going to be landmark because the child is coming in and asking for it, but you have to think about all those cases, those celebrity children who tried to divorce their parents because the people embezzled money from them. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

HONOWITZ:  How do you compare that?  You were able to do that, so why can‘t you do it if your father is a murderer?  It just doesn‘t make sense.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Jeralyn, it seems to me you can set a very easy standard here.  That the courts can write an opinion that‘s very clear that relates to the issue of one parent murdering, convicted of murdering another parent you lose parental rights, period. 

MERRITT:  Except that I don‘t think that that‘s fair.  And I feel...

ABRAMS:  Why?

MERRITT:  ... very sorry for Patrick, but I have to say that the penalty for murder is life in prison and that‘s what the father got.  The penalty for murder is not loss of one‘s parental rights. 

ABRAMS:  But there are a lot of things you do...

MERRITT:  And Patrick is still very young...

ABRAMS:  ... wait, wait.  Jeralyn, hang on a second.  There are a lot of things that you do in this world that are crimes that can lead you to lose your parental rights. 

MERRITT:  If you commit a crime against the child.  Patrick‘s father did not commit a crime...

ABRAMS:  Yes he did...

MERRITT:  ... against Patrick.

ABRAMS:  ... he killed his mother. 

MERRITT:  He committed...

ABRAMS:  He killed his mother. 

MERRITT:  ... that he killed his mother.  That is not looked on as a crime against Patrick. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, isn‘t that a shame...

MERRITT:  If you can terminate parental rights...

ABRAMS:  I mean isn‘t that a shame?

MERRITT:  ... for abuse of Patrick not for abuse of the mother. 

HONOWITZ:  That‘s incredible.

ABRAMS:  Really...

MERRITT:  You know and Patrick is very young.  You know he ought to wait and maybe when he gets to be an adult he and his father can have some conversations and maybe he can learn more about what led his father to do this...

ABRAMS:  Oh, you are joking...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... you are joking Jeralyn...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Come on Jeralyn...

(CROSSTALK)

MERRITT:  ... feelings towards Patrick.

ABRAMS:  ... you don‘t really mean that.  You mean that you‘re advising Patrick to go talk to his murderous father about why he killed his mother? 

MERRITT:  Yes, because I think that ultimately the reason that his father...

ABRAMS:  No...

MERRITT:  ... is seeking records on Patrick is because...

ABRAMS:  All right...

MERRITT:  ... he still loves Patrick and that Patrick ought to hear his father out at some point...

ABRAMS:  Yes, all right...

MERRITT:  ... during in his life. 

ABRAMS:  ... you know what, Patrick, I wasn‘t even going to bring you into—this conversation gets me so emotional and upset, but I just want you to respond to that for a moment, the idea that somehow you might want to speak to your father at some point.  I assume that that is pretty offensive to you. 

HOLLAND:  It is.  It really is.  I don‘t appreciate that at all.  Why anyone would want to think that he still loves me at all is just completely out of the question. 

ABRAMS:  And he hasn‘t had any contact with you in six years.  I mean he wants your records, but it‘s...

HOLLAND:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... not as if he‘s sending you gifts and sending you letters, right? 

HOLLAND:  No, I mean it‘s—I think he just wants to be in control. 

I mean it has nothing to do with loving, caring or anything like that. 

Because if he really loved and cared about me, then he‘d leave me alone.

HONOWITZ:  Dan, can I just say one thing?

ABRAMS:  Yes, go ahead.

HONOWITZ:  You know the saddest part about this whole thing is, is that the state really should have intervened.  When he went to prison, when the dad went to prison...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

HONOWITZ:  ... the state should have filed a petition to sever the parental rights at that point so that this child wouldn‘t have to go through what he‘s going through now.  And at that point, if DCF or the Department of Children and Family came in and said there shouldn‘t be any parental ties, he wouldn‘t have to have legal fees and he wouldn‘t have to be going through this.  They really should have taken an active role. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s a great point, actually, Stacey.  Natasha, what about the fact that Mr. Lazisky has had to spend $7,000 of his own hard-earned money to fight for what seems like a fairly self-evident proposition? 

LAPINER-GIRESI:  Well, when I really heard about this case the first time, I thought was there other things that they could be doing instead of spending $7,000 to sever the ties.  Would it have been a less expensive alternative—I‘m hearing Patrick saying what he wants is leave me alone, don‘t contact me, don‘t get my records, perhaps they could have gone the route of perhaps a restraining order until he‘s an adult or...

ABRAMS:  Well yes, that restraining order worked real well the first time with his mother.  There was a restraining order in place and that‘s why his mother got killed is because the father violated the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

LAPINER-GIRESI:  Well, he‘s in jail now, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LAPINER-GIRESI:  ... so there‘s no way he‘s going to get out. 

ABRAMS:  Well, I understand that...

LAPINER-GIRESI:  He‘s in jail for life.  I‘m just saying I think there might have been a less expensive alternative...

ABRAMS:  You‘re telling me that he might abide by a restraining order

·         anyway, I get your point, but this case is very—let me just say one thing to Patrick and Mr. Lazisky.  Mr. Lazisky, I think you deserve a lot of credit for fighting this case—all right, we apparently just lost the shot but they can still hear me.  Mr. Lazisky deserves a lot of credit for fighting this case, for using his own hard-earned money to do what he thinks is right and Patrick seems like a really well adjusted good kid.  I wish him the best of luck in whatever he decides to do. 

All right, thanks to my panel as well, Stacey Honowitz, Jeralyn Merritt and Natasha Lapiner-Giresi.

Coming up, my “Closing Argument”—why it‘s time to stop expecting anything from many in the Arab media.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, my “Closing Argument” why many in the Arab media do not deserve to be called journalists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why it‘s time to give up on Arab television stations like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.  Why it‘s time to accept that the U.S will be savaged by the often angry, inaccurate, inflammatory Arab media and certainly any aggressive moves by the U.S., no matter their purpose, will be falsely portrayed by those—quote—

“”independent TV networks.”

It‘s time to give them what they deserve—no respect.  They are not journalists.  Not Western media style operations, as they claim, but really agenda-driven troublemakers with—quote—“media credentials”, sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, fiercely anti-U.S.  Now if they admitted that and continued their work, I‘d have a lot less problem with it.  But they claim to be fair and open to all views.  It just doesn‘t seem to be true.

After today‘s attacks on weapon storage munitions and other insurgent strongholds in Fallujah, as expected, they only focused on the possible deaths of civilians and interviewed religious leaders or others angry at the attacks.  They had some who claimed the U.S. was attacking mosques and just about everyone said they couldn‘t understand why the U.S. is doing this.  They just couldn‘t figure it out.  If they even cared about seeming fair, they would have said the U.S. government says it‘s to root out insurgents, et cetera.  But no, they just feign surprise at the U.S effort.

They don‘t discuss the possibility that curbing these rebels might actually help stabilize the country and help allow the people there to determine their own destiny.  It‘s a world unaccustomed to objective truth.  Citizens who have long been deceived by their governments and they are starving for information that is not controlled by the government.  But as I read in the translations today as I have on many other occasions, it is clear these networks are far more insidious than even government-run TV. 

At least with government-run television, the people knew that they‘re getting propaganda.  Here there‘s the facade of objective truth.  You can argue that some U.S. networks or newspapers try to put out only the most positive spin on U.S. military operations and that can be a fair critique.  But I promise you it is not comparable to the dangerous propaganda admitted from the airwaves in Qatar.  The U.S. commander in the region has expressed frustration at the false suggestion that U.S. troops are targeting civilians.  Maybe it‘s just time to stop accepting anything from them apart from live video, to start treating their reports with the same sort of disdain that government-run media received and deserved. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Sorry we didn‘t get a chance to get to “Your Rebuttal” today.  We will tomorrow read them on the air.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.

Up next, “HARDBALL”.

End

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