updated 7/1/2004 3:05:43 PM ET 2004-07-01T19:05:43

Guests: Diane Orentlicher, Brenda Hollis, Ted Simon, Gloria Allred, Jayne

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the Iraqis take legal custody of Saddam Hussein and his top deputies. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  No longer a prisoner of war, Saddam is now a criminal defendant in the Iraqi judicial system, about to be charged with crimes against humanity, possibly facing the death penalty. 

Plus, he beat his illegally adopted 6-year-old daughter to death, sparking changes in the nation‘s child abuse laws.  Now Joel Steinberg is a free man. 

And day 18 in the Scott Peterson case.  The woman who introduced Peterson to his girlfriend Amber Frey takes the stand.  Could this mean Amber is the next witness?  We have the answer. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  We also have some breaking news to report to you in the Kobe Bryant case.  That coming up later in the program as well. 

But first on the docket tonight, it was as dramatic in its own way as that April day last year when Saddam Hussein‘s statue was toppled in central Baghdad square.  Today Iraq took legal custody of Saddam and 11 of his most important cronies.  All of them made their first appearances before an Iraqi judge.  A first step towards putting them on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

NBC‘s Tom Aspell is in Baghdad with more—Tom.

TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Dan, the transfer of Saddam Hussein to Iraqi custody took place this morning.  He was informed of his rights and then served a warrant for crimes against humanity. 


ASPELL (voice-over):  Saddam Hussein will remain in the physical custody of American troops.  He is to stand trial for massacring Kurds in 1988, invading Kuwait in 1990 and waging war against Iran from 1980 to 1988.  He faces execution if found guilty.  Iraq‘s new interim government has reinstated the death penalty suspended by the now defunct coalition authority.  Eleven other top members of his deposed government will appear with Saddam Hussein before Iraqi judges tomorrow.  On the streets, intense curiosity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He will face Iraqi justice.  And I don‘t think so complicated judgment upon him.  I am sure minimum, at least he will face execution. 

ASPELL:  The trial may not take place for months but it will be live on TV so that all Iraqis and the outside world will be able to see it. 


ASPELL:  The new Iraqi government is saying that tomorrow‘s arraignment will also be televised.  Now, we‘re also hearing from a witness in the room when Saddam Hussein was read his rights this morning, Salem Chalabi, the director of the Iraqi tribunal, which will try Saddam Hussein for war crimes, said that it was a surreal experience when Saddam Hussein was led into the room.  He had long hair, not as long as when he was captured up in December in Tikrit, long hair.  It was totally black, no gray in the hair, but he had none of the commanding presence, according to Mr. Chalabi and he told this to the A.P. and to ABC News. 

He had none of the commanding presence that he showed before.  He appeared nervous and agitated.  At one point he asked if he could put questions to the people in the room, was told no and then ordered to leave the room.  Mr. Chalabi also said that the others who were brought up this morning, some of them appeared very nervous indeed, some of them appeared calm.  There were differing reactions, rather, but they will, of course, be appearing in front of judges with Saddam Hussein tomorrow—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Tom Aspell in Baghdad.  Thanks very much. 

Getting Saddam to trial will probably, as he said, take months.  The new special tribunal will also be charged with trying 11 of his ministers, among them Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam‘s much feared enforcer.  He‘ll likely be accused in involvement in the occupation of Kuwait, the 1988 poison gas attack on Iraqi Kurds, 1991 repression of Iraqi Shiites that left thousands in mass graves. 

Tariq Aziz, probably the best known member of Saddam‘s government.  After the dictator himself, he could face charges of complicity in crimes against Iran, Kuwait and his fellow Iraqis.  Abd Hamid, one of Saddam‘s closest aides.  The White House says he had authority over those missing weapons of mass destruction. 

And Ali Hassan Majid, the man better known as Chemical Ali for his leading role in the gas attacks on Iraqi Kurds.  So now we know that Saddam was in power when Iraq invaded Kuwait.  We know Saddam was in power when the Kurds were gassed and the Shiites were slaughtered.  So what evidence are they going to actually need to present beyond what is already out there in the public domain? 

Joining me now is American University international law professor, Diane Orentlicher, criminal defense attorney Ted Simon, and former U.S. Air Force lawyer, retired Colonel Brenda Hollis, who helped prosecute the former Yugoslavian leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

All right, Professor Orentlicher, let me start with you.  I mean some of this is so clear in terms of Saddam was in charge, his country did X, Y, and Z.  So, what do they have to prove?

DIANE ORENTLICHER, INT‘L LAW PROFESSOR:  Well, what they have to prove is that Saddam Hussein is criminally responsible for those abuses that took place.  They have mountains of evidence that crimes were committed and what a criminal prosecutor has to establish is that the man in the dock was personally responsible for those violations.  So there has to be a lot of connecting of dots.  And it‘s one thing to know something in the public sense that we all know crimes occurred, it‘s another thing to prove fairly and beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed by this particular defendant. 

ABRAMS:  Colonel Hollis, the trial of Slobodan Milosevic taking years.  How do they avoid getting bogged down in detail after detail that could make this trial take years? 

COL. BRENDA HOLLIS, (RET.), FORMER USAF LAWYER:  Well one of the ways that they could avoid some of that is if the defendant were to agree, for example that the underlying acts occurred, that there were attacks against Kurds or if the judges were to accept that was a fact...

ABRAMS:  What if they don‘t? 

HOLLIS:  ... then that part of the case was not—then that part of the case has to be proven.  These cases really have three components.  The first component is are the proof requirements there for the underlying act, such as the murders, the tortures.  The second component is, are the proof requirements there to show that these murderers are actually crimes against humanity or war crimes or genocide and the third component, as Diane said, is what are the proof that is available to show that this particular accused is liable for those acts and those crimes. 

ABRAMS:  But...

HOLLIS:  So, that‘s where the detail comes in. 

ABRAMS:  ... as the person who was in charge of Iraq, if they can prove that the, you know the nation of Iraq, you know, used gas on Iranians, used certain poisons on its own people, slaughtered, the torture houses, et cetera, is that sort of a de facto conviction or do they have to literally prove that Saddam Hussein said go do this?  Colonel Hollis. 

HOLLIS:  Well, they have to prove under some form of liability that he is responsible for that.  It may not be that he ordered it, although...

ABRAMS:  Right.

HOLLIS:  ... that is a possible one.  It may be that he was aware of it and did nothing to stop it or punish those who committed it.  So they have to prove at least one form of liability for each of these crimes they‘re going to charge.

ABRAMS:  Ted Simon, this is a quote from Saddam‘s attorney, one of the 20, Mohammad Rashdan.  “This is a mockery of justice we‘re facing clear legal violations.  The allegations that this is going to be a fair trial is baseless.  What do you make of it? 

TED SIMON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well I think he has gone even further than that, but wouldn‘t you expect that?  I think their position, among other things, is that it‘s kind of like Alice in Wonderland, there is the verdict of guilt before the trial has begun.  They are complaining at every road.  I think they are going to challenge the jurisdiction of this tribunal, which is really a creation of the governing council, which very well may be the creation of the provision of authority.  Challenge the, you know, the integrity of that and whether it‘s proper, whether or not this interim government...

ABRAMS:  Those are all losing arguments, aren‘t they? 

SIMON:  Well, they‘re probably losing arguments because they are being made to the very people that are trying him.  But I think you‘re going to start with the premise that it‘s an unconstitutional or improper authority.  And then you‘re going to move on to some of the things that I think the other members of the panel spoke to, which I think are pretty critical.  You‘re probably going to find—it may be difficult to find someone who is very close to him who will point the finger and say he ordered this or that.  And that I think is going to be a significant problem and one that could make this a very protracted trial. 

ABRAMS:  Would you have taken this case Ted?

SIMON:  Why do you ask me that one?  I happen to be really busy today. 

ABRAMS:  No, I mean would you have—I meant that quite seriously.  I mean if someone had come to you and said Saddam Hussein needs an American attorney, would you have assisted...

SIMON:  You know, Dan, implicit in your question is you want me to say yes as if it is some incredible thing to do.  I think every lawyer when they are faced with difficult cases, they make very personal decisions based upon a variety of factors and if that should ever happen, I would hope that I would be able to make it appropriately you know and in the right way. 

ABRAMS:  It really wasn‘t as much implicit in the question as you‘re reading into it.  I just meant it as sort of as a defense attorney in the United States, what does one do when faced with that sort of question. 

Let me go back to Professor Orentlicher.  All right, so, Saddam Hussein‘s attorneys are going to make all these arguments, they‘re going to say he shouldn‘t be tried in Iraq, there are all these custody problems, et cetera.  They‘re saying that this trial might start in the spring.  “A”, when do you think that it‘s realistically—realistic as to when this trial could start and “B”, how long do you think this trial is going to take? 

ORENTLICHER:  Well, I think realistically it‘s going to be some time before we see an actual trial take place.  We‘ll see pretrial proceedings over a protracted period.  But we‘re talking about putting together a massive case.  And then as Mr. Simon indicated, we will see all sorts of challenges and properly so.  The defendant has—the defendants have a right to defend themselves.  We‘ll see challenges to the jurisdiction of this court. 

The next few days will begin the process of those sorts of challenges being raised.  We will see the importance of playing by the book here, what happens beginning today and tomorrow will provide grounds for challenges to...


ORENTLICHER:  ... the legitimacy of the defendants‘ detention. 

ABRAMS:  Yes...

ORENTLICHER:  So, it‘s going to take a while.  I wouldn‘t be surprised if a trial began sooner than a year from now and they are not planning at this point to put Saddam Hussein on trial first.  So tomorrow is going to be a very important...

ABRAMS:  I got to wrap it up. 


ABRAMS:  You got a final 15-second thought Professor? 

ORENTLICHER:  Well, tomorrow is going to be a powerful day symbolically precisely because it‘s going to take a long time to deliver the broader justice and I think...


ORENTLICHER:  ... tomorrow we‘ll see images...

ABRAMS:  Yes, we get to see Saddam Hussein in court, all right, for the first time and we‘ll certainly be covering it. 

Professor Orentlicher, Colonel Hollis, Ted Simon, sorry you had a long day behind you, but thanks for taking the time.  We appreciate it. 

Coming up, the D.A. in the Kobe Bryant case says he will not be arguing the case himself.  This just crossed.  Could this—and remember, he‘s effectively a politician—he trying to distance himself from the Kobe Bryant case? 

And it was one of the most notorious crimes of the 1980‘s.  Joel Steinberg beat his illegally adopted daughter to death.  His crime was so brutal it turned child abuse into a national issue.  Today he walked out of prison.

Later, day 18 in the Scott Peterson trial.  The woman who introduced him to his girlfriend, Amber Frey, taking the stand, a big day in court.  We‘ve got full coverage.  The program to watch on that case.

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a surprising announcement in the Kobe Bryant case from the district attorney who has been handling all of the hearings and motions so far.  He says he won‘t be trying the case.  What does that tell us?  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  A big development to report in the Kobe Bryant case.  This has just happened.  Up to this point, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has been the face of this high-profile prosecution.  At the pretrial hearings, every twist and turn navigated by D.A. Hurlbert.  But about an hour ago, an announcement from Hurlbert that he has now picked a team to try this case while he‘ll provide general oversight for the prosecutors. 

Now, well that‘s not unusual in and of itself, given that Hurlbert has taken the lead so far and been arguing all the pretrial motions, could this be an indication that he may be nervous about winning the case particularly in a year when he is up for reelection? 

I‘m joined now by victims‘ rights attorney Gloria Allred and criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.  You know, Gloria, I would not even be asking this question had it not been the fact—for the fact that Hurlbert has been involved in all of these pretrial hearings.  Meaning, we know that very often the D.A.s sit back, they let their experienced prosecutors go in there and arguing these—and argue these cases.  But Hurlbert has been involved in all of the arguments in the pretrial motions.  This says to me that he‘s trying to distance himself from the case so he doesn‘t have to deal with it as the issue on reelection. 

GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS‘ RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  Well, Dan, it is a fair question that you are asking and you‘re right, generally, direct attorneys of the county do not try cases themselves and don‘t get involved in the pretrial motions either because they don‘t want to make it seem as though it‘s a personal situation where it is making it too personal to prosecute it.  On the other hand, of course they have the right to do it, but they generally don‘t do it also because they have so many other cases going on.  They have responsibility for all of the cases in their county.  So the answer is, we don‘t really know his reason why.  Maybe he is too busy with other things.  He hasn‘t given a reason.  My guess is at some point it will come out. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, Jayne, you know he is a politician.  I mean—and I‘m not trying to say that to demean him, but the bottom line is he is up for election in November and it seems to me if he was confident he was going to win this case, he would want to be heralded as the guy who won the case and that‘ll help his reelection bid and...


ABRAMS:  ... I think that he may be concerned. 

WEINTRAUB:  ... if he has any political aspirations at all—and remember, he‘s new at this as well, if he has any political aspirations at all, he‘s going to jump off this case.  Of course, what he should do, Dan, is he should have the courage and the guts to dismiss the case because he can‘t prove it.  And remember, he‘s the one that after the police rushed to judgment and made the arrest without bothering to call the D.A., remember he‘s the one who came to try and cover for the D.A. and go forward...

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s not entirely fair...

WEINTRAUB:  It was his decision to go forward...

ABRAMS:  I mean he spent a lot of time...

WEINTRAUB:  It was his decision to go forward.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  He made—but he made—he gave a lot of time between the time that the sheriffs initially went in there and said want to arrest Kobe Bryant, he then said wait a sec, let‘s take a step back here, spend a few...

WEINTRAUB:  Dan, we‘ve come a long way since then.

ABRAMS:  ... let‘s spend a few weeks evaluating the evidence here.  I assume, Gloria, you don‘t agree with Jayne‘s characterization. 

ALLRED:  Oh absolutely not.  And you know he has put together an outstanding trial team, which you mentioned Dan, and so they are going forward with this case.  I don‘t think it should be interpreted as a sign of lack of confidence in the case. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know. 


ABRAMS:  I interpret it that way Gloria...


ALLRED:  ... he‘s not going to personally—he‘s not going to be personally prosecuting it.  That‘s all we know.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll be honest with you Gloria.  It feels that way to me and this is just as someone with, you know as an observer, knowing the courts the way I do.  And again, I know everyone is going to say D.A.s don‘t often try cases.  Yes I know, but less often do they actually sit there and argue every pretrial motion in a case. 


ALLRED:  Yes, but maybe he feels...


ALLRED:  ... maybe he wants to put his own ego aside and say look, I‘m going to put on this case for the trial experienced attorneys in the area of sexual assault, maybe he feels they have got more experience than he does and so it would be better for the case if others tried it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t know. 

WEINTRAUB:  I don‘t think so.  I think it‘s because of all the evidence that has come to light thus far and the status that they are at now.  Remember, Dan, when they first started this case, believe me, they had no idea that the accuser who they can no longer call a victim, that the accuser had slept with other people within 24 hours...


WEINTRAUB:  ... they had no idea of all the evidence that has come out in favor of the defense...

ABRAMS:  We don‘t know that to be a fact, all right, so let‘s be careful with the facts here.  We know that that‘s what the defense is going to allege is that there was some sort of sexual conduct.  It certainly seems clear that she didn‘t tell the entire truth to the police when they asked her when the last time she had sex was.  The question, of course, is going to be did she have sex after the incident.  I don‘t care if she had sex before.  I mean...


ABRAMS:  ... Jayne, you‘d agree with me...


ABRAMS:  ... you‘d agree with me, Jayne, right, that that is irrelevant if she had sex with someone apart from the fact that she may not have been honest...

WEINTRAUB:  No, actually, Dan I don‘t.  I don‘t mean to be graphic, but if she had sex with somebody a few hours before that could have caused the injuries internally...

ABRAMS:  All right...

WEINTRAUB:  ... no, then I don‘t agree with you.  I‘m sorry...

ABRAMS:  All right, well no—all right that‘s a fair correction of what I said.  You‘re right...

ALLRED:  I‘ll be interested—yes, I‘ll be interested in knowing whether Kobe Bryant told the truth to the police when he was interviewed by the police on the night in question. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, all right.  We will continue this one.  This is just coming over.  So, Gloria Allred, Jayne Weintraub, I think you guys are going to be back. 

ALLRED:  Thank you.

WEINTRAUB:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, he beat his illegally adopted 6-year-old child to death.  Today Joel Steinberg walked out of prison a free man. 

And the prosecution says Scott Peterson killed Laci in part to be with his girlfriend Amber Frey or that might have enhanced the motive.  Today the woman who introduced Peterson to Amber took the stand.  She says that Scott wasn‘t exactly telling her the truth.  Does this mean Amber Frey is up next?  We‘ve got the answer, coming up.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  It was a horrifying story that highlighted the problem of domestic and child abuse across the country.  Seventeen years ago Manhattan attorney Joel Steinberg convicted of manslaughter for torturing and beating his 6-year-old illegally adopted daughter to death.  After serving almost 17 years, he was released from prison this morning on parole. 

NBC‘s Rehema Ellis has the story.


REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (on camera):  Joel Steinberg was sentenced to 25 years.  He spent 15 years living in a small cell in the prison down the road behind me.  Today, in a chauffer-driven white stretch limousine, Joel Steinberg got out of prison on parole. 

(voice-over):  In 1987, the then New York lawyer became the evil face of child abuse, convicted of manslaughter in a case so horrifying, it made child abuse a national issue.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  This was a case that touched the hearts of people everywhere.

ELLIS:  A beautiful child with sad eyes, 6-year-old Lisa, illegally adopted was found at home, naked, unconscious, barely breathing.  Her little body badly bruised and filthy.  She died three days later.  Hedda Nussbaum, Steinberg‘s common-law wife, was herself abused.  At first a co-defendant, she later testified against Steinberg.

HEDDA NUSSBAUM, STEINBERG‘S COMMON-LAW WIFE:  One thing he said was about Lisa, I knocked her down and she didn‘t want to get up again...

ELLIS:  Years after Steinberg‘s conviction, Nussbaum told Matt Lauer that she had been too afraid to call for help. 

NUSSBAUM:  ... I was not supposed to argue.  That was not allowed. 

And when he was hitting me, I was not allowed to scream. 

ELLIS:  The case broke open the many stereotypes about child abuse.  This was a middle class family, living in a historic Greenwich Village apartment.  Steinberg a criminal lawyer, Nussbaum a book editor.  What police called a barbaric and heinous crime prompted changes in child protective laws and private adoptions.  “New York Post” columnist Andrea Peyser followed the case from the beginning. 

ANDREA PEYSER, “NEW YORK POST” COLUMNIST:  Now we say how could this happen?  Why—you know why was nobody watching?  Well, 20 years ago, 18 years ago nobody was paying any attention and he was living out in the open as a monster. 

ELLIS (on camera):  Now 63 years old, Steinberg is returning to New York City to live and work doing interviews for a public access cable channel.  There are strict conditions to his parole including a 9:00 p.m.  curfew. 

I‘m Rehema Ellis, NBC News, in upstate New York.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, day 18 in the Scott Peterson trial.  The woman who introduced Peterson to his girlfriend Amber Frey took the stand.  The question, of course, how much will she help the prosecution—you are not going to believe some of the stuff Scott Peterson told her too, if you haven‘t heard it.

Remember this is the program to turn for full coverage of the Peterson trial.  Log on to our Web site for an interactive timeline of Laci Peterson‘s disappearance...

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you are writing from.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, she introduced Scott Peterson to his girlfriend Amber Frey.  Exactly what did Peterson tell her?  Coming up.  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back—day 18 of the Scott Peterson trial.  On the stand today, the woman who introduced Peterson to girlfriend Amber Frey.  Shawn Sibley told the court on the night she met Peterson at a business convention in Anaheim, the California Association of Pest Control Advisors, Peterson told her he lost his soul mate and thought he was going to spend the rest of his life alone.  Sibley also said Peterson asked her about her own sexual preferences and other explicit sexual details.  But Sibley said that you know she didn‘t put—make much of it.  She said that Peterson seemed to be saying it in a joking fashion. 

For more on today‘s testimony let‘s go to the courthouse and Susan Siravo from NBC station KNTV—Susan.

SUSAN SIRAVO, KNTV CORRESPONDENT:  Dan, Shawn Sibley‘s conversation today—she talked about the conversations she had with Scott Peterson the night she met him in Anaheim, California in October of 2002.  As you mentioned, Sibley referred to her fiance as a soul mate.  She said Peterson told her he also had a soul mate, but lost her. 

Prosecutor Dave Harris asked Sibley does he indicate what he‘s attempting to do about finding another soul mate.  Sibley replied Peterson said he had dated a lot of one-night stands.  He was sick of all these women he met that were bimbos with no brains.  He was interested in meeting someone who had intelligence.  Sibley went on to say Peterson asked, did I have any single friends that I could hook him up with. 

Sibley said when she first confronted Peterson about being married, he denied it, but called her back several hours later and was sobbing.  She said Peterson then told her he was once married, but lost his wife and it‘s too painful to talk about.  Sibley said Peterson swore he was not married currently. 

When Sibley told Peterson about Amber Frey, he apparently asked if she was intelligent.  Sibley said yes, she‘s pretty, but some people think she‘s to thin and Peterson apparently replied, that‘s OK, I like thin women. 

Court has adjourned for the day and it will resume again Tuesday morning after the long holiday weekend. 

I‘m Susan Siravo in Redwood City.  Dan, back to you. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, this guy is a piece of work.  All right, Susan, thank you. 

So Sibley says Peterson told her he lost his wife, wanted to find his soul mate, a long-term meaningful relationship.  This, of course, on the first night that they had met at that pest control convention.  After she set Frey up with Peterson, she found out he was married.  Prosecutor Dave Harris asked about the phone call when that happened.  Harris said tell us about it.

Sibley said Scott‘s just sobbing hysterically and he says I‘m so sorry I lied to you earlier.  I have been married.  I lost my wife.  It‘s too painful for me to talk about.  Please give me the opportunity to tell Amber in person.  And I said Scott, I don‘t care if you‘re widowed or divorced.  All I care about is if you‘re married right now.

And he said no, absolutely not.  Key to the prosecution‘s case today, Peterson‘s alleged lies and his affair with Amber Frey, lying to Frey‘s friend that he was unmarried even after being confronted. 

Let‘s bring in our legal team—Amber Frey‘s attorney, Gloria Allred, criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub, and in the courtroom today, former San Mateo County prosecutor, Dean Johnson. 

All right, you know Dean, the defense is conceding that this guy is a piece of work, right? 


ABRAMS:  That he‘s a cad, that he‘s a liar, that he‘s a philanderer—



ABRAMS:  Can you hear me, Dean?

JOHNSON:  Yes, I mean they‘re—yes, I can hear you.  They are conceding all of that.  But, I think you have to be in the courtroom to understand exactly the affect of this testimony today. 

ABRAMS:  Tell us. 

JOHNSON:  This—Scott Peterson comes across a lot sleazier than anybody thought.  It seems that this is not just a case of married men behaving badly, but this is a modus operandi on Scott Peterson‘s part.  He approaches Shawn Sibley who he has just met, within minutes they are talking about sexual positions, she makes it clear she is not interested and the next line of conversation is essentially well, have you got a friend?  And that‘s how he ultimately gets hooked up with Amber Frey. 

ABRAMS:  And...


ABRAMS:  And Jayne Weintraub, at one point he asked her to call him—they start exchanging e-mails where he says you know he‘s going to be referred to—and I apologize for anyone, if you‘ve got any kids listening, take a moment—I‘m just going to give everyone a moment to leave the room, you know, I will come back to that in a minute.  I want to give people a chance—there is a term that becomes important in this case.  But, Jayne, you know, this looks bad for Scott Peterson. 

WEINTRAUB:  Well, but remember Dan, two things.  One, I acquiest (ph) to Dean who was in the courtroom and can feel the affect.  But remember, they concede that he‘s—should be wearing the scarlet letter “A”, that he‘s an adulterer.  And Sibley wasn‘t so ashamed or afraid or uncomfortable that she didn‘t introduce him... 

ABRAMS:  She didn‘t know...

WEINTRAUB:  ... to her friend. 

ABRAMS:  ... he was married. 

WEINTRAUB:  So—well, wait a minute Dan.  Remember one other thing that came out on cross.  She did know that Amber dated other married men.  She knew that Amber had been in other married men relationships...

ABRAMS:  And that‘s why she didn‘t want her to be in this one.  That‘s why she kept saying again and again...


ABRAMS:  Let me...


ABRAMS:  ... I‘m going to read...

WEINTRAUB:  ... first degree murder...

ABRAMS:  Let‘s go to number three here. 

Harris:  How did you feel or think about this when he‘s asking you to find a serious relationship? 

Sibley:  I began to think he was serious about really wanting to meet someone and so I told him I have a friend who is single and I told him she has been through a lot of bad relationships, so if you‘re not serious about having a long-term meaningful relationship, I don‘t want you to hook up with her.

WEINTRAUB:  Well remember, this is Amber‘s friend.  What do you expect her to say?  Remember, she‘s got a spin on this too.  My big question here, Dan, is why are we having all this cumulative evidence about the affair that they admit to anyway.  It is not evidence of a murder.

ABRAMS:  Oh my...

JOHNSON:  Well I‘ll tell you why...


JOHNSON:  ... Jayne.  Because it‘s not just an affair.  It‘s a long-term process.  Remember, the title to the TV movie about this case, “The Perfect Husband”.  It‘s perfectly obvious that Scott Peterson was not the perfect husband.  He was essentially living a double life and that‘s going to become enormously important.  Because as Sibley testified, she and Amber Frey had found out about him.  Amber Frey was eventually going to find out if he didn‘t do something, that he was married and that his wife was alive.  Laci Peterson was about to have a child and that double life was about to come to an end and that‘s really the prosecution‘s theory. 

ABRAMS:  Yes...

WEINTRAUB:  But Dean, it wasn‘t...


ABRAMS:  Hang on...


ABRAMS:  I got to get Gloria Allred in here. 


ABRAMS:  Gloria, another...


ABRAMS:  Gloria...


ABRAMS:  Hang on, hang on, all right.

JOHNSON:  ... the double life that was coming to an end for Scott Peterson. 

ABRAMS:  Gloria Allred, this is a lot about your client, Amber Frey.  And you know the issue became that Scott Peterson and Sibley started identifying Scott as—quote—“horny bastard” and that became, sort of, coming to define him.  You know, this goes beyond, doesn‘t it, simply a guy who is a cad.  I mean this is about as bad a cad—put aside the issue of whether he killed his wife, but just what we‘re hearing today in court goes beyond just cadum (ph). 

ALLRED:  Yes, it does, Dan, and I think you were right to put up the testimony wherein Shawn said that she told him that Amber had been in bad relationships, that she was interested in a long-term, meaningful relationship and that if he wasn‘t interested in a long-term, meaningful relationship, basically she didn‘t want to fix him up with Amber. 


ALLRED:  Because obviously she didn‘t want her friend to be hurt.  And Scott, knowing this, still goes ahead and wants to be fixed up with Amber.  You know, I don‘t even like the word cad.  That makes it sound as though it‘s somehow fashionable to go ahead and hurt women, go out with women...

WEINTRAUB:  ... what‘s the relevance to that to the murder trial...

ALLRED:  ... when you are married—this man is a serial liar, he is a manipulator...

WEINTRAUB:  He was a married man having an affair Gloria...

ALLRED:  Let me finish—I didn‘t interrupt you, Jayne.  I‘d appreciate a little courtesy here.  And the testimony today was that Scott was crying on Shawn Sibley‘s voicemail.  He was crying when he talked to her.  He didn‘t want her to tell Amber the truth.  He wanted to be able to tell her himself.  He said he lost his wife.  What is this guy, can he cry on demand?  Is he that duplicitous and why does he want to go ahead and continue to live this double life and hurt—the prosecution is trying to suggest that the relationship with Amber supports...


ALLRED:  ... a motive for murder and that‘s why...


ALLRED:  ... Amber is relevant...


ABRAMS:  Let me...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... not a lot of evidence...

ABRAMS:  Got to take a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everyone is going to stick around.  We‘re not done.

Is she or isn‘t she?  That‘s the question.  All right, so now they‘re laying out the foundation for how Scott Peterson meets Amber Frey.  A lot of people saying it will mean Amber Frey is the next witness to take the stand.  That‘s the rumor at the courthouse.  But here we can give you the real scoop, more than just the rumors.  That‘s coming up. 

And your e-mails about this teacher who is charged with having sex with her 14-year-old student.  You know turns out many of our male viewers are saying exactly what I might have expected. 



AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND:  I met Scott Peterson November 20, 2002.  I was introduced to him.  I was told he was unmarried.  Scott told me he was not married.  We did have a romantic relationship.  When I discovered he was involved in the—or the Laci Peterson disappearance case, I immediately contacted the Modesto Police Department. 


ABRAMS:  It has gotten to the point where I can almost quote that verbatim.  Of course, the question is now that we have been hearing about how Amber Frey was introduced to Scott Peterson, the question is, is Amber Frey going to be the next witness?  That‘s what a lot of people were saying.  Based on the witnesses who testified today, you‘d think she‘d be up next.

We‘re told by two sources involved in the case that it is not expected to happen next week.  One of those sources was not Gloria Allred who is respecting Amber Frey, but have you heard anything about this, Gloria? 

ALLRED:  I don‘t expect her to be testifying on Tuesday. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and they would have to give you a certain level of notice.  I mean and I‘m under the impression that there‘s going to be notice at that courthouse about a week or so when Amber Frey is going to testify and none of that notice has been delivered. 

All right, let me read you another quote from today.  Harris, the prosecutor, says did other members of that group, talking to Shawn Sibley, the one who introduced Amber Frey to Scott Peterson, indicate if they were married or not? 

Scott acted like he wasn‘t married because he asked me if actually, on the way over to dinner he was asking what he could put on his name tag to attract women that night. 

Boy, all right.  Shawn Sibley, her testimony, Amber Frey‘s testimony.  Dean Johnson, you‘re saying that we have had a couple of good days here for the prosecution. 

JOHNSON:  Yes, the prosecution has established some momentum.  Yesterday they did a great job of bringing—making Detective Brocchini an honest man again.  I think the jury now will give some credibility to the investigation that the Modesto Police Department did and Shawn Sibley‘s testimony, for the first time I saw a lot of the jurors sitting up, taking notes, a lot of the women jurors in particular sort of shaking their heads knowingly and giving the look to Scott Peterson.  I think the prosecution has established some momentum.  Once again...

ABRAMS:  Wait...

JOHNSON:  ... this is a horse race.  I hope...

ABRAMS:  Tell me what...

JOHNSON:  ... they keep that momentum...

ABRAMS:  Tell me what you saw the...

JOHNSON:  ... I want to see both sides...

ABRAMS:  Dean...


ABRAMS:  Dean, tell me what you saw the jurors doing, you said.

JOHNSON:  Oh, the jurors—we saw the jurors sitting up, taking notice.  A lot of the jurors were taking copious notes.  We saw a number of the jurors looking over at Scott Peterson for the first time, sort of giving him—shaking their heads and going (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


JOHNSON:  Yes, they were definitely reacting to this testimony as was everybody in the courtroom. 


WEINTRAUB:  Look, Dan, being a sleaze bag and being all these things we call him is not an element of first degree murder.  If it were, perhaps there would be more credence to be given to it, but it‘s not.  They still don‘t have...

JOHNSON:  Everybody knows...


ABRAMS:  So, wait...


ABRAMS:  ... wait.  Hang on...


ABRAMS:  Hang on, hang on.  Hang on.  So Jayne, you‘re saying that you think that the judge is at fault here for allowing in any of this testimony about his relationship with Amber Frey? 

WEINTRAUB:  Well I think—no, I think...

ABRAMS:  OK, so then you understand...


ABRAMS:  So don‘t pretend then you don‘t understand why it‘s being admitted. 

WEINTRAUB:  Well, I don‘t understand why, for example, Detective Brocchini was allowed to talk about some crackpot that called up and said...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s a separate question. 


ABRAMS:  You just said to us that it is completely irrelevant.  It has nothing to do with the murder case about Scott Peterson‘s relationship with Amber Frey and I‘m now putting you on the spot and saying you do understand...



WEINTRAUB:  May I answer the question, sir?

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  You can try...


ABRAMS:  Now try to answer this one.  Go ahead.

WEINTRAUB:  This is how I would answer it.  That‘s not what I meant to say if I did.  What I meant to say was there is enough here to go on, it is so cumulative.  They are calling witness after witness - they‘re beating a dead horse.  How many witnesses are they going to call to character assassinate Scott Peterson?  Because that‘s the point of this.  The point isn‘t it was the motive.  The point—because he had lots of affairs, and we know that.  That‘s why they moved back to Modesto because Laci caught him having an affair, remember, and so they moved to Modesto to settle down, supposedly.  But the bottom line is he didn‘t kill other women he had an affair with...

ABRAMS:  Yes, well...

WEINTRAUB:  ... and that‘ll come out in the...

ABRAMS:  ... look, and that‘s—you know I‘ll be interested to see if the defense—I don‘t think the defense is going to go quite that far.  I mean I‘m not saying...

WEINTRAUB:  You will have me back for that, right...

ABRAMS:  Oh yes—no, when Mark Geragos...


ABRAMS:  ... if Mark Geragos actually says he didn‘t kill any other women—and I‘m not saying it‘s an illegitimate argument because you know they can absolutely say—I think they‘re actually going to use some of those other affairs, as you point out...


ABRAMS:  ... to Scott Peterson‘s advantage.  Yes, all right...

ALLRED:  Yes, but Dan...

ABRAMS:  Gloria, Jayne, Dean...

ALLRED:  ... you know the point...

ABRAMS:  ... I got to wrap it up.  You know I‘ve got to have...


ABRAMS:  ... you know I‘ve got to have plenty of time for my “Closing Argument” to bloviate and sort of you know opuskate (ph). 

Coming up, your e-mails on this woman.  A teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student.  A lot of e-mails from our male viewers.  Their opinions are not that surprising.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, why we don‘t need to presume defendants are innocent outside the courtroom.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.  We continue to get lots of e-mail from people asking the following question:  What happened to the presumption of innocence?  From Scott Peterson to Michael Jackson, even to Saddam Hussein, many of you asking why we aren‘t presuming these people innocent.  I‘ve said it before and I‘ll say it again. 

The presumption of innocence does not and should not exist outside a courtroom.  Think about it.  For to us presume someone innocent is for to us presume the authorities got it wrong whenever they arrest someone.  I‘m not willing to assume that unless I‘m a juror.  It‘s a legal fiction that was designed for the courtroom.  Since the authorities have the power to take away someone‘s freedom, we force them to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and give the defendant the presumption of innocence.  The deck intentionally stacked against the government because they have that enormous power. 

It makes a lot of sense.  But it makes no sense outside of the courtroom, particularly for our purposes.  Imagine an evening news piece where the reporter presumed the person innocent.  John Doe was arrested today on charges of smuggling drugs, but since the presumption of innocence applies, we must assume the authorities got it wrong or we must presume it was sugar, not cocaine in his possession. 

We‘d lose all our credibility if we spoke in that dishonest fashion.  That does not mean we have to or should presume the person is guilty.  But no journalist, talk show host, even citizen outside a courtroom should be obligated to presume the authorities are always wrong or lying all the time.  Now I‘ve heard people say that our coverage contributes to the decay of the presumption of innocence inside the courtroom.  Well, those kinds of comments are belied by the facts. 

In every high profile cases, there are plenty of prospective jurors who have not went tainted by media coverage, who don‘t know much about the facts and have not developed opinions about guilt or innocence.  That was even the case in the O.J. Simpson civil case after the criminal trial had been broadcast around the world.  That‘s what jury selection is for—to ensure that prospective jurors can be fair and initially presume the person innocent. 

But remember, when the authorities make an arrest, they‘re presuming the person guilty.  Inside a courtroom, they‘re going to have prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and they may turn out to be dead wrong.  But, the rest of us can discuss the evidence and even have opinions about it without having any guilt about the presumption. 

I bet we get a lot on that one.  I‘ve had my say, not it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night on the program we told about Debra Beasley Lafave, the Florida middle school teacher charged for having sex with her 14-year-old student.  And we asked if prosecutors, judges and juries are tougher when a teacher is a male and should they be? 

Many of you were sharing sentiments.  Jack Walsh in Mesquite, Nevada.  “ I wish I had a teacher like that when I was 14 and so does every other guy I‘m sure.  I do not believe it‘s the same when it is the woman having sex with the young male.”

Jessie Sweeney, Portland, Maine.  “If you were 14 years old, wouldn‘t you want to be sexually abused by someone who looked like Debra Lafave?”

From Tampa, Florida, Jeff Clark.  “I grew up in Tampa, Florida and I tell you what.  I never had a teacher that was that hot.  Florida is the retirement capital of the world.  Nothing but old people here.”

Michael Kirwan in Miami Beach, Florida.  “The prosecutorial process of

turning these teenage sex participants into victims (and all that implies -

·         damaged, ruined, permanently labeled) is infinitely more damaging than the sex act themselves.  Was the boy damaged by his trysts with the hot blonde teacher?  I wish you‘d included a case wherein both the teacher and student were male, as I think the sentencing differential would have been even more indicative of the social and cultural bias applied to these instances.”

But from Cameron, North Carolina, Leasa.  “I personally think that there are just as many women out there that prey on young boys.  They just don‘t get caught.  The young boys most likely out of fear of being made fun of by friends don‘t report it as often as young girls.  Women should get exactly the same sentence as men.  You abuse a child, you go to jail, end of story.”

Maybe so, Leasa, but there‘s no way there are just as many adult women who are having sex with boys as adult men with girls.  Let‘s be you know realistic.

George Nakou in El Paso, Texas.  “That young teacher is not a criminal, but may need some psychological help.  She did not rape or violate him as she is not the penetrator.  The idea that sex between a teenage boy and an older woman is as damaging to the boy as sex between a teenage girl and an older man is to the girl is pure nonsense.”

I love the fact that whenever you talk about a woman having sex with a boy, so many also talk about her psychology, you know how difficult this must have been for her.  But if it‘s a man, he‘s just a pervert.

On the Scott Peterson case, I said it felt like a setback after setback for the prosecution in particular after Detective Brocchini admitted he failed to include information in his report about a witness who said she saw Laci at Scott‘s warehouse days before she went missing.  That could help explain how her hair ended up in Scott‘s boat. 

Then yesterday prosecutors finally made some advances.  Christine Burdick, the executive director of General Counsel of the Santa Clara County Bar Association writes, “All the legal pundits were quick to write off the prosecution.  However, the prosecution‘s redirect of the detective showed a brilliant setup of Geragos.  The prosecution showed, for example, that Geragos knew the witness at the warehouse had been interviewed by another detective.  Geragos knew that the police investigation had not overlooked the witness, but that was the impression Geragos intentionally left with the jury.  Good for the prosecution for setting up Geragos and undermining his credibility with the jury.  I hope you all apologize to the prosecution on the air.”

It was hardly a set-up by the prosecution.  Brocchini still looked terrible.  Prosecutors still have a lot of catching up to do before they are entitled to any apologies. 

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you are writing from.  We go through them every night at the end of the show. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Filling in tonight, Andrea Mitchell. 

Thanks for watching.  I will see you tomorrow. 


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