November 5, 2004 | 11:36 a.m. ET

Inside the jury room (Amy Harmon, Abrams Report Peterson trial producer)

The jury deliberates Scott Peterson's fate as I write. Twelve virtual strangers, who knew nothing of Scott Peterson before the trial, are secreted away deciding whether Peterson killed his wife and unborn son.  How are they approaching the daunting task of sorting through five months of testimony?  Did they first take a vote...guilty or not guilty...to see where each individual stood?  Or did they immediately start analyzing the evidence? And how many times has the term 'reasonable doubt' been uttered?  We may never know.  Ask any lawyer about juries and he or she will likely say something similar: "You can never predict what a jury will do."  For now we will wait...and no one knows how long it will take.

Why am I interested?  Like many of you I have followed the case since Laci Peterson disappeared.  And as a producer, I have worked on the trial since before the preliminary hearing.  What the jury will do with the case is the ultimate mystery.  Little physical evidence, and a lot of speculation equals a strong circumstantial case for the prosecution.  Little physical evidence and a lot of speculation equals reasonable doubt for the defense.  So which way will the jury go?

Having covered criminal trials for a number of years, here are some things I've learned:

  • Jurors generally take their jobs seriously, especially in capital cases.
  • Jurors generally follow the law closely, and often analyze each piece of evidence within the context of the judge's instructions.
  • Juries generally deliberate one day for each week (5 days) of testimony. There were approximately 66 days of testimony in this case.  Using my unscientific 'equation', this jury could deliberate for approximately 13 days. (I know, it took the O.J. jurors less than four hours to acquit him.  But remember, I never said this was scientific).
  • Juries that are sequestered generally reach verdicts faster than those that are not.
  • Fridays are big days for verdicts.

Tune in to the Abrams Report tonight at 6 p.m. ET.  Dan is at the courthouse in Redwood City with the latest on the Peterson trial verdict watch.

November 4, 2004 | 11:51 a.m. ET

The waiting is the hardest part (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

We're waiting on a number of things this morning. First, the Scott Peterson trial has entered the jury deliberation phase and that means we could hear today, tomorrow, or weeks from now about the jury's decision. Dan is on his way to Redwood City to keep us updated on the latest developments; he'll report from there tonight. 

Then there is the fate of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. U.S. officials confirm Arafat, already in poor health, took a turn for the worst at a Paris hospital last night. We're waiting for French officials to update us on his status and to learn what will happen when power inevitably transfers in Ramallah. We're also waiting to hear if the President mentions anything about the fate of the Supreme Court at a news conference this morning. Personally, I'm just waiting until lunchtime and hoping there will be sushi in the cafeteria today.

So in this time of waiting, I thought I might introduce you to one of my co-workers, one of the lovely people who make up the Abrams Report staff. Bob Lilly keeps us abreast of stories relating to the war on terror, Iraq, and the Middle east. Here's what Bob's reading today:

November 4, 2004 | 11:44 a.m. ET

Appointing a right judge could be the wrong choice (Dan Abrams)

As I listened to both President Bush and Senator Kerry talk about healing the nation and coming together, I couldn‘t help wonder whether those were just hollow words when it comes to a controversial issue near and dear to my heart.  The appointment and confirmation of judges and any U.S. Supreme Court justices in particular.  It is so easy to say the words.  Now it is time to see them make the words mean something.  First, President Bush needs to avoid appointing ultra conservative judges.  Judicial extremists who are completely out of the main stream. 

To appoint them is to guarantee that the divide of the nation just continues to grow.  And it ignores the reality that while this is a nation divided, most of us are somewhere in the middle, either more liberal Republicans or more conservative Democrats.  I would hope the judicial appointments would reflect that reality.  President Bush received a mandate from the American people to among other things appoint judicial conservatives to the courts. 

That‘s a given.  But when a judge is appointed to an appellate court for life, it‘s also fair to hope that there are other more conservative judges who were passed over because in comparison, they were, well, too conservative.  I hope the president resists the temptation to allow the far right to dictate who makes it on to our most cherished courts, assuming that occurs. 

Now, let me rephrase that.  Assuming that occurs, Democrats in the Senate must stop the procedural games they‘ve been using to avoid voting on nominees and confirm the president‘s selections.  The people have spoken and it‘s the president‘s authority to select judges.  The Democratic senators are there not just to—quote—“advise” but to consent as well.  In this divisive issue, in this divided nation, a little compromise would go a long way. 

Your rebuttal 

On Monday in my “Closing Argument” before the election, I said it‘s time to change the way we vote because our current voting procedures and rules are antiquated, inconsistent and unreliable.  I said it‘s time to get rid of the Electoral College because it eliminates the one-person one vote and allows someone to be elected who loses the popular vote and it also doesn‘t account for third party candidates.  Plenty of response. 

In Colorado, Bob Fernstrom writes: “You‘re dead right about our need to reform our antiquated and flawed system.  Unfortunately, the only people who can begin this process, however, are the ones who get elected into office by using it.  I fear their answer will be it worked for me.  Why change it?”

But Ron Abbot in Montclair, California: “Doing away with it at this time would be a disaster.  You would have a few heavily populated states controlling the election and the rest of the country left out.”

Marshall Potter: “We live in a Republic.  We live in a Republic for a reason.  Because the framers knew, as do most educated citizens, that in a direct democracy the mob will rule.”  Come on.  As if the Electoral College is to protect me against that? 

Last week I presented mock closing arguments from both sides in the Scott Peterson case.  On Friday, the defense.  But Jack Kelley in Hatfield, Pennsylvania wasn‘t impressed. 

“Abrams, you don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  Your summations are indicative of your lack of experience in criminal defense law.  I‘ve been at it for over 30 years.  Closing statements cannot assume facts not in evidence.  Most of what you claim to be proving in the Peterson case was not established.  So what you presented is plain old emotional appeal.  Judges don‘t like that.” 

Mr. Hatfield, first of all, they‘re called closing arguments.  It‘s opening statements, closing arguments.  Furthermore, it‘s a jury who is deciding the case, not a judge.  And juries often do like emotional appeal.  Furthermore, the arguments I made were the very same ones that—being made by the defense.  So you may not like their case.  I‘m not thrilled with it either, but Mr. Hatfield, you as a lawyer of 30 years should know you have to argue the case you‘re handed. 

Finally, Warren Corernthal from Montclair, New Jersey, wrote us on Monday:  “I can‘t wait for this election to be over so we can concentrate on truly important events like the Scott Peterson trial.”

Send your e-mails to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the how.

November 3, 2004| 4:16 p.m. ET

Why-oh, why-oh, didn't it come down to Ohio? (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

It's over!  But just when we thought we could go home and get some rest after election night, we're reminded that we've only just begun.  We can't stop now because it's Day 1 of the Peterson verdict watch!  The jury got the case this afternoon and Dan will soon be on his way to Redwood City to bring you live coverage of the final days of the trial.  We talk about closing arguments and what we can expect in the days ahead with our legal team tonight.

And, it seemed at one point last night and early this morning that the election was again going to be decided by the courts with a close margin in Ohio and thousands of provisional ballots just waiting to be argued and challenged.  But in the end, perhaps it was the very lawyers we feared would muddy the process who actually helped preserve the system's integrity.  Dan goes through the lawsuits and legal battles that came out last night and how the legal landscape might change over the next four years.  Tune into the Abrams Report, tonight at 6 p.m ET.

November 2, 2004 | 8:26 p.m. ET

Got a problem with voting?  Get in line! (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Long lines, could they be the new chads of 2004?  Our main concern used to be getting people to show up at the polls but now the issue is getting them to stay there and wait it out.  There are reports from all over the country tonight about voters having to wait in long lines.  (Dan even waited for over 2 hours to vote in New York this morning).  

And the award for the voter with the most stamina goes to college student Maggie Hill who has been on line in Ohio since 1:30 p.m. today and she says she was recently told she has as many as three more hours to go to get into her polling place!  Hang on.

November 2, 2004 | 7:31 p.m. ET

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio (by Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Moritz College of Law is reporting on a new lawsuit coming out of Cincinatti.  A voter is claiming there is no system in place to count provisional ballots.  The suit even sites Bush v. Gore and calls the state's guidelines "vague, incomplete, and insufficient to assure uniform evaluation and counting of provisional ballots throughout the state."  All states were required to offer voters provisional ballots after the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 but remember, provisional ballots just mean those voters get a ballot, it doesn't mean their vote is going to count.  As Dan likes to put it, provisional ballots are designed to protect voters from government mistakes, not from their own mistakes.

November 2, 2004 | 2:43 p.m. ET

Citizen Journalist Reports

Write in laymens terms, not legalese
by SG, Fort Lauderdale, FL

I wanted to express my frustration with the legal wording that is often used on our ballots.  There has been confusion in the past and it seems as if this year is no different, in particular the wording in Amendment 1.  I see myself as fairly well educated with a four-year college degree and a master's degree and I was unable to clearly determine whether to choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to indicate my position on this issue.

I never received a sample ballot in the mail to be able to review the issues and clarify any that were unclear.  When I went to vote, I reread Amendment 1 several times to try to decipher whether answering yes meant I was for notifying parents or against it.  I am against notifying parents if a minor chooses to terminate their pregnancy, but I am saddened to say that I realize now that I have mistakenly voted for notifying parents.

There need to be safeguards put in place for voters so the issues that we are voting on are clearly written in laymen terms and not in legalese. 

Pass the buttons, please
by Gina Dee, Pittsburgh, PA

My husband and I went to vote at 8:00 this a.m. in District 3 in Dormont, Pa.  There were five volunteers registering the voters - four female, one male.  When the male election overseer saw our John Kerry buttons, we were told that the campaign buttons were to be removed in order to vote.  At first we thought he was joking - but he was serious. He was rude and humiliating and told us it was against the law and that there could be no campaigning in the voting room.  We removed the Kerry buttons against our will.  

After a call to Democratic HQ, we were told that it was perfectly legal to wear campaign buttons to vote and that only the volunteer workers were not permitted to wear the buttons showing favoritism for any candidate. 

So, while voting today, please wear your campaign buttons proudly, no matter which candidate you support, and don't let anyone tell you that you are not permitted to voice your opinion.  After all, freedom of speech is in the Constitution.

Click here to read more Citizen Journalist reports.

November 2, 2004| 2:03 p.m. ET

Here's a roundup of blogs commenting on the Court ruling allowing Republican voter challengers into the polls:

I was able to locate two conservative webloggers commenting on the earlier lower court ruling DISallowing the challenges. 

  • A Green Conservatism that these are "remarkably stupid laws obviously intended to favor Demoncrats, and that there is little any poll watcher can legally do to prevent fraud."
  • Cabal of Doom writes that this is "good news."

—Dave Johnson, Seeing the Forest. Dave can be reached at seetheforest@nuthouse.com

November 2, 2004 | 1:01 p.m. ET

Ohio absentee voting ruling goes against voters

The Toledo Blade reports Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell has ruled that people who did not receive absentee ballots will not be allowed to vote.  From the story:

"Ohioans who requested absentee ballots but who have not yet received them will not be able to vote, according to a decree issued yesterday by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. He has told county boards of elections that those people may not vote a provisional ballot. And because they requested absentee ballots, they will not be allowed to vote at their regular polling place."

This is a real problem because, as the story says,

"Many county elections boards in Ohio got a late start in mailing absentee ballots because of a delay caused by the question of whether independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader should be on the state ballot."

Usually on election day I work at a San Mateo County polling place.  In any case where it is not clear whether a voter should be casting a ballot we allow provisional voting.  One specific case for this is when a voter who has been sent an absentee ballot comes in to vote.  

Provisional voting means the voter fills out a ballot, which is put in a special envelope and information about the voter and the reason for the need for a provisional ballot is written on the outside of the envelope.  Later, county election officials can find out whether that voter should be allowed to cast a ballot, and if so the ballot in the envelope is added to the pile of ballots-to-be-counted.  For example, if a voter has already been sent a ballot, this is noted on the envelope.  Later, they find out if that absentee ballot arrived, and make sure only one ballot for that voter is used.

It is my understanding (I'm not a legal expert and I'm told this can vary by state) that the HAVA Act requires any voter to be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, so that the vote will be counted if it is a legal vote.  I would think this Ohio ruling goes against that.

Dave Johnson, Seeingtheforest.com. Dave can be reached at seetheforest@nuthouse.com

Back to Challenges in Ohio

Perhaps it is because blogs are written by individual skill sets that largely cover legal perspective and political perspective, but the web is doing yoeman's duty on the Ohio vote challenger story.  To recap, the Republicans wanted to have challengers present at polling locations.  A federal district judge said the Republicans were not allowed to be present.  Today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district judge.  Dr. James Joyner provides coverage and Law professor Rick Hasen provides commentary.

The biggest story of the day might not be covering voters, but shadowing the steps the lawyers are taking for both sides.

Erick Erickson, Redstate.org

November 2, 2004| 12:04 p.m. ET

Heading to court instead of the polls

John Lauck, a conservative blogger in South Dakota, has been live blogging the hearing that arose out of Tom Daschle suing John Thune yesterday.  Many conservative bloggers are wondering if Daschle has gone mad.  It is probably not good press to run to court at
the last minute suing the opponent.  Powerline says that Daschle is showing desperation.  Hugh Hewitt thinks the last minute lawsuit is "pathetic." 

Daschle's campaign ran to court yesterday alleging that Republicans are or intend to intimidate Native American voters.  The Daschle camp tried to get the judge to order the South Dakota GOP to stop poll watching on Indian Reservations.  In the end, the judge issued an order blocking the GOP from writing down license plate numbers.  Republicans are still bitter from the 2002 election where John Thune lost by 500 votes.  The Republicans alleged voter fraud on Indian reservations.  As a result, the GOP has been very aggressively coordinating poll watchers this year. 

For more information on Daschle's suit, stay tuned.

Erick Erickson, Redstate.org

November 2, 2004| 2:08 a.m. ET

Blogger Digby reports that the Justice Department, in an unusual move, has stepped into an Ohio election case on the side of Republicans who hope to challenge voter registrations at polling places:

“two federal judges in Ohio prepared to rule on lawsuits contending that the state's procedure for challenging an individual's right to vote is unconstitutional, the Justice Department weighed in with an unusual letter brief supporting the statute."
Digby writes, "What you and I call common sense, the Republicans are calling a ruling by an "activist liberal judge."

-Dave Johnson, Seeingtheforest.com

Does your vote count? Check out these pre-election articles on battleground states:

Colorado

Florida

Iowa

New Mexico

Wisconsin

November 1, 2004 | 9:33 p.m. ET

Shifting strategies; shifting votes?

The shifting paradigms of this 2004 election season will be many.  As a political consultant, I want to see how get out the vote ("GOTV") methodologies withstand the tidal wave of history being made this year.

Past years have seen swarms of volunteers descend upon states and recruit voters to go to the polls.  This year, partly out of necessity, the Democrats have largely outsourced the effort to 527 organizations that are prohibited by law from coordinating their activities with the
Kerry campaign, but pay their organizers.  The Bushies are keeping with the traditional method, but putting it on steroids.  One Bush campaign source says, "It is the most intensive GOTV effort I have ever seen — down to the city block."

The Kerry campaign is being helped out by the old guard — unions — and by new 527 groups like Americans Coming Together.  I have no idea which will work better — paid organizers or hard core volunteers.  My guess is that hard core volunteers will work better because they have a fundamental, emotional tie to the candidate.  At the same time, this year, the paid organizers on the Democratic side are energized by an antagonism for Bush. 

On Tuesday only one thing is certain — the canvass on which political consultants paint will be look vastly different.

—Erick Erickson, Red State.Org

November 1, 2004 | 5:09 p.m. ET

Election 2004, "welcome back" (Dan Abrams)

You would have, could have, and should have hoped that this time around "the program about justice" would be somewhat irrelevant on Election Day. It was not much to ask that in the wake of the 2000 legal battles, someone would have taken the reins away from the lawyers. But, alas, as we drag those obscure election laws out of our time capsules, we remember the great words of a popular 1970's TV program "welcome back" (as in Kotter).

That's right, it felt like a perfect storm, a single, unique political event that became legal only because everything was so close and so contested in a state wholly unprepared for that kind of scrutiny of its rules. You could call it Hurricane Katherine Harris (the Florida Secretary of State).

With another storm looming over Florida, Ohio, Michigan, even Hawaii, your favorite legal meteorologists are ready with the forecast and analysis. In fact, if this election is as close as it seems, it's not just possible it will be decided in the courts, it's likely.

Now a quick self-serving plug. I'll put in parentheses so you don't have to read it: (Remember, at Hurricane Harris, we were the first, by about ten minutes, to correctly interpret the Bush v. Gore decision. If you want to rely on other networks who got it wrong in 2000 and hope for the best this time around, feel free. .. But my legal advice… why risk it?

For the last month, we have been researching every state's laws and voting procedures. From the most obvious like the recount procedures, to the more mundane like how many feet away people must remain from a polling window.

While much of the pre-election litigation has been focused on Ohio and Florida in an effort to establish rules and procedures for Election Day, expect the lawyers to move to any state, or states, that could make or break the election. That could mean multiple cases in multiple states.

Our regular viewers know we have been following the some 40 lawsuits filed so far. Most of the rulings have been as practical as they have been legal. Rather than create Election Day chaos, many courts have elected to retain the status quo, particularly so late in the game. But that does not mean they won't be challenged again later.

Provisional ballots have been a particular favorite when it comes to the lawyers (ballots given to people who are not on the voter rolls but who insist they are registered). Almost all courts have ruled that if you want your vote to count, you have to appear in the correct precinct. In essence, a provisional ballot is designed to protect the voter from government errors not to protect the voter from his or her own mistakes.

But that too could end up back in the courts if it's that close.

We are hoping for a landslide . . . why? The jury in the Scott Peterson trial gets the case on Wednesday! Imagine all that work and we end up in Columbus, Ohio as the verdict is read?
Seriously, covering the 2000 post election legal battles was the most intellectually challenging, exciting and important story I have ever covered. So let' s just say we are ready. If it heads to the courts, we will be there and I hope you will join us!

Got something to Say?  Dan wants to know.  Email him at DAbrams@msnbc.com

November 1, 2004 | 4:08 p.m. ET

Waking Ned the voter

In the movie "Waking Ned Devine," the title character died after learning he had won the lottery. The local townspeople created a ruse that Ned Devine was alive so the lottery proceeds could be collected.

In the 2004 election, the same ruse might need to be created for absentee voters. Being an elections attorney and being from Louisiana, I often get asked about dead people voting. This year, as MSNBC has reported, the probability is dramatically increased. Why?

Let's use Georgia to explain it. Early voting in Georgia is, by definition, absentee voting. An absentee ballot in Georgia is filled out on an optical scan ballot (similar to "fill in the bubble"

standardized tests). Early voting, however, is cast on touch screen machines exactly like those used at every polling place in Georgia on election day. An absentee ballot can be pulled when a voter dies, but an early vote, cast on a touch screen machine, has to undergo special safeguards. In a recent Georgia election, a man died at approximately 7:15am. Polls opened at 7:00am. As a result, the man's ballot was counted and the election was tied. Had the man been certified dead by the coroner prior to 7:00am, the vote would not have been cast.

According to Cliff Tatum, Assistant Secretary of State for Georgia, "While ballots are cast on the Touch screen voting units during the absentee voting period, the ballots are stored and not counted until election day. Each ballot is assigned an identifying number that allows the registrar to pull that ballot in the event that the ballot is challenged or the voter dies. While the ballot can be retrieved, the content cannot be viewed, so no one knows how the ballot was voted."

Contrast Georgia with Florida. The Washington Post reported that "the dead will be able to vote legally. Miami-Dade election officials said Monday that anyone who dies between the time they cast an early ballot and Nov. 2 can be assured their vote will still be counted." This could raise constitutional issues. The U.S.

Constitution mandates that the Presidential election be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Whether a person has the constitutional right to vote in a federal election when they do not exist on the prescribed day of the election is an issue Republicans and Democrats might soon be fighting over.

—Erick Erickson, Red State.Org

November 1, 2004 | 3:50 p.m. ET

Verdict in the Peterson trial unpredictable (Mercedes Colwin, criminal defense attorney and Abrams Report regular)

In the aftermath of the catastrophic events on September 11, a higher premium has been placed on our liberty. This intensified focus on our constitutional rights heightens the public’s expectation to scrutinize criminal cases. Perhaps the most intensely followed case in the 21st century is the Scott Peterson criminal trial. Laci Peterson’s brilliant smile and burgeoning middle tore everyone’s heart when she suddenly and inexplicably disappeared on Christmas Eve day. Unfortunately for Scott Peterson, his duplicitous life filled with extra marital liaisons made him a primary suspect. When nearly 90% of murdered pregnant women are killed during domestic disputes, it is no wonder the proverbial noose tightened around Scott’s neck at the early stages of the investigation.

Once the trial began, it became clear the prosecution felt outgunned by the defense. Rather than adhering to the KISS (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) principle, the foremost tenet in trial advocacy, the prosecutors muddied the waters with ramblings of theories and did not provide a comprehensive story the jury can embrace.  They should have simply told the story from start to finish; walking though the theory of the killing, the transport of the body, the disposal of the remains, the clean-up of the incriminating evidence, the interactions with family, friends, media and law enforcement, the erratic drive to the Mexican border, and finally the arrest.  The prosecution failed to embed their theories in the jurors’ minds and therefore the theories did not withstand the defense’s cross-examination.  The three critical areas the prosecution highlighted to demonstrate Scott Peterson’s guilt: his relationship with Amber Frey, the gestational age of baby Connor, and Peterson’s financial distress, all fell apart like a house of cards.

Following the much-heralded testimony of Amber Frey, two other mistresses emerged; but we learned Laci knew about them during the early part of her marriage to Scott, thus reducing the bang to a thud. The case worsened when any hopes of proving baby Connor died on December 24, 2002 were dashed as prosecutors’ own forensic pathologists could neither rule out that Connor was born alive, nor could they collectively agree on his gestational age. Finally, the defense established during its case in chief that the Petersons had healthy finances and were scheduled to inherit a sizable amount of money on Laci’s 30th birthday.

With a beleaguered prosecution compounded with excellent defense tactics, the imminent verdict is as unpredictable as the 2004 Presidential race. Despite the overwhelming emotions from the case and the enormous strain the jury will undoubtedly endure during deliberations, a first degree murder conviction is unlikely. However, one thing is certain, the Scott Peterson story will live on long after the Court strikes the gavel and dismisses the jury.

Email us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

November 1, 2004 | 12:17 p.m. ET

Election stories you won’t being seeing tonight (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

We're less than 24 hours away from Election Day and we would need another four years to go through all the election law stories out there. That's where our trusty blawg comes in Take a look below at some of the voter stories we found but won't have time for on the show today. And don't forget to tune in tonight when Dan interviews Florida Governor Jeb Bush on the eve of the election. His state was at the center of voting problems in 2000, what does he expect will happen this year?

Email us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

• November 1 , 2004 | 11:32 a.m. ET

This Halloween greeting comes from Dan's youngest fan, Madison Kate Spielberg, daughter of our executive producer, Meghan. Madison is planning on crying all night on November 2, ensuring that Meghan will be up and watching the election returns.

Meghan Schaffer

October 31 , 2004 |4:22 p.m. ET

Citizen Journalist Reports

Citizen Journalists report to duty, and to you.  Here is a sampling of what our CJs

have uncovered in the field and their impression in the final hours leading up to the election.

Voter fraud re-registers Pennsylvania students, moves them out of state
(Richard Lynn, Pittsburgh, PA)

Students at various Pennsylvania universities, including the University of Pittsburgh and several other state universities have suddenly found their polling locations shifted to other neighborhoods and in some cases other states and their affiliations switched to the Republican party, due to signing what they thought to be petitions for other causes. In a press conference on Wednesday, 13 University of Pittsburgh students called attention to the electoral scam.

The students were asked to sign what they thought were various petitions whose causes included lowering auto insurance rates and the legalization of medicinal marijuana. The students were, in fact, signing forms that changed the location of their polling places and which also registered them as Republicans. Some of the students had planned on voting in Pennsylvania. In many cases, the papers they signed moved their voting places back to their home towns, often in other states.

Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, has asked Attorney General Jerry Pappert, a Republican, to investigate the voter fraud. Pappert, in a statement today on KQV radio (1410 AM, Pittsburgh) said he has no plans to investigate. Allegheny County police and the district attorney, however are collaborating to widen the investigation without the Attorney General's help.

"We're just now really getting into the investigation," county police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said. County Elections Supervisor Mark Wolosik said he has sent five fraud complaints to the county police so far, all involving young voters who were reregistered as Republicans through deception. The fraud so far also encompasses colleges in Beaver, Indiana, and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania.

State House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese has called on Pappert to investigate, complaining in a letter of "wholesale corruption in the election process."

Allegheny County Democratic Party Chairman Tom Flaherty called foul. Additionally, he noted another possibly illegal tactic going on at Ross Park Mall, where official-looking fliers were distributed saying that due to the voting difficulties this year, and the backlog at the polls, Republicans would be asked to report to their polling places on Tuesday, and Democrats were to report on Wednesday. The fliers were also distributed to homes in the Pittsburgh area. Flaherty noted, "Some people will fall for it."

Doubts cast in the Sunshine State (Victoria, Deltona, FL)

I went to early vote last Sunday among about 75 other fine Florida citizens. The majority of voters were women; the men were already sacked out in front of the television for the Sunday Gridiron lineup. Of course, we all tried to sit there, quietly and wait for our turn. But that never happened.

Our discussion centered on how we hoped our vote would be counted. Is our vote going into a counter or a shred bin? The huge sense of distrust in a system that we had no faith in was amazing. So why were we spending a beautiful, sunny day in Florida waiting to participate in a system we did not fully trust? The overwhelming majority said voting is the only option we have. If we didn't vote, we wouldn’t have a voice, at least this way we might have a shot at being counted. Everyone agreed early voting is a nice alternative but speculation still ran high as to how this could backfire.

As I went into the voting booth I made sure I studied the ballot and made all of my marks exactly as shown on the example. I couldn't help musing to myself, I have a college degree yet I still need to look at the example to make sure I know how to vote. I’ve been voting for over twenty years, you would think I'd have it down by now. Since 2000 though, voter paranoia has taken over.

We are a smart nation. Can't we just get a system in place that insures everyone that has the right to vote fairly and be able to verify that their vote, their one precious vote, is counted just like everyone else? This was the topic of discussion of people waiting to cast their early ballots in Florida on a Sunday afternoon.

On-watch and on-top (Abigail Hollis Gray, FL)

My husband and I have volunteered to do the poll watching here in Florida on Tuesday. In preparation for this process, we have been learning which voters are eligible for the provisional ballots, who can and cannot vote, and what our role is in the election process. Our training has consisted of several training sessions that were very well run. Well-written guidelines have been provided for us and now it will come down to the process itself.

We are both new at this and wanted to see first hand how the process would be executed. And we will find out come Tuesday. So far, our experience has been very enlightening and positive.

The Associated Press reports on more voting woes around the nation.

October 30 , 2004 | 7:03 p.m. ET

Scott Peterson Trial: Closing argument (Dan Abrams, "representing the defense")

Ladies and gentlemen, Scott Peterson loved Laci. He loved her spark. He loved her smile. He misses her each and every day. On December 24, Scott Peterson‘s wife and son were taken from him. You heard their relatives and friends testify that they saw Scott and Laci, the loving couple. He was looking forward to having a baby.

But there was something that some did not know and prosecutors have proved that beyond a reasonable doubt. They have proved that Scott Peterson could be selfish. They proved he lied to Laci’s family, to Amber Frey and at times even to his own family, including to Laci herself. If this were a perjury case and he had said those things under oath, we would plead guilty. It‘s not.

Scott Peterson is charged with premeditated murder. So their theory as to how Scott killed Laci? They don‘t have one. How about when he did it or how he premeditated it? Nothing. They seem to be suggesting he killed her the night before. That would mean he waited until it was light out to take her body to the exact location he told police he was fishing? This is a case where the Modesto authorities got their man within hours of arriving at Scott and Laci’s home.

Their man was Scott Peterson. As a result, they never truly evaluated the evidence. Now the police figured it must be the husband and then made the evidence fit their theory. The prosecution‘s case really boils down to three issues-where the bodies were found, Scott‘s behavior after Laci went missing and Amber Frey. That‘s it. Let‘s go through them.

There‘s no question that someone wanted to make it look like Scott Peterson killed Laci. There‘s no other explanation for how those bodies ended up near where he went fishing. Who was it? Why did they do it? I don‘t know. Believe me, no one would like to know more than Scott Peterson. But that‘s the prosecution‘s job to find out, not ours. They have the power to get search warrants and question witnesses, not us. I do know that from day one, Scott Peterson told every police officer who asked the same thing. That he was fishing. Where? The Berkeley Marina. When?

The day Laci disappeared. Why would he put himself at the scene of the crime if he knew he dumped the bodies there? They say he weighed down the bodies with concrete anchors, but again that‘s just an unsubstantiated guess. They haven‘t recovered any anchors. They‘ve heard the prosecution suggest there was missing concrete from Scott‘s home. Well you recall Scott says he made a boat anchor and you heard Steven Gebler, an expert in concrete, testify that Scott told the truth when he said he used the concrete to repair his driveway.

But that doesn‘t fit into their theory of Scott building five anchors so they ignore it. How about his behavior? Well it‘s pretty clear Scott Peterson was scared. He knew the police had their sights set on him. That‘s why he repeatedly went back to the marina before Laci was found to try to find witnesses to help his case. He was scared and he was alone, with the police taping all of his calls and leaking information to the media suggesting he was guilty.

He was behaving erratically considering the circumstances, which brings me to Amber Frey. Scott liked Amber Frey. He had an inappropriate affair with her. And as each day passed without any news about Laci, he had almost no one else to turn to. Did he say things he shouldn‘t have? Of course. Were some of his comments inappropriate? Absolutely. But remember, with police monitoring his every move, he was acting erratically, even with her, sometimes talking about being with her. At other times talking about points of-quote-"contention between us."

And remember, everything you heard on those tapes was after Laci went missing, after the police had the world turning against him. Before she went missing, they‘d only seen each other four times and that‘s the motive for this murder? But there was one thing Scott never wavered about, ever, no matter who asked, from the police, to Amber Frey to Laci’s brother, to his mother, to the media.

The evidence supports that. They focus on suppositions and possibilities. We want you to focus on hard evidence. There was not a single piece of physical evidence relevant to this case found in that home. No blood. No blood, no sign of struggle. Nothing. As for the investigation, they didn‘t even test the house, the supposed crime scene for fingerprints. Why? Because they assumed Scott was guilty.

They didn‘t test some of the evidence found with the bodies either.

So really it‘s hardly surprising that they didn‘t follow up on other leads. They already had their man. In the year after Laci went missing, the authorities ignored or failed to interview witnesses who thought they saw Laci walking her dog in Modesto that morning.

And how about that pregnant prosecutor who looked a lot like Laci? She calls in warning that maybe this is a case of mistaken identity, that she had been threatened by a defendant. She had walked in Laci’s neighborhood with her dog who had the same name as Laci’s dog, Mackenzie. That maybe the killer mistook Laci for her. Ignored. They already had their man and they ignored at least four witnesses who saw a mysterious van in the neighborhood that morning.

They even ignored a witness who said he saw Laci being pushed into a van. No need to investigate that either. And yet the detective, Allen Brocchini, admitting he omitted information from his official report, information that would have helped show why Laci Peterson‘s hair might be in Scott‘s boat for perfectly innocent reasons. She had been in the boat. That is, if it was her hair at all.

But that didn‘t fit their theory. And remember the prosecutor is telling you at the outset that Scott could not have been watching Martha Stewart on TV with Laci when he left their home because Scott had said she was talking about meringue. They told you Martha did not discuss meringue on that show. We played the tape, the meringue reference and all.

This investigation in and of itself provides enormous reasonable doubt. Let me just briefly talk about the arrest. They tried to characterize Scott as a man on the run to Mexico, but even though we have no burden, we‘ve shown you that he knew he was being followed. He was trying to evade the media. He was arrested at a golf course. What was he doing there? He was on his way to play golf, but again, that doesn‘t fit into their theory. Think about this.

According to them, it is just a coincidence that in this sleepy bedroom community, there was a robbery across the street from the Peterson home, sometime after 10:33 a.m. on the same day Laci disappeared. Seventy-five pieces of jewelry and two guns stolen at around the same time Laci disappears. Coincidence. Then the Peterson‘s own home is robbed a few weeks later. Again, coincidence.

And then there‘s one issue that if you even question, you must find Scott not guilty. The age of baby Conner. Through cross-examination of their expert, Dr. Greggory DeVore, we showed that even he could not tell you that the baby did not live beyond December 24. Remember, it‘s their burden of proof. Our expert, Dr. Charles March, believed he lived at least until December 29.

Now remember, if Conner died any time after December 24, Scott Peterson could not be responsible. He was being monitored after that time. If you have any question about that, you must find him not guilty. The question here is did the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott premeditated and then killed his wife? I submit to you we have proved he is stone cold innocent. But at the very least, there is more than reasonable doubt. I ask you to find Scott Peterson not guilty.

Your rebuttal

Joanne White writes about a comparison one of my guests made between the Michael Jackson settlement and the Bill O‘Reilly settlement. I said any time someone pays big bucks, I presume they did something wrong, but at least O‘Reilly didn‘t claim it was all false, as did Jackson. At least O‘Reilly seemed to admit he made the comments but said essentially they were taken out of context.

"My interpretation of the tone from your little speech is that you think O‘Reilly deserves credit because he said he made a stupid mistake, even though he may be guilty. But you and your self-righteous indignation already think Jackson is guilty no matter what he says."

Gail from San Diego, California: "You seem to imply that O‘Reilly was better than Jackson because he admitted he did something wrong. So what are you saying Dan? That Jackson should admit he‘s guilty even if he feels he is not?"

All right. To both Gail and Joanne, I think they are - that they both probably did close to what their accusers claim. And so Jackson may be lying while O‘Reilly just isn‘t coming clean. There’s a big difference. But more important, for to you suggest that molestation of a child is comparable to unwanted dirty talk to an adult just shows how skewed your values are.

David Lipton from Brookline, Maryland: "The public should demand the so-called ‘No Spin’ zone becomes a ‘no cover-up zone’".

Regarding my mock closing argument for the prosecution in the Peterson case, Vivian O‘Brien says, "Sure hope the real prosecutors in this case were watching. It was so good. After watching your presentation, I now see how the jury could absolutely convict him without a doubt." Thank you Vivian.

Terry Walker from Georgia: "You did a very good job at showing how the defense theory did not make sense. The prosecution needs to have you on their team." Terry, thanks.

But Dailey Pike from Los Angeles: "I Ti-Vo’d your prosecution closing argument. I plan to play it back when I‘m having trouble sleeping."

And then Ronald Bickham from Louisiana seems a little confused. "What was that closing argument? It sounded like something a prosecutor would write. Where is the fairness? You need to get your money back from that law school."

OK Ronald, I was giving a mock closing argument for the prosecution. It was supposed to sound like a prosecutor. So I guess I was so convincing that should I donate some extra money to Columbia Law School this year.

Your e-mails: abramsreport@msnbc.com

• October 29 , 2004 | 1:37 a.m. ET

Scott Peterson Trial: Closing argument (Dan Abrams, "representing the prosecution")

With closing arguments set for next week in the Scott Peterson case, below is my mock closing argument for the prosecution:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is at its heart a fairly simple case, a long case, but in the end, a simple one. The evidence you‘ve heard for the past five months demonstrates that one of two things happened to a beautiful, vibrant, pregnant woman named Laci Peterson on or around December 24, 2002.

Either, as the defense has suggested, some homeless transient, unidentified, Polynesian-looking individuals, or local burglars abducted Laci in or near Modesto Park for her jewelry or for her baby in the 10 to 20 minutes after Scott Peterson left their home. And then rather than leaving her, took her to some undisclosed location until Scott Peterson announced where he‘d been that day. Then the killer or killers went 90 miles to the San Francisco Bay to the exact spot where Scott Peterson said he‘d been fishing and dumped the body in an effort to frame Peterson. But rather than placing the body in the water so that Peterson would be immediately blamed, weighed the body down with anchors, leaving her decomposed remains and those of her son Conner to only wash up accidentally months later.

The other possibility? She was killed by her philandering husband who had forecasted her death about two weeks before she disappeared, and who had admitted he had gone fishing in the exact location where the body of Laci and her son washed up months later-nowhere near their Modesto home.

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that the most important piece of evidence in this case-pieces of evidence in this case-are not even in dispute.

First, however you want to characterize it, Scott Peterson began an extramarital relationship with Amber Frey in November of 2002. He told her he‘d be able to spend more time with her in January, not in dispute. On December 6, Amber’s friend, Shawn Sibley, confronted him about being married. He told her he had lost his wife, but that he wanted to tell Amber himself, not in dispute.

The next day, December 7, he began looking to buy a boat on the Internet. December 8, he searched for information on the tides in the San Francisco Bay, the precise area Laci’s body was eventually found. December 9, he tearfully told Amber he had lost his wife. Two weeks later, that prediction became reality. His wife was lost.

It‘s also not in dispute that the day Laci went missing, Scott Peterson claims he was fishing nearly two hours away from their home on Christmas Eve and yet he told different stories to different people about his whereabouts. Why? He told two neighbors and one of Laci’s family members that he went golfing, not fishing that day. Other witnesses testified he didn‘t seem certain what he was fishing for.

It‘s also not in dispute that he said Laci was wearing black pants and a white shirt when he left the house. The problem? Her body was found with tan pants, meaning if the defense‘s theory is true, in the minutes after Scott Peterson left the house, his seven and a half months pregnant wife dropped her mop that he said she was using when he left, raced to change her clothes, and was immediately abducted. Think about it. How long does it take a woman that pregnant to just put her shoes on?

And speaking of shoes, why aren‘t any of her shoes missing if she was out for a walk?

It‘s not in dispute that Scott Peterson returned to the marina where the bodies had not yet been found at least three times, sometimes in a rented car, and that he repeatedly lied, even to his own family members, to cover up the fact that he was there. He also lied about various other issues, to the police, Laci's family, and the media in the weeks after her disappearance. Ladies and gentlemen, why would an innocent man tell so many lies if, in his words "these are critical days." How could those lies help find Laci? And while there‘s no standard for how an innocent husband would or should act, it‘s not in dispute that in the weeks after she went missing, he sold Laci's car, tried to sell their house, and just a week afterwards, called Amber from Laci's vigil. You heard him telling Amber he wanted to create a life with her, take care of her daughter, that he didn‘t want to have more children.

It‘s not in dispute that he was arrested 30 miles from the Mexican border. The defense says he was going to play golf. Of course, he didn‘t have any clubs or shoes, and yet his car was stuffed with other gear, survival gear, $15,000 cash, and some Mexican currency.

Then there‘s the physical evidence. The defense has offered a lot of theoretical possibilities about why Laci's hair could have been found wrapped on pliers in Scott‘s new boat. About why 80 pounds or so of cement might have been used for something other than anchors to weigh down Laci's body.

About why these pictures depict something other than five spots where the anchors were made…and why tracking dogs who tracked her scent from their home to the marina were wrong. Ask yourself-could Scott Peterson be so unlucky so many times that so much incriminating evidence is actually something else?

Please, don‘t lose focus of the big picture here. There are possible innocent explanations for some of the evidence, and you will hear them from the defense. But not for all of the evidence taken together, taken as a whole.

There is no other reasonable explanation for what happened to Laci Peterson. We‘ve proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott Peterson killed Laci and ask you to find him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife and their unborn child.

Tune in today, as Dan does a mock closing argument for the Peterson defense.

• October 29 , 2004 | 11:58 a.m. ET

Today's off-air legal roundup (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Court begins at 6 p.m. ET and Dan is hard at work on his closing argument. Tonight, Dan assumes the role of Scott Peterson’s defense team when he'll deliver his own version of closing remarks to you, the jury. He'll go through the witnesses, the evidence, the alibis, and he's got some fancy graphics to match! The rest of the staff is busy preparing to give you all the election law you can handle on November 2 and getting today's show together. Here’s a look at some of the legal stories we won’t have time for today:

And here's your roundup of buzz from some of the other legal blogs:

• October 28 , 2004 | 5:23 p.m. ET

Dan Abrams the lawyer, the TV anchor, the actor?  (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Closing arguments in the Peterson case are set for Monday but you can get a sneak preview on the show tonight. Dan assumes the role of the Peterson prosecution team and will give his own version of their closing arguments. He’ll lay out which witnesses he thinks they should focus on, what evidence is strongest, and he’ll be just as convincing tomorrow night when he does it all again from the other side playing the role of Peterson’s defense.

Plus, if Bill O'Reilly and his accuser, Andrea Mackris, don't reach a settlement today, they'll be in a New York court tomorrow for the first hearing in their lawsuits. O'Reilly wants to force her to turn over tapes of their alleged phone sex, that is, of course, if she really has them. So what can we expect, and why hasn't there been a settlement yet? Dan joins up with two leading employment attorneys.

And of course we’ll go through our nightly round up of the legal issues surrounding Decision 2004: what they mean to you at the voting booth and how they could affect the outcome of the election.

Hey, think I’m not the only one who can write about stuff? Why don’t you try your hand at it and become a citizen journalist for us? MSNBC TV and MSNBC.com are relying on you to help report this election. With such a tight race and so much controversy, accuracy and speed are critical to good coverage. Find out how to become a Citizen Journalist .

• October 28 , 2004 | 5:06 p.m. ET

What‘s wrong with giving school kids time off from classes to let them help get out the vote?  (Dan Abrams)

In the swing state of Wisconsin, hundreds of public school children have volunteered, with the approval of their parents, to take time out of their classes to help a group encourage people to vote—a sort of civic field trip. But Chris Lato, the communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin has said, "To spend this time on a clearly partisan effort when these kids should be in school learning is shocking."

The umbrella group Wisconsin Citizen Action has announced its support for John Kerry for president. But like many special interest groups, it‘s divided into an advocacy arm and an educational arm. This is supposed to be the educational arm. If there‘s evidence that the kids or the educational arm is engaged in political advocacy, then the organization is in big legal trouble, a separate issue.

There's no evidence of that yet. The kids are not allowed to wear any partisan buttons or clothing, nor are they permitted to encourage people to vote one way or another. It is for that reason that the Milwaukee Public School System has approved of the program. Now it‘s true kids are knocking on doors primarily in minority neighborhoods with historically lower voter turnout and these neighborhoods tend to be Democratic.

But if you‘re going to try to get people to vote, why would you go to areas where voter turn out is highest? Are they suggesting schools should decide where to send the kids based on politics rather than on where they may have the most success adding people to the voter roles? But more important to me and the partisan squabbles is that Mr. Lato seems to be saying that this is not a learning experience.

Kids can learn a whole lot more about civics and government by being involved in some way than just by studying it in a book. To suggest they're doing this instead of learning is nonsense. I say encourage kids to get involved. It's good for them and it‘s good for all of us.

Your rebuttal

Yesterday, the defense rested its case in the Scott Peterson trial without calling Scott Peterson to the stand. As I said before, they never really considered it. Anyone who suggested otherwise including some of my colleagues were just spinning for the defense. It appears he was cross-examined, a mock cross-examination, though, by an attorney who worked with Mark Geragos.

Holly Rose Garland from Wheeling, Illinois: "Perhaps the reason Mark Geragos presented such a lackluster defense is that he discovered during the practice cross that the consulting attorney conducted last week that Scott Peterson really is guilty and Geragos did not want to face sanctions."

I assure you he didn't learn anything from that mock cross-examination about his client's guilt.

And Sharon Starsen in Honolulu, Hawaii with a thought about Peterson‘s life after the trial: "If Scott Peterson is acquitted, perhaps he and O.J. Simpson can get together to play a killer game of golf."

Finally, Mark Marino from Fremont, California on why Scott had $15,000 with him when he was arrested: "Did anyone ever consider that the reason Scott Peterson might have had $15,000 in his pocket is that he was on his way to Starbucks?"

Send your e-mails to abramsreport@msnbc.com.

A reminder

I want to tell you we have a new way you can get involved with our show. We‘ve entered the blogosphere. That‘s right. We have our own blog sidebar. It‘s the blawg—get it—B-L-A-W-G about justice. And you can get it through our Web site abramsreport.msnbc.com. Click on sidebar, you‘ll hear from some of our favorite lawyers, some of our staff, and whether you like it or not, from me. You can always sign up to get our daily newsletter for a heads up the stories we‘re covering every night there as well.

A reminder, from now until Election Day, we‘re going to keep on top of the legal issues that could impact the election. You know this could be it. This could be the determining issues. You can get more information on NBC‘s "Making Your Vote Count" project on our Web site. We hope there will be a clear winner on election night. But if there isn‘t, we will be here to cover all the legal issues along with our colleagues at Democracy Plaza.

• October 28 , 2004 | 12:39 p.m. ET

The stories you won't be seeing tonight (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

It's Thursday morning and like every other day on the Abrams Report, the other producers and I have just wrapped up our morning meeting with Dan. In planning our show, we all pitch dozens of story ideas coming from around the country. But there's only so much we can pack into an hour — especially given the fact our salaries are paid by commercials, which give us even less air-time on the show.  Thank goodness we can finally blog to share some of the stories we wanted to cover but didn't have time for! Take a look at some of our favorites from today:

And here's your round-up of the craziest criminals of the week:

Think you've got a story we're missing? Feel free to drop us an e-mail: sidebar@msnbc.com.

• October 27 , 2004 | 5:56 p.m. ET

Why the battle over the 9/11 Commission's recommended changes represent politics at its worst (Dan Abrams)

The 9/11 Commission, five prominent Democrats, five prominent Republicans, spent months interviewing all the relevant players from President Bush to President Clinton. The goal? To assess what happened on 9/11 and why and most importantly, recommend changes to prevent it from happening again. They battled over words where Republicans tried to defend the president and Democrats doing the same for former President Clinton.

But in the end, they came up with a 585-page unanimous report. I promised if they were unanimous, I would defend it. Now a bi-partisan Senate bill incorporated many of the commission's suggestions, including a new position of intelligence director who would control almost all the budgets for the institutions that report to him or her. That would include Defense Department intelligence gathering agencies. The House wants to keep the status quo alive with the defense secretary retaining budgetary control. The House has also slipped in controversial measures about immigration and law enforcement. It sure feels like the House leaders just don't want to make the necessary changes that the 9/11 commission sort of suggested.

They compromised.The Senate compromised. The White House, which initially did not want the commission at all, compromised. But now the partisans in the House are trying to wipe away all that hard work by slipping in controversial provisions that will kill the bill and weaken any proposed changes. Leaders of the commission are now warning that lawmakers should be held partially responsible if another terror attack occurs before Congress restructures our nation‘s intelligence gathering operation.

They're right. It's easy to say we need to make changes, but it's a lot harder to do it. The 9/11 Commission was able to deal with the partisan split on their commission. Now it's the House's turn to finally put politics aside and make the tough choices.

Your rebuttal

I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for "Your Rebuttal". In my "Closing Argument" I said maybe it's time to make voting mandatory— a law that says you‘re expected to vote. It's effectively a symbolic law where the fines would be small, enforcement would be weak. If you don't want to vote, you don‘t have to. Just provide an explanation. Anything would do. The goal is to remind eligible citizens that it‘s more than a right to vote, it's an obligation.

Many of you were up in arms about this proposal.

Trevis M. Orr: "What are you smoking? Why would you want to persuade misinformed, non caring, non proactive people to cast a ballot? Don‘t we have enough problems already?"

Again, Trevis, why is it so different from jury service? That‘s a requirement. And again, you wouldn‘t have to vote. It would be sort of a legal reminder.

Mark Luedtke: "Not voting is a vote in itself. It‘s a vote against the political system."

No, Mark it's not. In fact, my system where you provide an explanation for why you didn‘t vote would allow people to make more of a statement against the political system by saying I didn‘t vote because I thought the candidates stunk.

From the Long Island University School of Business, Jim Lyttle: "Abrams does not seem to understand the under girding principles of our Constitution. No one can be forced to do anything for their own good."

Oh, really Lyttle? Well, first, the goal is not to help the nonvoter.

It‘s to benefit the system by having something closer to a true democracy. So this has nothing to do with doing something for their own good. And even if it is, how would you explain seatbelt and helmet laws or laws that allow police to take bridge jumpers off the edge?

And E. Weber in Mabank, Texas: "Why should I waste my time so that I should be forced to choose between scum and slime? I don‘t mind serving on a jury. At least when I vote there, the scum bag ends up in prison, not ruling the most powerful nation in the world."

Again, you‘re not being forced to vote. Just to explain why you‘re not. And I might be willing to suggest an exemption for Mr. Weber. Glad to see you‘re being open-minded on those juries too.

From Harriman, New York, Kate Schweizer writes: "Of course because it is a good idea and smacks of common sense it will never happen in this country."

The Scott Peterson case where the defense wrapped up today and a comment from one of my guests. Mercedes Colwin said when—she said $15,000 Scott had with him when he was arrested wouldn‘t have been enough for him to start a new life.

Sarah Liesinger in Kentucky: "First of all, if I had 15,000 no matter what the currency exchange, I could definitely start some kind of life in Mexico. It probably wouldn‘t be the life I would like to live, but being a bum in Tijuana sounds better than federal prison."

Eric Nelson in Monterey, California: "Here‘s an idea for a reality show you could produce. Give somebody 15,000. Give them a few weeks to disappear for a year. If after a year they pull it off, they could win some sort of monetary award, which Mercedes can pay. I personally know surfers who have survived in Baja for 500 a month."

• October 27 , 2004| 5:34 p.m. ET

On the show tonight: Your vote's "trade-in" value…  (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer and newsletter writer)

We swap a lot of things... in school you traded your vanilla pudding for your friend's chocolate graham crackers, trading baseball cards helps you complete your set, and every used car has a "trade-in" value. But what about your vote? Can you trade that? A group of Nader supporters, who want to vote for him but fear their vote may end up helping re-elect President Bush, have set up a website where Kerry voters in "blue" states can trade their votes with Nader voters in "battleground" states. It happened in 2000 and California sued some of the "Nader trader" websites saying they were breaking the law. So is it legal? We debate tonight.

And, get ready for the final round in the Scott Peterson case. The prosecution rested... the defense rested... and now the state gets a final opportunity to rebut testimony and theories the defense introduced in the last two weeks...  and, we can hardly believe it ourselves but the end is in sight: Judge Delucchi has scheduled closing arguments for Monday. Tonight, Dan rates both sides of the case with defense attorneys Mercedes Colwin and Gary Casimir, and Amber Frey's attorney Gloria Allred.

Plus, the election battleground is getting bigger and bigger with the polls now tightening in New Jersey and Iowa. We'll recap the major legal battles surrounding the election in those states tonight and every night until the election.

• October 27 , 2004| 1:12 p.m. ET

Dan's morning meeting (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer and newsletter writer)

You'll have to tune in tonight to find out what stories we're working on today (or just sign up for our nifty newsletter). But we thought we would start sharing a few legal stories we won't be covering—still worth a read. Every morning, we producers pitch our stories to Dan; here's a look at a few of our favorites that didn't make the cut today:

And here's your Martha Stewart gossip roundup:

October 26, 2004| 5:41 p.m. ET

The Peterson defense rests (Jamie Rubin, 'The Abrams Report' staff)

It's not about quantity, it's about quality: The defense team in the Scott Peterson trial rested this morning after taking only seven days to present their case. The prosecution needed more than 60 days and, as Dan predicted, they wrapped it all up without putting Scott Peterson on the stand. Dan never thought Scott's lawyers were ever really thinking about it. So, what about Scott's lies and suspicious behavior, and the other points prosecutors brought up with their witnesses that the defense never even addressed? Dan recaps the defense case with defense attorneys Mickey Sherman, Yale Galarnter, and former San Mateo county prosecutor Dean Johnson.

And, we elect our president, our senators, and our congressmen, but should we also be electing our judges? In 38 states, we do just that, and several voters even elect their state Supreme Court justices. In some races this year, the campaigns are reaching new levels of intensity with record ad-spending. After a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, judicial candidates can now run on their views on the issues like abortion, the death penalty, and gay marriage. So should we be electing our judges? And if so, should judicial candidates follow the same rules as other candidates? We debate.

We're just a week away from Election Day and there are some key legal rulings coming in that could affect voters on November 2. Dan breaks down some of the issues affecting voters in key battleground states with two election lawyers.

Join us tonight...

October 26, 2004 | 12:32 p.m. ET

Why it's time to make voting mandatory (Dan Abrams)

It may surprise you to know that from Australia to Italy, Switzerland to Turkey, 33 countries— most of them with true democracies— require citizens to vote.  Now, before you get on the horn to the ACLU screaming about how some insane lawyer on TV was talking about making you do this, hear me out.

I'm proposing effectively a symbolic law. More akin to a morality-based law than one that would be vigorously enforced as a criminal statute. Unlike some countries like Belgium and Luxembourg where the enforcement is tough and the fines can be steep, under my proposed system the fines will be small and the enforcement weak.  And if you don't want to vote, you don't have to. 

Just provide an explanation— any explanation: You hate the candidates, your toenail polish hadn't dried yet on the morning of the election, it was too cold out, whatever.  It's almost like a no-fault divorce. 

The goal is not to examine your reasoning, but to remind eligible citizens that it's more than a right to vote.  It's an obligation. A message to all who say they don't have time or they forgot. It's not unconstitutional or undemocratic to say you have to do certain things for your country.

I had to register in case there's ever a draft.  I've served on a jury.  When it comes to jury duty, if you refuse to serve, you can be forced to serve time yourself.  This greatest nation in the world has one of the worst records for voter turnout.  So why is it so jarring to say that citizens be required to vote in presidential elections once every four years?

Voter turnout is expected to be high in this contentious election.  But still, tens of millions will decide they had better things to do.  I think it is time to provide them with a serious reminder.

We hope you check into this blawg (pronounced “blog”— get it?) for more of the legal aspect of “Making Your Vote Count,” as well as the latest commentary on the latest cases.

Your rebuttal

On Friday, I was thinking a lot about why people hate lawyers so much.  Found a book while cleaning my office titled "Shakespeare's Insults For Lawyers".  I read some of the quotes in my finest Shakespearean accent.

Kevin in New York writes: 
"Your Shakespearean recitations at the end of tonight's show were masterful.  You had the meter down.  Your accent was a joy.  Have you acted in the past?  Although, we don't want to lose access to your daily comments on 'The Abrams Report,' it would be rather wonderful to see you branching out.  For example, performing in a Shakespeare production."

Yes, Kevin, you'll be able to catch me all week at the Circle in the Square Theater.  I'll be taking on "Coriolanus."  Just kidding.

Jess Woodward from North Carolina can attest: "Your reading of the Shakespeare quotes makes me feel secure that you will remain host of 'The Abrams Report' and will not be appearing in Shakespearean plays in the near future."

And of course there's always a well, lawyer who wants to get literate.  I read the line from Henry VI, "Let's kill all the lawyers." 

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Herb Silverberg Esq.  The "Let's kill all the lawyers line is spoken by a character who is conspiring to undermine society and establish corruption and anarchy or worse.  The character understands and announces that it will be impossible to destroy the social order and the general good and welfare if lawyers are allowed to remain on the scene to guard against it.  The line is therefore not a knock on lawyers, but in fact is praise for us.  Ignorance of facts and context has lured you into criticizing your profession for the wrong reasons."

Oh Herb, I mean Mr. Silverberg Esq., I assure you I need not summon the scribes of yesteryear to toss poisonous words at our profession.  With each sunrise our brethren provide us with a cornucopia of ammunition.  Of course, literally you're correct about the context.  The butcher who recited the line was attempting to prevent any informed opposition to the rebellion— yes, yes, yes.  But your your note further convinces me that lawyers are, well, you know, a little, you know, I don't know, weenies?

October 22, 2004 | 7:30 p.m. ET

Taking a page from Shakespeare (Dan Abrams)

I have been thinking a lot lately about why people hate lawyers so much… and I have a tendency to blame it on the litigation explosion. People blame lawyers for incrasing health care costs and for filing sometimes frivolous lawsuits,

I assumed the high profile cases didn’t help either, where defense attorneys seem willing to say anything to help seemingly-guilty clients.

As I was cleaning my office today, I found this book: “Shakespeare’s Insults for Lawyers,” which had degrading comments about my brethren from long ways back. It reminded me that this animosity is nothing new.

We went back and double-checked a lot of these references. They weren’t made about lawyers, but they could apply them now:

  • “Corrupter of words,” –Twelfth Night
  • “You undergo too strict a paradox striving to make an ugly deed look fair,” –Timon of Athens
  • “He has everything that an honest man should not have: What an honest man should have, he has nothing” –All’s Well That Ends Well

But then there are the specific references to laywers:

  • “Crack the lawyers voice that he may never more false title plead nor sound his quillets shrilly” –Timon of Athens
  • And of course, there is the greatest hit:
  • “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” –Henry the 6th

Well, it’s not that bad… then again, the post-election legal battles have not started yet.

Campaigning in churches?

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry cite religion or their faith in almost every speech, but according to the law, tax-exempt religious organizations can‘t support either candidate.  If they do, they risk losing it all and being forced to pay taxes.  Often there is a fine line between discussing issues and endorsing a candidate. 

Most religious organizations are nonprofits, therefore exempt from federal taxes.  But according to the Internal Revenue code, if an organization participates in or intervenes in, including the publishing or distributing of statements, any political campaign on behalf or in opposition to any candidate for public office, it could lose it all.

My take? It's a very difficult line to walk for religious organizations— what they can and can‘t do. 

On my show last Friday, Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State says they’re seeing churches and religious organizations going way over the line. “For example, with the Democratic National Committee to get John Kerry to specific places and then have the pastor on a Sunday morning announce that Kerry is God‘s candidate, or on the other side we‘ve complained to the Internal Revenue Service about the Reverend Jerry Falwell who we feel has used his tax-exempt ministry not only to endorse the re-election of George Bush but even more astonishing to actually direct people from his Web site to a Web site of a political action committee, raising money for President Bush‘s re-election.” So these aren‘t even close to the line, and we‘ve seen this happen over and over again.

James Bopp of James Madison Center for Free Speech countered that it’s unfair to exclude this kind of conversation for people of faith. “There are significant moral issues that are being dealt with by our government in many ways that… go right to the moral core of concerns— legalizing gay marriage, abortion, pornography.  And so as a result, people of faith have a legitimate interest in being concerned about, and preachers have a legitimate interest in talking about these issues.” 

What do you think? E-mail us.

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