November 18, 2004 | 10:29 a.m. ET

Part of the story, even from home (Aparna Zalani, Abrams Report producer)

As I wait patiently wait for my baby's arrival at home, I miss being at work. That's right, I do miss being at work. Being on maternity leave is great for the first couple days, but then you're at a loss as to what to do. I have researched every baby website for everything from bassinet sheets to diaper bags and I am done now. But I do look forward to 6 p.m. eastern time which is when I can watch 'The Abrams Report'.

Everyday I think of what must be going on in my absence. No, I am not worried about anything going wrong without me there, but it's just that I miss the discussions in the news room. I miss the silly jokes we make, the laughter, the frustrations and not to forget the adrenalin rush when a story breaks. I even miss when Dan passes by our area, looks at me, nods in acknowledgment and says simply "Aparna." Jamie, coming out from the cafeteria declaring, " today is a Subway day."  Even, Cory coming up to us and saying," guys we have to work this weekend." Yes, when you're at home, you miss the most insignificant things.

But yesterday I missed being at work most of all. The jury decided the fate of Coral Eugene Watts . He's a confessed serial killer who was set to be freed in 2006. But thanks to the Abrams Report viewer Joseph Foy and good prosecution he was convicted today of the murder of Helen Dutcher. He faces life in prison without parole.

The reason I want to be at work today is because our show is part of the story. It is a great day for the show.  We followed it from that day in January when we first ran the segment that Joseph Foy watched. Then in March, when the Michigan state attorney general filed charges and today when a confessed serial killer is finally convicted of murder.

November 17, 2004 | 4:40 p.m. ET

I miss Martha  (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Among the Abrams Report staff, I’m known as the go-to person for information on the Martha Stewart trial.  I was responsible for covering the case beginning in January and it was one of my favorite assignments.  I could write endlessly about the details from the stock sale to the phone messages, even the faux chinchilla scarf that caused a stir among animal rights activists when Martha left the courthouse on verdict day. 

So now that Thanksgiving is around the corner and people are looking to Martha Stewart’s magazine and website for tips on basting their turkeys and homemade cranberry sauce recipes, I find myself missing the story and wondering what Martha is up to.

I knew a lot about Martha and the media empire she built before I was assigned to the trial.  I had been to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia headquarters (I even applied for a job there!) and seen her products at Kmart.  I read glowing articles about the business savvy domestic diva that was to be admired for being a woman who made it in a man’s word.  I went to the same college as Martha Stewart and remember she was often recognized as a distinguished alumnus.  I even received a set of cookie cutters from a college event that her company co-sponsored.  I still have them. ( They really are great products!) But it wasn’t until I covered the trial that I grew to love her, or the story at least. 

The case was my beat for so many months that I actually miss it.  Ever since Martha reported to prison, there has been a lull in Martha news.  Sure I could tell you that her stock price is up today because of the Sears-Kmart merger , or that former ABC exec Susan Lyne has taken over as CEO of the company.  The Abrams Report could certainly do another segment on the 87-page brief her attorneys have filedto appeal her conviction but the story has really lost its pizzazz with its main character behind bars.

These days I find myself more interested in knowing what Martha Stewart the prisoner is up to.  In the past we saw her in court, on television, at her company’s headquarters in New York, but lately we haven’t seen her do anything.   There are no cameras allowed in the prison and Martha sneaked by the news crews pointed at the Alderson prison camp when she turned herself over.  Now that I think about it, I haven’t even seen her mug shot. 

We know Martha will be spending the holidays at Alderson where she’s been serving her time since early October.  John Small at savemartha.com is counting down the days until her release (according to his calculations, she’ll be home in 108 days).  And of course there are reports Martha Stewart is making friends with the other prisoners, offering them the egg salad she whipped up in her cell.  But I want to know more.  How is she plotting her return to the business world?  Is she really considering writing a guide to prison life?  Will she star in her own reality show ?  What kind of bulbs will she plant next spring?

Unless I can sneak my way into Camp Cupcake in the next three months, or get sent there absent of my own will, there’s no way to know what Martha Stewart is cooking up until her release.  But rest assured, I’ll be on the case as soon as she’s back on the scene.  Happy Thanksgiving Martha, I miss you.

Do you miss Martha?  Write us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

November 17, 2004 | 12:31 p.m. ET

Producing for Dan before the Peterson verdict (Falguni Lakhani, Abrams Report producer who traveled to Redwood City with Dan for the Peterson trial)

The weekend before flying out for the Peterson verdict, I didn’t know what to expect... How long would we be there?  How long will it take?  Dan and I were inundated with the Presidential election, so being a safe person, I packed a month’s worth of clothes and lugged my big suitcase to Redwood City, awaiting what would be the climax of a case I have followed from the very beginning. 

I was in Modesto for the long preliminary hearing...In Redwood City for opening statements, for the first few days of testimony, for the hot and heavy “Amber Frey Days”…and now I found myself joining the throngs of people eager to learn Scott Peterson’s fate. 

I arrived Wednesday night after working until 6 in the morning on all of our election coverage.  Information was being disseminated quickly.

On Thursday, minutes before going on air, NBC News found out the juror who would be named foreperson.  Our live shows from Redwood City were only beginning.  It was nice that it was still light outside (since we go on at 3 pm Pacific) when we were on air...everyone around me kept saying there would be a verdict the next day-Friday for sure. 

Frankly, that surprised me a bit because I really thought it would take longer than that.  Friday came and went—no verdict.  What now?   More waiting.  Things then shook up, literally, on Monday when two jurors decided to rock Peterson’s boat.

That was a weird day for me—it was the first day I was given the pass to sit inside the courtroom while the jurors deliberated.  I’m told that the days are usually slow—no action in there.  Bring newspapers to read.  Not so for me.

I walk in and the action starts...Peterson's attorney Mark Geragos asks the judge to declare a mistrial.  He says the jurors were conducting an experiment.

I run out of the courtroom, quickly calling Dan.  “Get on the air,” I tell him... “Possible juror misconduct in the case.”   He rushes to his seat—he breaks the news on MSNBC.  Our day had only just begun. 

We hoped the next day, Tuesday, would be easier.  Another hearing, and Boom! We hear a juror was dismissed.  I call Dan—this time I couldn't reach him at first...I was panicking.   Moments later he answers.  Phew.  “They've dismissed a juror, Dan.”  Wow, they have to start deliberating all over again.

It felt like Groundhog Day the next day when another juror was dismissed...What is going on out here?  The scramble was on...will these jurors talk now?  Who will get them on TV?  My thoughts were, Well, although Fridays are generally verdict days--there's no way there can be a verdict this Friday.  I mean, they just got yet another new juror...and they weren't deliberating the next day because of the Veteran’s Day Holiday. 

Verdict day:  That morning I woke up early to try and win the court lottery—The lottery prize is a courtroom pass picked at random, for people who would like to sit inside the courtroom while the jurors deliberate.  That day there were over 80 people lined up to try to win one of 27 slots.  As numbers were being called I announced to my media friends and everyone around me that if I win today there will be a verdict.   I didn't win.  “Does that mean there won't be a verdict?” I asked.   We would soon learn if I truly were Falguni the fortuneteller or merely just Dan's producer.

It turned out I must settle for just being Dan's producer...I was in what they call the “listening room” in Redwood City that day...you can see nothing...but you can hear everything that is happening.  Dan and I were going to quickly grab coffee and we were talking on the phone when we got wind of the fact that the judge planned on going on record...we surmised it was probably another dismissed juror.  Dan goes to sit in the chair-"just in case he has to go on air with it.”  Thank God he did.  He and I were on the phone when I screamed “Verdict at 1 p.m.!   Verdict at 1 p.m.!”  He was surprised, as was I. 

The rest feels like a blur until the actual verdict was announced.  In all the trials that I have covered with Dan, this was the first time I was physically there for a verdict.   My heart was beating fast...as the foreperson read “guilty” a huge roar rang out around us.  The three C's I called them:  claps, chants, cheers—so clamorous that I couldn't initially hear if they said first or second degree murder...when it was made clear to me—I was literally shocked—or as Dan called it “Shock and Awe.”

Thoughts?  Email us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

November 16, 2004 | 2:55 p.m. ET

Courthouse climax to verdict (Brian Cohen, Abrams Report booker who traveled to Redwood City with Dan last week)

A second juror had been dismissed in the Scott Peterson trial in only three days. After taking time off for Veterans Day, we all thought Friday was going to be quiet.  Rumors flew that the jury would only be working until 2 p.m. and a verdict wouldn’t even come in because of the short day. All of that stopped when neither Falguni (Dan’s producer), nor Jamieson (another booker) nor I won a ticket for a seat in the courtroom.  Immediately, we looked at each other knowing that a verdict was definitely going to come with none of us there.

Around 11:15 that morning, I made my way up the escalator toward the courtroom to listen for any rumors swirling that maybe something exciting would happen.  It was extremely quiet, which was unusual, and very empty with most reporters inside listening to the certification of records.  Just as I reached the courtroom door, I heard chairs sliding on the floor and the door immediately swung open.  Myland, one of the court officers, said, "Let ‘em out."  Reporters rushed out at full speed yelling, "it's a verdict, it's a verdict---verdict at 1 p.m.!"

The week ended outside the Redwood City courthouse at around 1:15 PST with hundreds of people cheering and screaming for what they called "justice."  I was in the middle of it all with Dan and Falguni trying to hear myself think.  But the noise was overwhelming.  People were jammed together waiting for family members to leave so they could offer their condolences to Scott's family, and smiles for Laci's.  As Scott's mother left, I stood next to a woman who yelled, "God is with you sweetheart, keep your head up!"  Attorneys who have become celebrities among the public were cheered as they left the courthouse running to television cameras to report on what they saw of Scott's lack of reaction to the verdict.

Reports of Scott showing no reaction or remorse to the guilty verdict made me think to myself ‘he ended it the same way he began it.  Not a care in the world for anyone but himself.’  It was a surreal experience to be there in the thick of it all, and a very exhausting one as well. 

But of course, it still isn’t over.  I will be right back in front of the courthouse to report it all when the jury speaks one last time.

What do you thnk?  Email us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

November 16, 2004 | 12:29 p.m. ET

The hazing of Republican Senator Arlen Specter (Dan Abrams)

Many other Republicans in the Senate are treating the senior senator from Pennsylvania and one of the most senior members of the Senate a lot like a fraternity pledge.  Specter is in line to become the chairman of the prestigious Judiciary Committee. His seniority should mean he chairs the committee that reviews President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Senator Specter has also devoted much of his career to focusing on the courts and other legal and justice-related issues. Being a moderate Republican, he would seem the perfect bridge between frustrated Democrats and more conservative Republicans.  But it seems some in the Senate have no interest in bridges or the senator’s experience.

No, they want to make sure that the Senate’s constitutionally mandated role of advising consent will mean consent only: Never question the president.  Never say no.  Senator Specter is too well independent.  His sin is  intellectual honesty.  When asked about potential Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, Specter said they would have a tough time not because he would oppose them, but because the Democrats would.

“The president is well aware of what happened when a bunch of his nominees were sent up with a filibuster”, referring to Democratic filibusters that prevented up or down votes on some of the president’s most controversial nominees.  It seem even discussing that reality in the Senate is akin to saying "Candyman," and that horror movie of the same name, where if you say Candyman in the mirror, the Candyman comes out and kills you. You have to avoid even using the word.

So far, Specter’s analysis of the realities of the Senate has led majority leader Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee and others to withhold support for Specter. Frist has instead suggested Senator Specter lobby his colleagues , making Senator Specter a sort of Senate parolee, forced to plead for mercy. In the campaign, the president promised he would nominate judicial conservatives. The Senate Democrats should expect that and prepare to confirm the vast majority of them. But Senator Specter should not be forced into a political purgatory because he recognizes that if a hard-core litmus test is used to select the president’s judicial candidates, there could be trouble with the Democrats. Just saying that shouldn’t mean his colleagues jump out of the mirror at him.

Let me know what you think.  Email me at DAbrams@msnbc.com

November 16, 2004 | 12:22 p.m. ET

Your rebuttal (Dan Abrams)

Many of you wrote in about various aspects of the Scott Peterson verdict, convicted of first-degree murder for the killing of his wife Laci, second-degree murder for their unborn son.  The jury now decides whether Peterson gets life or death next week.

Jim McIver in Seattle, Washington asks a question:  “Is it possible that Scott would take the stand in the penalty phase and say that Laci and Conner‘s death was an accident, but he then panicked and covered it up?” 

No way.  For three reasons:  First, it is not what the jurors are convinced happened-premeditated murder.  Two, it would hurt his appeal because anything he says can be used against him.  And third, he‘s not exactly credible.

I said many believed this was a stunning verdict coming only a half-day after the jury foreman was dismissed from the case.  The jurors were told to begin deliberations all over again.
Lena in Michigan writes:  “I was shocked to hear that a jury that took five months to hear evidence could take four to five hours to convict someone.”

Well, Lena, let‘s be clear.  While the jurors are told to begin deliberations again when a juror is replaced, that does not mean they have to pretend the other 11 do not know exactly where everyone else on the jury stands, so it moves more quickly.

Gillian Reynolds in Rochester, Minn. writes:  “I am stunned that you keep saying everyone is stunned about the guilty verdict in the Scott Peterson trial.  It seems to be only the legal analysts that are stunned.”

All right, Gillian, fair point.  Let’s remember, I thought and I said it, either conviction or hung jury going into the deliberations— more likely hung jury.  Then after the jurors were dismissed, I was convinced the jury would be hung.  That‘s the only reason it was stunning to me.

Finally, Mark Luedtke writes this after the verdict and after I admit I was wrong: “I was surprised to hear you repeat your Johnny-come-lately hung jury mantra tonight.  I believe you were steadfastly pro-prosecution.” 

Mark, you think that after the guilty verdict, I wanted to make it clear I was wrong and say I thought it would be a hung jury just to verbally flog myself again?  Remember, I was wrong about what would happen, not what I thought should happen.

Keep writing!  Email me at DAbrams@msnbc.com

November 15, 2004 | 10:53 p.m. ET

Sights and sounds from Redwood City (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer and newsletter writer)

It's really over.  It was a whirlwind afternoon last Friday when we learned the verdict was in for Scott Peterson in his murder trial.  Take a look at a few of the sights and sounds from Redwood City that day:

November 14, 2004 | 12:42 p.m. ET

Laci's legacy (Lia Macko, executive producer, MSNBC)

We learned Friday that Scott Peterson won't be on the golf course with OJ searching for his murdered wife Laci's real killer.  Victims' rights advocates breathed a sigh of relief, crowds cheered, and throngs of well wishers left notes and flowers at Laci's home.   Despite cocky claims of innocence by the Peterson defense team, the June dismissal of a juror who seemed more likely to grab a beer with Peterson post-verdict than convict him, several juror dismissals in the past week, and the lack of a weapon or even an eyewitness, a panel of twelve moved beyond reasonable doubt to convict the defendant of the premeditated murder of his wife and the second degree murder of his unborn son. 

Though it would be undignified to label any outcome in a murder trial a victory, the Peterson verdict does signal something important — and perhaps necessary —about evolving community tolerance for acts of domestic homicide and violence.  Statistics on this front are staggering and the demographics would shock many. Murder is the number one cause of death of pregnant women in the United States.  A third of female murder victims in recent years were killed by their spouses or others close to them, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and according to the FBI, just more than 800 spouses killed their partners in 2002.  Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey. 

The Peterson case reminds us that perpetrators of domestic homicide and violence often defy stereotypes— this group includes physicians, businessmen, athletes, police chiefs, and religious leaders. The many televised and published portraits of Laci and Scott Peterson as a young, attractive and loving couple remind us that real life villains often look benign, and that yes, these acts of violence could indeed happen to your next door neighbor, friend, or daughter.  The distrubing facts and images of the case— the dark, evil Christmas Eve disappearance of a beaming and vital expectant mother— remind us that the unthinkable is possible.  But the Peterson verdict helps transmit a message of deterrence to would be abusers that diminishes the aura of permissiveness haunting this realm of law since the conclusion of OJ's trial, the so-called trial of the century. Instead of reinforcing that a husband can get away with the murder —literally —in the state of Californina, the Peterson jury said the opposite, concluding that even in the absence of direct evidence, an unlikely defendant can be found guilty of murder.

Lia Macko writes about legal and political issues and womens' rights.  She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, the co-author of a book about working women and power titled, 'Mid-Life Crisis at 30:  How the Stakes Have Changed for a Generation and What to Do About It,' and is an Executive Producer at MSNBC.

Thoughts? E-mail us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

November 12, 2004 | 8:40 p.m. ET

Oh what a week it has been! (Jamie Rubin and Amy Harmon, Abrams Report producers)

The verdict is in for Scott Peterson. . .and what a week it has been for court watchers.  For two days in a row the case seemed to be hemorrhaging jurors, we saw Scott Peterson’s boat become an impromptu vigil for Laci, and at the most critical moment in the entire case, the reading of the verdict, lead defense attorney Mark Geragos was nowhere to be found.  Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was:

Monday: Jury views Peterson's boat at the courthouse and are re-instructed on "the attitude and conduct of jurors".

Tuesday: Juror #7 is replaced by alternate #2 for apparently doing her own “research” and the jury is instructed to start deliberations over again

Wednesday: Juror #5 is replaced by alternate #3.  The jury is re-instructed to rely only on the evidence presented at trial.  It is also instructed to start deliberations over again for a second time in two days.  A boat like Peterson’s is put on display outside Mark Geragos’ office.  It becomes a site dedicated to Laci’s memory covered with flowers and signs.

MSNBC TV

Thursday: Jurors take the day off for Veteran’s Day

Friday: At approximately 4:10 pm ET the jury found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Laci Peterson, and second-degree murder for the death of his unborn son Conner.  Cheers are heard outside the courthouse.

We are doing a special tonight from 9:00 p.m. ET - 11:00 p.m ET  to wrap up this crazy week.  You don't want to miss this!  We also have a live vote, quiz, evidence photos and analysis here on this blog and on our homepage.

What do you think? Email Dan at DAbrams@msnbc.com

November 12, 2004 | 6:14 p.m. ET

Peterson could face the death penalty (Dan Abrams)

There’s only one thing on the docket on ‘The Abrams Report’ tonight, and that is the Scott Peterson verdict.

Peterson could face the death penalty— the jury found him guilty of murdering his wife and unborn son.

It is a surprise to many that the jury came in with this verdict. A lot of people expected a hung jury, especially after a week of chaos that saw two jurors replaced by alternates.

Judge Alfred Delucchi left a gag order in place, so we won’t be hearing from the 12 men and women who found Scott Peterson guilty. ( Click here to read their profiles .)

I have to tell you though, I thought this jury would not be able to reach a unanimous verdict. Seeing the dissention on the jury, I didn’t think we would see this day.

For Abrams Report regular Daniel Horowitz, this case was all over the place. At many times, he felt that certain pieces of testimony and evidence would turn the case, only for that feeling to be reversed within a couple of days or hours.

What happened? How did we go from thinking that this jury would not reach a verdict to having one handed down of first-degree? We'll discuss on the Abrams Report tonight at 6 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET

Also, there is still the sentencing phase which will determine Peterson’s fate. Mark Geragos and his client Scott will have to swallow a huge dose of humility— they will be pleading for Peterson's life.

Some lawyers on the show's panel have suggested that Geragos might have lost some credibility with the jury that the defense might have to consider co-counsel continue.

The defense is going to try to humanize Scott Peterson, and possibly put a lot of people who have known him on the stand. They are going to be making an argument against the death penalty.

Westchester County D.A. Jeanine Pirro, on the show, issued a somber reminder: "The jury has confirmed that a woman is dead , a baby is dead, and a son has committed murderer. The jury made a tough decision, the most difficult decision anyone in our society has to make. This is no cause for celebration."

DAbrams@MSNBC.com

November 12, 2004 | 4:11p.m. ET

Scott Peterson Verdict

The verdict is in, ladies and gentlemen.  Scott Peterson has been found guilty of first degree murder for his wife Laci and guilty of second degree murder for baby Connor in the double murder trial.  For continuing coverage of the case and reaction to the verdict, keep clicking to Sidebar and watch MSNBC where Dan Abrams, The Abrams Report host, reports live from Redwood City.

What is your reaction to the case? Email Sidebar@MSNBC.com and vote on whether or not you agree with the jury's decision.

November 12, 2004 | 3:16 p.m. ET

New Peterson evidence (Meredith McTernan, Abrams Report staff)

Check out the newly released pictures provided by the Superior Court of California in San Mateo County for the Scott Peterson trial.  Jurors examined these photos, among ofther things, to determine a verdict.  The verdict will be announced live on MSNBC at 4 p.m. ET today.  Dan Abrams will bring you all of the latest Peterson updates as they come in.  Stay tuned!

November 12, 2004 | 2:53 p.m. ET

Peterson verdict announced at 4 p.m. ET today (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

We have gotten word that there is a verdict in the Scott Peterson murder trial!  Tune in to MSNBC now for details on this breaking news with updates from Dan and our other correspondents at the courthouse in Redwood City.  The verdict will be announced live on MSNBC at 4 p.m. ET.  Dan will have a live show at 6 p.m. ET with all of the latest information.  Don't miss it!

November 11, 2004 | 5:33 p.m. ET

Tattletales and boat cause controversy (Dan Abrams)

Two days in a row, a juror was dropped and replaced by an alternate, clearly the result of a hard-core battle and those who like to tattle. 

The shake-up means there are only three alternates left.  Judge Alfred Delucchi took time to remind jurors again of something he told them when they began deliberations.

“You must decide all questions of fact in this case from the evidence received in this trial and not from any other source.  You must not independently investigate the facts or the law or consider or discus facts as to which there is no evidence,” said the judge.

My take:  I fear this will be a hung jury.  All of yesterday’s events seem to help the defense.  I say this is good news for the defense.

The other exciting thing that happened is about a block-and-a-half away where defense attorney Mark Geragos has an office, and this is the parking lot right outside his office.  What popped up in the last 24 hours was a fishing boat. But not just any boat, it’s a boat that’s exactly the same size, same type as the one Scott Peterson owned, the same boat that prosecutors say he used to dump Laci’s body. 

Defense has been saying that there’s no way that could have happened in a boat this size without the boat capsizing. 

Inside are fake anchors and a very heavily weighted body that seems to be suggesting about the weight that maybe Laci Peterson’s body was at the time.  We’re not sure. We don’t know if the defense was doing tests or what, but it suddenly showed up in the parking lot. Perhaps it was for the media’s sake, so we’d come and look at it and say, “Oh, no way that it could have happened in a boat this size.”

Jurors are sequestered, so it would be tough for them to be able to actually see the boat in the parking lot.  But no question, it’s causing more controversy here at the courthouse.

Catch me again at 6 p.m. ET tonight for all the latest legal news on ‘The Abrams Report’.

November 11, 2004| 10:19 a.m. ET

The Abrams Report in the courtroom (Aparna Zalani, Abrams Report tape producer)

While we wait for the Peterson verdict there's another case I have my eyes on.  It's the story about a confessed serial killer who is set to walk free in 2006.  But thanks to the Abrams Report and the Michigan Attorney General's office, he may be sitting in prison for a while longer.

Coral Eugene Watts confessed to killing 13 women, 12 in Texas, and one in Michigan back in the 1980s. Watts pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to murder, and helped prosecutors solve all 13 killings in exchange for immunity in those cases.  Back then, the judge hoped to keep him in jail for several years but it didn't work out that way.  Watts is supposed to be released from prison in 2006 on good behavior -- but that could all change based on a case that started this week .

Here's where our show comes in.  Back in January of this year, someone pitched the Watts story to Dan.  He decided to interview the Michigan Attorney General who was planning to charge Coral Watts with the murder of a college student in Michigan in 1974.  It was a good segment.  Dan also talked to a friend of the victim and told the viewers he'd keep an eye on the story.

Then, a breakthrough: a viewer watching our show, called the Attorney General's office with a tip. He apparently saw Watts struggle with 36-year-old Helen Mae Dutcher, who was stabbed 12 times in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale in 1979.  The Attorney General moved quickly and in March charged Coral Watts with the murder of Helen Dutcher.  Opening statements in the trial started Tuesday and the viewer who called in the tip after watching the Abrams Report was on the stand yesterday.

We'll be watching this story and updating you on the trial.

November 10, 2004 | 3:51 p.m. ET

Does the state’s case hold water? (Amy Harmon, Abrams Report Peterson trial producer)

Prosecutor Rick Distaso ended his closing remarks in Scott Peterson's double murder trial with these words: "I never proposed anything to you 'till I got up and argued this case to you. Then, what I proposed to you was based on the evidence that came out of this trial. With that, I'm going to close and ask that you would find the defendant guilty."  The State had a theory all along of how Scott Peterson murdered his wife and as Distaso claims, it's all "based on the evidence."

Here's the theory they presented to the jury:
On the night of December 23 or the morning of December 24, while Laci Peterson is changing her clothes, Scott Peterson approaches and strangles or smothers her.  He then wraps her body in a tarp and backs his truck up to the gate of his house where he is out of sight.  He hoists her into the truck and conceals the body by piling patio umbrellas on top of her.  Next, he puts the leash on their dog McKenzie and drives off, leaving the gate to the house open.  McKenzie follows the car and, minutes later, is found by neighbor, Karen Servas.  Peterson then drives to his warehouse, opens up the door, backs the truck in, and closes the door behind him so that no one can see what he's doing.   He begins to attach weights to Laci's body and her hair gets caught in the pliers in the process.  Scott then puts Laci's body into his boat and straps on the boat cover.  He sets out for the Berkeley Marina.  When he gets there, he backs his boat down the ramp, placing it in the water.  The boat cover is still in place concealing the body.  He then parks the car, goes back to the boat, removes the cover and stuffs it around Laci's body.  Still, no one can see any of this.  Scott then gets in the boat and sets out to Brooks Island where he eventually dumps Laci's body into the water.  He then turns around, returns to his car, and heads for home.   On the way back he leaves phone messages for Laci.  When he comes back to the house he takes a shower, eats pizza, and then reports her missing.

So did the prosecution do their job?  Did they prove Scott Peterson murdered his wife?  What's the strongest evidence for or against a conviction?  Let us know what you think.  Send your responses to sidebar@msnbc.com.  We'll post your thoughts later on.

November 10, 2004 | 1:49 p.m. ET

Another shakeup on the Peterson jury (Dan Abrams)

It happened again! That's right, a third juror has been kicked off of the Scott Peterson murder trial!  This time it's the jury foreman. 

Juror Number Five is out and Alternate Juror Number Three is in. With this new development, Juror Number Six just became the new foreman. 

There are only three alternate jurors left.  Just what is going on with all these jurors?  And what does it mean for the verdict?  The Abrams Report is live in Redwood City with the latest at 6 p.m. ET tonight.

Click here to read the Abrams panel analysis on yesterday's developments on the removal of the second juror.

November 10, 2004 | 11:28 a.m. ET

Peterson trial celebrity report (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report gossip columnist)

I never thought I'd be writing a post connecting the Scott Peterson trial to a comedy routine but it seems that everybody, one-named celebrities included, is hooked on this case.  Last night I checked out an event hosted by Ladies Home Journalfeaturing none other than Roseanne Barr. I was totally surprised to find that in addition to poking fun at the Bush administration, the diet industry, and divorce, Roseanne had a few cracks about the Scott Peterson trial!  As it turns out, she's totally hooked on coverage of the case.  After the show I asked her about what kind of verdict she is expecting.  Despite yesterday's shake-up and some signs indicating the jury could be deadlocked, Roseanne told me she's sure Scott Peterson is going to be acquitted even though she thinks he's absolutely guilty.  She's also sorry the Kobe Bryant criminal case was dropped …she says it would have made great material!

November 9, 2004 | 5:37 p.m. ET

Peterson jury shake-up (Dan Abrams)

Lots of excitement at the Scott Peterson trial today with the families of both Scott and Laci Peterson summoned back to court – but not for a verdict.  MSNBC has just learned that one of the jurors,  "Juror Number Seven", an Asian woman in her late 50s, has been dropped from the panel and will be replaced by an alternate.

Attorneys for both sides had been called into judge Alfred Delucchi's chambers today for less than an hour about an issue that was confirmed to be "related" to a juror.
 
That news was followed by reports that a juror may have done some case “research” on his or her own.  Whatever the reason, "Juror Number Seven" has been let go and now the jury is supposed to start its deliberations all over again.  At least, that’s the theory.

November 9, 2004 | 2:07 p.m. ET

Why I want this verdict soon (Dan Abrams)

Like the jurors, I too, am effectively sequestered in a way. I have to stay here until the verdict is reached at a hotel away from my regular life. The jurors even have an edge on me; they have all those court officers catering to their every need while here at the courthouse. Now all day, I sit in a tiny satellite truck trying to work on the show. To even use a bathroom, unless I want to walk down to the courthouse and then go through all the metal detectors there, I have to plead to let some building or restaurant let me in. It's a little humiliating being told this bathroom is for customers only.

Our computers crash. Our printers don‘t work, and while I kind of like the Safeway sandwiches we get for lunch, they‘re kind of messy and so I often end up spilling on my suit or tie.

Now, I‘m not asking for sympathy. I love being here at the heart of the story, but I am biased towards a quick verdict. I don‘t want to be here for weeks. Then instead of being at the heart of the story, we‘re just waiting for the story. I‘m reassured by the fact that these jurors have it a lot worse.

They‘re staying at some dumpola hotel, unable to see anyone except each other. They must want out and they are probably trying to con some hold-out who saw "12 Angry Men" one too many times or who thinks "CSI" is real. But we all have it easy compared to the families, the Rochas and the Petersons who probably can't even sleep at night. For me this is a story. For them, it is life.

So whenever you hear me talking about the timing of the verdict, keep in mind I have a stake in the outcome. I want it now and I certainly don‘t want to have to change my residence to Redwood City.

P.S. Many of you in the area offered to help my stay here become more pleasurable, including Ericka Leiva.

Her e-mail: "I wanted you to know-I wanted to know what can a loyal Bay area fan of you and your show can do to make your stay a little better? Is there something I could bring you? What can I do to make you feel more at home?"

Well, thank you Ericka. Thank you to all of you who offered. I didn‘t mean to suggest that you should feel sorry for me. I was just expressing my bias for a quicker verdict, but thank you. It was very nice of all of you.

November 9, 2004 | 10:43 a.m. ET

Peterson trial flashback (Aparna Zalani, Abrams Report tape producer)

While we wait for the verdict in the Peterson case, it's time for a flashback. . .

I've been on the story since the very beginning.  It was December 2002, in the slow news days between Christmas and New Year's.  We got word of a missing pregnant woman from Modesto, California.  "Modesto!" someone said in the newsroom, "wasn't Chandra Levy from Modesto?"  I remember the discussion in our morning meeting. There were some who said we should report it. "It's a human interest story" one producer said. "She's eight months pregnant and she disappeared on Christmas Eve.  She looks like the girl next door, there's certainly some interest there" and the producer added, "she's good looking, too."

There were some skeptics in the room as well. "A lot of people go missing everyday, we can't be reporting on all of them each time one disappears."

But Laci's smile won the newsroom over.  Everyone felt sorry for the family and sorry for Scott (at least at the time).  I still remember calling Kim Peterson (no relation to Scott) of the Carrington-Sund foundation for an interview with Sharon Rocha.  I remember calling everyone, and anyone, who knew Laci to get more information--just about everyone in Modesto.  I think someone even interviewed Chandra Levy's mother.  It was becoming a big thing, a national search for Laci.

At first, Scott was a sympathetic figure.  The family was steadfast behind him.  They believed him and supported him.  But soon rumors of an affair surfaced.  Now we know, the police were secretly recording phone conversations he had with his family and Amber Frey at the time we, the media, were trying to get more information.  It's these phone calls and the evidence police collected that has made us all care about this story today.

And then four months after she disappeared, her body was found, and that of her unborn son Conner.  I remember it was a Sunday when they found a body ... later they confirmed it was Connor's .  I remember watching the recovery at home.  I felt sad.  The next day they found Laci's body.   Now we knew it was a murder.  Soon after, Scott was arrested near the Mexican border in what many thought looked like an attempt to flee the country.  The story just became more interesting.

So if it was the smile that got us hooked on the story, it was the tape-recorded conversations, circumstances of Laci's disappearance, and Scott's behavior after her disappearance that sustained our interest.  We will continue to stay hooked on the story, regardless of the outcome . . .and if it is a hung jury, we'll be watching for much longer.

November 8, 2004 | 5:41 p.m. ET

Anybody’s best guess (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report staff and resident prognosticator)

As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s anybody’s guess when we’ll have a verdict in the Scott Peterson trial.  So here they are: anybody’s guesses.

Sidebar fans Linda Krapf and Debbie Ashley write in to tell us they think the verdict will come in on Tuesday.  Bonita Neill and William Millner tell me they have their money on Wednesday.

And one viewer out there is expecting a lengthy deliberation phase.  Marie Butler tells us we can expect a verdict on “Tuesday November 10th.”  According to my calculations, the next time November 10th falls on a Tuesday is in the year 2009.  Let’s hope for all of our sakes Marie is off by a few years.

Even our team of experts here at the Abrams Report is split.  Some of us are reading tealeaves; others are going by Scott’s astrological sign.  Me, I’m just hoping the jury doesn’t come back on Friday because it’s my birthday and I want to celebrate! 

Here’s how our staff is weighing in so far:

  • Eric and Joel say the verdict is coming on Tuesday
  • Cory, Sheara, Bob and I think it will be Wednesday
  • Chris is calling Thursday but we can’t trust her, she’s the one who wants Tuesday off!
  • Kara wants to spoil my birthday by saying the verdict is coming on Friday

Do you have a prediction?  Send all comments to sidebar@MSNBC.com

November 8, 2004 | 1:24 p.m. ET

Peterson jury by the numbers (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

From TV directors to marathon runners to juries, it’s always all about timing.  Right now, 12 men and women are locked away in a room deciding Scott’s Peterson’s fate.  They’ve been working since Wednesday afternoon, mulling over the evidence and presumably the murder charges stacked against Peterson. 

There is no official time limit on the jury’s deliberations although I think they’ll wrap it up by Wednesday.  Others say a weekend in one of San Mateo County’s finest hotels will have them running for the doors by this afternoon.  Still, some court-watchers are still putting their money on Friday.  One of our producers is hoping jurors won’t feel the need to finish up tomorrow because she’s planning on taking that day off!

We have no way of knowing when this jury is really going to come back. Though it’s interesting to look back at past juries in other high-profile murder trials and examine how long they were able to sit in the same room with one another before reaching a decision.

Perhaps the most famous jury in recent memory served in the O.J. Simpson murder trial back in 1995.  Simpson faced 1st degree murder charges for the killing of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.  The jury had been sequestered for the entirety of the nine-month trial and it took them less than four hours to come back with a “not guilty” verdict.

Then there are juries that take days and days to reach a decision--or not.  Erik and Lyle Menendez stood trial for murdering their parents in a case that lasted four-and-a-half months.  Two separate juries watched the case, each one assigned to one of the brothers.  Erik’s jurors deliberated for 19 days before they ended up deadlocking; Lyle’s were deadlocked after 25 days.  The Menendez brothers later faced another trial with only one jury, taking 20 days to convict.

After more than nine months of sequestration, two affairs, one heart attack, and one divorce, it took the jury in the Charles Mason murder trial nine days to find Manson and three others guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

When the Peterson jury will come back with a decision is anybody’s guess — literally.  Send me your predictions about when you think the jury will come back at sidebar@msnbc.com.  And don’t forget to sign up for the Abrams Report newsletter.  I’ll send out an alert once we hear about a verdict.

November 8, 2004 | 11:46 a.m. ET

Good shows come to those who wait (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Good morning.  The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once pondered, "How much of human life is lost in waiting?"  We are waiting for a verdict in the Scott Peterson trial. But rest assured, the Abrams Report staff is not losing any time.  As we sit and wait for the jury to deliver their verdict, we're hard at work on tonight's show.

And of course we're keeping an eye on several other legal stories out there.  Here’s a look at some of what our staff is reading today:

November 7, 2004 | 2:16 a.m. ET

Peterson jury examines the evidence  (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer and newsletter writer)

The Peterson jury was on day 3 of their deliberations as of last Friday.  So far the jurors have asked to review the pictures taken of the Peterson's home, Scott's boat, and cement residue at Scott's warehouse. Here's your look at the evidence the Peterson jury is reviewing right now:  

Superior Court Of California, Co
Superior Court Of California, Co


Superior Court Of California, Co
Cement warehouse

Don't forget to sign up for the Abrams Report newsletter.  Not only will you get a update of what stories we're working on for the show each night, we'll also send you an e-mail alert when the Peterson jury comes back with a verdict.

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

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