December 10, 2004 | 7:16 p.m. ET

Peterson jurors take the weekend to think (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

The jurors called it a day.  They will resume deliberations on Monday to decide between life in prison or the death penalty for Peterson.  But there's a good chance that even if they do vote for death, it's going to be a long time before Scott Peterson is strapped into to the death chamber — if he ever makes it there at all.

California has the largest number of inmates on death row in the country.  People are waiting to be executed there, 15 women, and 626 men.  Only 10 people sentenced to death in California have actually been executed there since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978. 

The last execution was held in 2002 and that inmate had been on death row for over 20 years.  Even if jurors decide to give Scott Peterson a death sentence, there is a chance the judge in this case can overrule their verdict when the sentence is finalized in February. 

Even so, it matters whether he gets the death penalty or not; it’s not irrelevant as some suggest.  The decision will inevitably change where he lives and the appellate process.  So this life or death sentence from the jury is not something to be taken lightly.

What are your thoughts on this case as final deliberations in the penalty phase near an end?
E-mail us at Sidebar@msnbc.com.

December 10, 2004 | 2:26 p.m. ET

Abrams and staff on high alert (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Dan is back in Redwood City, Calif. on high alert as we wait for a verdict in the Scott Peterson sentencing phase.  The decision could come at any moment, even during our show, so you won't want to miss Dan and his crack legal team for expert analysis.  Tune in at 6 p.m. Eastern for the latest on the sentencing phase, the reality of the death penalty in California (more people are on death row there than in any other state, but no one has been executed in nearly three years), what Scott's life will be like in the California prison system, and reaction from Redwood City if Peterson's fate is decided tonight.  And if word of a verdict comes before 6 p.m., Dan will be live on MSNBC with the news.  Don't miss it!

December 9, 2004 | 10:22 a.m. ET

All mothers’ pain is not created equal (Dan Abrams) 

On the witness stand, Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie, repeatedly compared her anguish to that of Laci's mother , Sharon.  But the comparison doesn’t quite work.

Yes, both are angry: Sharon’s beautiful daughter was brutally murdered and Jackie’s son has been convicted of that murder.

If Scott Peterson gets the death penalty, both will have lost a cherished child, through no fault of their own. But Jackie suggests both will have also lost a loved in-law as well.

Jackie Peterson testified that she loved Laci as much as Sharon Rocha loved Scott.  That may have been true. In fact, Sharon initially defended Scott.  But while Jackie still loves Laci, Sharon does not share those sentiments about Scott anymore.

Jackie's statement ignores that reality.

Jackie's pain is based in helplessness; Sharon's in sadness and fury. Sharon's rational is supported by love and facts; Jackie's is just based on love alone. 

Jackie has directed her anger towards the media and, ultimately, the jurors. 

Sharon's anger is directed straight at Jackie's son.  Jackie's effort to deflect blame from Scott is ultimately an insult to the Rochas.

If Scott were innocent, it would be fair to talk about everyone's pain.  But when everyone else, the Rochas and the jurors, are convinced otherwise, it just adds insult to injury to lump them together. Talking about all of them as one family is only fair when she speaks for the family.

But no matter what anyone says, I feel for Jackie Peterson— she is a sweet loving mother.  But that should also lead her to better understand that her pain is not Sharon's.  She has not lost her son yet. Even if he gets the death penalty, it would take at least ten years on death row before he is executed. That is not anything for her to celebrate but she and Sharon are just not battling the same demons.

Your rebuttal
The other night, I whined about wine on the show .  The states claim that the 21st Amendment, which ended prohibition, gives them the power to regulate alcohol sales any way they want.

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments that some state laws, namely New York and Michigan, discriminate against consumers and wine makers because those states allow consumers to buy wine directly from wineries in their state, but prohibit them from buying from wineries in another state.

I said this issue revolves around distributors trying to protect their monopoly and it's time for the court to say no to this discrimination.  Ken Starr joined me on the program to discuss the issue.

Law student Aaron Power in Los Angeles, California writes: "The show made me admit, for the first and hopefully the last time, that I actually agreed with Ken Starr on something."

On the Peterson trial— Scott Peterson's family and friends are still on the stand pleading for his life to be spared in the penalty phase of his murder trial.

Greg Allan in Indiana: "The only point this gibberish from the friends of Scott brigade establishes is that he had the ability to charm strangers and acquaintances, which is a trait common to sociopaths."

But Brenda Moore has a different sentiment: "This man and his family are fighting tooth and nail for his life. I don't care if they call 1,000 people.  Let them talk. If you don't like it, bring yourself back from Redwood City."

I have said they should be allowed to do it.  I just don't think it is helping the cause.  But thanks for the tip.

What do you think?  E-mail us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

December 8, 2004 | 3:34 p.m. ET

First Amendment: a new generation of women's rights (Meredith McTernan, Abrams Report staff)

I propose the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be amended to include an asterisk next to "Freedom of Speech*" to clarify that this freedom applies to every American except for dirty, disrespectful men who feel the need to holler, hoot, whistle, and make comments to women that they wouldn't want their mother to hear.  Ladies, you know which men I am talking about. 

My frustration towards such men, and the lack of action I can legally take against such harassment, reached an apex yesterday morning.  The crime scene: Miami International Airport.  The victim: a female flight attendant.  The perpetrator: a man (apparently sexually deprived).  Circumstance: I was swiftly walking to my gate, coffee in hand, when I encountered the usual daily dose of demeaning comments and whistles.  The suspect whistled to the flight attendant and made some weird animal-like mating call at her.  He then decided to turn around and walk backwards as the flight attendant strolled by, in order to follow up on his initial glance at the flight attendant, only to bump into me, spilling my coffee all over me. 

I am confident that the flight attendant's story is not unique.  Every women has been in a similar situation or has at least seen another women being hooted or hollered at unprovoked.  Why do men feel it is their right of passage to subject women?  And men, even if a women is dressed sexy, that doesn't warrant a "hey baby."  Such actions are obnoxious, disrespectful, and above all, offensive. What's worse than the verbal assault is the lack of options the women have to respond.  

As the victim you have three choices: 1) Try to ignore the comments/calls, and keep walking 2) tell the disturbed male to bug off or 3) flirt back.  The result from the first option essentially does nothing to help the problem, and allows the men to be offensive and get away with it.  The second reaction, defending yourself, seems to turn you into a b---- (I found this only frustrates me further).  The third response, if a woman is bold enough to flirt back, can prove men are all talk.  I put all bets on the fact that if a woman confronts a man hollering at her, the man would most likely be too much of a coward to follow up on his words. 

It frustrates me that the verbal assault is not applicable in the reverse situation with women whistling at men.  Unfortunately, men would enjoy being hollered at too much.  I yearn for the days when men respected women and treated them as equals as opposed to eye candy.  In the mean time, the only way to get even is to take the American approach and sue.  First up, altering the First Amendment so women have a case in court.  If we can't beat them with hoots and hollers, we'll beat them in court.

Give us a holler via Sidebar@msnbc.com anytime to share your thoughts.

December 8, 2004 | 1:42 p.m. ET

Your rebuttal (Dan Abrams)

Scott Peterson's friends and relatives continue to testify on behalf of him in the penalty phase of the trial.

Dave Hebert from Illinois writes:  “I can't believe you are criticizing the witnesses for the defense.  Isn't it possible that those people just can't believe Scott Peterson is guilty?  They have known him for a long time, they are under oath and they tell what they know about him."

Maybe so but the lawyers should be preparing them to testify telling them where to be sensitive, where to be careful, and what not to say.

Last night, we told you about 12 service men and women who were discharged from the military for violating the ‘Don't ask; don't tell’ policy.  They just filed a federal suit challenging that policy and asking for re-instatement.

I said based on Supreme Court precedent, it's time for the military's ‘Don't ask; don't tell’ policy to go. 

But some of you don't agree, including Tom Cunnally: "Gays are not welcome in the military.  An openly gay member would be a disaster to the order and morale of any unit and it would be a continued source of conflict.  So as the old saying goes 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'."

But Lisa in Pennsylvania has a different take: "I would venture to guess that heterosexual relationship issues take up a heck of a lot more of my husbands command time than gay relationship issues would.  The army sends the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and Jennifer Lopez over to dance in little skimpy outfits for our sexually deprived husbands.  And that is ok, but put a gay man in the same vicinity of our husbands and it is some sort of crime."

Finally, Roz Mandelcom writes about the army fudging the truth about the circumstances surrounding NFL star Pat Tilman's death fighting in Afghanistan: "If it was just 'average Joe enlisted guy' the government would have said nothing, except maybe the truth."

Well said.  E-mail us at Sidebar@msnbc.com

December 7, 2004 | 4:37 p.m. ET

My inbox overfloweth (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report Producer)

So I’m the lucky Abrams Report producer who gets to go through all of the contest entries for the “ Name our segment contest ”.  We began the competition on Monday to rename our “Legal Lite” segment and already we’ve received almost 1,000 entries!  We’re thrilled to have Abrams Report fans involved in the process but in the interest of making things easier for me, the person responsible for reading every e-mail, and to help out those of you out there get as close as possible to that bag of MSNBC fun, here are a few tips for your entries:

  • We have had over 60 entries already that suggest the names “Legal Laughs,” “Legal Lunacy,” “Legal Lightweights,” and lots of variations on those names.  We may very well choose one of those as our winner but remember, according to the rules , the prize goes to the first person to send in the winning name. 
  • As we mentioned in our write-up, we are most likely going to choose a name that is two or three words.  Those of you suggesting “You have the right to remain senseless” or “Ignorance is nine-tenths of the Law” definitely made us laugh, but might want to consider submitting a revised version to win.
  • We are, after all, a legal show so we take what our attorneys tell us very seriously.  Unfortunately they told us we can only accept entries from those of you inside the United States.  We did want to mention, however, the efforts of 11-year-old Caleb McNevin from Canada.  He came up with the names “Legal Losers” and “Kooky Crooks.”  Thanks for the suggestions Caleb!

Stay tuned to 'The Abrams Report' at 6 p.m. ET and Sidebar@msnbc.com to find out who wins the contest.  Want win that bag of MSNBC goodies and make your permanent mark on the show?  Enter now .

December 7, 2004 | 3:03 p.m. ET

Army's skewed story of Ranger does disservice (Dan Abrams)

Pat Tilman was the pro football defensive back who gave up a lucrative NFL contract to become an Army Ranger — a true act of patriotism.  In April, news hit that he was killed in battle in Afghanistan while searching for Al Qaeda terrorists.  The army issued a statement describing how Tilman barked commands while returning fire towards the enemy. 

It turns out little of that was true.  Tilman, it now seems, was killed by friendly fire, likely a series of mistakes by younger rangers.  The ranger nearest to him recalled his final words as "cease fire friendlies!"

Senator John McCain said this weekend that questions from Tilman's own mother about her son's death led him to meet with Army officials to get some answers.  The Washington Post quoted the senator saying quote "the family deserved some kind of heads up." 

Of course he is right.  But you have got to wonder why Army officials lied in the first place.  Did they really think the truth would never come out? That it would benefit Tilman or his family to lie? 

I went back and looked at a closing argument I did on April 23.  I praised Tilman as a true American hero.  I said I could not think of any words to describe his valor, someone who had so much and chose to give it up for his country.  At that point, we did not know exactly how he died...

The story of his cresting the hill as he fought off the enemy, while more compelling for a movie, does not make him any more heroic than the true facts.  Maybe he would not have been awarded a posthumous silver star.

But it's not fair to the other men and women who have died in battle to alter the facts for just one.  From what I have read about Pat Tilman, he wouldn't have wanted it and his family, his comrades and his country deserve to know the truth. 

The term hero alone still does not do him justice, friendly fire or not  

Your rebuttal
I've had my say, now it's time for your rebuttal...

Jurors continue to hear from friends and relatives of Scott Peterson in the penalty phase of his trial in an effort to save him from the death penalty.

Pat Post in South Lyon, Michigan:  "I watch your show every night and enjoy it very much. I would like your opinion on having a law that would ban the death penalty unless there is DNA evidence that proves 100% that the defendant is guilty. I can't imagine giving someone the death penalty on a circumstantial evidence case."

Pat, DNA is circumstantial evidence.  The problem is that in any case where a husband kills a wife, DNA evidence may not mean much because both of their DNA may be at the crime scene-- not because of the murder but because they lived together.  

In my closing argument Friday, I discussed how local mall security guards are becoming more crucial than ever before.  They are now taking classes on how to spot possible suicide bombers and how to prevent a terror attack. This holiday season, maybe it’s time to look at your mall security team in a new light.

From Clearwater Florida, Chris Cozzolino:  "That was a huge point you made about private security guards in shopping malls. The same can be said of the entire private security industry there are thousands more private security staff than there is in all the federal, state and local police in this country. They are the most likely to have to react first in crisis, we can teach them to also be proactive."

And last week, a 23-year-old teacher here in Florida now says she was legally insane when she had sex with her 14-year-old male student.  I said if the tables were turned and a male teacher was accused, we would call him a pervert and that while if she is guilty she should be punished, I am more concerned about male predators than female ones.

But Wayne Blackmon in Bethesda, Maryland who apparently signs all his e-mails with M.D., J.D. to next to his name to remind everyone what degrees he has achieved is not happy: "Your coverage of the woman having sex with a minor boy is appalling and ignorant.  I teach law and psychiatry as well as scientific evidence at George Washington law school.  It is shocking for a lawyer in your position to disseminate and promote ignorance and falsehood."

I am sorry Mr. Blackmon that you think it is ignorant to say that male sexual predators are a far more serious societal problem than female ones.  If you have any evidence to contradict that statement I'll put it on our web site signed Dan Abrams, J.D.

Finally, Sam Kelly in Silver Spring, Maryland with an important observation: "I found it highly annoying that you spent most of the show leaning or 'slouched' back in your chair and with a very bored look on your face. You have done this a number of times on previous shows as well. Frankly, your bearing was atrocious.  Surely you can manage to sit up straight and look professional for the one hour a day that you are on the air."

Sam, slouch maybe… Bored I am not.

Keep those e-mails rolling in to Sidebar@msnbc.com

December 6, 2004 | 3:06 p.m. ET

Mall guards securing safety (Dan Abrams)

Shopping mall security guards are often denigrated as rent-a-cops, poorly paid and often poorly trained, and on the lookout for unruly teenagers or sticky fingered thieves.

But now, many are training for something a whole lot more important: how to prevent a terror attack.  Around the country, more and more guards and mall officials attend classes on how to spot possible suicide bombers — to look at their clothes, their eyes, and even their bodies.

In Israel, mall guards have often been single-handedly responsible for thwarting attacks.  

So this holiday season, maybe its time to look at your mall security team in a new light and appreciate the fact that they are not just there to send your teenagers home.

Your rebuttal
I've had my say, now it's time for your rebuttal...

Thursday on the program, we discussed Debra Lafave, a 23-year-old Florida teacher, who now says she was legally insane when she had sex with her 14-year-old male student.  I said if the tables were turned and a male teacher was accused, we would call him a pervert.  While she needs to be punished, if she is guilty, I am more concerned about male predators than female ones.

Adam Perrotta writes: "The notion that women sex offenders should be treated differently because they are less common is absolutely absurd! As far as I know, there is no basis in law for rarity to be a mitigating factor."

No, but it can be a factor with regard to prosecutors choices its called prosecutorial discretion

And Marij Katulain: "His sense of good and evil has been warped by this 24-year-old and he will have to bear the consequence of always searching for authenticity and meaning in his life. He may turn to alcohol and may not be able to hold a job later in life."

But plenty of our male viewers have a different take. From Philadelphia, John Dean Smith writes:
"Why couldn't I have had a hot teacher like Debra Lafave when I has 14? I went to catholic school where all we had were ugly, old fat nuns!"

Brent Demars in Cleveland Ohio: "If I was 14, I would be so excited about having sex with a beautiful teacher."

And Rosalee Adams: "When my husband was a little older than this kid, but still a juvenile, he was involved with a Mrs. Robinson type when he worked at a hotel in the Catskills.  He crowed about how she taught him everything he knew, not only in sex, but in how to dress, etc."

In St. Clair shores, Dorothy Novak: "I don't really believe it's a female v. male thing, but more a beauty and the beast issue.  Just picture how you would 'feel' if the woman who molested the 14-year-old looked like Aileen Wuornos?"

Finally, Marissa Franco in San Francisco with a dilemma of a different sort "it was recently brought to my attention that I have made a horrible decision.  Apparently I scheduled a class for next semester during your marvelous show.  I thought about changing my schedule, however, all the classes were full.  I am hoping that this college student can somehow endure a semester without her favorite host."

Marissa I can't believe you didn't change your schedule!  Just kidding, just catch us on the repeat in San Fran at 10 p.m. West Coast Time.

December 3, 2004 | 6:56 p.m. ET

Counting on Tom Brokaw  (Dan Abrams)

Sure Tom Brokaw will still be around working on various projects.  But it still feels like the professional equivalent of moving away from home for the first time.

When you live at home, you always know that if anything really goes awry that your parent or parents will be there to help handle it.  Someone who you know you can always count on.  I feel the same way about Tom Brokaw.

Look in the past couple of years, I haven't been able to do much work for ‘Nightly News’.  After all, my show is on at the same time. But it was always reassuring to know that when a major story breaks we have Tom: the Shaq, the Bonds, the Gretsky of network news is on our team.

Working with him, hearing that voice on the phone telling you what he wants from you can be both intimidating and inspiring — even when he called me Danny both off and on the air.

My biggest choke on live TV came early in my career at NBC doing a live introduction to a ‘Nightly News’ piece.  Hearing that voice, saying ‘now Danny or Dan Abrams joins us live’ got me so nervous that I completely flubbed the intro.  

More importantly, there is a confidence that comes with working with Tom.  Reporting from the scene of the carnage at the trade center on 9/11 was a mess…I had visited that area regularly throughout my life because my dad worked nearby.  I knew friends of mine would be dead, while also knowing that this would change the world as we know it.

Tom's voice was in my ear anchoring our coverage, sounding authoritative, serious, yet calm.  He did for me what I know he did for so many millions of others: provide a sense of comfort that we would make it through. What more can you ask of a network news anchor?

Not only did he get it right, he just got it.  He has that innate sense of what people need to know and what they want to hear.

I am confident that ‘Nightly News’ will remain on top with Brian Williams at the helm.  Anyone who has worked with him will tell you why... 

Some people get the hype, others actually deserve it.  Tom falls into the latter category         
Your rebuttal
I've had my say, now it's time for your rebuttal...

Scott Peterson's family and friends took the stand, trying to convince the jury that Scott is a kind and generous person who deserves his life sparred.

But last night in my closing argument, I said some certain legal analysts are trivializing the death penalty, as if Scott doesn't get the death penalty he will walk. I asked what's wrong with the jury hearing about who Scott Peterson is when deciding if he deserve to die?  Facts and circumstances of the crime are just one element of that decision.

Dorian Quillen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma disagrees: "Why criticize people who are upset at having to hear all about Scott Peterson's childhood?.. Sorry, but some acts are so awful they redefine a person in a way that overwhelmingly cancels out any good they may have done before."

Others wrote in about the death penalty.  From Park City, Utah, Keith Aran: "What about Illinois' death row? After nearly 10% of death row inmates were found innocent using modern DNA techniques, Gov. George Ryan commuted all death sentences to life in prison. All of those innocent death row inmates had to have been found guilty by circumstantial evidence."

And Mary Smith in Virginia: “Over 1,000 people on death row have been released after DNA evidence. This case has no DNA evidence. He has no chance if he is innocent."

Many of you have been asking about Peterson's defense team.  Vickie Whitaker in Xenia, Ohio: “Can Scott Peterson's parents get a refund? He has been convicted, but he had a poor excuse of a defense."

From Ashville, North Carolina, Carol Redding: "Although I would suppose it is unlikely and highly risky, is it possible that the defense team is intentionally muddling their presentation during the penalty phase in order to create grounds for an appeal, should the jury find for the death penalty?"

Finally, Sally Ludi asks: "Everyone is saying Geragos isn't doing such a good job defending Scott.  Is this a plan so that Scott can appeal because of a bad defense."

What do you think?  Send your e-mails to DAbrams@msnbc.com

December 3, 2004 | 2:34 p.m. ET

The Peterson family tree. . .don't get hit by any stray branches (Amy Harmon, Abrams Report Peterson trial producer)

The Peterson family tree is a hard one to climb with lots of branches going off in different directions.  As Janey Peterson, Scott's sister-in-law, put it yesterday, it's a family that "blended and blended well."  Since it looks like a lot of Peterson's family members will testify in the penalty phase, I thought I'd break it down and give you a little "who's who" for the Peterson clan.

Scott Peterson has four half-brothers and two half-sisters for a total of seven kids between Jackie and Lee Peterson.  They are:

  • Susan Caudillo: Lee Peterson's daughter from a previous marriage, born in 1960
  • Mark Peterson: Lee Peterson's son from a previous marriage, born in 1962
  • Joe Peterson: Lee Peterson's son from a previous marriage, born in 1963
  • John Peterson: Jackie Peterson's son who was about five years old when Jackie & Lee married in 1971
  • Scott Peterson: The only child of both Jackie & Lee, born in 1972

So that's only five kids. . .who are the two others?  It's an interesting twist.  When Scott was getting ready to go off to college, another brother and sister magically appeared in his life.  Ann and Don are Jackie's two children whom she gave up for adoption.

The tree doesn't stop there.  We also learned about two women who entered the family by marriage during the course of this trial:

  • Janey Peterson is married to Joe
  • Allison Peterson is married to John

Email all of your comments to sidebar@msnbc.com

December 2, 2004 | 7:41 p.m. ET

Back at the courthouse (Brian Cohen, Abrams Report booker)

I'm back for the final round in the Peterson case and I can honestly say I am looking forward to the end; but is all this testimony really worth it for Scott Peterson?  I sat and listened to Scott's half-sister testify yesterday about what good brother and uncle he was, how he “completed the family.”  I couldn't help thinking to myself, if this guy was so good and loved his family so much, why mess it all up by killing not only his wife, but his unborn child? 

The testimony did nothing for me.  So who knows what it will do for the jury that already convicted him?  The final question posed by Mark Geragos was "What effect will Scott’s death have on his family?”  Most of you are probably saying the same thing I did: who cares?  But Scott's sister responded, “it would kill my parents and I don’t think they would make it.” 

I left court yesterday remembering one thing from his sister’s story, portraying Scott as a man that took responsibility.  She talked about Peterson going to a drunk driving seminar on and, on his way home, he swerved to miss hitting an animal.  His car flipped over and it was destroyed.  But he was such a good human being that he actually stayed at the scene and called the police. 

Her point was that he didn’t need anyone's help because he needed to take responsibility for his problem.  Newsflash Scott Peterson: you were found guilty for killing your wife and unborn son.  You didn't ask for your family's help back then, don't ask for now.

December 2, 2004 | 7:09 p.m. ET

Orange, blue, and déjà vu   (Aparna Zalani, Abrams Report tape producer)

When I hear news stories about the Ukraine elections it’s déjà vu all over again.  We went through something like this in 2000.

What’s going on in Ukraine? The presidential elections were held on October 31.  Out of some 20 candidates two “Viktors” emerged — literally — one was the Russian backed, Prime Minister of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the other, liberal reformist Viktor Yushchenko. After a very close runoff on November 21, the prime minister won amid allegations of fraud, voter intimidation and torching of ballots. Ukraine’s fourth presidential election still remains undecided and now the final decision rests with their Supreme Court.

So why is this interesting? Well, electoral fraud, typically, is not a very sexy topic. But this story has some interesting sidebars that make up for one good blog!

Let’s start with the coincidences: both candidates have the same initials 'VY.' Both are called 'Viktors.'

Victor Yushchenko’s supporters call their cause the “Orange Revolution."  Russian backed Viktor Yanukovychs’ color is blue.  Does this remind you of something?

In Ukraine, candidates with criminal backgrounds cannot run for office. Mr. Yanukovich served two prison terms in his youth but says the convictions were quashed and the records erased.

And then there is great interest in Mr. Yushchenko’s appearance. Six months ago his face was an envy of every politician. But then he developed deep scars on his face. Conspiracy theorists had a field day. His supporters accused the opposition of poisoning him. Some said the scars on his face were because of an illness he kept secret from the electorate. Others say he has Herpes.  No one has the answer, and no one really knows who the new President of Ukraine is either.

E-mail us at sidebar@msnbc.com

December 2, 2004 | 1:26 p.m. ET

Your rebuttal (Dan Abrams)

I’ve had my say.  Let’s hear from you now.

Last night, we told you a federal appeals court ruled that university law schools can bar military recruiters because of the ‘Don't ask; Don't tell’ policy from their campus and yet expect to continue to receive federal aid.

I said that all the recruiters are asking for is a level playing field with other recruiters and that I don't see it as a first amendment issue if they want the federal funds to allow the federal government to recruit like everyone else.  We got plenty of emails...

Keith Brock writes:  “You said 'this is not a matter of free speech'. Well, it speaks loud and clear to me that the military does not want me or any other gay law school students... you said ‘I think the law schools took it a step too far'. I really hope you are smarter than you pretend to be on television. I am almost positive that you would not be making such a ridiculous statement if you were applying for a job and the recruiters interviewing you had a policy against hiring you based upon your race or religion."

Look, I said I do not support the ‘Don't ask; Don't tell’ policy, but this is not about race or religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the military's policy they would not if it was based on race or religion.

And Steve Scott: "By your analogy, a university, no matter it's philosophical belief, should allow the KKK a room to recruit as well."

No.  They can bar the KKK and they can bar the U.S. military but then they should not expect to get federal funds or donations from racists. And to compare allowing our military on campus with the KKK is just downright insulting

In Rapid City, South Dakota, retired Air Force Master Sergeant Tim Sanders:  “The fact that these colleges or universities receive federal funds should in no way obligate (blackmail might be more appropriate) them to allow or provide whatever assistance to the military recruitment program unless those federal funds provided are explicitly for military recruitment."  They are not assisting.  I said let them protest but just give them the same right to recruit

And first year law student Kyle Faget in Ann Arbor, Michigan writes: “So, if a recruiter openly discriminates, so does the law school by extension? Any school that does not want to endorse discrimination should be allowed to opt out of jag recruiting."

The law school can do what they want but they cannot expect there will not be repercussions when you keep the U.S. military out.

But Wayne Poling in Ahran, Saudi Arabia writes: "No one is forcing the ivy league schools to accept the military recruiting on campus. The schools have every right to prohibit the recruiters if they want and the government has every right to withhold federal funding if the schools don't allow the recruiters on campus. Life is all about choices and consequences."

And one of my guests, a law professor at Georgetown University, stated she was gay and the 'Don't ask; Don't tell policy' is an affront to her and other gay students.

Cindy Simon in New York City:  “Because she is gay and there are gay persons on campus who may be offended or even uncomfortable, her position is that everybody else should have to forgo convenient access to military recruiters and military recruiters should be denied access to students looking at career opportunities, because the military's policy offends her?"

Meghan C. writes about me.  "In the course of 20 minutes the host has repeatedly interrupted and cut off his guests.  Subsequent rebuttals by the host sound more as if he is on a soapbox allowing himself the opportunity to rave.  I`m curious to know if this is common practice or perhaps I just caught the show on a not-so-good day."

No, Meghan, it was actually a very good show and a great day.  We have limited time to keep the conversation on point.  Guests try filibusters.  You will see me interrupting and cutting off at times.

Send all of your e-mails to DAbrams@msnbc.com

December 2, 2004 | 1:26 p.m. ET

Legal jargon, on the side (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

One of the side effects of working on a legal news show is that you can’t just sit on the sidelines of legal jargon. But so many of the terms are so confusing they can make you start seeing sideways. Like, what the heck is a “sidebar” anyway?  I wondered the same thing myself so I decided to spice up my Sidebar post today with a little education, on the side. No matter what side of the law you’re on, these definitions should come in handy:

A careful Google search for the word “sidebar” turned up these definitions:

  • A conference between the judge and lawyers, usually in the courtroom, out of earshot of the jury and spectators
  • A short news story accompanying and presenting sidelights of a major story.  (What do they mean by “sidelight?”  I had to look it up too.  Here’s what I found: sidelight, n.; incidental light or information)

Even after 6 years of Latin, here are a few other terms I still need help pronouncing:

certiorari
n. (sersh-oh-rare-ee) An order from a higher court to a lower court to send all the documents in a case to the higher court for review.  The Supreme Court grants writs of certiorari when they decide they will hear a case.

prima facie
adj. (pry-mah fay-shah) Literally “at first look,” or “on its face.”  The term refers to a lawsuit or criminal prosecution in which the evidence before trial is sufficient to prove the case unless there is substantial contradictory evidence presented at trial. A prima facie case presented to a Grand Jury by the prosecution will result in an indictment.

voir dire
n. (vwahr [with a near-silent “r”] deer).  This one is actually French and it means “to speak the truth” or “to see them say.”  Legally the term refers to the questioning of prospective jurors by a judge and attorneys in court.  Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly.

What legal term is confusing you?  Send it in to sidebar@msnbc.com and we’ll see if we can help explain it. Or do you think your legal brain is sharp enough already?  Find out for sure by playing these games.

December 1, 2004 | 8:21 p.m. ET

The trivialization of the death penalty in the Peterson case (Dan Abrams)

Since the penalty phase in the Scott Peterson trial began, various legal analysts have been spouting blood-thirsty hysteria.  You would think Peterson might walk free if he is not executed.  But he isn’t going anywhere... ever... unless he manages to get his conviction overturned on appeal.

Here are the choices: life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Yet some holler, "Why is the defense being allowed to discuss Scott Peterson's childhood?" or "Why is Peterson's father testifying about this or that?"

Chill out.   

If all a defendant was judged on were his actions in that particular case, almost every murderer eligible for the death penalty would get executed. All murderers have committed horrible acts that have brought great pain to other families.

So what’s wrong with letting jurors hear a lot about who Scott Peterson is?  The question here is not "Is he guilty?" Neither is it "Does he deserve a severe penalty?" Those questions have been answered "yes" and "yes."  I believe the evidence was overwhelming.

But does he really deserve to die?  The facts and circumstances of the crime are just one element. These jurors are allowed to consider Peterson's past in judging whether he should lose his life. There is no such thing as a mandatory death sentence.

That does not mean delving into every cranny of Scott Peterson's past is a good strategy. But there is no reason for some so-called “victims rights advocates”  to be so outraged.  Give the jurors more credit. They have earned it. They will be able to sort the legal wheat from the chaffe.

Sometimes coverage of trials can seem too similar to coverage of a sporting event; the highs the lows; the good calls and the bad ones. It should be something different when we are talking about life and death. 

December 1, 2004 | 2:08 p.m. ET

My name's Tom Brokaw, I wrote this song... (Aparna Zalani, Abrams Report producer)

It's Tom Brokaw’s last day and I can’t believe it's here already. I knew he was retiring but I was in denial.

I’ve been watching him since I arrived in the U.S. in 1997 and I have been a fan of his ever since. At the time, I had no idea that I would be working at the same network as he.  I had known of Mr. Brokaw’s glorious career but watching the ‘Today Show’ this morning, I got a rare glimpse of the stories behind the stories he covered, his experiences as he was moving up the ladder, the political conventions he covered, his interview with Miss USA, the time he led the network on 9/11 and of course, that bad letter of recommendation written by an old boss early in his career.

I have met Mr. Brokaw in person twice in my life, although I feel like I know him very well.  I was a page at NBC and we were once in the same elevator.  He asked me if it was raining outside.  I stuttered… “Um, ah, I don’t know.”  Oh! How I wished I knew the answer.  I didn’t want to disappoint him.  The second time I met him was in the Nightly News newsroom. He was standing there by a cubicle and he said “Hello.” That was all!

But his face, his image, to me, has been forever a picture of trust, reliability and fairness in news. I love the ‘Nightly News’ broadcast. I have enjoyed watching him at the anchor desk almost everyday. I will continue watching the ‘Nightly News’ broadcast with Brian Williams.

But there is one thing that will never change, at least for me, and that is the words to the Nightly News theme music.  Did you know there are words that go with the tune?  No?  Well, they may not be official but here is what we sing in the newsroom when the music plays: "My name’s Tom Brokaw, I wrote this song."

Do you have any special memories of Tom Brokaw?  Please share your stories with us.

November 30, 2004 | 7:19 p.m. ET

Spammers beware (Dan Abrams)

Our website receives spam every day. I am not really sure how we ended up on so many nasty mailing lists but every day we receive hundreds of e-mails offering to help us engage in every type of sin.

The most obvious: Porn sites telling the Abrams Report about women who want to meet us now.  They include some, lets just say, photos... And if we want to prep for our meeting, we are regularly enticed to, well, enlarge certain parts of our body. Once we finish the procedure we can head to other regular solicitors who offers pills, primarily sexual enhancements drugs.

Apart from sex, there are the sites that would help us liquidate our assets, so to speak.  Gambling sites offering us a “unique opportunity” to bet on just about anything offshore  (including the Peterson trial) and hundreds of e-mails claiming to be from wealthy foreigners desperate to help us by letting us help them cash in their "inheritance" or effectively launder millions (for a fee).

So let me make one thing clear: This is a legal program.  We are not going to utilize the services of a shady organization, some of them, I would venture to say, offering to help us commit crimes.

In fact, maybe one of these days, we'll do a story on just one day’s spam and try to figure out what’s legal and what’s not.  You have been warned.   

Your rebuttal
I've had my say, now let’s hear your views.

The Supreme Court heard arguments over whether congress can override laws in eleven states that allow for the use of medical marijuana.

One of my guests said that if you allow patients to grow marijuana for their own medical needs, cocaine might be next.  I said any doctor who prescribed cocaine would lose his license in a heartbeat that it was a non-issue.

Doctor John J. Cannella at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha writes: "Physicians do prescribe cocaine on a daily basis in the inpatient setting. It is used frequently by head and neck surgeons during sinus and nasoseptal surgeries. Its vasoconstrictive properties make it an ideal agent for the control of bleeding during operative interventions." This is true.  But that is not a prescription to take home cocaine or use it in the privacy in your home.  If there are any doctors prescribing cocaine for outpatients, I would love to hear from them, and doctors who also happen to be drug dealers do not count.

And last Wednesday we introduced you to a dad from Trenton, New Jersey, Robert O'Neal, who I was stunned to hear is still part of a criminal investigation after chasing down a gang of punks who robbed him at gunpoint and threatened to rape his daughters.  One of the criminals was killed after Mr. O'Neal's SUV hit, and killed one of the thieves who was shooting at him after he fled the get-away car. Many of you have been e-mailing me supporting what I called a hero dad.  From Port Angeles, Washington, Jan Dockens writes: "Good for him! I can't believe that charges are even being contemplated against this brave, honest man!"

John Merrick in Daytona Beach, Florida: "He took a chance and the bad guys lost. Would any of us do the same? It takes guts.  Pat him on the back and put the crooks away."

Finally, Mrs. Brosi in Dallas, Texas: "Thank you for interviewing Mr. O'Neal and giving him an opportunity to tell his story.  He speaks for all of us who do not want to be victimized by vicious thugs."

Save the spam.  But please e-mail me at DAbrams@msnbc.com.

November 30, 2004 | 2:49 p.m. ET

Separate but equal apparently alive and well in Alabama (Dan Abrams)

Separate but equal is apparently alive and well in Alabama.  Maybe I was naive.  I thought requiring separate schools for blacks and whites was universally viewed as an American historical pock, one of those twisted, grainy, embarrassing flashbacks that are now hard to believe for those of us who were not of age or alive at the time.

Well in Alabama, the ugly events in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s remain enshrined in its constitution thanks to a narrow victory for those seemingly still fighting the Civil War.  An effort to remove language from the Alabama constitution that requires separate schools for “white and colored children” failed by a narrow margin.  At least it seems that Monday’s recount will not change the outcome.

This constitutional amendment also included highly controversial provisions like ensuring all children have a right to an education and it would have eliminated poll taxes, instituted to keep blacks away from the polls.  Come on.  It would have been an easy way to say we’re sorry for the hardships many of our ancestors and us inflicted upon African Americans.
We’re sorry that we fought tooth and nail to keep blacks out of our schools.  You would think it would be a shameful memory rather than a seemingly proud reminder of a racist past -- the site of the infamous showdown between Governor George Wallace, who refused to allow integration, and federal authorities trying to enforce U.S. law requiring Alabama to desegregate.

The Washington Post suggests the amendment failed for one of three reasons: racism, reluctance to amend the constitution, or fear of taxes.  Of course, there‘s only one honest answer.  There were other mundane amendments that passed on November 2 and fear that giving blacks equal education will cost taxpayers really relates to issue number one, racism.

Your rebuttal
I have had my say, now it’s your turn. 

Last Wednesday on one of the busiest travel days of the year, we told you that some women are complaining that airport security pat-downs are humiliating and say that their breasts and buttocks are being unnecessarily examined.  I said I don‘t know why this is a gender issue.
I have been through many airport pat-downs and while uncomfortable, I view them as part of the price we pay for enhanced security. I'd rather sacrifice a little dignity before boarding a plane than risk losing my life in the air. 

Many of you were not happy with me, including Jennifer Kopolow: “I see as much reason for a full handed breast grab as I do for men to drop their pants, spread their cheeks and lift up their scrotum for a better look.”

Jennifer, I was quite clear that if screeners cross the line and molest women rather than screen them, they should be fired or worse.  They must use the back of their hands and give any woman a female screener if she requests one.

From San Francisco, Susan Vennarucci writes:  “Maybe you‘d be a little more sensitive if your preteen daughter or mother was put through this embarrassing search.”

You know, I actually spoke with my mother about this and she, too, is perfectly comfortable with these enhanced security measures.”  Again, I view them as temporary, until we can create a better, more targeted system.

Gideon Wallace: “Having flown for three years since 9/11, the security checks are random and pointless.  We will never be safe from random acts of violence.  We have a higher chance of getting run down by our own drunken neighbors or shot by a disgruntled coworker than all of this hullabaloo.”

Maybe so Gideon, but using your logic, we ought to just give up airport security all together.
On the other side, Kate Jackson from Boston, Massachusetts says:  “I believe this is neither a gender issue nor a respect issue.  Until the threat of terror is eliminated, men and women who must fly will most likely be felt up and rubbed down.”

And TSA screener P.K. Harris in San Antonio writes:  “Thank you.  You get it.  My thoughts are that it is unfortunate and amazing that we still have passengers who since 9/11 feel they are beyond being screened.”

Email me at DAbrams@msnbc.com

November 29, 2004 | 1:48 p.m. ET

Pot on the docket (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Has anyone else noticed the Supreme Court picked some really interesting cases to hear this term?  Today, the high court (no pun intended) is considering the issue of whether states with medical marijuana laws can get around a federal ban on pot

The case is Raich v. Ashcroft and it stems from a lawsuit filed by two California women whose homes were raided by federal agents.  Angel Raich had been using marijuana to ease the pain of a brain tumor; she also suffers from scoliosis and chronic nausea.  The other woman, Diane Monson, grew pot to treat a degenerative spine disease. 

California is one of 10 states to pass measuresallowing marijuana for medical use.  That’s the key issue today: can states get around a federal law banning marijuana possession?   An appeals court said yes last year, ruling that the federal prosecution of medical marijuana users is unconstitutional.  Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide.

Tonight, Dan talks to Robert Raich, one of the lead attorneys in the case and Angel Raich's husband.  The program about justice begins at 6 p.m. ET.

November 24, 2004 | 1:29 p.m. ET

Happy Thanksgiving!   (Jamie Rubin, Abrams Report producer)

Many of us will spend this weekend reflecting on the past year, listing all the things we’re thankful for, and of course, consuming more food in one night than we’ve eaten all year.  While we’re all giving thanks for our good fortune, he’s my take on what some of the people from our favorite legal stories are thankful for this year:

November 24, 2004 | 11:02 a.m. ET

The Abrams Report wants to hear from you — right now (Abrams Report staff)

This Friday catch a special edition of the Abrams Report when Dan takes you through the upcoming penalty phase in the Scott Peterson trial.   He and his legal team will be reading and answering your questions on the show so we want to hear from you!  What are your questions about the penalty phase?  Scott's possible sentence?  The role of the jury as they weigh the death penalty?  What do you want to know?  Hit us with your best shot, you might just get your question read on air!

Please send your e-mails to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We must receive your e-mail by 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 24 so get them in!

November 23, 2004 | 11:33 a.m. ET

Thanks for nothing (Brian Cohen, Abrams Report booker en route back to N.Y.C.)

Well to say I was disappointed by the latest delay is an understatement!  Just when I thought the end was near Mark Geragos pulled one of his tricks and delayed the trial once again.  So now I guess I can't thank God during Thanksgiving dinner that the case is finally over and Scott Peterson's fate is sealed. 

But what about the 106 people that arrived bright and early to get into the lottery for their chance to listen to family members testify?  I guess they, like the rest of us, must wait just a little longer while Mark Geragos' makes a last ditch effort in front of the Court of Appeals, one I think will surely fail. 

The highlight of my day had to be sitting in the listening room waiting for court to begin, and seeing the look on all the reporters' faces as bets began to come up that there would be a delay.  When it was announced, a loud gasp was heard; it was almost like sitting at the 18th hole of a playoff match when Tiger Woods just misses the cup. 

And now I have to make the long flight back home for the holidays after just arriving, but it could be worse. I could be Scott Peterson.

November 22, 2004 | 2:04 p.m. ET

Coming Up On The Docket  (Amy Harmon, Abrams Report Producer)

Former " Baretta" star Robert Blake is charged with killing his wife of four months back on May 4, 2001. That evening the two had dinner at a restaurant named Vitello's where Blake was a regular — he even had a dish named after him!  Minutes after they left the restaurant, Blake reappeared saying he left his handgun at the table. According to Blake, returning to the car he found Bonnie Lee Bakley, 44, shot in the head. Prosecutors say Blake shot his wife with a second gun before returning to the restaurant and got rid of it in a nearby dumpster. Blake maintains he is innocent.

Why do I care? I love a good mystery and this case has twists and turns that even the best crime writer couldn't have dreamed up. In addition to being charged with killing Bakley, Blake, 71, is charged with trying to hire a number of people, including two of his former stuntmen, to kill his wife. Testimony during his preliminary hearing revealed schemes Blake concocted to get rid of his wife as far back as 1999, when they weren't even married. They included plans to "whack her" if she didn't have an abortion, or to "pop her" while she slept, or to do exactly what happened to her. . ."snuff" her in the car after they had dinner.

Another interesting twist: Blake not only played a cop on television, he also played a killer —twice.  He played mass murderer John List on TV and killer Perry Smith in Truman Capote's movie " In Cold Blood."  He had another TV role related to murder too; he played a private eye who was framed for manslaughter in " Murder One, Dancer 0."  And Bakley?  Well, as prosecutors said during jury selection, she was "not Mother Teresa. "  The prosecutor even asked one perspective juror, "If you really thought she was a scuzz, could you still convict him of killing her?"  Bakley was reportedly a star-struck con-woman who ran a "lonely hearts scheme”, sending provocative pictures of herself to men with promises to visit if they sent her money.  Once she got the money, she never showed.  You can only imagine the defense theories that will be tossed around in this trial!

The Abrams Report will bring you the latest on the Blake trial developments as they happen. Jury selection is currently underway.  Please continue to e-mail us at Sidebar@MSNBC.com.

November 22, 2004 | 10:56 a.m. ET

Peterson: To live or die  (Rikki Klieman, defense attorney and Abrams Report regular)

The trial is finally over. The public’s appetite for every scrap of information about the investigation and the trial of Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife and unborn child might be drawing to a close. He has been found guilty and now he must be punished according to the rule of law.

By any objective look at legal standards concerning the death penalty, this should be an easy decision for life in prison without the possibility of parole. Yet, there will be many who will be calling for Peterson’s head… quite literally… and who will be desperately disappointed if a jury spares him.

The death penalty was always supposed to be reserved for the “worst of the worst.”  We have heard that phrase for years in California and debated what those words meant when we looked at the penalty phase of the trial of David Westerfield, convicted for the abduction and murder of the innocent child, Danielle van Dam.  Scott Peterson is clearly a bad person, a sociopath, a liar, a cheat, a despicable human being, and now a convicted murderer. Yet, he is not the “worst of the worst” - if that phrase is to have any meaning in a court of law.

He is eligible for the death penalty because of the special circumstance of multiple murders, that is, the killing of the unborn child, which the jury declared was not premeditated in light of the second degree murder conviction on that count… a rather strange and inconsistent decision, unless it was simply based on some sort of compromise. There have been many debates over the last two years regarding whether or not that count was appropriate at all for a host reasons regarding the question of a life in being. Many will still argue that Conner was part of Laci and that Scott intended to kill Laci without much thought about the life of his unborn son.  Without getting into the merits of that discussion, let’s just say it is a tenuous special circumstance in many people’s minds. For others, it is the most persuasive… taking away the life of a fetus about to be born is seen as heinous beyond words.

Finally, we must consider the element of residual or lingering doubt which faces this jury.  They do not know how Laci was killed, where she was killed, when she was killed, how she was killed.  It is a case with virtually no physical evidence but with a mountain of bad character evidence. The jury reached a reasonable verdict as to guilt but one would think that there must be sufficient residual doubt about the circumstances of this case to not reach a final determination of a death verdict.

In the end, life imprisonment for someone as young as Peterson may be a worse penalty for society to provide for him.  The jury must not bow to the will of a mob mentality raising their collective fists in the air to kill him. A jury must follow the law.

E-mail us at Sidebar@MSNBC.com.

November 22, 2004 | 2:13 a.m. ET

Notes from the field (Brian Cohen, Abrams Report booker en route to Redwood City, Calif.)

I told you I would be back with more on-site news from the Peterson case. Here I am at 2 a.m., just checking in for what some have speculated as a big day tomorrow in court.  As I quickly packed my bag to make my flight, the song "On the Road Again" began chiming in, and the rush of getting out there to do more on location producing and booking began to really kick in.  I guess the only thing to look forward to on a six hour flight was, well, I got a whole row to myself!  It wasn't like I was excited to eat dinner on the plane, but it could be worse, I could be Scott Peterson.  Many keep asking what's the big deal with this case.  He was found guilty and justice was served, right?  Well this case so far hasn’t disappointed and I'm hoping tomorrow will continue the trend.   

November 19, 2004 | 4:01 p.m. ET

Geneva did not envision urban warfare with terrorists (Dan Abrams)

Is it time for the U.S. to admit that the Geneva Conventions cannot and should not apply in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and when it comes to international terrorists?  It may sound like humanitarian heresy to the longstanding agreement that have ensured humane treatment of prisoners for almost 150 years. 

Yes, these agreements are designed to protect our own young men and women.  So, why should we even consider ignoring agreements signed by just about every nation in the world? Well, I'm not talking about ignoring it. Those agreements were designed to apply to NATIONS at war.  In Iraq, we're battling tribes, terrorists, and sects— not a nation. The official Iraqi and Afghan governments are long gone.  These new enemies will never treat prisoners humanely because of an agreement, nor will they be held accountable for violations of it.

The administration publicly claimed that the convention still applies to the conflict in Iraq, even though secret administration legal opinions offering exceptions have been leaked.  These administration lawyers are right to suggest there are exceptions (at the least).  We already call the detainees at Guantanamo Bay "enemy combatants" instead of "prisoners of war" protected by Geneva, a distinction I support even though I think it's essential that combatants get fair and full hearings.

How do you apply the concept of prisoners of war to suicidal fighters who have no clear superiors to accept responsibility for any actions of their "soldiers?"  If we battle a nation, the convention should apply. When we're fighting the Iraqi army and imprisoning its soldiers, we should have abided by the convention's mandates. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal was more than a Geneva violation.  It was an outrage. 

But when the enemy is just individuals united by one cause— hatred of the U.S.— doesn't that put us at a distinct disadvantage to obey the rules of armed conflict, when they won't?  Our tactics are scrutinized and criticized by the world, while their beheadings and mutilations are hardly even worth commenting on because everyone knows they don't care about how inhumane they are. 

Rather than quibble with the international community about definitions and standards, maybe it's time to just be straight and say Geneva did not envision this type of warfare, period.

What do you think?  Send all emails to DAbrams@msnbc.com

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,