updated 12/3/2004 2:16:26 PM ET 2004-12-03T19:16:26

Guest: Owen LaFave, Laurie Ohall, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Gloria Allred, Jeff Lichtman, Robert Hirschhorn, Brenda Joy Bernstein


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  A school teacher‘s illicit act with a 14-year-old student caught on tape.


BOY:  I‘m a little worried, though..


BOY:  I just don‘t want to get you pregnant.


NORVILLE:  How did this married woman end up in a situation like this?


LAFAVE:  I‘m sorry.  Bad judgment and...


NORVILLE:  What would possess a school teacher to violate a sacred professional trust?



Debbie has some profound emotional issues that are not her fault.


NORVILLE:  But what about the emotional issues the young victim may now face?  Tonight, exclusive, Debra LaFave‘s husband sheds some light on what might have led to such reckless behavior.

In defense of Scott Peterson.  Emotional pleas of mercy from a grieving father, a loving brother and a high school buddy.  But can they convince jurors to spare the life of a cold-blooded killer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They need to see another side of Scott Peterson, if there‘s going to be any prayer of this defense team saving his life.


NORVILLE:  Tonight: another family‘s heart-wrenching day in court.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are no winners in a situation like this.  We all know this is a real tragedy.


ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  Tonight, a peek into the sordid encounter between a 24-year-old middle school teacher and her 14-year-old student.  We‘ll listen to some just-released audiotapes of telephone calls between the two, and I‘ll have the first interview with her husband since these tapes were made public.

At the center of the storm is Debra LaFave, a former model, a school teacher.  She‘s accused of having sex with a 14-year-old, and she faces 30 years in prison if convicted.  The boy claims they had sexual encounters five times in a townhouse, in a classroom and in the back of her car.  On Tuesday, LaFave‘s attorney said she‘ll claim that she was insane at the time of the alleged sex.

The boy, who was coached by police, taped several telephone calls with Mrs. LaFave.


BOY:  I‘m a little worried, though.


BOY:  Like, honestly, like get pregnant or anything because I was just thinking about it and I was just thinking now that we‘ve had sex about three times, I should have used, like, a condom or something.

LAFAVE:  Oh, you‘re being weird!


NORVILLE:  Debra and her husband, Owen LaFave, were married less than a year when she was arrested in June.  He has since filed for divorce, and he joins me now for his first interview, along with his attorney, since these audiotapes were made public.

And Mr. LaFave, thank you very much for being with us.  And Ms. Ohall, we thank you for being with us, as well.  Owen, first question.  I understand the answer to this is yes.  Do you still love your wife?

OWEN LAFAVE, DEBRA‘S HUSBAND:  Unfortunately, Deborah, I don‘t know the person that this is.  So to answer honestly, I have to answer no.

NORVILLE:  You love the woman that you said “I do” to a little over a year ago.

LAFAVE:  That‘s correct.  I mean, I don‘t know who this person is.  And her actions—or alleged actions, I should say—are just, you know, mind-boggling.  This is not the same person that I married.

NORVILLE:  Which emotion have you felt more in the last several months, embarrassment or anger?

LAFAVE:  Well, I think, you know, I‘ve gone through a whole cycle, you know, part of the healing process.  Initially, I was extremely embarrassed.  I just wanted to climb into a shell, go into a corner and not come out.  However, you know, I‘ve gone through the cycle.  I feel that, you know, I‘ve accepted the—for whatever reason, it happened, and you know, I‘ve been trying to move on with my life.  But moreso lately, I think I just feel anger that I‘m involved in this situation and our family and friends have been involved in this situation.  I‘m really just trying to move on with my life.

NORVILLE:  You know, these tapes are pretty astonishing to hear them.  It‘s one thing to hear about the situation, it‘s quite another to hear the interchange between your estranged wife and this 14-year-old boy.  I want to play a section  of a conversation where it seems as though she and he are making some sort of a pact or a pledge.


LAFAVE:  All right.  Promise?

BOY:  Yes.

LAFAVE:  Pinky promise?

BOY:  Yes.

LAFAVE:  Say pinky promise.

BOY:  Pinky promise.

LAFAVE:  All right.  Well, tell me a time.


NORVILLE:  Does that sound like the woman you were married to?

LAFAVE:  You know, that‘s a little shocking, actually.  It really sounds like I‘m listening to a conversation between two middle schoolers.  It doesn‘t sound like a woman.  It doesn‘t sound like my wife.

NORVILLE:  When—you know, this is an embarrassingly personal question, but so much of your life, unfortunately, has been made public because of this crazy thing.  If she were in a lovey-dovey mood, would that little girl baby voice have been something that she might resort to?

LAFAVE:  You know, from time to time.  I mean, I think, you know, especially for her, she could be cutesy, but you know, in a lovey-dovey mood.  In that circumstance, I mean, it just seems a little out of character, a little unusual, I think.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Then there was another phone call that was made, and this was on June 21.  This was a few days after she had been spotted with this young man by a relative of his.  And it seems as though they‘re definitely making arrangements to get together at some point in the future.


BOY:  Hi.  So what time are you thinking of heading over?

LAFAVE:  Are you sure?  Like, I just feel—I mean, I don‘t want you lying to your mom.  I mean, it‘s, like...

BOY:  No, it‘s all right.  She‘s gone in a sales meeting, like, all day.

LAFAVE:  You‘re sure?

BOY:  Yes.


NORVILLE:  That phone call apparently took place the same day that she‘d driven you to work because your car was in the shop for repairs.

LAFAVE:  That‘s correct.  We had actually gotten in an accident a few days earlier, and I do remember that day very well.

NORVILLE:  Did you know this boy?

LAFAVE:  I had met him briefly.  I actually chaperoned a field trip, and I had met him, you know, just momentarily.  To be perfectly honest with you, Deborah, I couldn‘t pick him out of a lineup.  I have no recollection of his facial features or anything.

NORVILLE:  So when you got the news that your wife was involved in this, you didn‘t even have a face to put with the name, which obviously is not being made public, but you know it.

LAFAVE:  Yes.  I mean, I didn‘t.  I knew that I had met him.  I remember the occurrence of it happening.  But you know, I couldn‘t tell you what he looks like.

NORVILLE:  And then there are these photos, which were also released today.  And we should note that the phone conversation was altered so the boy‘s identity could be protected.  These pictures were taken from a surveillance camera at a Best Buy store up in Ocala, Florida, not that far from where the two of you lived.  And you can see that the young man and his friend‘s faces are obscured.  But your wife is there in the store, shopping through the various aisles at the electronics boutique.

First of all, I want to ask you about how she looks when you see those photos of your wife in this very short little summer dress.  Was that the way she usually dressed?

LAFAVE:  She did dress like that on occasion.  But I mean, she does look very provocative.  I mean, she‘s a beautiful woman.  She has a great figure, and she did like to show it off.  But I think, given the circumstance and the company that she‘s with, I think it is a little provocative.

NORVILLE:  And this is—there‘s also a photo that we‘re looking at right now.  She had done some modeling work for some mechanics magazines or something in the past.  So she was proud of her body and had done some professional work in which her figure was something that was an asset.

LAFAVE:  Yes, she was.  And actually, those pictures that you showed just now, I mean, she was actually very embarrassed of that photography session.  It was not something she was proud of.  But that being said, I mean, she—you know, she was a very attractive girl.

NORVILLE:  Her attorney, as you know, said Tuesday in court that one of the things he will be arguing when they come to trial next spring is an insanity defense.  And here‘s specifically what he said.



Debbie has some profound emotional issues that are not her fault.  I think once anyone reads what the doctors have to say, they will understand a lot more about what happened here.


NORVILLE:  How long, Owen, have you known your wife, Debbie?

LAFAVE:  I‘ve actually known her for eight years, but we‘ve dated or we‘ve been together for five.  We dated for three, were engaged for one, and then we were married for 11 months prior to her arrest.

NORVILLE:  So someone whom you‘ve known for such a long period of time.  Is there anything in her background that you can think of that would be what her attorney is speaking about, Mr. Fitzgibbons, what emotional issues she might have?

LAFAVE:  You know, she did have some emotional issues.  She was treated for depression.  She did have an eating disorder.  But she had saw someone.  She was being treated with medication, and nothing to the extent that I would believe that she was capable of anything as—of what she‘s accused of.

NORVILLE:  And when you see her now—and we‘re looking at the footage of her exiting the courthouse the other day—it‘s a very different picture of Debbie LaFave than a couple of months ago, when she went in for her arraignment.  What do you notice about the change?

LAFAVE:  Well, I think there are some significant changes to her appearance.  I mean, I don‘t know if she was coached or not.  But obviously, she‘s dressed more conservatively.  Her hair is cut, makeup is much lighter, you know?  And outdoor of that, her physical appearance has changed a little bit.  She does look like she‘s gained a little bit of weight.  And you can see the stress on her face.  I mean, her eyes look a little dark, and she just looks very frightened.

NORVILLE:  When you look at her, does it make you feel sad?

LAFAVE:  You know, I do.  You know, I empathize with her.  You know, I feel bad.  I do feel saddened that she‘s in this situation.  But you know, that being said, you know, it‘s in the court‘s hands now.

NORVILLE:  I understand that day when those photos were taken at that Best Buy that one of the things she purchased was a portable music system for you.  Do you remember her giving it to you, and did it seem odd at the time?

LAFAVE:  Well, actually, she had given me that for my birthday.  And unfortunately, she was arrested prior to my birthday, so the item in question, which was an iPod, you know, was in the police report and I did hear about it.  And to be perfectly honest, I‘ve enjoyed it since.

NORVILLE:  Ms. Ohall, I know, at one point, Mr. LaFave said that it was his hope that he‘d be able to save the marriage.  Obviously, that‘s not going to happen.  In Florida, it‘s a no-fault state, which means the court could decide to award everything 50-50.  You don‘t think they should, I guess.

LAURIE OHALL, ATTORNEY FOR OWEN LAFAVE:  Given the—well, unfortunately, adultery, if that did happen in this case, doesn‘t play a part in the state of Florida, as far as the divorce proceedings go here.  There‘s no children involved.  There‘s no alimony issue.  So it doesn‘t matter.  I feel it should, I mean, especially given the circumstances and what Owen has been through.  But unfortunately, I don‘t know that that‘s really going to play a part.

Now, the insanity defense that she‘s—that her attorney is putting forward, that might play a part in the divorce case.

NORVILLE:  Interesting.  You know, Owen‘s not the only one who‘s gone through something.  Mr. LaFave, what‘s your thoughts about this 14-year-old boy who is also at the center of this legal storm?

LAFAVE:  You know, I think it‘s very unfortunate.  I mean, he‘s a victim, as well as, you know, I am and his family and Debbie‘s family, as well as mine.  You know, my heart goes out to him, so I hope he‘s doing well.  I don‘t wish him any ill will.  So you know, I wish him the best of luck.

NORVILLE:  Are you mad at him?

LAFAVE:  You know, I think, at one point in time, I was.  I could say I was.  But you know, let bygones be bygones and—like I said, I‘m trying to move on with my life.

NORVILLE:  All right.  Well, we‘re going to move on with our discussion, and we‘re going to broaden it to talk about some of the emotional issues that I know you, Owen LaFave, have dealt with, and also this young man has dealt with.  Owen will continue with us, as will Laurie Ohall.  And when we come back, we‘ll also be joined by addiction specialist, and the co-host of the radio show “Loveline,” Dr. Drew Pinsky joins us to take a look at why a teacher would risk everything to have sex with a student.

And then later on, the Scott Peterson trial.  Gracious, loving, caring, generous?  That‘s how family and friends are describing him in court.  But is it enough to convince the jury to spare his life?  We‘ll take you inside the courtroom for the penalty phase, so stay tuned.



LAFAVE:  All right.  Promise?

BOY:  Yes.

LAFAVE:  Pinky promise?

BOY:  Yes.

LAFAVE:  Say pinky promise.

BOY:  Pinky promise.

LAFAVE:  All right.  Well, tell me a time.


NORVILLE:  More of those recorded phone conversations between middle school teacher Debra LaFave and the 14-year-old student with whom she was allegedly having sex.  We‘re back now with her husband, Owen LaFave, who has filed for divorce, and his attorney, Laurie Ohall.

And now joining our discussion is the co-host of the radio program “Loveline,” Dr. Drew Pinsky.  Dr. Pinsky is also an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Pinsky, I know you listened to our conversation.  We talked about how Mr. LaFave is going through this.  What do you project this 14-year-old boy is going through right now?

DR. DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION SPECIALIST/RADIO HOST:  Well, it‘s interesting.  If you look at the outcome on the male victims of sexual abuse by female predators, the outcomes are actually rather poor.  We have sort of a sense in our society that somehow, the females have a more serious trauma when they are victimized by people like this.  But the fact is, if you look at the young males, they have a very high incidence of depression, suicide, substance use and anti-social personality features.  So the fact is that these males, although we sort of don‘t understand and we sort of feel that somehow, it‘s not as severe a trauma, in fact, have quite negative consequences from being involved in these sorts of circumstances.

NORVILLE:  All of us who are parents hear a story like this and shudder to think that our child could be vulnerable in such a way that they could fall prey to the kind of activity that we‘re talking about here.  Are there warning signs?  Are there things parents ought to be doing?  Is there something that probably didn‘t happen in this young man‘s life that made him vulnerable?

PINSKY:  That‘s actually a great question because it is, in fact, kids that have been traumatized early in life who become the good victims.  In fact, these are such horrible complex and human situation.  I think we‘re going to find out that Debra LaFave had childhood sexual abuse herself.  She has absolutely every earmark of a childhood sexual abuse survivor.  For instance, that little girl voice she has, that is an absolute sign.  When you close your eyes and you hear a woman speaking and it sounds like a 7 or 8-year-old, that usually is the age at which they were traumatized or sexually abused.

You have someone here who does not perceive boundaries, who does not understand sexual behaviors and sexual propriety and acts out in very compulsive and provocative ways.  And it is an absolute earmark of childhood sexual abuse.  So she, as a victim, is somebody who our heart would go out to 25 years ago...


PINSKY:  ... or 20 years ago, let‘s say, and now she‘s the perpetrator.

NORVILLE:  Owen...

PINSKY:  These are very complex issues.

NORVILLE:  Owen, hearing this, does this jog anything in a conversation that you might have had with Debra about something that potentially happened in her past that was terribly upsetting to her?

LAFAVE:  You know, Deborah, I just—I can‘t disclose that information right now.  I‘m sure there‘s some amount of information that might come up during the trial, but I‘m just not willing to discuss that at this time.

NORVILLE:  I know one thing that has been talked about publicly by her own attorney is the fact that her sister was tragically killed by a drunken driver two years ago.  How did your wife respond to that?  She was your girlfriend at the time, but how did she react to that terrible loss?

LAFAVE:  Well, I think probably just like anyone in that circumstance.  I mean, everybody was crushed.  We all were devastated, and we all went through a very difficult time.  And it was just—it was a very sad moment in everybody‘s life.

NORVILLE:  Dr. Drew, is that the kind of trauma, when probably Debra was 20, 21, to lose a close sibling?

PINSKY:  No.  Absolutely not.  That is simply ridiculous.  Grieving does not cause these sorts of behaviors.  However, someone with a very fragile personality structure who is a severe trauma survivor in childhood, when they are stressed, when they have major losses, will regress and begin to act out.  And I think that, in fact, is what has happened here.

NORVILLE:  But you know, when you say that sort of stuff, Dr. Drew, it reminds me of the old victim defense that we‘ve heard many times in courts of law, where—Don‘t blame me, it‘s not my fault, something awful happened to me.

PINSKY:  Listen, Deborah, I do not believe that people should be excused of their behaviors.  In fact, it is society‘s responsibility to contain these people who have such difficulty accepting and understanding boundaries and containing their behaviors.  We‘ve got to have very serious consequences in place so people don‘t engage in these actions, they understand that they‘re taking great risk, and in fact, they get help before these sorts of horrible tragedies develop.

NORVILLE:  You know, talk about taking great risk, I want to play another telephone call that Debra made—I believe it was on June the 18, this was after the trip up to Ocala to the Best Buy—to the boy, in which they talk about a phone conversation that she had with the child‘s mother.  It‘s pretty interesting.


LAFAVE:  I called her when I got home last night.

BOY:  How did that go?

LAFAVE:  It was—I mean, I just told her—I was, like, you know, I‘m sorry, bad judgment, and I should‘ve double-checked with you, blah, blah, blah.

BOY:  Well, I guess I don‘t think we should be going to Ocala anymore.

LAFAVE:  No, no.

BOY:  But everything went so smooth in the portable, so...


BOY:  So, whatever, if we decide to do anything again, then that should probably be our place for now.

LAFAVE:  That‘s true.  Are you OK?


NORVILLE:  And we should note that “the portable,” we‘ve figured out, are these portable classrooms that were apparently there at the school.

Owen, hearing that exchange—and I know we gave you the transcript earlier so it wouldn‘t come out of the blue to you—does that strike you as out of character for the woman you were married to?

LAFAVE:  Absolutely, Deborah.  And this is all actually very difficult to hear.  I did receive a copy of the transcripts.  However, this is the first time I‘ve heard the audio of the tapes.  And it‘s very shocking.  It‘s very out of character.

NORVILLE:  What did she say to you when you had the opportunity to confront her about all of this?

LAFAVE:  I‘d rather not say right now.


LAFAVE:  It was a private conversation.

NORVILLE:  I can understand that.

Drew, how do you evaluate that conversation, having heard it?

PINSKY:  Well, if you listen carefully to her voice, it has a completely different quality to it.  This had more of an executive-type function.  She‘s not as regressed when she‘s talking here.  So this is, again, further evidence of the fragmentation, the fragility and the chaos that she is living in and trying to contend with, and she does that by acting out.  You‘ll also see escalated use of drugs and alcohol in situations like this.  And usually—I don‘t know if that‘s been alleged here, but that is usually the catalyst that puts—puts all this—sort of sets the flame going and gets this all underway.

NORVILLE:  Drew, as you know, there are people out there who will say, This is a great thing.  You know, here‘s a—here‘s a 14-year-old boy who got the hottest teacher at school.  What a lucky kid he is.

PINSKY:  Right.  And the fact is, the basic covenant in our society is unraveling.  Big people take care of little people.  Parents take care of children.  Teachers take care of students.  And our job is to get these little people into a safe and healthy and productive adult life.  And one of the key elements in that is teaching them about boundaries.  And to the extent that teachers or doctors or anyone in authority exploits the people for whom they‘re responsible, it destroys that and it significantly affects their mental health.

NORVILLE:  Dr. Drew, briefly, if these charges are proven true, is Debra LaFave a pedophile?

PINSKY:  Absolutely.  That‘s—by, I guess, any standard.

NORVILLE:  And Owen, if these charges are proven in court, she faces as much as 30 years in prison.  How do you handle that?

LAFAVE:  You know, I just—I‘m trying to remove myself from the situation as best as possible.  I just—I don‘t know.  I‘m just going to watch and see what happens just, you know, like everybody else is.

NORVILLE:  I know it‘s a nightmare that no one wants to live, and we thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.  We know it‘s tough for you.  Owen LaFave, thank you.  We wish you well.  Laurie Ohall, thanks for being with us and standing by your client.  And Drew Pinsky, your insights are always welcome here.  We appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next: defending Scott Peterson.  Friends and family plead for the life of a convicted killer.  But will jurors take heart?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not about Scott Peterson, it‘s about his parents, Lee and Jackie.


ANNOUNCER:  A matter of life or death when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.



NORVILLE:  If you had not paid one bit of attention to the Scott Peterson trial and then suddenly tuned in today, you would think that Peterson was one of the nicest, most considerate guys you‘d ever meet, the picture painted today in court by his family and friends during this third day of the penalty phase, as they try to convince the jury to spare his life.  Two of Scott‘s sisters-in-law, his brother, two childhood friends used words like gracious, caring, conscientious and loving to describe Peterson.

At one point, Peterson appeared to be weeping softly as his sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, recalled a pair of fuzzy-bear slippers that he gave her as a Christmas gift.  What kind of effect is all of this going to have on the jury?  And at what point does it become simply too much?

Joining me now is attorney and jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn.  He recently worked with Kobe Bryant‘s legal team.  Also with us tonight, Gloria Allred.  Of course, she is the attorney for Amber Frey, Peterson‘s former mistress, who was a key witness in the trial.  And the host of “Both Sides” on Court TV joins us.  Vinnie Politan‘s had a long day covering the Peterson case.  Also with me here, defense attorney and former prosecutor Brenda Joy Bernstein.  And this is attorney Jeff Lichtman.  He‘s worked with many death penalty cases.  Right now, he‘s defending John Gotti, Jr., in a case which involves that attempted assassination of talk show host Curtis Sliwa.

We thank all of you for being here.  And I want to start with you first, Vinnie.  You‘ve been in the courtroom.  You‘ve watched these jurors react to the parade of Scott Peterson‘s friends and family.  Are they buying it?

VINNIE POLITAN, HOST, “BOTH SIDES,” COURT TV:  Well, you know, you said I watched them react.  They really didn‘t react.  And we‘re getting some tears on the witness stand, but you‘re not getting tears in the jury box.  And it‘s so different than what we saw when Sharon Rocha was on the stand for the prosecution.  This is a woman who is so emotional, and that emotion transferred into the jury box.  That‘s not happening during this defense case.

NORVILLE:  And what does that tell you about how the jury is reading all this? 

POLITAN:  Well, it doesn‘t appear, from looking at them, that they‘re making the connection that they need to make to say to this jury, spare this man‘s life.  Let him live a life in prison.  Don‘t send him to death row.  They‘re not making that connection yet.  The most emotional testimony should come from Jackie Peterson, but they‘re saving her for last. 

NORVILLE:  They‘re saving her for last.  They‘re starting with Lee Peterson, his father, for the very beginning.

I want to get into some of the remarks and then get everybody talking about it.  First, let‘s start off with Aaron Fritz.  Aaron was one of Scott Peterson‘s longest-time friends.  They met when he moved to California.  He was a freshman in high school.  Scott was a sophomore. 

He said: “From the day I met him to throughout our friendship, the Scott Peterson that I know is the kind of person that you respect and admire.  And if I find myself in a situation wondering, gosh, what to do, he was the kind of person I would try to emulate.”

Gloria Allred, I‘d love to hair what you think about that.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR AMBER FREY:  Well, he was the kind of person he used to want to try to emulate.  I certainly hope he wouldn‘t want to try to emulate him now, Deborah. 

And we had a lot of testimony today.  But the question is, how much of it is really relevant on the issue of whether it‘s a mitigating factor?  The fact that, for example, as Janey Peterson testified, that Scott came to her house and repaired the lock on the door and helped her with her refurbishment of her kitchen cabinets, I hardly consider that to be a mitigating factor, especially when you weigh that against the aggravating factor of the nature and circumstances of the crime. 

And a lot of this is, save Scott Peterson‘s life, because if you don‘t, it will be devastating for his parents.  But really from a legal point of view, the effect on his own parents is not a relevant mitigating factor. 

NORVILLE:  You know, Jeff, that was one of the things that hit me.  It‘s like, OK, we know you can‘t stand Scott Peterson.  You‘ve already convicted him of murder.  But for lord‘s sakes, have a little pity on his mom and dad.  Look at these poor, sad souls. 

JEFF LICHTMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I think that‘s a good point. 

I think it would work better if perhaps the Peterson clan en masse would come in and talk about how heartbroken they are about Laci, their daughter or sister-in-law, etcetera, how sad they are about her death as well.  It seems like they‘re coming in and just trying to protect Scott. 

And what happens is, if you compare, if you have some sort of weighing situation, how can you feel sorry for Scott Peterson‘s parents and family and feel more sorry for them than you would for Laci Peterson‘s family?  You just can‘t.

NORVILLE:  Not much has been said about Laci. 

Robert Hirschhorn, how is the jury going to react to that, the fact that it‘s all sweetness and light about Scott?  And, as Gloria said, where are the mitigating factors?  Where they going to hear anything that‘s going to give them something to hang their juror hat on to say, spare this guy‘s life, there‘s something redeeming about him? 

ROBERT HIRSCHHORN, ATTORNEY/JURY CONSULTANT:  Well, Deborah, the point is that we‘re talking about the potential taking the life of another human being. 

And when you‘re in that arena, everything that people have to say becomes relevant.  Now, look, Gloria is exactly right.  That one story, that one little story‘s not relevant.  What is relevant is that this is a young man.  And he is a young man.  He‘s 30 years old.  If he‘s given life in prison, he‘ll spend the next 40 or 50 years in prison.  This is a fellow that except for a series of horrible, horrible decisions and acts on his part was generally a very good person. 

And the question this jury and all of America has to ask is, when somebody has generally led a fairly exemplary life, is that who should go to the gallows?  Should we march that person to the gallows?  And I think the answer is no. 

NORVILLE:  But, you know, it‘s interesting, B.J. Bernstein.  One of the other character witnesses that came on was a guy who knew Scott Peterson basically for three years.  They went to junior high school together.  Here‘s what he had to say.  It was Britton Scheibe.  And this is what he said.

He said: “There no way this can be the same Scott Peterson I knew.  Of all the people I grew up with and knew, he is the last person that could ever do this based on the person I knew back in those days.”

And if I were sitting in the juror box, I‘d go, yes, but that was 20 years ago.  Are they going to buy that, B.J.? 


But there is one thing about bringing all these people, is that some of these people are similar to the people in the jury.  Remember that in a lot of death penalty cases, you have someone who‘s been abused.  You have someone who‘s mentally ill.  You have someone who‘s from the wrong side of the tracks, someone that the jury doesn‘t feel a relationship with here. 

It could be that the defense is trying to put up people who—a type of family that could be but for something sinister happening in these jurors‘ families could be what someone that they know.  And so by putting that type of witness up, that‘s perhaps one angle that they‘re trying to take very carefully with this jury. 

NORVILLE:  But, Vinnie, aren‘t they just scratching their heads going, is this the best you can do? 

POLITAN:  Well, I think that‘s going on here, Deborah, it‘s like in basketball where you go to the four corners offense where you‘re trying to stall and create space, space between when Sharon Rocha gave her statement to this jury and when this jury ultimately decides the question of life and death. 

They‘re in a stall pattern right now.  They‘re going to put on as many witness as possible.  Tomorrow, they‘re only putting three up.  You have another two days for a weekend.  Then maybe we finish Monday.  Maybe we finish Tuesday.  Now all of a sudden there‘s more than a week between when this jury heard Sharon Rocha and when they‘re going to make the ultimate decision of life and death in this case.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  But maybe they have should marched some of those jurors out during the evidentiary part of the trial and gotten this guy off. 

POLITAN:  That‘s been discussed, because now you‘ve got these character witnesses, but there‘s some bad character stuff, too, when you start bringing that in about Scott Peterson and things that he did that perhaps the defense didn‘t want to emphasize during the guilt and innocence phase of this trial. 

The bottom line here is, there‘s two pictures being painted in that courtroom.  One is, Scott Peterson is a guy that came from privilege.  People did things for Scott Peterson.  His father did everything for him.  His mother did everything for him.  They lived in the Beverly Hills of San Diego, down in Rancho Santa Fe.

NORVILLE:  And what Janey and the rest were trying to say was, and he was a good guy and he did stuff for other people, too.  He was the designated driver during high school. 


POLITAN:  Yes.  That‘s the other part of it. 

But a lot of what this jury is hearing is that this is a guy who was handed a lot of stuff, had every opportunity and didn‘t take advantage of it, didn‘t accept those family values that his mother and father gave him, and didn‘t want to pass them on to his son, and instead on to his son and killed his wife. 


NORVILLE:  Wait.  Who said that?

HIRSCHHORN:  It‘s Robert. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, Robert, go ahead.

ALLRED:  Gloria.

NORVILLE:  Robert first.

HIRSCHHORN:  I think he‘s missing the point.  Here‘s what the point is, OK?

We‘re talking about the ultimate punishment.  The ultimate punishment has got to be reserved for the worst of the worst. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, but hold on a second, Robert.

I want to get Jeff in on this.

Because, Jeff, one of the things they‘ve done is they‘ve gone through the Peterson family album.  We saw photos of little Scott with—in the backyard.

LICHTMAN:  It‘s a mistake.

NORVILLE:  Exactly what little Conner was going to look like. 

LICHTMAN:  There‘s no question.

But understand this.  It‘s very easy to be critical of what Geragos and Harris are doing right now.  But, normally, in order to win this sort of penalty phase—in fact, the last death penalty case I had, Robert Hirschhorn was our jury consultant.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

LICHTMAN:  And he was successful. 

Normally, what you do is, you parade families, the babies.  You show these poor kids who are going to be left without a father.  Then you talk about the horrible upbringing and the darkness. 


LICHTMAN:  But this is a guy who killed his wife and the family that was on the way and also has this life of privilege. 

And it just isn‘t going to resonate.  What they should be looking to bring out is any blackness, any darkness in this man‘s life.  Because you know what?  The fact that he was polite when he was 13 years old and he had all these great things that he was doing, something bad happened.  They‘ve got to bring something bad out, so the jury can go in the back and say, you know what?  He‘s a bad guy, but something happened to him and give him a break. 

NORVILLE:  And this is the reason why, yes.


ALLRED:  Yes, Deborah.

I heard someone say it‘s reserved—the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst.  First of all, that isn‘t the law.  It may be what defense attorneys wish would be the case.  And maybe it should or should not be the case.  But that is not the legal requirement out here. 

And let me just say, I think the picture that is being painted of Scott Peterson as somebody who did live this life of privilege, who played golf, went to Pebble Beach—they showed him as a child having dinner at a restaurant in Monte Carlo. 


ALLRED:  Well, the question is, what did he do with his life of privilege, which most people will never have an opportunity to enjoy?  Didn‘t it carry some extra responsibility? 

So I don‘t see it as a mitigating factor that he was out there working

hard to become a good golfer.  This is—his own attorney called him a 14-

karat A-hole.  And I don‘t that can be forgotten.  And I can tell you, as

much space as they‘re going to put between this and the argument in

reference to the death penalty, I don‘t think the jurors will ever forget

the sobbing of Sharon Rocha and when she said that she couldn‘t place that she couldn‘t even place that baby in Laci‘s arms in the casket because Laci had no arms as a result of the murder.  They‘ll never forget that as long as they live.  


NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a break.

When we come back, we‘re going to talk more about the possible stalling technique that‘s going on. 

More with my panel right after this. 


NORVILLE:  Gracious, caring, loving, would you use those words to describe Scott Peterson?  His family does.  But will it save his life?

That‘s next.



DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS:  Did you ever hit her?  Did you ever injure her? 

SCOTT PETERSON, CONVICTED MURDERER:  No, no.  No.  Violence towards women is unapproachable.  It is the most disgusting act to me. 


NORVILLE:  That was Scott Peterson talking with Diane Sawyer nearly two years ago about his wife, Laci.

We‘re continuing to look at the Peterson penalty phase.  Back with attorney and jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn, Amber Frey‘s attorney, Gloria Allred, Court TV‘s Vinnie Politan, defense attorney and former prosecutor Brenda Joy Bernstein, and defense attorney Jeff Lichtman. 

I wonder, folks, would it make any sense at all for Scott Peterson to sit in that box and beg for his own life?

Robert, what would that do to the jury? 

HIRSCHHORN:  It would be great if he could.  I don‘t think he can, because if he does, he‘s going to have to tell the jury that he committed this crime and he‘s going to waive all his issues on appeal. 

What he‘s looking for, Deborah, is—all of us, we‘ve made mistakes.  I‘ve made mistakes.  I have hurt people.  I‘m hoping one day that I can be forgiven for the hurt that I‘ve caused.  And what he‘s going to want from this jury is for them to be able to forgive him for the terrible thing that he did.  Hate the sin.  Forgive the sinner. 


NORVILLE:  B.J., is there—you heard Jeff just a second ago say, bring out whatever the darkness was in his life.  It wasn‘t all Boy Scout moments for Scott Peterson.  Do you think that‘s a good strategy as a defense attorney? 

BERNSTEIN:  Well, normally, it is. 

But the problem is here, it doesn‘t seem to be that there are really any dark moments in his life.  So you really—they‘re really challenged on the defense side to go with the route that they had.  You kind of have to deal with the cards that you‘ve been laid.  And, therefore, you have to go forward and try to paint who this person is.

And, also, it‘s not really begging for forgiveness.  I think it‘s, rather, trying to say, yes, don‘t put me to death.  Don‘t let the state execute me.  That‘s what you‘re really going for.  You‘re really going for getting the jurors to focus on the most difficult decision.  No matter how much you think someone has hurt someone else, to be sitting in that jury box and to say, I am one of the people who is responsible for another person‘s death, that‘s very powerful. 


NORVILLE:  Well, they are begging for mercy.  And since Scott isn‘t able to do it himself, he‘s got everybody in his family out there. 

When John Peterson, his half-brother, took the stand today, he was asked what would it be like if Scott were put to death?  And when Lee Peterson was asked that question, he couldn‘t even answer it. 

But John said: “I can‘t even imagine.  I would be devastated.  I can‘t even imagine.  I would be wrecked.  My little brother, I love him.”  Mr.  Harris said, “How about the effects it would have on your parents?”  “I don‘t even want to go there.”

They really are, Vinnie, just continually hammering home, Scott‘s a bad egg, like Geragos told you from the get-go, but his parents are nice people.  They worked hard.  They were successful.  Spare their son‘s life. 

POLITAN:  And I think Jackie Peterson is going to be the best part of this case for the defense. 

She is the one that is sympathetic.  She‘s on oxygen.  Everyone that meets her in the courthouse likes this woman.  So I think that‘s the best way to go in this case.  And you‘ve got to get that theme out there that, if you sentence Scott Peterson to death, you are sentencing Lee Peterson and Jackie Peterson to death, also. 

But a jury could come back and say, you know what?  It‘s not our fault.  We‘re not the ones who killed Laci Peterson and Conner Peterson.  It was Scott Peterson.  Scott Peterson did this to his parents.  It‘s not us doing it to his parents. 

NORVILLE:  Gloria.

ALLRED:  And, Deborah, that is the problem, because what has happened because of this double murder, because of Scott Peterson‘s criminal acts is, he‘s created so many victims. 

I‘ve lost count of how many victims.  Of course, the most tragic are Laci and Conner.  But then, of course, the family of the murder victim, Sharon Rocha and Brent and Amy and Ron Grantski and Dennis.  They‘re all victims.  And now we have the family of Scott Peterson.  They‘re victims.  And, of course, this is not about hate the sin and forgive the sinner. 

That‘s a religious concept.  This is a legal concept. 

And how can you even begin to say—to forgive him, if you were going to forgive him, unless he acknowledges what he did?  And there‘s no way he is taking the witness stand, because then he opens himself up to cross-examination.  And there‘s way he can survive that because of his many, many lies. 



HIRSCHHORN:  The pope doesn‘t believe in the death penalty, so there certainly is religious connotation here. 


HIRSCHHORN:  But what I want to say is, the idea of forgiveness—my children, Mickey (ph) and Troy (ph), who I love with all my heart, if they did something horrible, I would standing by and begging...

NORVILLE:  You‘re not in court, Robert.

HIRSCHHORN:  I‘d be begging for their life, too.

NORVILLE:  This is a court of law.  And there are rules.  And you‘re right.  You would be begging. 


LICHTMAN:  If we just would look at the facts and the law, there‘s no way that Scott Peterson survives.  There‘s just no way.  There are no mitigating...

NORVILLE:  Survives this, meaning? 

LICHTMAN:  The death penalty. 

NORVILLE:  He gets death.

LICHTMAN:  He would get the death penalty.  There‘s just not enough mitigation here.  And it was the most awful crime that perhaps could ever be committed, ever.


NORVILLE:  Wait a second. 

If there were decent mitigating circumstances, we would have heard them by now, Jeff? 

LICHTMAN:  I think so. 

But I think what we need to appreciate is the fact that if the family comes in—and, granted, his mother is a very empathetic, sympathetic figure.  She has to come in and she has to wail about losing her daughter, which is basically what Laci was, and her grandchild as well.  She should be able to be on equal footing with Sharon Rocha.

And then, on top of that, she has got to deal with the fact that it was her own son, her own flesh and blood that caused this horrible crime.  And now she‘s going to lose him, too.  That‘s the only way that they‘re going to avoid the death penalty here. 

NORVILLE:  Let me share with you all...


ALLRED:  She can never be on equal footing with Sharon Rocha, never in a million years.  Sharon Rocha is the mother of a murder victim, an innocent person, Laci Peterson, an innocent fetus gone from the world. 


NORVILLE:  Interestingly enough, Jackie Peterson is also the daughter of a murder victim.  Her father was killed...


NORVILLE:  ... when she was just 2 years old in those weeks leading up to the holiday season. 

I want to share what Janey Peterson said, Scott‘s sister-in-law, on

the stand today.  She said: “I think the one thing we‘ve all learned in all

of this is how important life is.  Every one of us would give up everything

we have, whether it‘s money, even if it‘s our last stitch of clothing.  I

guess that‘s how important life is”

And I was thinking, so would Laci‘s family.  I‘m not sure how effective that was. 

Vinnie, do you remember when Janey was on the stand and how the audience reaction—the jury reacted? 

POLITAN:  I remember that moment.  And I was shocked when I heard her start saying that.  And I can‘t believe the defense was happy with that, because talking about how important life is?  Who are the only two people that lost their life here?  The two people killed by Scott Peterson.  I did not understand where they were going with that. 

HIRSCHHORN:  Taking another life is not going to solve this issue. 

Taking another life is not going to solve it. 


NORVILLE:  Sorry.  B.J.

BERNSTEIN:  Well, sometimes, you have to remember, too, that witnesses, no matter how much you work with them as a defense attorney or as a prosecutor, they‘re not going to always—they‘re going to speak from the heart.  And maybe the statements that she made with regard to that about her regard for life, that comes from the heart, that that‘s what—how she really feels. 

And sometimes that coming from the heart may be the only thing and the most important thing that affects a jury, whichever way it goes. 

NORVILLE:  Jeff, it‘s interesting to note that while Scott never flinched when some of the most gruesome and emotional testimony during the trial came up, he wept when Janey was speaking today.  What is the jury going to take from that? 

LICHTMAN:  Well, I really—it was sad for me to hear that, because he should have been crying.  He should have been crying during all the horrible things that were being talked about what he did to his wife and son. 

To only cry about what the family thinks about him, it just shows what a narcissistic personality we have here. 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll let that be the last word, but not the only word. 

We‘ll be back to talk more about it in the future.

Robert Hirschhorn, Gloria Allred, Vinnie Politan, B.J. Bernstein, and Jeff Lichtman, thanks, all, so much.  Your comments were great. 

When we come back, an Army sergeant makes it home just in time. 

Stay with us.


NORVILLE:  A race against time is this week‘s “American Moment.” 

Army Sergeant Jerome Person (ph) was counting down the days in Baghdad until his two weeks‘ leave began.  His pregnant wife wanted him to make it back home in time to see her give birth.  Well, on the flight back, he found out that she had gone into early labor.  And now, instead of counting days, he was counting minutes.  Well, when the plane landed in Portland, Sergeant Person made a mad dash for the hospital, where, still in uniform, he arrived in time and was there when his wife gave birth to a brand-new baby girl. 

Now they have two full weeks to be together as a family before he ships back out to Iraq.  And that is this week‘s “American Moment.” 

We will be right back with a letter from a Marine who has a very strong reaction to our interview earlier this week with the reservist who spoke out and was worried about the training and equipment being provided them.


NORVILLE:  Finally tonight, I wanted to share an e-mail that we got about my exclusive interview with a member of the Army Reserves who is taking a lot of heat for revealing what he says is a big problem with reservists being ill-prepared for service in Iraq. 

Ben Redmond wrote in and said: “I am former Marine who spent four years on active duty and three years in the Reserves as a mortar man.  After I left active duty, I went and joined the Marine Reserves.  I love the Marine Corps and my country and would gladly die to keep my family and the rest of this country free.

“I quickly noticed that the unit I was attached to in the Reserves had a shortage of proper equipment and that the training techniques were outdated.  As a former active duty Marine, it was clear to see that lives would be lost if we were called up.  And that alarmed me and my family.  So, after three years, I left the service.  If any service member is asked to go into harm‘s way, Reservist or active duty, they should have the proper training.  I know that is somewhat difficult given the differences in time commitments, but when they‘re asked to fight and possibly die, proper training is paramount.  Semper Fi.”

Mr. Redmond, thank you for saying so eloquently what I and a lot of other people feel, that you can love your country and still be critical about the way it does some things.  And when I see our brave folks in uniform, both active duty or Reservists, sent with less than the best, like you, sir, I am going to speak up. 

We love to hear from you.  So send us your ideas and your comments to us.  The address is NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  We have posted some of your e-mails on our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is also the place you can sign up for our newsletter and find out what‘s going on around here. 

And that‘s our program for tonight.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Thanks for joining us. 

Coming up next, it‘s time for Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  We appreciate you watching.  Have a great evening. 



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