updated 2/24/2005 10:44:52 AM ET 2005-02-24T15:44:52

Guest: Lisa Wayne, Susan Filan, Geoffrey Fieger, Marshall Hennington, David Gibbs, III

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the jury has been picked in the Michael Jackson case and the trial is set to begin. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Four men, eight women will determine Jackson‘s fate.  No African Americans on the jury.  Should that matter?  What about the fact that this is a group of people who say they knew little or nothing about the case? 

Plus, a judge rules Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube cannot be removed for another 48 hours.  We talk to the family‘s lawyers as they make a final effort to try to prove she‘s not in a vegetative state as doctors have determined. 

And he‘s charged with killing a pregnant woman and her 7-year-old son, but his business partner says he saw the bodies before they were buried.  Could he now be charged? 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, the day has finally come, 12 jurors chosen to decide if Michael Jackson is guilty of molesting a child and plying him with liquor.  Opening statements now expected to begin next week.  Jury selection took only two and a half days.  It‘s been more than a week when Jackson was unexpectedly hospitalized on Tuesday.  He was back in court today. 

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom and is standing by in Santa Maria.  Wow, Mike, how did they finish so much quicker than so many expected? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well that is exactly the question, Dan.  Every other court watcher and prognosticator was saying it was going to take three or four weeks.  I sensed in the courtroom last week, two days ahead before Jackson got sick or the one day that he had before Jackson got sick, it was happening so efficiently.  The questioning was being pushed along so concisely by the judge in this case, Rodney Melville, that there were two factors I thought that made it apparent this was going to happen quickly. 

One, the judge is really in charge in this case.  He didn‘t let either of the attorneys, either the prosecutor or the defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, stray at all or go beyond their 10 minutes.  When they got to that 10 minutes with each prospective juror, he said that‘s it, you‘re done, and they were done, and they moved onto the next one. 

The second factor, I think, is that the people who said that they were willing to serve on this jury were really willing to serve on this jury.  And s you pointed out at the open of the show, it is amazing how many of them claim that they knew very little if anything at all about this case or about Michael Jackson.  Sure, they‘d heard of him, but they claimed only see the headlines in the newspapers or not to even get any newspapers or watch TV. 

At one point some woman who said that—had the judge answer back to her, well I guess that leaves radio.  She goes don‘t listen to that either except for music.  So many of these jurors seemed keen to get on this jury that they went through the questioning very, very quickly and gave the answers in most cases would expect them to give if they wanted to be on the jury. 

ABRAMS:  And Mike, very quickly, not one African American on that jury. 

TAIBBI:  No, not one.  I mean anecdotally it looks like seven whites, four Hispanics, one Asian woman who make up the jury at this point.  We‘ll know more specifically as we get more details about them, but that is what we have all sort of come up with at this point.  Some other breakdown figures here, Dan.  Eight of the 12 have kids.  Eight of the 12 are women.  Seven of the 12 are married.  So this is a sort of family-oriented jury so far.  The alternates, of course, still to be picked.  If you want to know something about some of the specifics, I‘ll be happy to do that as well. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  You know what?  Let me start getting into this a little bit and we will come back...

TAIBBI:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... get some more specifics from you in a minute. 

“My Take”—let‘s start with this issue of the race, the fact there are no African Americans.  Michael Jackson chose to live in the Santa Barbara area, an area that is dominated by Hispanics and whites.  This is his community where he‘s on trial.  He can‘t now complain—no one is saying that he is—but I don‘t think anyone can complain that his neighbors aren‘t racially diverse enough.  His lawyer didn‘t even try to change the venue.  I don‘t want to hear people complaining about it, but I‘m certain that I will—right now. 

Joining me now, jury consultant Marshall Hennington, Susan Filan, prosecutor in the Connecticut State Attorney‘s Office, criminal defense attorneys Geoffrey Fieger and Lisa Wayne.  All right, Lisa, bottom line is he chose to live there.  This is where the crime occurred.  It‘s a non—I mean look, let me put up the statistics before I go to you on this about the Santa Barbara County statistics.

Number two -- 56.9 percent non-Hispanic white, 34 percent Hispanic, 4.1 percent Asian, 2.3 percent black.  It‘s a very small group of people who are African American in that community. 

LISA WAYNE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Right.  But the bottom line is this—that‘s not the law.  The law isn‘t that you get those people in your community to make up your jurors.  It‘s a jury of your peers...

ABRAMS:  Really.  Where is that in the law...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... jury of your peers because I‘ve never seen that in any law. 

WAYNE:  That‘s—well that‘s the Constitution... 

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s actually not in the Constitution...

WAYNE:  ... is that you have a right to have a jury of your peers...

ABRAMS:  No, no...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... it‘s not in the Constitution. 

WAYNE:  Well Dan...

ABRAMS:  Look in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  It says nothing about a jury of your peers. 

WAYNE:  All right.  Well, I disagree with you...

ABRAMS:  What do you mean you disagree?  It‘s a fact. 

WAYNE:  Well I‘m the one who tries many, many cases...

ABRAMS:  But you want to read the Constitution? 

WAYNE:  ... and you have a right to have a jury of your peers and the Constitution doesn‘t talk about the fact that because you choose to live in a community that may not be diverse that you still don‘t have a jury of your peers.  Now by your peers it simply means those people who may be able to be able to be fair on your case. 

ABRAMS:  Where are these definitions coming from, Lisa...

WAYNE:  Well the law is this...

ABRAMS:  ... the definition of peers? 

WAYNE:  The law...

ABRAMS:  It is not in the Constitution...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... it‘s not in the law. 

WAYNE:  The line of cases, Dan, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the line of cases that say you have a right to have people of color on your jury, particularly when you are talking about a defendant who is black.  Those are the line of cases that criminal defense lawyers rely on around this country.  Those are United States Supreme Court cases...

ABRAMS:  The Sixth Amendment...

WAYNE:  ... and that is the law.

ABRAMS:  ... simply guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been...

WAYNE:  But you‘re disregarding what the law is.  There is case law that...

ABRAMS:  But there‘s no case law that says anyone is entitled with a 2.3 percent black community to have African Americans on the jury.  There is nothing...

WAYNE:  Well I don‘t think anybody is saying that that‘s your entitlement.  We‘re talking about what‘s just and fair, and that‘s what the line of cases...

ABRAMS:  All right.

WAYNE:  ... talk about, what‘s just and fair. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

WAYNE:  Now Dan, if you were accused of something and you went into a courtroom and you had all blacks sitting on your jury, how comfortable would you feel? 

ABRAMS:  Well look, the bottom line is it depends where the crime occurs...

WAYNE:  That‘s not the bottom line. 

ABRAMS:  But here‘s my problem with this, Susan, is that we‘re making suddenly race a huge issue for Michael Jackson of all people.  I mean there is something, I think, a little bit preposterous—and look, and I have been honest (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saying I think this is a tough case for prosecutors—put that aside.  I think there is something preposterous about claiming that Michael Jackson of all people must have a jury that includes African Americans in order to get a fair trial. 

SUSAN FILAN, CONNECTICUT STATE PROSECUTOR:  I couldn‘t agree with you more.  Down right insane.  The issue isn‘t are you African American?  The issue is are you a fair and impartial juror?  Have you made up your mind about this case?  Can you listen to the evidence the state has to prove its case?  Can you listen to it and evaluate it?  This case is about pedophilia, not about race. 

ABRAMS:  Let me play—this is Michael Jackson on April the 30th, Geoffrey.  I want you to listen to this and I think this sort of answers the question. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON, ON TRIAL FOR CHILD MOLESTATION:  I want to thank the community of Santa Maria.  I want you to know that I love the community of Santa Maria very much.  It‘s my community.  I love the people.  I will always love the people.  My children were born in this community.  My home is in this community.  I will always love this community from the bottom of my heart.  That‘s why I moved here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey, it‘s unfair that there are no African Americans on the jury? 

GEOFFREY FIEGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  No, that was propaganda by Michael.  And in response to your earlier commentary, you are absolutely right.  Neither Basson (ph) nor any other case interpreted by the United States Supreme Court ever said you have to have African Americans.  And the problem is Michael Jackson really—I mean frankly, he‘s an African American male who makes himself up looking like a white female.  So that‘s not the biggest issue in this case, although I‘m sure he‘d love to have some African Americans because they‘re more distrustful of the legal system. 

They‘re more distrustful.  They‘re less regimented in terms of always following the instruction of authority figures.  The biggest problem he‘s got on this jury is I think he‘s got essentially an all-white jury even though you anecdotally, you refer to Hispanics.  He essentially has an all-white jury.  They‘re rather old.  They were selected real fast. 

They have a lot of education, and they—a lot of them have a military background.  He‘s in big trouble.  If I‘m Michael Jackson‘s attorney, if Mesereau knows anything at all, he knows that his client has a greater than 50 percent chance of getting convicted...

ABRAMS:  Really...

FIEGER:  ... because guess what?  If O.J. had been tried in Santa Monica...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... where he could have been tried instead of south central, you know the results are different...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  Well I think...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... I think you‘ve got a...

ABRAMS:  ... so much weaker than an O.J.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  What?  No...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I said the evidence in this case is so much weaker...

FIEGER:  Oh no...

ABRAMS:  ... than an O.J.

FIEGER:  ... maybe you should read the transcript...

ABRAMS:  Of what? 

FIEGER:  ... of the accuser in this case. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, I‘ve read it. 

FIEGER:  If the jury believes the accuser...

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey...

FIEGER:  ... and there is similar...

ABRAMS:  ... to compare the evidence in this case to the evidence in O.J. is insane. 

FIEGER:  No...

ABRAMS:  The amount of evidence in the O.J. Simpson case, in my view, was unparalleled...

FIEGER:  You‘re wrong.  You‘re wrong...

ABRAMS:  ... any other case that‘s ever gone to trial...

FIEGER:  You‘re wrong because you have the accuser here.  You have the person who says he did it to me. 

ABRAMS:  His credibility could be a real problem. 

FIEGER:  That‘s right.  And if that‘s correct, Mesereau will win...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  I‘ve got news for you though.  If that doesn‘t fly and they believe him, he goes to jail for the rest of his life. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m fighting...

FIEGER:  That‘s the thing. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m fighting with all my favorite guests today.  Marshall Hennington, what do you make of this issue of the race factor, no African Americans on the jury?

MARSHALL HENNINGTON, JURY CONSULTANT:  First of all, Dan, you know, I understand that race is an issue involved with this case, but let‘s face it.  Tom Mesereau had a wonderful opportunity very early on to ask for a change of venue.  He did not make a change of venue request, so to add this racial component at this particular time is another dynamic that Michael Jackson‘s team should have figured out... 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t think they‘re complaining about it.  My guess is they‘re not complaining about it. 

FIEGER:  They can‘t.  They can‘t. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  There‘s nothing to complain about. 

HENNINGTON:  Well you know what?  These are the cards they were dealt.  They knew it wasn‘t going to be a representative sample of his peers in that particular community and now they have to live with the fact that you know, this particular jury panel is not reflective of the type of jurors that the defense team wanted from the very beginning.  The defense team wanted to have individuals that were not aware of the 1993 case, people that certainly would not rush to judgment with regard to Michael Jackson‘s eccentric lifestyle...

ABRAMS:  Let me just interrupt...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... you one sec, Marshall, because I want to talk about those issues in the next segment.  I‘m going to come right back to you on those particular issues because I agree with you they are entirely important.  Everyone just stick around.  We got a lot more to talk about.  We got a lot more information.  You may be surprised to know that 10 of the jurors said they knew little about the case before being selected.  Two said they knew nothing about this case.  Marshall does not buy it. 

And the defense rests in Robert Blake‘s murder trial without calling him to the stand.  Instead, relying on an interview Barbara Walters did with Blake to give his side of events. 

Plus, a judge rules Terri Schiavo will remain on life support for at least 48 more hours.  Her husband says she‘s suffered enough and should be allowed to die.  We talk to her parents‘ lawyer as they fight. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The jury has been selected in the Michael Jackson case and all of them say they knew little or nothing about this case coming into it.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  The Jackson 12, four men, eight women, chosen today to decide whether Michael Jackson is guilty of child molestation.  Let‘s go right back to the courthouse.  Mike Taibbi is there.  Mike, give us a sense of how much these jurors knew about this case before they came into it. 

TAIBBI:  Knew about this case, Dan, and about the ‘93 case, the uncharged case against Michael Jackson by another teenage accuser, which accusations Jackson denied, and which never turn into a criminal case because the boy chose not to testify but to accept a multimillion-dollar settlement.  Five of the 12 jurors on this panel said they had heard about the 1993 case.  It‘s referencing almost every retrospective look at the Michael Jackson sage.

Now about the current case, only two of the 12 jurors who was selected

said they know nothing, absolutely nothing about the current case.  Ten of

them said they knew very little about it.  When you heard their questions -

·         their answers to the questions about what media they watched, one young fellow said that he only watch “The Simpsons”.  That‘s the only television that he watched.

Someone else said she only listens to the radio.  Others said they only read the headlines when a Jackson story came by.  So I think a lot of those answers were given in the interest, one would think, of serving on this panel and they were chosen.  More importantly, though, Dan, every juror, every one of the 12, in answer to Tom Mesereau, the defense attorney‘s specific question, do you think a child witness, even one under oath, can lie and do you think he can be pressured to do so his parents?  They all said yes to that.  So yes, there are military connections.  Yes, there are police connections.  All of that, but that‘s the answer that Mesereau wanted...

ABRAMS:  No devotees of THE ABRAMS REPORT making it onto this jury.  All right, Marshall Hennington, I interrupted you before.  Let me just go to you on this question.  I know you don‘t buy the fact that all 12 of these jurors know nothing or little about the case, right? 

HENNINGTON:  Which case are we referring to...

ABRAMS:  The Jackson case and the ‘93 allegation. 

HENNINGTON:  Well I don‘t buy it at all.  I think that these jurors are very knowledgeable about the ‘93 case, as well as the current case.  I think that jurors tend to tell the attorneys questioning them what they want to hear in order to get on the jury panel.  You‘re absolutely correct.  Yes, I do not buy it. 

ABRAMS:  Susan, do you think that‘s too cynical? 

FILAN:  I don‘t think it‘s cynical and I don‘t think that‘s the question, Dan.  I think the question is it‘s so much have you heard about it.  Have you formed an opinion?  That‘s the key...

ABRAMS:  But see what Marshall is saying is that he thinks people are lying to get on the jury and that‘s dangerous. 

FILAN:  Oh, I can‘t possibly agree that people are going to lie to get on this jury and that they‘re going to get past...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... the judge, and they‘re going to get past the prosecutor and past they‘re going to past the defense lawyer...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... and they‘re going to get past the questionnaire. 

HENNINGTON:  Susan, Susan, on the questionnaire, they asked what are their opinions about Michael Jackson with regard to the allegations of abuse or sexual abuse as well as the fact that do they believe that he can get a fair trial.  Most of the jurors said that yes, they believe that he can get a fair trial and they do not believe that they are going to rush to judgment with regard to any claims of him sexually abusing any children...

FILAN:  Where is that on the questionnaire?  Where were those questions on the questionnaire?  That may be your interpretation of the questions on the questionnaire...

ABRAMS:  But Lisa...

FIEGER:  Hey Danny...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Geoffrey.  Go ahead...

FIEGER:  To suggest that there aren‘t stealth jurors and that jurors, potential jurors don‘t lie and maybe not out and out lie, but twist things and shape things what—the way they think...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FIEGER:  ... that the people want to hear them, to suggest that doesn‘t happen is foolhardy.  In every major case it happens.  It‘s been my experience and the experience of every major trial attorney in this country that people come on with an agenda.  And to not do that is—to not recognize that is to not really fully understand the jury process and adequately represent your client.  They do lie all the time. 

ABRAMS:  I still don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... can‘t understand why they asked on the questionnaire what do you know about the ‘93 allegations...

FIEGER:  Here‘s what they lied about...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... the biggest lie they said was that they wouldn‘t let race enter into their decision-making.  Every single one of them said what they thought everybody wanted to hear which is no...

ABRAMS:  Yes, maybe...

FIEGER:  ... and that is biggest lie in America...

ABRAMS:  Let me take a quick break...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  When we come back, Lisa Wayne, I‘m going to ask you about the issue of gender and some other things.  We‘ve got a jury in the Michael Jackson case coming up. 

And he was once considered the sexiest man alive.  Sean Connery‘s neighbors, though, now suing him for $30 million calling him—quote—“a rude, foul mouthed, fat old man.”  Come on.  It‘s Sir Sean.  He‘s the man.  What are they so upset about? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A jury has been selected in the Michael Jackson case.  There are four men.  There are eight women.  Eight jurors have children.  Four jurors have children under 18.  Lisa Wayne, anything you can read from the demographics of the jury in that sense? 

WAYNE:  Well you know what you are looking at right now—what we‘re doing is we‘re calling the shots that are stereotypical jurors assessment that would want for the defense.  So if you‘re looking at these women who are over 50, and you have hopes that they have children, that they can scrutinize the truth or the credibility of the alleged victim in this case.  That we have that nurturing sense or motherly ability to be able to be more sympathetic, to look at Michael, determine that maybe he‘s—you know certain things that the defense wants us to believe. 

So, you know, that‘s what defense is looking at in terms of, I think, the women on the jury and their age and the fact that they have children.  But again, you know, all of this at the end of the day becomes what experience defense counsel and prosecutors know is kind of a gut feeling you have about these juror.  So even though we may not think that there‘s been enough questioning or we think this is an ugly panel, you know what, this is a defense lawyer who‘s tried a lot of these cases and he‘s going with his instinct.  He‘s looking at these jurors and he must have a good feeling...

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  ... about what some of them...

ABRAMS:  A lot of people have said this is a good jury for the prosecution, but what about this—and this is number 16.  Two of the jurors have been or have relative or close friends who have been accused of inappropriate...

WAYNE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... sexual touching. 

WAYNE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  Only one juror has been or has relatives or close friends who have been the victim of inappropriate touching.  Boy, if you have two jurors on that panel who know people real well who have been accused of inappropriate sexual touching, my guess is—and I don‘t know this—but they might think they were falsely accused. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why?

WAYNE:  Well that‘s exactly it.  I‘m assuming that they said they were wrongly accused and if you have been close to someone who‘s been wrongly accused of this kind of crime, you are a great juror regardless of your race, your age, or any of the demographics...

FIEGER:  Nonsense.

WAYNE:  ... you‘re a good juror. 

FIEGER:  Nonsense.  First of all, you don‘t—these are just transparent things.  You don‘t know how the jury really feels about anything.  You can‘t make that conclusion.  That‘s thinking like a lawyer. 

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  The jurors might be exactly the opposite.  You‘d never know. 

They might be accused and say I didn‘t do it...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... but I‘ll recognize somebody...

WAYNE:  Of course I don‘t know that.  I‘m not in the room with them.

ABRAMS:  Lisa gets the final word.  I got to wrap—Lisa—final word, Lisa. 

WAYNE:  The final word?  Well the final word is again is that we‘re not in that room with Tom Mesereau or this prosecutor and again, I don‘t care, you know, what we glean from looking at the media releases or the accounts that are going on.  These lawyers know what they‘re doing.  I‘m trusting his gut instincts.  He feels good about what these jurors said and he‘s going with it.

ABRAMS:  We shall...

WAYNE:  That‘s why he gets paid the big bucks to do this. 

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  All right.  Marshall Hennington, Susan Filan, and Lisa Wayne, thanks a lot. 

WAYNE:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Don‘t be mad at me Lisa.  We love you.  Geoffrey Fieger, stick around. 

Coming up, Terri Schiavo‘s doctors say she‘s in a permanent vegetative state.  Her husband wants to let her die.  Her parents were back in court today in a last ditch effort to keep her alive.  A judge giving them some reason for hope.  We‘ll hear from their attorney, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a judge delays the removal of Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube for another 48 hours.  The attorney for her family joins us—first the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GIBBS, III, ATTORNEY FOR SCHIAVO‘S PARENTS:  We are asking for the life of Terri Schiavo, that she would remain alive while the legal issues that we view as very important, while the medical issues are reviewed. 

GEORGE FELOS, MICHAEL SCHIAVO‘S ATTORNEY:  What we‘re seeing is the continuing and apparently never-ending effort to defeat Mrs. Schiavo‘s constitutional rights. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Just some of the arguments heard today in Florida‘s circuit court where Judge George Greer was asked again to keep Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube in place.  Doctors have said the 41-year-old Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state since suffering brain damage 15 years ago.  Her husband Michael says Terri never wanted to be kept alive with a tube and even though Terri Schiavo never put that in writing, the courts have consistently agreed. 

But Terri‘s parents have been doing everything they can to keep him from pulling the tube.  They say new medical tests could show their daughter has some mental functioning and might be helped with therapy and that Terri, a devout Catholic, would want to be kept alive, in particular now that Pope John Paul II has ruled that people in a persistent vegetative state should be kept alive. 

NBC News‘ Mark Potter is outside Judge Greer‘s court in Clearwater.  So Mark, delay after delay, what are the judges hoping the additional time is going to clear up? 

MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the judge hopes that he‘ll just get a little more time.  He said he needs 48 hours to go through the arguments to read the paperwork, to form his opinion, and to print it out.  By the way, we are told that we‘re going to hear from the judge in written form either by fax or by computer or handed out here at the courthouse probably late Friday afternoon. According to a courthouse official, there will not be a hearing. 

It will simply be handed out to us, to the attorneys, and all the parties involved.  But the judge said he simply needs time.  This is not the final ruling.  This is just some time so that he can affect what may be his final ruling.  And it may not be given the history of this case.  We‘ll see. 

ABRAMS:  And Mark, I understand the—Governor Jeb Bush once again now saying that he may try and step in to try to keep Terri alive.

POTTER:  Well, there is some question of whether the governor may indirectly have stepped in.  An official with the Department of Children and Families, a state agency, appeared here in court wanting to intervene in this case right after the governor said that.  The attorney for the husband said that‘s an interesting coincidence as he called it.  He called it also political chicanery, perhaps. 

And the question is—is the governor already involved indirectly?  This department has come in saying that it wants to look at this case to see how Terri is being treated, claiming that they received a complaint.  They want the state to continue so they can look at it and of course, George Felos, the attorney for the husband, is fighting that and he doesn‘t want them involved.  He said this is just simply politics entering the courtroom.  And again, another issue in this case to be fought over. 

ABRAMS:  Mark Potter, as always, thanks a lot. 

“My Take”—I said it the other night.  I think it‘s time to end this chapter.  The courts, the doctors, they‘re all coming down on the same side that Terri will not get better and that she would not have wanted to be kept alive this way. 

David Gibbs, III is the attorney for Robert and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo‘s parents, and back with me again is criminal defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger.  All right, Mr. Gibbs, you‘ve got the—you‘ve got another delay here, you know, another small victory in the effort.  What do you think as a practical matter can be achieved in the 48 hours?  I mean again we talked about this before, but the courts, the doctors, they‘re all coming down on the same side, and it‘s not on yours. 

GIBBS:  No, Dan, I have to disagree with that.  Number one, Terri Schiavo is alive for the next 48 hours.  When you watch a mom and dad walk in with their disabled daughter and get to spend that time with them, even 48 hours is a phenomenal victory.  But the doctors that we have now are saying Terri is not in persistent vegetative state.  That indeed she might be in a minimally conscious state.  She‘s interacting.  She‘s reactive. 

We need to remember she‘s not on a ventilator.  She‘s not on a heart machine.  Her life expectancy is 40 to 50 years from today.  We are talking food and water.  We are talking Hitleresque, starving to death someone who can‘t speak for themselves.  It‘s scary.  It‘s barbaric, and it should be stopped. 

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey Fieger, you represented Jack Kevorkian for a long time.  What do you make of this battle?   

FIEGER:  Well I think it‘s pretty revealing when they refer to the idea of an individual and her husband having the right to make decisions about their own lives and they‘re suffering and death as Hitleresque.  Now we‘ve had a situation in which it‘s gone all the way up to the Supreme Court.  They‘ve decided in favor of Mrs. Schiavo‘s husband. 

Then Bush and the legislature stepped in and passed an unconstitutional law, which seemed to revoke or go against the court‘s decision.  They took it again all the way up to the Supreme Court.  They lost and now these other shenanigans.  You know, I grew up in the time when conservatives believed that government stayed out of the bedrooms and the private decision-makings of people.  Now we have the exact opposite where people who ploy for political favor like Jeb Bush step in to your bedroom...

ABRAMS:  Right, but apart from political...

FIEGER:  ... and keep you alive.

ABRAMS:  But I don‘t want to talk about the politics.  Let‘s talk about the 48-hour ruling.

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... 48 hour ruling...

ABRAMS:  ... Mr. Gibbs is saying that he believes that‘s an important victory for him, and it seems that the courts keep saying, you know, what, we need a little more time.  We need a little more time and he‘s saying we want to present new medical evidence.  We want to keep fighting this.

FIEGER:  What changed in the last 15 years?  Not one single doctor appointed by the court—listen, can you find somebody out there who claims that black is white and day is night and somebody who is brain dead really isn‘t brain dead?  You can probably do that, but not anybody with any authority.  They have had doctor after doctor and these haven‘t been doctors hired by the Schiavos or her husband.  These are doctors hired by the court themselves who says she‘s in a persistent vegetative state.  She is for all intent purpose not alive, and she has to be kept alive.  At what point do you let her go? 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Gibbs, your response. 

GIBBS:  We have at this point, sir, Scantlin, who started talking after 20 years.  The new therapy, the new tests can show that Terri is indeed communicative.  She‘s expressing that to her parents, and there are countries that say if you shoplift, we‘ll chop your arm off.  But in the United States of America we have the rule of law.  We have due process.  The motto to the Florida State Supreme Court is soon enough if correct.  And in this case I‘m delighted to see the courts taking the time to make sure this disabled young woman who can‘t speak for herself, who just needs food and water, isn‘t barbarically starved to death in what we call a civilized nation. 

FIEGER:  There are no civilized countries in the world that would do this to Mrs. Schiavo except the state of Florida and the people who are trying to keep them alive.  The rest of the civilized world would have let her go a long time ago. 

ABRAMS:  And Mr. Gibbs...

GIBBS:  Absolutely not and if it was your daughter, you would sit there and say if my daughter is alive, even though she is disabled, as a loving father, as a loving mother, I have the privilege of representing the Schindlers, they are committed to the firm belief God is the giver of life.  God allowed this disability into Terri‘s life, and they are completely committed to standing by her to get her the therapy, the rehabilitation she‘s entitled to, and I‘m honored to be with them...

FIEGER:  See, I understand that, but God isn‘t the issue here.  The question is whether if it was me, whether I would want Jeb Bush or somebody else deciding...

GIBBS:  The issue is...

FIEGER:  ... how long I have to live. 

GIBBS:  ... starving a disabled person.  It is sick...

FIEGER:  No, listen...

GIBBS:  It is perverted. 

FIEGER:  ... I agree with you. 

GIBBS:  It is barbaric...

FIEGER:  Let‘s not talk...

GIBBS:  ... sense that we would do that.

FIEGER:  Wait a second.  It‘s...

GIBBS:  ... it‘s unconscionable. 

FIEGER:  You‘re the people who advocate the starving.  I was in favor if somebody needed to die and wanted to go quickly, give them an injection.  Why starve them?  But it‘s been the right to life...

GIBBS:  We would never allow...

FIEGER:  ... and the religious people—oh stop it.  That‘s utter and complete nonsense...

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS:  It‘s criminal to starve an animal.  It is against the Constitution to starve convicted murders on death row...

FIEGER:  Then let‘s give—I agree let‘s give them...

GIBBS:  We cannot starve people...

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS:  Terri Schiavo is very alive.  It is Hitleresque for us to step in and say we‘ll decide who lives and dies.  We are a country that was founded to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And in this case Terri Schiavo is alive.  It‘s a life worth living. 

FIEGER:  The people...

GIBBS:  It‘s a life worth protecting...

FIEGER:  The people who you...

GIBBS:  ... and we‘re honored to defend.

FIEGER:  The people who you represent are the same people who advocated let God make his way and if they don‘t get fed, that‘s a good thing, but don‘t give them an injection.  I went through it for 15 years with Jack Kevorkian...

GIBBS:  You are making very little sense.  I am representing a mother and a father...

ABRAMS:  All right.

GIBBS:  ... who are watching their disabled daughter be murdered...

ABRAMS:  All right...

FIEGER:  Oh stop...

GIBBS:  ... and I‘m honored to stand by them. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Gibbs...

GIBBS:  You can have your own political agenda...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Gibbs gets the final word...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Gibbs gets the final word.  All right.  Gentlemen, really you know, a fascinating debate.  I understand how passionate both of you are, and I really you know, appreciate it.  David Gibbs thanks for coming on.  Appreciate it.  Good to see you again. 

GIBBS:  Honored to be with you. 

ABRAMS:  We hope to see you again as this—we will continue to cover this, Mr. Gibbs, so please keep coming back. 

GIBBS:  We will keep you posted and Dan, thank you for your grace.

ABRAMS:  And Geoffrey, you‘re going to stick around for our next segment.  Coming up, a business partner of the man charged with killing a Texas pregnant woman and her 7-year-old son saw the dead bodies, didn‘t call police.  Is it a crime?

And the defense rests its case in the Robert Blake trial.  How effective was it?  The answers in just a couple of minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back now with our “Just a Minute” segment where I lay out the other legal stories of the day and my guest has a minute to discuss each one with me. 

Back with us, criminal defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger.  All right, Stephen Barbee, the man charged with killing Lisa Underwood and her 7-year-old son then dumping the bodies apparently didn‘t keep the murder a secret.  According to Barbee‘s business partner, Ron Dodd, Barbee called him on Saturday asking him to bring a tank of gas that his car had broken down. 

Dodd did that.  When he opened the trunk of the SUV Barbee was driving, he saw the bodies of a woman and a boy.  He panicked, left the area.  Barbee called him again, this time asking for a ride.  Dodd returned, saw the authorities questioning him.  He drove off. 

So question—Barbee‘s business partner seemingly knew about the dead bodies, didn‘t notify authorities, Geoffrey, a crime? 

FIEGER:  And simple answer, Danny, is yes and no.  In Texas he can be charged with being—failing to report a crime, but he has a defense in the sense that he can say he was fearful that he would be harmed, his life would be in danger.  But he did a little more than that.  He also went back and picked up the murderer after he knew a crime...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FIEGER:  ... had been committed and drove him away.  And in that sense he facilitated part of the crime.  I believe he could be charged as an accessory after the fact.  I‘m not sure he can be charged with failing to report a crime. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t know.  I think he could.  Failure to report is a misdemeanor in Texas...

FIEGER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... and I think that he could absolutely—you know, for his defense to say, oh, you know what, I thought he might hurt me—look, he drove away.  He‘d already left him. 

FIEGER:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  Not only drove away, he went back and picked him up. 

ABRAMS:  But he would—but he could not be deemed an accomplice...

FIEGER:  No, I don‘t believe so...

ABRAMS:  Right.

FIEGER:  ... right, but I believe an accessory after the fact.  He facilitated a killer‘s escape.  That‘s something. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  Issue two:  The defense in the Robert Blake murder trial rested its case today without calling Blake to testify.  He‘s on trial for the 2001 murder of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley.  The prosecution‘s case relied heavily on the testimony of two retired stuntmen who say Blake asked them to kill his wife, in addition to witnesses who spoke of Blake‘s desire to get rid of Bonnie Lee Bakley.

The defense attacked the ex-stuntmen calling them drug addicts, prone to delusions and hallucinations.  If convicted, Blake could face up to life in prison.  Question:  You couldn‘t have called Blake to the stand, could you, if you were representing him? 

FIEGER:  Not after the performance he gave with Barbara Walters.  He‘s been singing to the news people out in the corridors literally with a guitar.  This guy could not be trusted by any defense attorney—he‘s fired—or two of them have quit on him.  You‘d never know what he said and naturally they got the best of all worlds because they played the Barbara Walters interview for the jury in the defense of the case.  I wouldn‘t have called Robert Blake if my life depended on it. 

ABRAMS:  How do you think the case went in general for the prosecutors? 

FIEGER:  Well, I don‘t think it went that good.  Remember, this is an entirely circumstantial case.  They really don‘t have a smoking gun here.  He looks guilty.  He certainly acts guilty.  He‘s kind of a despicable character, but Bonnie Bakley is more despicable than Robert Blake and under those circumstances, he might walk away. 

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  I don‘t know what‘s going to happen.  That‘s going to be a close one. 

James Bond actor Sean Connery being sued for $30 million by his Manhattan neighbor who says Connery is a bully who is terrorizing his family.  According to court papers, Connery harassed his neighbor‘s family by—quote—“playing loud music at all hours and stomping about”—that‘s according to the neighbors and apparently traipsing around in his bathrobe. 

The neighbors say four years of ongoing renovations to Connery‘s condominium have caused fumes, water leaks, and a rat infestation.  His neighbor called him a—quote—“rude, foul-mouthed, fat, old man.”  Question:  Thirty million dollars, I mean where do they pick these figures from? 

FIEGER:  Well, one man‘s ceiling is another man‘s floor, Danny, and the image of Sean Connery wandering around with a fat, beer belly, belching and playing music at all hours of the day and night is kind of funny, and the top floor of probably a $50 million townhouse on East 71st Street.  So that figure isn‘t far off if Connery really is trying to drive his neighbor away. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FIEGER:  The problem is, is that the neighbor isn‘t going to get driven away.  I just have a great idea of seeing Sean Connery up in two floors of a New York townhouse.  That somehow doesn‘t—isn‘t consistent with my image of Sean Connery. 

ABRAMS:  And I think the—it sounds like the neighbors are just upset about the long-standing renovations.  I mean...

FIEGER:  Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  And if anybody knows New York renovations, they know it might take 20 years.

ABRAMS:  Would you have thrown in a personal attack like that, Geoffrey, if you were the lawyer representing the neighbors? 

FIEGER:  No, it‘s not necessary, but the neighbors say that Connery sued them five times.  Now I‘d be interested in knowing what the heck is doing too.  Connery might be trying to get the rest of the townhouse.  Remember, he‘s stuck in two floors.  They‘re stuck in the bottom four floors. 

ABRAMS:  All right, out of time...

FIEGER:  If I‘m Connery, I want those four floors. 

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey Fieger, good to see you again, Geoff. 

FIEGER:  Thanks Danny. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why we should allow terminally ill patients to use otherwise illegal drugs.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(Commercial break)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, last night I said two women should have thought twice about suing for sexual harassment based on the claim that they were fired for not showing a gorilla their breasts.  A lot of you are not happy with me.  Your e-mails are coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—is there really any good reason to prevent terminally ill patients from legally using certain drugs that are illegal in all other contexts?  The latest controversy is over the synthetic amphetamine known as Ecstasy or X, a drug that can make the user feel euphoric, which can also have dangerous side effects.  It‘s a particular favorite among young club goers. 

Harvard researchers announced they are going to conduct experiments on terminally ill patients to see if Ecstasy‘s hallucinogenic properties turn out to be therapeutic.  The hope?  That dying patients will be better able to cope with family conflicts and getting their finances in order, maybe most importantly, alleviate their fear of dying. 

The FDA has approved the experiment.  The White House is already expressing doubts about Ecstasy‘s medical value.  And critics fear that if made legal for any reason, Ecstasy could lose some of the stigma the government has worked so hard to attach to illegal drugs.  It is the same debate over marijuana.  It has been approved for medicinal purposes in 11 states.  Federal government has outlawed it.  That conflict will be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the weeks to come.

But is the stigma really such a significant issue?  There are legal drugs like morphine and painkillers like Vicodin, which are at least as addictive and can have disastrous side effects if misused.  Why is this different?  I‘m not saying Ecstasy should be available over the counter in a local drugstore.  But if it‘s proven to have positive effects for the terminally ill and a doctor prescribes the drug in small controlled doses, much like medicinal marijuana, what‘s the reason that it should be treated any differently than morphine in that context? 

Terminal patients should do what they need to do to feel better.  They are dying.  And yet kids are still getting access to illegal drugs with relative ease.  The notion that more kids are going to use certain drugs just because it is permitted for some terminal patients, it is just, well, mind blowing. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, law enforcement crackdown on a nickel bingo game at a senior citizen center.  It‘s tonight‘s “OH PLEAs!”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night I spoke with the attorney representing two former caretakers of Koko, a 300-pound female gorilla who allegedly speaks sign language about their million-dollar sex discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit.  The former caretakers allege they were pressured to perform bizarre sex acts after Koko signed to the interpreter that she wanted to see her breasts.  I said that maybe they shouldn‘t sue on the grounds that a gorilla was demanding a Mardi Gras-like performance.  A lot of you angry with me.

Shane Donnelly, “I‘ll have to admit you were my hero until today, but dismissing the sexual harassment of those caretakers, what‘s gotten into you?  What should they do?  Keep their mouths shut because it‘s a strange case.”

From Ohio, Pat Erdmann, “Would you like it if they asked one of the ladies in your family to show the gorilla their breasts?  What if the gorilla wanted to see your penis or some other gentleman‘s penis?  Would you laugh it off that it‘s a silly legal matter?”

Come on Pat, if someone—if a gorilla asked to see—would I laugh it off?  Yes, I would. 

Doug G. in Utah, “How interesting this monkey business lawsuit is.  I do believe the primate is guilty of making the request.  I work with men just like Koko and yes, they too wanted to see the unclothed female breast.  If they only knew all they had to do was learn sign language and ask a selected female.”

Finally in our “OH PLEAs!” segment last night, whether a highway shouldn‘t be taken literally.  An SUV swerved off the road, smashed into another car pulled over from a previous accident.  According to police, the driver of the SUV was allegedly rolling a joint when he lost control of his vehicle. 

A. Benton Edmons in California.  “The event of a vehicle at exceptional speed backing into a police cruiser certainly demonstrates the dangers of marijuana.  The mental confusion and distortion, as well as the visual impairment caused by marijuana is most likely far more dangerous in driving than alcohol.”

I‘m not so sure about that.  Remember, he was rolling the joint when it happened.  He was visually impaired because he was looking down at his handy work. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.  And remember, we now have our own blog “Sidebar”, the blog about justice.  You can sign up for our e-mail newsletter so you can be the first to know the stories that we‘re covering each day.  The address abramsreport@msnbc.com.

“OH PLEAs!”—some grannies in Klamath Falls, Oregon can come out of hiding from the law.  The Klamath Basin Senior Citizen Center has apparently welcomed outlaws for over 20 years.  The Golden Age Club with 200 members apparently ran an illegal gambling ring.  That is, until someone with far too much time on his or her hands reported the operation to the Oregon Department of Justice five months ago. 

Someone complained that the Golden Age Club was betting in a high stakes bingo game.  Oh, and the stakes were high.  With this sort of money, they very well could have been running a serious drug operation, maybe selling aspirin.  The Golden Age Club ran a nickel bingo operation—nickels. 

Authorities contacted officials at the senior citizen center demanding they shut down the—quote—“bingo ring” because they didn‘t have a gambling license.  Then sanity kicked in.  The Klamath County Board of Commissioners amended the county‘s gaming ordinance last week to include bingo.  I can just picture it. 

Some senior loses 85 cents at the game and calls the Oregon DOJ, making an anonymous complaint.  I have just witnessed a felony.  Well, I hope they find out who it is and well, they stick his shuffleboard cue in the bushes.

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.

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