updated 3/16/2005 12:03:52 PM ET 2005-03-16T17:03:52

Guest:  Anne Bremner, Geoffrey Fieger, Mickey Sherman, Bill Stanton, William Fallon

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the man who terrorized Atlanta for more than 24 hours last week back at the courthouse today, this time with beefed-up security. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The last time Brian Nichols was at this courthouse, he overpowered a 5-foot female guard and went on a deadly shooting spree.  Today, brawny escorts surrounded him, not to mention shackles and handcuffs.  So, the question—when it comes to guarding suspected violent criminals, should size and even gender matter? 

And the one witness who could make or break the Michael Jackson case -

·         the boy who says Jackson molested him finished his testimony today.  In the end, how did he hold up? 

Plus Scott Peterson’s trial is over, but tomorrow he will be sentenced.  A jury recommended death, but a judge will decide whether he spends his life in prison or dies. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, Michael Jackson’s

accuser has just finished his testimony, arguably the most important

witness in this case.  Let me read to you from how Tom Mesereau, the

defense attorney, finished his cross-examination of the boy, saying quote -

·         “now you’re aware, are you not, that you have until the age of 18 to file a lawsuit against Mr. Jackson if you choose to, correct?

No.

You’re also aware that if Mr. Jackson is convicted, you could automatically win that civil suit, right?

No.

No one has ever discussed that with you?

No, we said things like oh, we don’t want his money and stuff like that.”

Then the D.A., Tom Sneddon, had an opportunity to have redirect examination to try and rehabilitate the witness.  Remember, a key point was that apparently there was this surprise witness who came forward, a dean from the school where the boy had gone.  He asked the boy a couple of times if anything had ever happened with Michael Jackson.  He repeatedly denied it.  People saying that was a bombshell that this boy saying nothing happened after the fact to someone at his school who’s asking him about it. 

Here’s how the D.A. tried to rehabilitate the witness.  Quote—“Now you were asked yesterday whether you had a conversation with Dean Alpert where he asked you whether or not Mr. Jackson had touched you.  Do you recall that?

Yes, I told him that it didn’t happen.

OK, why did you tell him that?

Answer:  Because all the kids were already making fun of me in school and I didn’t want anybody to think that it really happened.”

The question everyone’s asking is now that all the testimony of this boy is in, you know, this is it.  How credible was he?  NBC s Mike Taibbi was in court for the boy’s testimony.  And criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner was in court for much of his testimony as well. 

All right.  Mike, just give me an overview.  How did this kid do? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think he was rehabilitated this morning on that point, where you just read the testimony, Dan, because there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.  There isn’t a child abuse expert in the world who wouldn’t say that kids who have been molested often deny it and certainly often deny to people they should trust and for reasons that are understandable as this kid’s reason was on redirect.  There are additional problems with that, though, Dan...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  This kid is off the stand but he’s not out of the picture, nor is the question about his credibility.  And, yes, he’s gone now, but this afternoon in some plodding cross-examination by Bob Sanger, who’s a second chair defense attorney of Steve Robell, the lead investigator, they came up with two major contradictions or changes in stories by the accuser, who’s off the stand.

Number one:  Robell said that when the boy testified last week dramatically that the words he attributed to Michael Jackson were that if you don’t do a certain sex act, you could go crazy and rape a girl, end up raping a girl.  Robell said that’s the first time he ever heard the boy say that because initially he attributed it to his grandmother.  So unequivocally that Robell even testified to that in his, Robell’s grand jury testimony. 

Second and importantly, Robell conceded that in earlier interviews the boy said that he was molested five times, he remembered, sometimes before...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  ... the rebuttal interview in the DCFS interview and sometimes afterward.  Twice he was asked that.  Twice he said yes. 

ABRAMS:  And now he’s just saying...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Now he’s just saying—right, now he’s just saying it was only afterwards because...

TAIBBI:  That’s correct.  That’s correct.

ABRAMS:  ... boy, you know, Anne Bremner, I mean look, I wasn’t there for his testimony.  I was there for the opening statements.  I was there for the beginning of this case.  But you left that courthouse thinking the boy’s credible.  His credibility is intact? 

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  No.  I think today that—and Mesereau set this up very well yesterday.  The fact is, is that he said he was molested before that rebuttal video, Dan, the one where they were smiling ear to ear and crying tears of joy for how much they loved Michael Jackson.  And then Mesereau said to him didn’t you change your story because you knew that no one would believe you if you said you were molested before you said all those great things? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BREMNER:  And he said—the accuser said I don’t really remember when anything happened.  So, I think it was really set up today and that his credibility is not intact today.  I mean, the case is—it’s a draw at best. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I want to read from another—what I think the defense is setting a lot of traps for this boy.  And Geoffrey Fieger has been defending the prosecution in this case, so I’m going to bring him in, in a second. 

Let me just read this.

Question from the defense attorney.  You and your brother were caught by employees at Neverland drinking when Michael wasn’t there, weren’t you?

No.

Never happened?

No.

No one ever walked in the wine cellar at Neverland and caught you and your brother drinking when Michael wasn’t there?

No.

In the opening statement Tom Mesereau said we will prove to you through witnesses people who worked at and visited Neverland that the kids at times were out of control, broke into the wine cellar, were caught drinking alcohol themselves without Mr. Jackson even being present or knowing about it.

Geoffrey Fieger, it sure sounds like the minority of people who are inside the courtroom throughout this boy’s testimony think he escaped with his credibility intact. 

GEOFFREY FIEGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I don’t know about that.  But there’s too much other things going on to judge this case solely on the basis of whether you can trip up a child.  And believe me, you don’t win a rape case, Danny, tripping up a child or finding inconsistencies in their testimony.  You win a rape case by the totality of the circumstances, and the totality of the circumstances here are not only the accuser himself and his brother and his sister, but the existence of the pornographic magazines, the existence of the Jesus juice, and also Michael Jackson himself, who is not like a married guy who is being accused of doing something that looks different than the way he looks. 

He doesn’t have heterosexual sex.  He doesn’t have adult homosexual sex.  So, the jury might say what do you do?  You surround yourself with children.  You know, when you put all that in the mix, in the abstract, yes, it might be good, but in this particular case, if you come out with only a draw with the accuser, you might be way behind. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read again another what I think as the traps the defense is trying to set to prove later that this boy is not telling the truth and this is about Jay Leno, the comedian. 

Question:  Did you ever try to reach Jay Leno on the telephone?

Yes.

Did you dial the number?

Yes.

Was your mother with you?

No.

Was anybody in the background?

I’m pretty sure that I was in the hospital, so either it could have been my dad, remember he’s a cancer survivor, or maybe a nurse that would come to do my vital signs or something.

Who answered the phone?

Answering machine.

And did you ever actually get Mr. Leno on the phone?

No.

So you deny you’ve ever spoken to him on the phone, right?

I’ve never spoken to Jay Leno.

Again, in the opening statement, Jay Leno told the Santa Barbara police something was wrong.  The conversation was recorded.  It was the accuser calling him, not the mother.  But he said I could hear the mother in the background and the way he approached me saying I love you.  I watch you late at night suggested to him something was wrong and Leno terminated the conversation fairly quickly.  He told the police they were looking for a mark.

Again, Mickey Sherman is with us as well.  If the defense can show that, you know, again, the question would be why would the kid not tell the truth about that? 

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  And I’ll tell you, Dan, it’s amazing that Jay Leno’s testimony may be pivotal in this case, but I absolutely agree.  It’s a trap that’s being laid and it’s being very well laid by Tom Mesereau.  He is not asking these questions because he’s curious.  He’s got the goods. 

He even told the jury at the beginning, as you point out, he had the recorded conversation.  And it’s just amazing to me that he’s not prepared for this, that Tom Sneddon didn’t prepare this young man for that question, because he had to know it was coming.  And even though it’s not such a material fact, it doesn’t mean—you know what’s the big deal...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHERMAN:  ... that he doesn’t remember talking to Jay Leno...

ABRAMS:  Before I get into more of these traps, Mike, what is the sense amongst most of the reporters there, most of the people who are spending all their time in the courtroom?  I know everyone comes out and chitchats and this and that and I’m not asking you to judge the case one way or the other, but in terms of just how this boy came across, was the defense successful in undermining his credibility?  What is the general sense there about how he did? 

TAIBBI:  I think after yesterday the majority of the reporters coming out were shaking their heads saying this kid is trouble.  The prosecution is in trouble.  Now keep this in mind, Dan, and I’m sure you’re aware of this from your visits out here and this story, there are a lot of reporters who are invested in the results of this case much more than they would be ordinarily because they believe certain things about Michael Jackson or they believe certain things about his accusers and their credibility, et cetera. 

But I think most of the people yesterday felt if this is the case, this kid against Michael Jackson, this kid and this case are in trouble.  Now, today I think some of that was repaired, but now we’re hearing all these other traps that are being laid...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... contradictions that are being established.  I think there are problems with it.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a quick break.  Again, this is it.  I mean this is the key to the case.  I’ve got a lot more key points of what the boy said in his testimony today.  We’re going to go over it a little bit more.

And then coming up later, Brian Nichols, alone at a holding cell when he overtook the five-foot female guard escorting him.  Today, back in court after being captured, this time with shackles and handcuffs.  The guys next to him, you know about his size, so does this show that size maybe even gender should matter when it comes to securing alleged violent criminals?

Plus, the Scott Peterson case is over, but he hasn’t been sentenced.  A jury recommended death.  The judge still has to decide.  He’s going to do it tomorrow.  We’ll preview...

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 accuser in the Michael Jackson case has just left the witness stand.  Exactly what he said—coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Were your parents happy that you were here with Michael? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very, very, very happy.  And I know they’re happy because I was happy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did they come with you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes most of the time (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Michael. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well that’s Michael Jackson’s accuser.  He’s singing a slightly different tune these days.  Today on the witness stand, the boy wrapped up his testimony, testimony that really could make or break the case against Michael Jackson.  All right.  Here’s one of the last questions.  This was the last question that D.A Tom Sneddon asked him in an effort to rehabilitate the boy’s credibility.  This is number three.  All right.

Yesterday in response to Mr. Mesereau’s questions, you told him that Mr. Jackson was like a father figure to you, is that correct? 

Yes.

And that you thought he was one of the coolest guys in the world and that you admired him?

Well I only admire God, but he was a pretty cool guy.

How do you feel about Mr. Jackson now in light of what he did to you?

I don’t really like him anymore.  I don’t think he’s really that deserving of the respect that I was giving him and as the coolest guy in the world.

Mike Taibbi, how was that in the courtroom today? 

TAIBBI:  It was kind of flat.  I mean, he didn’t say I can’t believe this guy who was my best friend in the world did that to me.  How could he have done it?  I mean he said nothing like that.  And also the language that he use is interesting, because in that last statement which fell kind of flat, and I know Anne Bremner has talked a lot about his lack of affect throughout his cross-examination and on the last day, but he also used that language in describing several of the teachers with whom he fought and who had to discipline him while he was in school. 

They weren’t deserving of my respect.  I didn’t think they were doing anything for me.  They weren’t teaching me anything.  There’s also one other thing—the lack of emotion in some of this boy’s language.  He was talking, for example, about the morning—I’m sorry—the evening just before the second alleged molestation, so the first one has happened, it’s a terrible thing, he’s traumatized, and he said the next night I was lying on Michael’s bed watching television when it happened again. 

And Mesereau didn’t follow up on that, but it just struck me as odd.  I’m a parent, and I can’t imagine that my son, whom I knew very well when he was that age and I’ve known him well all along, or anybody else’s child whom I’ve known could have gone through so traumatic an event and then blithely said I was lying on his bed watching TV the next night when it happened again.  End of story, so I think...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... there was something lacking in the emotional wallop this witness could have had with the jury that he ended up not having.

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey, still not concerned? 

FIEGER:  Well, here’s the problem.  This case has something that most rape cases don’t necessarily have, and that’s opportunity.  Michael Jackson is going to have to explain, and he is going to have to take the stand, how you know under the circumstances, when he had all this opportunity, that he was alone with him, he really doesn’t engage in that behavior.  You know, most people say I was never alone with them.  It never happened. 

I mean this is just a complete and utter fantasy.  Michael Jackson was alone with him a lot, so therefore, he also, in addition to all the other corroborating circumstances, had the opportunity.  Those are big, big problems.  I mean this isn’t just a typical case where you’ve got somebody coming out of nowhere making a false allegation.  You have too much corroborating thing to not be worried about it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHERMAN:  He was also alone with so many other kids over the last 10 years and where are they? 

FIEGER:  Well, they may be coming up. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, maybe one of them. 

SHERMAN:  I don’t know...

FIEGER:  Mickey, you know one of them is coming. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  I’m not so sure...

FIEGER:  One of them is coming. 

SHERMAN:  I’m not so sure about...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Mike...

SHERMAN:  ... and it may be too little too late.

ABRAMS:  Mike, you don’t think that the other witness—I mean I’m pretty convinced that the past cases are coming in here, Mike.  You don’t agree? 

TAIBBI:  I’m not sure about that.  You know we had done the story two weeks ago about the accuser having accused his mother of beating him back when he was 7 years old and that was not allowed in as being too remote in the past to get into this case as a way of impeaching the witness, so I’m not sure...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  ... as one of my colleagues put it, he may split the baby, the judge may, and let some things in but not everything in and that’s something for Jackson to be concerned about...

ABRAMS:  I expect the ‘93 case to come in, and I expect that—I think Geoffrey is right.  I think it’s going to be the most important point, particularly because it seems much of the rest of the case isn’t going as well as prosecutors might have hoped.  All right.  Mike Taibbi...

TAIBBI:  Don’t forget, though, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Quickly, yes.

TAIBBI:  Don’t forget Melville has said I’m not going to allow the ‘93 stuff to get in or the 1108...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He thinks it’s a weak case...

TAIBBI:  ... weak case...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, we shall see.  Mike Taibbi thanks.  Anne, Mickey, Geoffrey are all going to stick around. 

Coming up—that missing girl, Jessica Lunsford, little 9-year-old, just so adorable.  It seems that the authorities now saying that there’s a person of interest they want to talk to.  It—they’re making it sound like they’ve learned something from a family member. 

And a judge will decide how to sentence Scott Peterson tomorrow.  A jury recommended death, but that doesn’t mean the judge has to agree. 

9:00 p.m., another special edition of the program.  You just can’t get enough is what I always say. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We’ve got some breaking news developments to report to you in the Jessica Lunsford case, remember the 9-year-old Florida girl went missing last month.  Grandmother said she tucked her into bed at the family’s home.  Investigators have reportedly identified a person of interest.  Here’s the Citrus County sheriff, Jeff Dawsy, just a few moments ago talking about how this person stuck out among all the leads. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY, FLORIDA SHERIFF:  We have followed up over 3,000 leads.  This particular lead led us to believe there was some true credence and that we needed to go out and start looking for this individual. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Sheriff cautioned no one has been crossed off the list of possible suspects.  Police also say the little girl’s grandmother’s polygraph—two of her responses they say raised some—quote—“red flags”.  Today, Jessica’s grandfather came to her defense. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARCHIE LUNSFORD, JESSICA’S GRANDFATHER:  It’s not a matter of where you’re lying or not lying.  They just couldn’t get a reading.  That’s all there was to it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  My buddy, Bill Stanton, is a private eye.  Bill, what do you make of this? 

BILL STANTON, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  Well it very interesting, Dan.  You mentioned earlier that they might have gotten an lead from one of the family’s responses, maybe family or friends that come to visit.  It’s very interesting indeed. 

ABRAMS:  What to make of the fact that they’re trying to say grandma is not the issue, but yet they say that some of grandma’s responses led to red flags? 

STANTON:  Well, you have to understand; they’re not so much interrogating grandma as they are interviewing her, and many things are taken into account.  Is she nervous?  Is she hiding something?  Maybe there are some skeletons in the closet that she doesn’t necessarily want to talk about having nothing to do with the missing child. 

ABRAMS:  But with a polygraph like this, right Bill, I mean you know it could be that she just got nervous, right? 

STANTON:  That’s correct.

ABRAMS:  Let me play a quick piece of sound from grandma Ruth Lunsford. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was the last thing you said to her? 

RUTH LUNSFORD, JESSICA’S GRANDMOTHER:  I love you.  That’s all I said. 

She said to me, she always expresses her love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was from February 25.  But it sounds like, you know, they’re looking for somebody else.  And actually, the sheriff said if we don’t find this person within 48 hours, we’re going to put the name out there and we’re going to want the media’s help. 

STANTON:  That’s right.  I mean they have screened this family, I’m sure, looking at the past history, interviewing neighbors, seeing how this child was treated to get a lead if it may be a family member.  Now the person of interest may be connected to the family in some way, and if they can’t track him down, that’s why they are going to release the name. 

ABRAMS:  Person of interest is the new term for a suspect (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bill? 

STANTON:  It’s the new re-image name...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STANTON:  ... exactly. 

ABRAMS:  People don’t use the term suspect anymore. 

STANTON:  Right.

ABRAMS:  They just say person of interest because they don’t want to get sued. 

STANTON:  Like (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  Bill, good to see you.  Thanks for coming on the program. 

STANTON:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, decision day in the Scott Peterson case tomorrow.  Remember a jury recommended he got the death penalty, but that’s just a recommendation.  A judge decides whether it’s life in prison or lethal injection.  He’s asking for a new trial. 

And that man, Brian Nichols, the alleged Atlanta courtroom shooter in a courtroom today surrounded by big guys.  What does that tell you? 

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—Scott Peterson back in court tomorrow, formally sentenced.  The jury recommended death.  The judge doesn’t have to accept it—first the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Scott Peterson’s trial is not over.  The judge hasn’t even sentenced him yet.  In November, a jury convicted Peterson of murdering his pregnant wife and unborn son.  That same jury recommended the death penalty a month later.  Jurors said some of the most powerful evidence against Peterson was that the bodies of Laci and Connor washed up within two miles of where Peterson told police he’d gone fishing the day Laci disappeared, 90 miles from their home. 

Tomorrow, Judge Alfred Delucchi seals the fate of Scott Peterson.  We’ll question what’s going to happen.  “My Take”—I think this judge will abide by the jury’s recommendation. 

Joining me now, criminal defense attorneys Geoffrey Fieger, Mickey Sherman, and Bill Fallon, former Essex County Massachusetts’ assistant district attorney.  Mickey, any hope here for Scott Peterson not to get the death penalty? 

SHERMAN:  Little or none.  I think this judge has the guts to do it,

but I        don’t think he’s got the motivation... 

                ABRAMS:  Does Peterson testify?

                SHERMAN:  Excuse me? 

                ABRAMS:  Do you get—does Peterson testify you think at this point? 

                (CROSSTALK)

                ABRAMS:  Sorry, I shouldn’t say—does Peterson make any statement to

the court? 

SHERMAN:  What has he got to lose? 

ABRAMS:  Well, the appeal. 

SHERMAN:  I thought he should testify at the trial. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  I thought he should testify at the penalty hearing.  At this point, I mean you know it’s like two holocaust victims standing against the wall.  They give them the blindfolds and one of the guys says don’t make any trouble.  You know what has he got to lose at this point? 

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The appeal. 

FIEGER:  Yes, well you’re 100 percent right, Danny, but Mickey’s—his analysis is 100 percent correct too.  He could lose the appeal if he ever has the chance on the appeal.

SHERMAN:  Yes.

FIEGER:  But absent that, he’s going to be stuck in the death house and he has got nothing to lose.  He’s going to sit there and hope you know against hope that he wins on that appeal. 

SHERMAN:  He doesn’t have to confess but at least be a living, breathing human being...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But it’s not going to help.  Bill Fallon, no matter what Scott Peterson says now, the judge has already made his decision, right?  I mean let’s be clear.  It’s not as if anything that’s said in court tomorrow and it’s going to be passionate, it’s going to emotional, but it’s not going to change his decision, right? 

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR:  He’s dead, dead, dead.  I mean there’s no way at this point—if they didn’t put him on in the penalty phase, Mickey, you thought he was going on through the regular phase...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... many of us thought he should go on in the penalty phase, but that would have been a calculated judgment to stay out of the death house and not to save the case.  It’s too late now.  What’s he going to say?  The most he’d be able to say is I’m sorry what the jury found. 

He’s gone.  I think this judge—with a domestic violence double homicide, I would be shocked if this judge absolutely overruled what the jury thinks should happen here.  Because remember, it’s not really a close call.  It’s an assassination of two people if you look at it from...

SHERMAN:  Unless the judge...

FALLON:  ... and it’s domestic.

SHERMAN:  ... wants to make a statement against the death penalty...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  But you know what Mickey...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  That’s not his job. 

ABRAMS:  Judges have done this before—Paul Pfingst, one of our guests, keeps telling us about a case he was involved in and he’s a prosecutor in California.  Same thing, he thought it was a more heinous crime even than this one, judge came back, said I know the jury’s recommendation, I’m going to give him life instead. 

FALLON:  You know what, Dan, he could say that, but my point is that when you have domestic violence, domestic violence on the rise, what’s coming out from these statistics is that death, murder of women who are pregnant with their children, that’s one of the highest quotients, if you will, for murder of domestic violence victims, and it seems to me that judge is going to be aware of it, and if the jury came back with something else maybe, but...

FIEGER:  He could do it a little differently, Danny.  He could say that the questions that are going to be raised on appeal are close enough and my rulings were close enough—although I think he’s guilty—they’re close enough for me to decide just to give him life under the circumstances.  He could justify it that way. 

FALLON:  But he shouldn’t. 

ABRAMS:  You don’t think he will, though, Geoffrey, do you? 

FIEGER:  No, I really don’t, although Delucchi is a Catholic and he has gone against jury recommendations before.  I don’t think he will in this case, no. 

ABRAMS:  Let me tell you—this is what one of the jurors said about why they recommended the death penalty. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN CARDOSI, PETERSON JUROR:  It just seemed to be the appropriate justice for the crime given the nature and how personal it really was against his wife and his child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Bottom line is it’s going to be emotional in that courtroom.  It is going to be—there’s going to be some passionate statements being made, but I think it’s pretty clear Scott Peterson will get the death penalty and that none of the statements will change Judge Delucchi’s opinion.

Let me move on here.  This week, Peterson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, filed a 122-page motion for a new trial.  Among the reasons, evidence the defense didn’t notice among the hundreds of pages of police tips following Laci’s disappearance.  The information came from a Modesto man, a friend of the man who robbed a home in the Petersons’ neighborhood within days of Laci’s disappearance. 

He said the burglar told him that Laci—quote—“had walked up on him while he was looting her neighbor’s house” and he—quote—“verbally threatened her.”  Remember, at the same—they say it’s the same time when she’s abducted.  The defense is saying he could have been the one who murdered Laci. 

Geragos claims the prosecution effectively concealed this tip.  The prosecution says it was presented to the defense in pretrial discovery.  Also included in the defense motion, claims that the judge acted improperly by letting jurors hear recorded phone calls between Scott and Amber Frey.  That’s a guaranteed losing argument.  Removing two jurors from the trial—that’s the best argument they have—and letting prosecutors use evidence obtained from tapes of Peterson’s phones. 

All right.  Mickey, you agree with me, right, that the best chance they have is it’s a little odd in the deliberation process to have jurors dismissed, in particular...

SHERMAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... the foreman was dismissed.  Some—you know of the jurors suggesting it’s because of the way he was deliberating. 

SHERMAN:  I agree and I think that’s the best show.  But you know something?  You throw it all in there because you never know what an appellate court is going to pick up on.  Something that you may think is not that important some appellate judge may think is.  But I got to agree.  It’s kind of almost a judicially sanctioned jury camp ring...

FIEGER:  No.

SHERMAN:  ... by throwing that foreperson off the jury because he was afraid that his verdict was going to be controlled...

FIEGER:  No.

SHERMAN:  ... not by what he thought but by what the community reaction might be.

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey.

FIEGER:  That’s just not true.  If you read the pleadings, the jury foreperson asked to be let off the jury and told the judge in no uncertain terms he would not follow the judge’s instructions nor the law, and he was let go before they ever took a ballot.  He had held the jury up for a week...

SHERMAN:  He wouldn’t let them take a ballot. 

FIEGER:  ... yes, he wouldn’t let them take a ballot...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... but he told the judge that he would not follow the judge’s orders anymore.  That’s 100 percent...

ABRAMS:  But Geoffrey, you know that just because you ask to get off a jury, that’s not good enough...

FIEGER:  No, he told the judge he wasn’t going to follow the judge’s instructions on the law. 

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  Dan, if you remember...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  ... didn’t he say that he didn’t know what his verdict would be based on...

FIEGER:  No...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  But Dan...

ABRAMS:  Bill Fallon.

FALLON:  ... I think the important thing is we said on this show that it would have to be something like that, but the transcript would show it...

FIEGER:  And it did. 

FALLON:  ... says I’m not going to play ball and there’s no way I’m going to follow it.  That was the only way he was going to get off here.  Now maybe there was a little play and this guy I think was an attorney, as a matter of fact...

ABRAMS:  Yes he was, yes...

FALLON:  ... and so he knew what to say.  That’s going to be the question, was that...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... the genuine way to get off...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I’ll tell you...

FALLON:  ... the judge had to get rid of him at that point. 

ABRAMS:  All right, I got to...

FIEGER:  Remember...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down more death sentences than any court in the country and you’re likely to see it here...

ABRAMS:  That’s federal.  They’d have to, you know...

FIEGER:  They’re going to get it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, they bring it—try and bring it to federal court...

FIEGER:  They’re going to get it. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

FALLON:  But they’re not going to have charge of it...

ABRAMS:  This is in state court, but—all right.  Bill Fallon, good to see you.  Thanks a lot.  Mickey and Geoffrey are sticking around because coming up—this guy, Brian Nichols, the alleged Atlanta shooter in court surrounded by what looked like a football team.  We’re going to talk about you know whether size matters when it comes to protecting the peace and how big and burly—look all these guys are, almost his size. 

Plus, why I say a guilty verdict in the Bernie Ebbers’ trial sends a message the pluck (ph) stops at the CEO.  It’s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We’re back.  When Brian Nichols was brought to an Atlanta court for his rape trial on Friday he was guarded by one person, a five-foot sheriff’s deputy named Cynthia Hall who is now fighting for her life.  Nichols easily overpowered her, took her gun, started a shooting rampage that left four dead. 

Today the former linebacker was led in cuffed, shackled and surrounded by a group of law enforcement people who resembled the offensive lines of the Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Bull Dogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  No less than 19 uniformed officers on hand for security, several more stood outside, and just to be sure everyone who entered the court was scanned by two metal detectors.  Magistrate Judge Frank Cox told Nichols he’s being held on the rape charge until he can be indicted for the murders of Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, his court reporter, another sheriff’s deputy and a U.S. Customs agent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anything else you wish to say or need to ask the court, Mr. Nichols?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not at this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nichols was led out, chains clanking, all that security certainly seems appropriate.  But the question it seems that few really only to ask is should Nichols have been watched by a single five-foot female guard he towered over when he was already facing a possible life sentence for a brutal rape, who had been discovered trying to smuggle homemade knives into court?

“My Take”—size does matter.  If a possibly violent defendant is going to be uncuffed, there needs to be a deterrent.  Sure, procedure is the most important issue and the system failed on many levels here.  But it just makes no sense to put a five-foot, 50-something-year-old woman in that position.

All right.  Geoffrey Fieger, do you agree with me?

FIEGER:  Of course, that’s a no-brainer.  The size of the deputy guarding him, whether it was a five-foot man or five-foot woman would have an effect, also the fact nobody was watching the monitors.  But the fact that they now have metal detectors, two metal detectors for the public to walk in the courthouse is really idiotic since the violation of the security breach...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FIEGER:  ... was the guns on the deputies to begin with.  It wasn’t somebody bringing a gun into that courthouse. 

ABRAMS:  Mickey...

FIEGER:  It was the deputies’ guns. 

ABRAMS:  Mickey, what do you make?  Size matter? 

SHERMAN:  It doesn’t matter that much.  If they can find a woman who can handle a guy like this, you know, why not?  But I think we’re just a little bit too concerned about being politically correct and making sure that all the women can get the same jobs men can get.  We need somebody who can control people who flip out in court, and they do flip out in court.  And unfortunately, sometimes they spend too much time you know body cavity searching a nun who’s coming in there for jury duty...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHERMAN:  ... than after the people...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Before I go to Anne Bremner...

SHERMAN:  ... who they really should be...

ABRAMS:  ... here’s what the D.A., Paul Howard, had to say about this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that women are capable of doing anything that men are capable of doing.  And I don’t think it’s the weight.  I think it’s the heart, the training, and ability.  I don’t think the weight has a whole lot to do with it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, you know, almost put aside gender for a minute, Anne. 

What about size?

BREMNER:  Right.  Well, size does matter, Dan, and when you’re dealing with a situation where somebody has shanks in their shoes and they’re going to come into a courtroom and they’re on trial for aggravated rape, then girth and brawn are very important.  You know in a case like this, they should have had guards—armed guards in court with him and the fact is an officer—and you know I defend police officers—officers can have their guns wrestled away from them, so size completely matters.

And here’s an example, Dan, of like women, for example, I defended a class action of the K-9 unit and the women handlers used their dogs more forcibly because they’re smaller.  It’s just the way it is.  We’re the kinder, gentler gender and so you know a gun is a great leveler, but if you don’t have your gun, size matters.  And I think they needed a whole lot more force, size with this Mr. Nichols because it is such a horrible tragedy.  Preventable—you know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and especially here. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.

FIEGER:  It can be cured easily.  Take the guns out of the courts and lock them down and that’s easy.

ABRAMS:  Well they do that in some courts, actually.  They don’t allow guns in.  But all right, let me quickly go to topic two on this.  The reward for the capture of Brian Nichols, remember this from last Friday? 

FIEGER:  Sure. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A $60,00 reward is being provided for information leading to the apprehension and arrest of murder suspect Brian Nichols.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, now the Georgia governor, Sonny Perdue, says Ashley Smith, you know the woman who calmed Nichols over seven hours before turning him in, should get the 10,000 the state put up, but what about the 20,000 offered by The FBI, the 25 from U.S. Marshals, the $5,000 offered by the Georgia Sheriffs Association?  Mickey, why the delay here? 

SHERMAN:  It’s absurd and I’ll tell you, never in the course of human events does anybody deserve a reward more.  But I got to tell you, Dan, she’s not going to need it because $60,000 is going to be chump change for her when they—she looks out her window and sees the line around the block of people that are willing to give her $5 million and a movie deal.  I’m telling you, Harvey Weinstein is sitting in a van outside her place right now offering her a check.  This is the best movie, not TV movie...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHERMAN:  ... but network, forget about it.  She’s—this is a major story and she’s going to profit from it. 

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey, why the delay, you think? 

FIEGER:  I don’t know.  She deserves it.  She’s entitled to it.  I doubt they ever make these payments that fast, but they better keep their word or nobody is going to believe any of the offers of reward anymore.  If she doesn’t deserve it, nobody...

ABRAMS:  Anne, are they still investigating, do you think?  They want to make sure that everything she said is true?  I mean does it really matter if everything...

FIEGER:  No.  She called 911...

BREMNER:  No...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

BREMNER:  ... they could be, but, you know, I think when people hear this, Dan, you’re going to have the whole state of Georgia taking up a collection and giving her, you know, 10 times that amount.  I mean what a heroine.  There’s nothing further to look at in terms of whether or not she deserves, what really is a paltry sum in light of what she did. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pay up.  Pay up. 

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey Fieger...

BREMNER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... Mickey Sherman, Anne Bremner, good to see you.

BREMNER:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the “I’m just a CEO defense” did not work.  Bernie Ebbers, former head of WorldCom, convicted.  Jurors found him guilty on all counts.  He’s going to prison unless there’s some appeal that works, but I think there’s a more important lesson for all that comes out of this case and it relates to what the CEOs have to accept.  It’s my “Closing Argument”.

And 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, a special edition of the program about...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why the nation’s CEOs may have learned a big lesson from the conviction today of Bernie Ebbers, the former head of WorldCom, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—what today’s conviction of former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers really means?  It extends well beyond the courtroom.  Remember we’re talking here about the CEO who presided over the biggest fraud and bankruptcy in American history, $11 billion.  The guilty verdict on nine counts sends the message that you take the good with the bad.  It means that all these white-collar fraud cases where everyone is pointing fingers, well the buck stops somewhere. 

Ebbers argued that he wasn’t responsible for cooking the books for nearly two years because he was just a former basketball coach who had never taken an accounting class in his life.  But if that’s really all he was, then why didn’t he announce earlier that he was in over his head?  He was touted in the press as a financial genius, the first guy who figured out how to stand up to AT&T, the guy who pushed through over 75 deals to build a global telecom giant. 

That guy seemed quite content to take responsibility for his success, but the moment the going got tough, Ebbers, the ruthless CEO got going and Ebbers, the former bouncer, former milkman, and former high school coach was back.  He’s not alone.  It seems with many of these CEOs under fire, Ken Lay of Enron, for example, when the heat in the kitchen starts picking up, the chefs suddenly start acting like bus boys. 

Sure, this verdict is a success for prosecutors in pursuing corporate fraud cases, but it’s also a victory for personal responsibility and accountability.  Under Ebbers’ watch, 20,000 employees lost their jobs, most of their pensions.  Shareholders lost a fortune.  Wall Street suffered its biggest bankruptcy in history. 

The legal cases pitted Ebbers against his CFO, Scott Sullivan.  Sullivan pled guilty and testified against Ebbers, hoping he gets a break when he’s sentenced.  Sullivan even admitted to orchestrating the fraud, but said he did it because his boss, Ebbers, told him to.  Whether Ebbers actually ordered it, as the jury seems to have believed, or he just let it happen, today’s verdict sends a message that you don’t get to choose when you want to be the guy in charge and when you don’t. 

If CEOs aren’t ready to accept that, then they should find another line of work.  It doesn’t mean that every CEO who ran a failed company should be held criminally responsible.  But it does mean that for corrupt companies, the people in charge better have a pretty compelling argument for why they were MIA when things went bad. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, who was in control courthouse killer Brian Nichols or hostage Ashley Smith?  We actually—some people are suggesting there’s an issue about this?  Your e-mails coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I’ve had my say, now it’s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night, you heard of Ashley Smith, held hostage for seven hours by Atlanta courthouse shooter Brian Nichols.  Smith said she used her power of faith to calm Nichols down and finally called police after he let her leave to see her daughter. 

One of my guests, criminal profiler Pat Brown, said Nichols was in control the entire time.  He knew he was going to get caught and wanted to get caught—quote—“the nice way” so people would have sympathy for him and that Ashley Smith had very little to do with the outcome. 

I didn’t agree, but Paul in New York City.  “I’m absolutely puzzled that Pat Brown would say that Brian Nichols planned his surrender out in order to achieve sympathy from a jury in a future trial.  Can it be any more apparent this man had repressed unmitigated rage underlined by a serious mental disorder.”

From Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lisa Gianardi, “How many lives did this woman save by listening and just cooking breakfast for him?  I would hope that people either give her the credit she’s due or leave her alone.”  From what I’ve heard so far I agree. 

But others seem to agree with Ms. Brown’s analysis including Cathy Shackleford in Edwardsville, Illinois.  “Ms. Smith’s actions had nothing to do with his surrender.  I agree with Pat Brown that he’s attempting successfully to engender sympathy for himself.  You can already see it in how the media is reporting the story and Mr. Abrams is already sucked in.”

You know, Cathy, where in the media, particularly from me are you seeing any sympathy for this guy?  I’ve said I assume he’s going to get the death penalty.  I thought Pat Brown was giving him too much credit and not giving Ashley enough credit for her actions. 

Jay Z. is even angrier at Ashley.  “She followed Nichols with her car and did not drive away or call the police.  Where are her priorities?  She could have called 911 from her car and she could have driven away.  Instead, she picks him up after he ditches the stolen truck, drives him back to her place, and makes him pancakes.”

You know, I’m sorry Jay Z. and I’m assuming it’s not the Jay Z., as it turns out, she did everything right.  I think some people just always want to find some dark side to every story. 

Finally from Kansas State University, Virginia Somer White, “I must say as a college student I watch your show a lot and not just because I don’t have cable and it’s on a free channel.”  Gee thanks Virginia.  Seriously, thank you.  You wrote a nice note.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.

“OH PLEAs!”—what not to do if you’re a prosecutor in a sex crimes division.  Talking about 53-year-old Jay Meisenhelder, a deputy prosecutor and assistant chief of Marion County’s Indiana Sex Crimes Division.  Apparently, he was so smitten in his personal life that he decided to profess his love in an e-mail.  It was really quite touching. 

I’m 53 years old and believe me I know what love is.  I know how it feels.  I love you.  It goes on and on.  The problem was it was a month late for Valentine’s Day and arguably, two years early.  You see his armoire was directed to a 16-year-old girl.  According to a memo written by the prosecutor, Meisenhelder met with the 16-year-old girl and did what any sex crimes prosecutor would do.  Turned the lights down, lit candles, made some nonalcoholic banana fosters, and yes, there’s an end to this corny date.  He played some music from “Phantom of The Opera”.  Meisenhelder has been fired, but no evidence has been found that he ever committed a crime with her. 

He may have not committed a sex crime, but I would argue that he seriously committed a dating faux pas if it was a date at all, but yuck.  Anyway, but look, he says it had nothing to do with—seriously—his claim is it wasn’t that kind of love.  Just talking about liking the person.

That does it for us tonight.  Join me for a special, special, special.  It’s a special, special.  You know what I mean?  Like we call it a special, but I’m telling you it’s going to be a special one -- 9:00 -- the latest developments in the Michael Jackson case.  It’s a good show. 

Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews—look who they got.  I love that guy—Clint Eastwood.  He’s also a nice guy.  I met him once.  I’m acting like a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Anyway, see you. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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