updated 3/17/2005 12:19:49 PM ET 2005-03-17T17:19:49

Guest: John Burris, Bill Fallon, Lisa Wayne, Laura Spencer, Dan Simon, Candice DeLong, Cary Goldstein

ANNOUNCER:  This is a special edition of THE ABRAMS REPORT.

Scott Peterson is on his way to death row.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY:  I‘m very happy that justice was served.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  But will it bring closure to one of the nation‘s most notorious criminal cases?  Tonight, reaction from Laci‘s grieving family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON GRANTSKI, LACI PETERSON‘S STEPFATHER:  Our family‘s going to make it.  We‘re stronger because of this.  And Scott got what he deserved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Plus, we‘ll take you inside one of the most frightening places on earth, Scott Peterson‘s new home on San Quentin‘s death row.  Then...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We find the defendant Robert Blake not guilty of the crime of first degree murder of Bonny Lee Bakley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, why some legal experts aren‘t surprised.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BLAKE, ACTOR:  This small band of dedicated warriors saved my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  And the latest on search for missing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.  We‘ll tell why you police are very determined to find this registered sex offender.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF MISSING GIRL:  I have confidence in my sheriff‘s department.  And I truly believe in my heart that my daughter is coming home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Now, live from Rockefeller Center in New York, Dan Abrams.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone.  Two big decisions in California courtrooms today.  In Los Angeles, Robert Blake a free man tonight, found not guilty of the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.  He spoke moments after leaving the courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BLAKE, ACTOR:  So this small band of dedicated warriors saved my life.  They saved Rosie‘s daddy‘s life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘ll have much more on the Blake verdict coming up later in the program.  But first, Scott Peterson sentenced to death today.  The courtroom erupted in a shouting match, as Scott Peterson‘s parents heckled Laci‘s brother as he angrily made a statement to Scott Peterson.  In fact, one by one, Laci‘s family tearfully called Scott a baby killer, an evil murderer, spoiled, self-centered.  After Peterson‘s parents yelled out comments how there were lies, the judge told them to either be quiet or leave the courtroom.  They eventually stormed out.  Seems the only emotionless person in the courtroom was Scott Peterson himself, even as the judge sentenced him to death.

I‘m going to be reading a lot of the specifics of exactly what was said in that heart-breaking testimony and testimonial from the mother, the brother of Laci Peterson.  Joining me now, former prosecutor Bill Fallon, defense attorney John Burris, former prosecutor Laura Spencer and defense attorney Lisa Wayne.

All right, let me read you—and again, this is Sharon Rocha sitting literally yards away from Scott Peterson, looking him directly in the eye and saying the following.  “I‘m haunted every single day with visions of you murdering Laci.  Did she know you were murdering her?  Did you look her in the eye as you killed her?  Was she conscious when you put her in the bay?  Nothing will ever undo your evil.  You deserve to be put to death as soon as possible.  What were you thinking as you were killing Laci?  What do you think Laci was thinking?  I‘ll tell you what I think she was thinking, Scott.  Why are you killing me?  You know how much I love you.  You promised to take care of me and protect me, Scott.  I don‘t want to die.  Please stop.  Please stop.  I don‘t want to die.  And your son was thinking, Daddy, why are you killing Mommy and me?  Daddy, why are you killing us?  We don‘t want to die.  You deserve to burn in hell for all eternity.”

Oh!  Bill Fallon, you‘ve done a lot of these cases.  I don‘t know, even compared to other victim impact statements I‘ve heard—and I‘m going to be reading more from this—this one just seemed particularly emotional and poignant.

BILL FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  You know, it‘s so gut-wrenching, Dan.  You see someone who became not only the mother, she really was a person here.  It wasn‘t just a role.  What you usually see is how someone deserves to die, but you don‘t see is the person.  For a minute, she became the daughter here to put herself in her daughter‘s position, which I think captured everybody.  Laci originally did.  That was what was so gut-wrenching about this, which is—it shows how Scott—again, stone, cold Scott—could remain so cold during this—and then his family with the lying.  These are people who just fed into Scott Peterson.  She became every person who heard this and captured the tragedy of this whole case.

ABRAMS:  I go on.  More of Sharon Rocha.  “There is unbearable sadness in my life.  The Scott I knew is the one Laci loved, and I entrusted him with her.  You made a conscious decision to kill Laci and Conner.  You planned and executed their murders.  Yes, you did.  You threw them away like a piece of garbage.  Your arrogance led you to believe you were more intelligent than anyone else.  You were wrong, dead wrong.  You‘re not intelligent at all.  You‘re stupid, stupid to believe murder was your only way out of a marriage.”

One more.  “You attended a Christmas party with your girlfriend while your pregnant wife went to her Christmas party alone.  There was no way for me to know on December 15 that it was the last time I would ever see Laci alive, but you knew it.”

Lisa Wayne, this is the only opportunity, really, that Sharon Rocha and the rest of the family has had to speak directly to Scott Peterson without having a lawyer question them, without the lawyers leading them and guiding them as to what they can and can‘t ask, right?

LISA WAYNE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  That‘s correct.  I mean, it‘s their time to vent their anger, their sadness.  You know, and it‘s, hopefully, some time—a point in time where they can put some closure on this.  I don‘t know if that‘s going to happen in this case, frankly, I mean, because he‘s gotten the death penalty at this point.  And even when the actual execution, if it actually ever happened, will that give them closure?  I mean, it‘s hard to know.  And frankly, a lot of us believe the criminal justice system really isn‘t that place for closure for families.  And it‘s very difficult.  I mean, they‘re chilling words, there‘s no doubt.

ABRAMS:  I go on.  “You are lazy, spoiled, self-centered and a coward.  But above all, you are an evil murderer.  Not even Satan will claim to have a part in your make-up.  You, Scott, are proof that evil can lurk anywhere.  You don‘t have to look evil to be evil.  You chose what you thought would be the easiest way out for you.”

One more.  “Why did you murder her, Scott?  That‘s an answer we‘ll never get.  How dare you murder her!  She was my daughter.  I wanted her and always will.  I trusted her.  You betrayed me, betrayed her, betrayed everyone.  You selfishly cheated on her and then murdered her.  I know you‘re nothing but an empty shell.  You have no heart.  You have no soul.”

Oh!  Laura Spencer, does it matter that Scott Peterson didn‘t show any emotion?

LAURA SPENCER, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Of course it matters.  This man has showed no emotion from the inception of this case.  It shows what kind of a person Scott Peterson is, and it shows why Scott Peterson deserves the death penalty.  Of course it matters.

ABRAMS:  Let me get—I want to ask them to pull up the piece of sound of Sharon Rocha from back in April of 2003 because I‘m told that, despite the fact that this piece of sound sounds like Sharon Rocha‘s so emotional, and she‘s sobbing and this—that inside the courtroom today, she was even more so than what we heard back in April of 2003.  Let‘s listen to Sharon Rocha from April of 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - APRIL 21, 2003)

SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S MOTHER:  Soon after Laci went missing, I made a promise to her that if she‘s been harmed, we will seek justice for her and Conner and make sure that that person responsible for their deaths will be punished.  I can only hope that the sound of Laci‘s voice begging for her life and begging for the life of her unborn child is heard over and over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life!  The person responsible should be held accountable and punished for the tragedy and devastation forced upon so many of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  John Burris, if you‘re the attorney for Scott Peterson and you know that this is coming, what can you say?

JOHN BURRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, it‘s the kind of thing that you have to prepare your client for it.  I mean, granted, he hasn‘t shown any emotions, but certainly from my perspective, I would have talked to him to let him know what‘s about to occur, that all that the family has felt and seen—he saw a lot of it during the penalty phase of the case.  He‘s going to see a lot more of it now because it‘s going to be unrestrained.  There‘ll be no lawyers, and it will all pour out.

Now, for him, you have to stand and take it.  I mean, and I would say to him, This is just a step along the way.  The next step, obviously, to get ready for the appeal.  You got to tuck it.  You got to be strong for today and take it, but don‘t let it get you down.  Tomorrow is another day, and there‘s still many more battles to fight here.

ABRAMS:  You know what I was struck by is the jurors.  A lot of jurors showed up at court.  Remember, their job is done.  They‘re finished.  They‘ve recommended death.  The judge now had to make the final decision here, and these jurors showed up at court today.  A couple of them spoke outside after the judge imposed the sentence of death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BELMESSIERI, PETERSON JUROR:  Scott came in with a great big smile on his face, laughing.  It was just another day in paradise for Scott, another day that he had to go through the motions.  But he‘s on his way home, Scott figures.  Well, guess what, Scotty...

RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON JUROR:  San Quentin‘s your new home!

BELMESSIERI:  And it‘s illegal to kill your wife and child in California!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, Lisa, as I listen to these jurors—and look, they‘re—you know, they clearly have come up with the verdict that they did, et cetera.  I just covered my eyes.  I thought, Oh, now I‘m going to hear from the defense attorneys adding this to their motion, saying the jurors were inflamed and they were angry, they were impassioned, and as a result, Scott Peterson should get a new trial.  If you‘re the defense attorney, are you going to throw that into your motion?

WAYNE:  I don‘t know, Dan.  I mean, it‘s hard to say.  It‘s something that you want to investigate.  You want to determine whether or not there was juror misconduct, whether or not there was impartiality that was thrown out, they didn‘t follow instructions.  I mean, I have to tell you that there are a lot of cases, particularly death penalty cases, where you have a lot of emotions and they become very invested in the case.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WAYNE:  And you see that in these kind of cases.  I think it‘s much more unusual to see the kind of hatred that‘s kind of spewed and that‘s been spewing in this case, and I recognize that the facts in this case are pretty awful, but you know, these cases occur across the country and you don‘t see this kind of hatred being...

ABRAMS:  Well, maybe there should be more hatred across the country.

WAYNE:  Dan, that‘s not a good thing to say.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Why?

FALLON:  You know what, Dan.  I think what‘s really interesting about this, though, is that this is a case that the jurors did seem vested in this.  But remember, they got see hours of Scott Peterson.  They heard him, unlike you hear any other person.  And they saw that coldness.  They saw what Sharon Rocha said, that lack of a soul.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I got take a quick break here.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.  We got more on the—Laura Spencer I know wanted to get in there with a comment about the hatred.  I know.  We‘ll let you in.

And Robert Blake found not guilty of killing his wife.  Not guilty!  And shocker, he had a lot to say afterwards.  And new information in the search for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.  Police now want to talk to a registered sex offender who they already spoke to once.  And more on Scott Peterson getting the death penalty.  We‘re going to take a look at—we got a rare look inside San Quentin, Scott Peterson will call home coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PETERSON, CONVICTED OF DOUBLE MURDER:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I can‘t make it very far.  I can get part of the way.  I certainly can‘t make it to the part of the park where her—there‘s a big poster of her up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PETERSON JUROR:  Just went with our recommendation, so justice has been done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  One of the jurors from the Scott Peterson case who showed up in court to watch as the judge formally sentenced Scott Peterson to death.  And this is—you know, this is something that we expected.  But the judge could have sentenced him to life in prison.  He did not.

Let me read you a little more about what Sharon Rocha, the mother of Laci, said to Scott Peterson, sitting only yards away from him.  “She didn‘t stand a chance physically against you, Scott.  How‘d that make you feel?  Were you proud of yourself?  Did you feel a sense of accomplishment, relief that they were gone?  There‘s a huge hole in my heart that will never be healed.  I miss Laci so much.  I miss having a daughter.  I miss making plans with her.  I miss teasing her, hearing her giggle.  I miss her telling me about plants and new recipes, about her baby and her plans for her future.  I miss being my daughter‘s mother.”

She went on to say, “We had to bury Laci without her arms to hold her baby, without her head to kiss and smell her sweet little baby Conner.  You have no idea what the thought of that does to my soul.”

Laura Spencer, before the break, Lisa Wayne was making the point that

·         you know, I was saying that I don‘t think it‘s so bad if people get angry at people who‘ve committed horrific crimes.  And you wanted to say something.

SPENCER:  I don‘t think it‘s so bad, either, Dan.  In fact, I think that‘s it refreshing to see a jury exhibit so much passion and so much interest in a case.  I think that it‘s indicative of the compassion that they felt for Laci and Conner and for the Rocha family and the contempt that they felt for this—this arrogant, smug killer, who sat day after day in court with no remorse,  no expression on his face...

BURRIS:  You know...

SPENCER:  ... absolutely no empathy, no sympathy, no nothing!  And I think Sharon Rocha‘s comments were directed not only on behalf of herself but on behalf of her daughter, to try and make a psychopath...

ABRAMS:  All right, John Burris, I‘m going to let you in for—let me just—let me just play this quick piece of sound from, again, one of the jurors, who seem almost as angry as Laura Spencer.  Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICE:  He is a jerk.  And I have one comment for Scott.  You look somebody in the face when they‘re talking to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The jurors talking.  Really unusual.  They all showed up at court.  You know, so much anger.  Go ahead, John Burris.

BURRIS:  Dan, I really don‘t agree that you should have this kind of emotion and passion from people who are deciding someone‘s fate because, to me, that kind of passion came about probably much more so from Amber Frey‘s testimony in the view that this guy was this liar, this notorious person.  And I‘m not convinced that that was the proper way to evaluate this evidence.  Now, I don‘t think the jurors should be this kind of emotionally involved.  They should objectively evaluate that evidence...

ABRAMS:  Maybe they did.

BURRIS:  Well, maybe they did and maybe they didn‘t.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ...  have some time to realize what a—what a...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Excuse me!

ABRAMS:  ... slimeball Scott Peterson is.

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  But what was the basis for it?  But what was the basis for it?  If, in fact, it‘s this sense that he was a cad, he didn‘t look at...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  How about him being a killer?

FALLON:  John, he‘s a murderer~!  And Amber Frey had nothing do with this case.

BURRIS:  Well, you know, I‘m not...

FALLON:  John, I mean, they looked at this guy...

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  I‘m not picking up the staff for him in terms of whether he did it or not.  The question is whether or not the evidence was properly evaluated by dispassionate people.

FALLON:  John, you know what?  But you can have a little...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... to look at this type of guy, who they saw for the hours.  That‘s what I always said.  Amber Frey was just like a little witness in this case.  She was the vehicle that we got see Scott on television.

BURRIS:  Well, maybe you should not...

FALLON:  They looked Scott in the eye and...

BURRIS:  Maybe they should not have seen him through those eyes. 

That‘s the point, because...

FALLON:  Hey, but wait a minute!  He put himself out there, John.

BURRIS:  Look, I don‘t...

FALLON:  John, he put himself out there!  Don‘t start saying maybe they shouldn‘t have.  You‘re right, maybe they...

BURRIS:  No, I don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  I don‘t think the judge should have allowed that evidence in...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  There were admissions back-and-forth.  It would be an outrage if they didn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on, hang on, hang on!

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  ... about anything.  They did not go to the essence of the case.

ABRAMS:  That‘s one of the issues...

FALLON:  ... him as a cad.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right, all right, all right!  That‘s one of the issues that the defense is going on appeal.  Guaranteed losing argument for the defense on that one, in my view.

Brent Rocha, the brother, again, speaking to Scott Peterson, standing, Scott Peterson sitting only yards away.  “You are evil, and you still have the readiness to commit evil.  I went to buy a gun from the beginning.  I knew you were guilty.  I didn‘t kill you myself for one reason, so you‘d have to sweat it out.”

So Lisa, are you disturbed—I mean, I understand your point about—that I or others on the outside shouldn‘t be saying, Oh, you know, there should be hatred towards these people, whatever.

WAYNE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  But what do you think about the fact that Brent Rocha, that Sharon Rocha, that Laci‘s family is furious, angry, venting, even saying—

Brent Rocha saying that he would have killed Scott Peterson?

WAYNE:  You know what, Dan?  I think they have an absolute right to feel that way about the person that they believe and a jury has found is the killer of their sister, their daughter.  I mean, they have that absolute right.  That‘s human emotions.

But I think what we‘re talking about is that that‘s why you don‘t have sisters, brothers, mothers on a jury.  They‘re supposed to be different than family members.  They‘re supposed to feel differently.  And what happened in this case, because of all the attention and the media and the everything else, I mean, you have invested jurors now coming in and feeling that same emotion.  And that‘s just not right, Dan.

And I don‘t really believe that you feel that hatred should be across this country.  I mean, we have enough of it.  We have enough ugly things going on in this world...

ABRAMS:  I mean, you know...

WAYNE:  ... and you need closure.

ABRAMS:  But wait a second.

WAYNE:  You know?  You need healthy closure.

ABRAMS:  That‘s a nice sort of, you know, peace on earth, et cetera.  But the bottom line is when someone‘s convicted of a crime like this, I don‘t think it‘s so bad to have people in there showing hatred...

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  ... hatred gets you in life.

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  But the problem is it happens every day in this country. 

There are cases all over this country...

ABRAMS:  But so what?

WAYNE:  ... every day.  And at one point, we have to recognize where -

·         is there really an end for this family?  Does it make them feel better?

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  The death sentence makes them feel better!

ABRAMS:  I don‘t think that they—I don‘t think that they would have done this unless it made them feel some...

WAYNE:  Well, we‘ll see.  We‘ll see, Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... sense of catharsis.

WAYNE:  I doubt it, though...

ABRAMS:  Let me...

WAYNE:  ... because if you look at studies...

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  If you look at studies of victims on these cases, time and time again, they tell you it doesn‘t give them the closure they want.

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  It doesn‘t give them closure!  I think this is important, Dan.  It doesn‘t...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me just keep reading here.

FALLON:  ... give you closure, but it gives you something.

ABRAMS:  All right, let me keep reading here, all right?  This is No.  7 and 8.  This is Sharon Rocha, again, continuing with her testimony, talking to Scott Peterson, looking him in the eye, Peterson responding with no emotion.

“I‘ll never meet my grandson.  What kind of person would he be?  Would he cry when he has his picture taken with Santa?  I‘ll never know this because his father murdered him.  Laci didn‘t know that Scott—that Scott that sits in this courtroom.  She loved you, but she didn‘t need you.  I find solace in the knowledge that you sentenced yourself to death when you murdered Laci.  You took it upon yourself to be her judge and her jury and then her executioner.  I only care that you get what you deserve, which is death.  You didn‘t count on Laci‘s spirit, that it would be stronger than your evilness.”

Laura Spencer, I‘m sorry.  Go ahead.

SPENCER:  This was a crime that was financially motivated.  Sharon Rocha is absolutely right.  This man did not want to be saddled with a wife and child.  And instead of going—taking the right path and getting a divorce—he didn‘t want to have to pay alimony or child support.  He killed his wife and his unborn child.  This man has no regard for human life!

ABRAMS:  I‘m out of time here.  I‘m going to go around.  I just want to ask everyone one quick question, and that is, was anyone expecting a surprise today from the courtroom, that the jury judge might sentence him to life in prison?  Bill Fallon.

FALLON:  Absolutely not.  He was sentencing him, but he sentenced him not because he killed and murdered his wife and child but because it was so premeditated and the judge made it clear.

ABRAMS:  John Burris, any—were you thinking maybe the judge will sentence him to life?

BURRIS:  No.  I know that judge, and I know that he‘s imposed the death penalty on cases with less emotion and impact than otherwise.  So there was no chance.  None.

ABRAMS:  Laura Spencer?

SPENCER:  Quintessential death penalty case.  No way.

ABRAMS:  Lisa Wayne?

WAYNE:  No way.  Everybody expected it.  He did what everybody expected.

FALLON:  He got it right!

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, Bill Fallon, John Burris, Laura Spencer, Lisa Wayne, thanks a lot.

Coming up: Robert Blake breaks down after hearing the jury finds him not guilty of killing his wife.  Big verdict.  And next, a look at what Scott Peterson will face inside San Quentin‘s death row.  This is a live picture of where he‘s going to be in the next day or two.  We‘ve got a rare look inside coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

PETERSON:  No.  No.  Oh, God, no.  Violence towards women is unapproachable.  It‘s the most disgusting act (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  You‘re looking at a live picture of San Quentin Prison.  It may look nice from the outside with the sun—and it‘s actually something of an idyllic setting there.  That‘s where Scott Peterson will be transferred to death row before the week is out. 

With the judge‘s decision today to sentence Peterson to death, he‘s now the 644th prisoner on San Quentin‘s death row, one hundreds of violent convicts, corrections departments officials say he will be treated just like any other inmate.  But what does that mean?

MSNBC was recently given extremely rare access inside San Quentin, one of the country‘s most violent prisons. 

Here is John Seigenthaler. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN SEIGENTHALER, NBC ANCHOR (voice-over):  This is death row.  In fact, this is California‘s only male death row where the method of execution is lethal injection. 

This is where you‘ll find such vicious killers as Richard Ramirez, the so-called Night Stalker, and Richard Allen Davis, the killer of Polly Klaas.  The most sadistic death row inmates are isolated in the adjustment center, where assaults are almost ritual.

In one recent 18-month period, 45 of the 85 inmates at the adjustment center have successfully attacked staff.  The number of attempts, off the charts. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The mentality of most inmates in this unit is, I‘m on death row.  There‘s nothing you can do to me.  If I assault you today, there‘s nothing they will do to me tomorrow.  That‘s their mentality.  You can only kill me once. 

SEIGENTHALER:  Just like in general populations, one of the most volatile times at the adjustment center is meal time. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good morning (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good morning. 

SEIGENTHALER:  It‘s a typical morning.  Correctional officers are arriving to start their shift. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can‘t have bad breath, you know?  Don‘t want an inmate to get upset. 

SEIGENTHALER:  They get ready serve breakfast to the death row inmates.  Today, it‘s two pancakes and grits.  Inmates also get a bag lunch with the meal. 

At one time, it took only one officer to serve an inmate a meal.  He wore very little protection.  Today, since attacks are commonplace and vicious, it takes three officers wearing full riot gear. 

DEMOINE BRITTENUM, PRISON GUARD:  When we feed breakfast, we have all the food in serving containers, and we put it on the trays to serve it to the inmate. 

KEVIN WALKER, PRISON GUARD:  Every time that you pop open the food port, you‘re vulnerable.  There‘s an opening for the inmate to assault you. 

Officers Demoine Brittenum and Kevin Walker have worked in death row for a total of 12 years.  They say they can never be too careful in there. 

BRITTENUM:  An inmate might try and grab your arm, pull it in his cell so he can break it or stab it, cut it, slash it.

WALKER:  There‘s been an instance where a spear was shot out at an officer when the food port was open.  He opened the food port, turned and grabbed milk and breakfast items.  And when he turned back around, the inmate had some elastic set up to shoot out an arrow.

BRITTENUM:  He wasn‘t wearing these, but he was wearing a visor.  So we switched to these helmets because the face shield is thicker.  It‘s harder. 

SEIGENTHALER:  In spite of the riot gear, attacks at the adjustment center have continued.  So, prison officials took the extraordinary step of installing Plexiglas shields to protect officers while they serve meals to prisoners.  The shield has rollers, which allow officers to slide it along a pipe running the length of the tier. 

WALKER:  I don‘t think you ever get used to it. 

BRITTENUM:  No. 

WALKER:  I don‘t think if you—you ever get to the point where you feel like you are getting used to it, then I think you might want to get a job change. 

BRITTENUM:  Because that means you are going to start dropping your guard and get you and somebody else hurt.  You have got to form a thick skin in here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s where Scott Peterson will be spending the rest of his days, unless there‘s some sort of change with an appeal.  That was John Seigenthaler reporting. 

Coming up, police looking for a missing Florida girl reveal that the person of interest in the case, as they call it, is a registered sex offender with a criminal past, who—get this—they spoke with and released.  Now they can‘t find him. 

Robert Blake breaks down after hearing that the jury found him not guilty of killing his wife.  Jurors explain why and Blake blabs after the verdict.  That‘s coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BLAKE, ACQUITTED OF MURDER CHARGES:  You‘ve interviewed my friends.  You‘ve interviewed producers that worked for me.  Well, guess what?  They‘re all liars.  And about half of them are commode scum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Robert Blake found not guilty of killing his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.  Blake spoke out.  So did the jurors.  That‘s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAKE:  Barbara Walters, God bless you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  An emotional Robert Blake just moments after he learned he was a free man after a four-month murder trial. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We, the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Robert Blake, not guilty of the crime of first-degree murder of Bonny Lee Bakley. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You can see the relief on the face of the former “Baretta” star on trial for the May 2001 murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.  The jury deliberated for nine days before reaching a verdict, not guilty on the first count of murder, not guilty on the third count of solicitation of murder and a deadlock, 11-1, on a second count of solicitation of murder. 

Joining me now, Dan Simon, corporate with “Celebrity Justice.”  He was inside the courtroom everyday day.  And Cary Goldstein.  He represented Bonny Lee Bakley in her prenuptial agreement with Robert Blake.

All right, Dan, let me start with you.  Let me play this piece of sound, all right?  And this is from Robert Blake after the verdict.  Listen carefully to the question that he‘s being asked and the way he responds to what I view as an entirely legitimate question, all right?  Here we go. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. GERALD SCHWARTZBACH, ATTORNEY FOR BLAKE:  Know what this murder charge is.  The charge in this case is that Mr. Blake personally shot and killed Bonnie Bakley.  That‘s the murder charge.  And there‘s no direct evidence that Mr. Blake shot Ms. Bakley. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, that was not obviously what I was talking about.  That‘s the defense attorney who was making his closing arguments.  He won. 

Do we have the piece of sound from Robert Blake?  No.  OK.

All right, Dan Simon, what happened here?  Why Robert Blake not guilty? 

DAN SIMON, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”:  Well, I got to tell you something.  You know, that piece of sound is actually very relevant, because the jury foreperson came out and was asked point blank, why did you find Robert Blake guilty?  And he said, we couldn‘t put the gun in Robert Blake‘s hands, no gunshot residue to speak of, really, no blood spatter.  And right there is reasonable doubt when it comes to the murder. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but, you know, that—and, look—and I‘ve said this before.  As a legal matter, I thought this was going to be a tough case for the prosecutors.  As a practical matter, though, you know, Cary Goldstein, yes, so they didn‘t have the “CSI” evidence that the jurors would have liked, but there certainly was evidence against Robert Blake, right? 

CARY GOLDSTEIN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR BONNY LEE BAKLEY:  Well, there was absolutely zero physical evidence.  The murder weapon was recovered with oil on it.  There were no traces of oil on his body, on his hands, on his clothing, in the vehicle. 

I think it was pretty clear that he wasn‘t the shooter.  The real question was, did he solicit murder? 

ABRAMS:  Look, Dan Simon, I got to tell you, I didn‘t think it was pretty clear that wasn‘t the shooter.  I mean, again, we talk about the evidence is one thing.  Again, respect the jury‘s verdict. 

But, as a practical matter, the prosecutors pointed out again and again that there was no one who was seen coming from that area.  There was no one else, no cars moving in and out when it happened.  Robert Blake goes back to find his gun that he says he left in the restaurant.  And, lo and behold, the wife that he can‘t stand is suddenly dead when he comes back. 

SIMON:  Well, the real question here is reasonable doubt.  And the fact that you couldn‘t tie Robert Blake to the murder weapon I think is very relevant.

But when you get to those solicitation counts, the jurors said, these guys just were not credible.  You had one stuntman who says that there were aliens tunneling to his house.  And they called the other stuntman, Ronald Hambleton, a complete liar.  If they had just charged Robert Blake with plain old solicitation, then maybe.  But you can‘t do that.

The fact is, you had to tie certain people to him.  And the people they tied to him weren‘t credible in the juror‘s eyes. 

ABRAMS:  Now, here is the piece of sound that I wanted, because one of the reporters asked him, all right, you know, he‘s been acquitted, totally legitimate question.  In fact, I was thinking the same question.  Who do you think really killed your wife?  Here‘s what Blake said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAKE:  Any of you—any of you guys on the cameras, any of you gaffers got a pair of dikes?  What do you want, man? 

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION:  (OFF-MIKE) Who do you honestly believe killed your wife?

BLAKE:  Shut up. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Shut up.  I mean, Dan, was that what it was like the whole time? 

SIMON:  Well, that‘s the first time I‘ve seen that, and very interesting response. 

I mean, the fact of the matter is, you have an unsympathetic victim here.  And it‘s no secret that Robert Blake had disdain for his wife.  And, clearly, he was in a celebratory mood.  And that question took away from the celebration.  I think that‘s why you had that kind of response. 

ABRAMS:  You know, and that‘s the thing. 

I was very disturbed, Cary, by the idea that, in this press conference, he‘s talking—he‘s acting as if he‘s won an Academy Award, thanking everyone who worked with him, this person, as if he‘s—a big celebration.  He‘s been acquitted of murder.  And, you know, he‘s talking about this. 

Let me play another piece of sound from Robert Blake here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”)

BLAKE:  So this small band of dedicated warriors saved my life.  They saved Rosie‘s daddy‘s life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Why don‘t you think he‘s talking at all about, you know, trying to find the person who killed Rosie‘s mother? 

GOLDSTEIN:  I don‘t think he‘s thought it that far down the line.  I think he‘s just thrilled to be off the hook himself. 

You know, I have to say truthfully, someone like Hambleton, who was offered a deal by the district attorney to not be...

ABRAMS:  One of the stuntmen. 

GOLDSTEIN:  Correct, to not be prosecuted, how did they expect to have him be responsible for Blake‘s conviction? 

McLarty—Shellie Samuels told me when I testified in the trial that he‘s out of his mind.  The guy is insane.  They really couldn‘t use him for anything. 

It was very difficult.  I mean, you‘re asking 12 people to convict a man of murder.  There‘s a death sentence here or life in prison. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  He wasn‘t facing the death penalty at this point. 

GOLDSTEIN:  Well, right.

But what I‘m saying is that, when you‘re asking to put somebody away in this case or any other case, a jury really is going to want to know beyond a reasonable doubt that in fact this person did the job, that they are the murderer.  You‘re asking them to do a lot.  And I don‘t think the evidence was there. 

You know, the police spent more money on this investigation than any other investigation they had up until this time. 

ABRAMS:  So what?  So what? 

GOLDSTEIN:  Well, they came up with nothing.  They came up blank.

And it seems to me that probably what happened is that they really needed Hambleton and McLarty to make their case against Blake.  They didn‘t get to Hambleton and McLarty until I think about 10 days or two weeks after Blake.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Yes. 

GOLDSTEIN:  They had plenty of time to clean everything up if in fact they may have done it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  Why do they want to kill Robert Blake‘s wife, apart from the fact that—unless Robert Blake asked them to?  They just decided, you know what?  Maybe we should off Robert Blake‘s wife.  Why not?  We got nothing better to do. 

GOLDSTEIN:  I don‘t know that they did it.  That‘s up to a jury one day, if they‘re ever charged with it.

But, in fact, there were large transfers of cash before Bonny‘s death that the police were aware of.  They just couldn‘t tie it to them.  I don‘t think it would have been too difficult to pay them to do the job.  These guys were desperate. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Dan, go ahead, quickly. 

SIMON:  Well, you know, you had phone records.  What more do you need? 

You had a receipt from where Blake met Ronald Hambleton at a restaurant. 

That wasn‘t the problem. 

The problem is, is that these guys, their pasts, it just made them not credible witnesses.  McLarty‘s son, who has no axe to grind with his dad, says you can‘t believe a word my father says, because he‘s taken cocaine for so many years. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Yes. 

No, look, there were definitely problems with this case.  But when you

look at it, you take a step back—I think some people get caught up in

the details of this case, are unable to sometimes take a step back and say,

wait a second.  You look at the big picture here and it really is hard to -

·         sure, she was someone who had people who might have wanted to kill her, do bad things to her.  But you look at this and you got to say to yourself, Robert Blake walked out of court a lucky man today. 

Dan Simon, Cary Goldstein, thanks a lot. 

GOLDSTEIN:  Thank you.  

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the attention is seeming to be moving away from the family in the case of a missing Florida girl.  Now it‘s a registered sex offender police want to talk to.  But they already spoke to him.  So, why can‘t they find him now? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF:  Name John or Johnny Couey, age 46.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Authorities in Florida now on the lookout for the so-called person of interest in the disappearance of the 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, John Evander Couey, 46 years old, registered sex offender, long criminal record.  Police believe he‘s now left the state of Florida.  Little Jessica disappeared three weeks ago, if we can put up her picture, sometime after her grandmother tucked her in for the night. 

But the authorities questioned and—there she is—and released him.

Joining me now from San Francisco, Candice DeLong, retired FBI agent and former profiler. 

All right, Candice, is it unfair for us to ask, why did they question this guy, release him and now they can‘t find him? 

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  I don‘t think so, Dan.  I‘ve wondered that myself. 

According to the reports I read, he is a parolee.  He is a registered sex offender.  And he leaves without checking with his parole officer?  I thought that was a violation right there.  It would seem to me—I don‘t understand Florida well—Florida law perfectly, of course.  But, yes, it does seem odd to me. 

ABRAMS:  Here is what the authorities had to say about how it was that they got him and released him and now they‘re looking for him again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAWSY:  The violation of probation that was out there on Couey earlier last week did not have pickup that far out.  There was no reason to hold him and they had to release him.  When we got that information and started doing some investigation, we then went ahead and had that warrant changed to statewide.  We asked them to check.  He had already left.  We then located him from the FBI staying in another shelter.  And from there, we dispatched our men. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

So, they found him first at a shelter and then they lost him. 

I want to ask you another question, though, Candice.  The authorities here have talked about the grandmother, right, the one who tucked her in that night. 

DELONG:  Right.  

ABRAMS:  Saying that there were—quote—“red flags” on her lie detector test.  And now they‘re looking for this guy.  It seems it has nothing to do with grandma. 

DELONG:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  And it makes me wonder why were they ever saying anything about red flags on grandma‘s lie detector.

DELONG:  Right. 

It kind of baffles me, too.  I think maybe somebody said something that got out and they felt compelled to respond to it about the grandmother‘s polygraph.  It has absolutely nothing to do with this guy.  And red flags on a polygraph don‘t really mean that much. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

DELONG:  I mean, there is a reason these things are not admissible in court, Dan.  You know that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

Very quickly, you think that this case is going to get cracked in the next couple of days? 

DELONG:  Finding this man or finding who killed Jessica? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Well, we don‘t know that she is dead, but...

DELONG:  Who took—I‘m sorry. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but finding out what‘s going on here? 

ABRAMS:  Probably. 

My level of suspicion regarding this individual goes way up with the mere fact that he was questioned by the FBI and now they can‘t find him.  If he knows they‘re looking for him and he has nothing to hide, he should certainly contact them. 

ABRAMS:  All right, that‘s little Jessica.  Obviously, if you have any information regarding her disappearance, please call the authorities.  Let them know.  There is the number right there, 352-726-1121.  A heartbreaking case. 

All right, Candice DeLong, good to see you.  Thanks.

DELONG:  You too, Dan.

ABRAMS:  We will be back with more on the death penalty in the Scott Peterson case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK APPLEGATE, MODESTO POLICE DEPARTMENT:  The Modesto Police Department and the Stanilaus County District Attorney‘s office, along with Laci and Conner‘s family, would like to invite you all to a press conference tomorrow morning at the Modesto Police Department at 11:00 a.m.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Not the final word on the Scott Peterson case.  Laci Peterson‘s family holding a press conference tomorrow, this after of the death penalty was formally imposed today.  We will be covering it live here on MSNBC, tomorrow at 11:00 Pacific, 2:00 Eastern time. 

And don‘t forget, we will also be following the story on the daily edition of the program at 6:00 Eastern every day here on MSNBC.  Tomorrow night at this time, “MSNBC REPORTS: A Killer in the Family,” the Scott Peterson story. 

Coming up next, the man whose trial provided today‘s other legal fireworks, Robert Blake found not guilty.  “HEADLINERS AND LEGENDS: Robert Blake” is up next.

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

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