updated 3/24/2005 2:23:04 PM ET 2005-03-24T19:23:04

Guest: Walter Dellinger, Wendy Long, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Father Kevin O‘Rourke, Richard Land, Bill Fallon, Jake Goldenflame, Dawn Hobbs

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, a special edition of THE ABRAMS REPORT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S MOTHER:  Stop the insanity.  Please let my daughter live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Terri Schiavo‘s parents running out of legal options.  Their last hope, the U.S. Supreme Court.  And the pope weighs in.  What are the religious arguments to keep Terri Schiavo alive or let her die?  Plus, the Florida teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student.  Debra Lefave‘s estranged husband joins us to talk about what sounds like a bizarre defense.  And the man accused of murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford told police 14 years ago that he had a problem.  It‘s on an audiotape.  We have it.  Can these sex offenders really be rehabilitated?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA‘S FATHER:  There ain‘t none of us out of reach from these perverts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All of this on a special edition about the program about justice.

ANNOUNCER:  Now live from MSNBC world headquarters, Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket: It seems Terri Schiavo‘s parents running out of time, the last hope the U.S. Supreme Court.  If Terri‘s life is going to be saved, the Court would have to act fast, like in the next couple of days.  As of this afternoon, Terri has gone five full days without food or water, her feeding tube removed on Friday.

Earlier today, a three-judge panel and then the full 12-judge 11th circuit court of appeals rejected the parents‘ plea to have Terri‘s feeding tube reconnected.  Now their final plea will go to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  He‘s expected to refer it to the full Court.   Now, the Court rejected the case twice before.

NBC‘s Mark Potter is live outside the hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, where Schiavo remains tonight.  Mark, what‘s happened the last couple of hours?  And why hasn‘t the family yet filed with the U.S. Supreme Court?

MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, they are going to file with the court, according to their lawyer, David Gibbs, who attended another hearing into the evening.  And that‘s the reason they haven‘t filed yet.  He said he had to go home and prepare the paperwork.  And indications are that that will happen tomorrow morning.

It was a very busy day and a very busy afternoon, into the evening, actually.  After losing those two appeals that you talked about before the 11th circuit court of appeals in Atlanta, the family then turned its attention into the political arena, to the Florida legislature, hoping that the senate would pass a bill that would protect their daughter.  But after some debate, the Florida senate defeated a motion—a proposed bill by a vote of 21 to 18.

The parents then turned to the Florida governor himself, Jeb Bush, who said that perhaps the Florida Department of Children and Families, a protective agency, could step in again and try to take custody of Terri Schiavo on the grounds she had been misdiagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state when, indeed, now they say she is minimally conscious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JEB BUSH ®, FLORIDA:  I‘m doing everything within my power to make sure Terri is afforded at least the same rights that criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes take for granted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER:  But at a hearing this afternoon, Judge George Greer, the man who ordered the feeding tube be taken out, refused a motion by the Department of Children and Families to take custody of Terri Schiavo.  He then went on to hear another hearing on—to hold another hearing on the issue of granting a stay putting the tube back in, so that the DCF could further investigate her condition.  He says that he‘ll rule on that tomorrow.  And remember that he has consistently ruled against the family.

So really, their hope now lies with the U.S. Supreme Court.  As you said, the options are winding down, as Terri Schiavo is now in her sixth day without food and water—Dan.

ABRAMS:  Mark Potter, thanks a lot.

I‘ve said this many times before.  This is a very difficult case for everyone involved, but it seems to me that the law Congress passed was probably unconstitutional, and even if it wasn‘t, that the courts have done the right thing by not stepping in yet.  I just want you people to know what my position is as we talk about this.

Walter Dellinger is a law professor at Duke University who served as solicitor general under President Clinton.  And attorney Wendy Long—she‘s counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network and a former clerk to judge Clarence Thomas.  Thank you both for coming on the program.

All right, Professor Dellinger, first let me just ask you, do you think the Court will take this case?

WALTER DELLINGER, DUKE UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR:  No, I don‘t, Dan.  The only reason that they might take it would be, I think, to sternly rebuke Congress.  And I don‘t know whether the Court‘s so-called conservatives or liberals would be more rebuking of the Congress in this instance.  And we can talk a little bit more about that.  But I don‘t think they‘ll take it because I don‘t think they‘ll get to the constitutional issue.

ABRAMS:  But you‘ve heard members of Congress.  I mean, some—Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum in the Senate—have basically either said or suggested that Congress ordered, effectively, the courts to reinsert the tube.  And they‘re saying that by not taking the time to review this case thoroughly—and they say that the standard is supposed to be—it‘s called de novo, meaning you‘re supposed to review it from the beginning.  By not taking that time, that these courts are effectively disregarding the intent of Congress.

DELLINGER:  Well, you know, it‘s a question of whether you actually follow the law as it‘s written.  And the law as it is written made it quite clear that, first, the federal court had to find whether there was any federal right that had been violated by Ms. Schiavo, Theresa Schiavo.  And the court found that there was no federal right that was violated because there‘d been a lengthy process.

In fact, the Florida courts have concluded, the federal courts recognized, that she had a right to decline unwanted medical treatment.  And a process that actually ended in a trial five years ago determined that that would have been her wish and that was the state process.  So it was a fair process.  None of her rights were violated, so they never reached the next question.  And in fact, the parents didn‘t make any claims that would lead to a de novo consideration.  They asked whether it had been procedurally fair, and the answer given by the state courts and then by the federal courts was yes.

ABRAMS:  Before we get to the issue of what‘s been happening in Florida, which I find to be outrageous, let me just let Ms. Long respond with regard to the issue of why you think the Court should take the case.

WENDY LONG, COUNSEL, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK:  Well, I‘m not sure the Court will take the case.  And it might not take it just on the grounds that it‘s error correction, which is something that the Court frequently doesn‘t do.  But it really is an extraordinary and unique situation here because the federal courts are ignoring, essentially, an extraordinary law that‘s just been passed by Congress giving them jurisdiction to review this situation de novo.

And what‘s happening—the only issue on the table right now is the fact that they‘re not giving her food and water.  And as the dissent said in the 11th circuit, what will happen is that before a thorough and proper review of any constitutional or federal law deprivations of rights that she might have can be examined, she will die and therefore make this entire federal review moot.  So that‘s the problem right now.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the problem with that argument, all right, is that you talk about thorough and proper review in the federal courts.  You know that this case has already been through the federal courts.  Now, it‘s true there‘s a new law passed which gives them more—makes it more applicable to the federal courts than before.  But the notion that somehow 15 years of litigation in the Florida courts means nothing, is sort of the position that‘s being taken is, It‘s irrelevant.  We think they got it wrong.  And as a result, it‘s time to ignore everything they‘ve done.

LONG:  Well, no, I think part of the reason that this hasn‘t died down is that it‘s pretty obvious that the initial trial court proceedings in Florida were very shoddy.  There are a number of problems with them.  It‘s really only been reviewed once in a substantive way by the Florida intermediate appellate court.  And so there are so many problems, there‘s so much evidence that wasn‘t brought in, so—lots and lots of doctors that Terri‘s parents have brought forward that have affidavits saying, first of all, she‘s not in a persistent vegetative state...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s relitigating.  That‘s—you‘re saying, basically, We didn‘t like the outcome.  We...

LONG:  Well, that‘s—but that‘s de novo review.

ABRAMS:  Not necessarily.  I mean, in this case, the court can simply say, I‘ve reviewed the documents, I‘ve reviewed the papers, and as a result, we don‘t think that there‘s any federal issue that we need to address here.

LONG:  But we‘re not even getting to the federal issues yet.  Congress passed a law.  Congress, under the Constitution, controls the jurisdiction of the federal courts.  And Congress...

ABRAMS:  But they can‘t tell them they have to—what the congressmen

·         some of the congressmen and senators are saying is, You have to reinsert the tube.  They‘re not saying, You have to take the case.  They‘re saying, You have to do what we‘re asking.  And that‘s not what the legislation says.

LONG:  Well, the legislation says that you will have jurisdiction to review de novo any violations of her rights.  But in order to review them, you‘ve got to keep her alive, or that review will be moot.

ABRAMS:  Let me read from the—let me read from the dissent.  I‘m going to let you respond, Professor Dellinger, all right?  Here‘s the dissent of Judge Charles Wilson of the 11th circuit.  “By failing to issue an injunction requiring the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube, we virtually guarantee that the merits of plaintiffs‘ claim will never be litigated in federal court.  That outcome would not only result in manifest injustice, it would thwart Congress‘s clearly expressed command.”

Your response?

DELLINGER:  My response is that the first question the court had to ask is, Is there any federal right with which she has been deprived?  And it considered each of the suggestions put forward and found that the extensive Florida process made this a case, like many of the other difficult cases where you have to decide what someone‘s wishes would have been when they‘re not at that moment competent to decide for themselves, and found that it is exceptional only in the extensiveness of the process.  The number of doctors that the courts had consulted, the number—the number of persons—the number of—three guardian ad litems had been appointed.

So what the court found was taking a fresh look at it that there was simply no viable federal constitutional claim.  And Congress did not direct anything other than if they see if any federal right had been violated, and there‘s no likelihood of success.

And remember, she has a right that has been adjudicated in the state courts.  Her right has been determined, the right of every person to decline unwanted medical treatment.  And the Florida courts have determined that it would have been her wish.  The Florida court of appeals...

LONG:  May I respond?

DELLINGER:  Yes.  Let me just...

LONG:  The standard of...

DELLINGER:  Let me finish the thought.  Let me just finish the thought that the Florida courts did decide by clear and convincing evidence their process was over.  If there‘s any new evidence, you can ask the Florida courts, of course, to reopen that.

ABRAMS:  Ms. Long, go ahead.

LONG:  The standard, you‘re correct, was clear and convincing evidence.  But if you look at the decisions in the Florida courts, it‘s pretty obvious on their face that they didn‘t meet the standard of clear and convincing evidence because there was a great deal of contradictory evidence about a very important issue.  This woman is going to be deprived of her right to life, and the question is whether she had due process of law in getting to that point.

(CROSSTALK)

LONG:  She‘s going to be...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s not true.  It‘s not about...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second, Walter.  It‘s not about her due process being violated.  The decision was that she wouldn‘t have wanted this.  That‘s very different.  These comparisons to convicted criminals and murderers, et cetera, Ms. Long, I find so disingenuous...

LONG:  But—but see...

ABRAMS:  ... because it‘s not the issue.

LONG:  But did she have—but did she have due process in that determination being made?  For example, the Florida state...

(CROSSTALK)

LONG:  The Florida state court said it boils down to—there‘s a choice between either continuing her—I‘m reading from his decision now...

ABRAMS:  Quickly, quickly.

LONG:  ... continuing her care in hopes of a miracle or permitting death to take its natural course.  And death by starvation and dehydration, by the way, is not its natural course.  But that‘s a false dichotomy.  That wasn‘t really the choice.  There are many people, Catholics among them—and this woman is a Catholic...

ABRAMS:  Well, we‘re going to—we‘re going to talk about that in a minute.

LONG:  ... who believe...

DELLINGER:  Let me—let me...

(CROSSTALK)

LONG:  ... who believe that life has intrinsic value.

ABRAMS:  All right, Walter, final 20 seconds.  I got to wrap it up.

DELLINGER:  Well, I don‘t think—and I‘d be interested to see if Julie (SIC) thinks otherwise—that there‘s a vote on the Court that wouldn‘t be offended by the fact that you had an adjudication that reached its final conclusion and to have any legislature step in and undo the effects of a particular case, I think I know—I feel certain that the Chief Justice would find that deeply disturbing as a matter of individual liberty, that legislatures set aside a judgment made by a court.

ABRAMS:  This is a Chief Justice who‘s repeatedly spoken out about judicial independence again and again and again.  Walter Dellinger, Wendy Long—I‘m sorry, I would have liked to have talked about it more.  I‘ve got—want to talk to—about the religious angle, though, coming up.  Thank you both.  Appreciate it.

Coming up: It‘s not just the public and Congress divided over how to handle this case.  America‘s religious leaders also split.  The Reverend Jesse Jackson, one of my next guests ad we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to get the case.

And what could be a bizarre twist in the case of a teacher accused of molesting her 14-year-old student.  I‘ll ask that teacher‘s estranged husband about the defense.  Plus, last night, I talked to the father of a murdered little girl.  A convicted sexual predator reportedly confessed.  Tonight you‘ll hear from another sexual predator who says he‘s been reformed.  How does that work?  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  As we wait for the parents of Terri Schiavo to make their final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court, it seems everyone‘s weighing in whether her feeding tube should be reinserted, even the pope.  Schiavo is Roman Catholic, although, apparently, she wasn‘t not religious.  Thursday‘s edition of the official Vatican newspaper says the pope supports the fight to keep her alive and that no one can claim the right to decide whether a human being lives or dies.  The paper says, quote, “Unfortunately, until now, Terri Schiavo has met several torturers on her painful journey, from those who first decided that she should die to the judges who signed her sentence.”

Let‘s put the politics aside.  Is there a definitive religious answer to this difficult case?  Joining me now is the Reverend Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, Father Kevin O‘Rourke, professor of ethics at Loyola University Medical School, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Gentlemen, thank you all.  Appreciate it.

All right, Reverend Jackson, what do you think?  Is there a religious answer?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION:  Well, in this case, the vital signs of life are independent of the tubes.  And so long as she has those vital signs of life—I‘m very sensitive to her husband‘s rights, sensitive to the parents‘ passion.  I‘m even concerned about this invasion of the judiciary by the Congress.  But somehow, the ethics of the matter transcend that she is right now being starved and dehydrated to death.  And that‘s unethical.

ABRAMS:  Father O‘Rourke?

FR. KEVIN O‘ROURKE, PROF. OF ETHICS, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY :  Well, we don‘t keep everybody alive as long as possible, and in the Catholic tradition, we‘ve always maintained that there does come a time when perhaps it‘s best to withdraw life support because it‘s not doing the patient any good.  In the Catholic tradition, we describe that as looking for the hope of benefit and the burden that might be involved.

And insofar as people in persistent vegetative state is concerned, we do believe that their lives should be prolonged unless there is an excessive burden.  And in this case, I think the burden has been demonstrated.  First of all, the courts maintain—and I think rightfully so, although I don‘t want to get into the legal side of it because dying is a spiritual event, not a legal event.  But the courts have maintained that her due—her rights have been protected through due process.  And secondly, when we look at the burdens that the family is enduring and when we see what benefit comes from prolonging her life in this condition, certainly, it does seem that excessive burden exists.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Land, would you agree?

RICHARD LAND, PRES., SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION:  No, I wouldn‘t.  I would agree this is a cruel and unusual death.  If you did this to a dog or a cat, you‘d be charged with cruelty to animals.  To kill a person through dehydration and malnutrition—it seems to me that a—you know, we‘re not talking about life support here, like a heart-lung machine or a respirator.  We‘re talking about a feeding tube.

ABRAMS:  Does that make a difference religiously?

LAND‘  Well, I think it...

ABRAMS:  As a religious matter, does it make a difference?

LAND:  I think it does.  I think it does because this woman can breathe on her own.  This woman is not near death, except for the fact that she‘s being dehydrated and malnourished to death.  This is not a patient who is being kept alive by a heart-lung machine.  And I think there‘s sufficient doubt about whether or not this was indeed her will.  Now, if she had left an advanced medical directive or a living will explicitly stating that she did not want this treatment, I think that human beings have a right...

ABRAMS:  You‘d be OK with that?

LAND:  ... in this country to refuse medical treatment.  I don‘t agree with it morally...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND:  I don‘t agree with it morally, but I think that she does—would have the right.  But I think there‘s sufficient evidence that there‘s question about this.  And I think this is cruel and unusual death.  This woman, apart from the fact that she is being malnourished and dehydrated to death, is not near death.  She‘s not a critically ill...

ABRAMS:  All right, let me ask...

LAND:  ... terminally ill patient...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Reverend Jackson, how much should it matter—I mean, look, a court has determined that this was her will and her wish.  If that is true, and if you were convinced of that, would that convince you, as a minister, to say, OK, her wishes shall be fulfilled?

JACKSON:  But seems to me that the ethics and her right to life transcend even this judicial, legislative quagmire we‘re in.  I‘ve been in situations to minister with someone who was dying from cancer.  And say, for example, they hit the extreme point where all vital signs were gone and you pulled the plug, and within minutes, they died.  In this case, there is no—the pump she has—the feeding tube—and she is still alive.  And this transcends even those situations, Brother O‘Rourke, we have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) This is an extraordinary case.  I‘m convinced the demands (UNINTELLIGIBLE) extraordinary attention.

ABRAMS:  All right, Father O‘Rourke, what about this issue of her intent and her desire?  If she did have—I mean, look, the court has effectively said, I‘ve heard all the evidence, I‘ve heard all the testimony, I‘m convinced this was her will, this is what she would have wanted.  As a religious matter, is that the make-or-break question?

O‘ROURKE:  Well, that‘s one of the important questions.  The make-or-break question, I believe, is that there is life after death, and we don‘t keep people alive through excessive burden just in order to have them living.  It has been stated this evening that, well, she‘s not dying.  Well, if she‘s not dying, why all the fuss?  She‘s dying, but the idea is, are we to keep trying to circumvent death?  Are we trying to keep avoiding death simply because we can do it?  There‘s no benefit to her.

So you know, what—I get a kick out of the fact—it‘s ironic that

some people will say, well, if she had signed a living will, we‘d follow

it.  Well, this is the equivalent of the living will, and somebody has to

make the decision when the patient‘s unconscious.  So I think you can get -

·         you‘re at cross purposes.

ABRAMS:  Let me just tell you this, that the—we are now told that the U.S. Supreme Court will get a filing later tonight in connection with this case.  We‘re just being told that the attorney for the parents of Terri Schiavo will file with the U.S. Supreme Court tonight.

All right, Mr. Land, why don‘t you respond.  Again, it just seems to me that either her will and her wish is the determinative issue or it‘s not.  And we can—and you can argue about whether you accept the court‘s finding or not, but it seems to me, as a religious matter, either she gets to decide, or it‘s not be particularly relevant what she decided.

LAND:  Well, I think, first of all, morally and ethically, I would not see food and water, hydration and nutrition as extraordinary medical means being taken to prolong life.

ABRAMS:  But even if she had...

LAND:  But—but...

ABRAMS:  ... said she wouldn‘t want to live that way...

LAND:  But—but...

ABRAMS:  ... you would say—no, just so—I want to be clear.  You would say even if she had said she didn‘t want to live that way, you would still say, As a religious matter, I just—I can‘t support that.

LAND:  I can‘t condone it, but I would accept her right to make that decision.  But I think there is sufficient doubt that that was indeed her decision, and I‘m distressed that the federal courts have not taken the opportunity to review that process from beginning to end because there‘s a lot of evidence the Florida courts...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s the legal...

LAND:  ... did not allow to be heard.

ABRAMS:  But that‘s the legal side.  And you know, I disagree with you as a legal matter, but I‘m turning to you all as the experts because I‘m not an expert—I‘m an expert in the law, not in religion.  And that‘s why I‘m trying to sort of delve into these difficult religious questions.

LAND:  And this is a difficult issue because...

JACKSON:  Dan?  Dan?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me let Mr. Land make a comment, and then to you, Mr.

Jackson.

LAND:  This is a difficult question about there is doubt about what her actual medical state is.  And as Reverend Jackson said at the beginning, this woman is not near death.  She is not being artificially kept alive with a respirator or with a heart-lung machine.  She is—she just needs food and water, like we all do, in order to live.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Reverend Jackson, I just—I just don‘t think you can make the distinction based on whether it‘s a monitor or a breathing device versus food and water.  As a religious matter, it seems to me it should be the same.

JACKSON:  Well, the fact is, she appears to be brain-damaged, not brain dead.  That‘s why she‘s functioning independently.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Alzheimer‘s patients, unless they had a feeding process, they would starve or dehydrate to death, as well.  This is a very difficult ethical question.  I come down on the side of let the tube stay in there so long as it can.  And to take it out while you argue judicially—she is dying now in the meantime because of lack of attention.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well, the response, of course, to that is 15 years it‘s been throughout courts, et cetera.  But I understand.  Look, tough case.  I‘m—again—I‘ve said this before, I‘ll say it again.  I completely sympathize with the parents of Terri Schiavo.  Even if I disagree with them legally, I can‘t begin to feel their pain.  Very interesting conversation, gentlemen.  Reverend Jackson, Father O‘Rourke, Mr. Land, thank you very much for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.

New defense for a teacher accused of molesting one of her students could keep her out of court.  I‘ll ask her estranged husband if he thinks it has merit.  And in a new 911 call or a 911 call just released by the police, convicted sex offender John Couey said he needed help.  We talk to a sex offender about whether he/they can really be rehabilitated.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the man who reportedly confessed to killing Jessica Lunsford more than a decade ago told police years back he needed help, said prison time wouldn‘t cure him.  We‘ve got the audiotape.  And we‘ll ask whether sex offenders can be rehabilitated.  We‘ll talk to one. 

First the headlines.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back. 

John Couey, convicted sex offender, hired to work for five months at the very school that little Jessica Lunsford attended.  While he did serve time for one of his earlier sexual offenses, a recently released police interview sheds some light on the result of his time behind bars. 

NBC‘s Don Teague has the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Chilling words from the man accused of killing Jessica Lunsford. 

JOHN EVANDER COUEY, DEFENDANT:  I went over there.

TEAGUE:  In just-released tapes from a 1991 police interview, John Couey admits to exposing himself to another young girl. 

COUEY:  I asked her if she wanted to play hide and go seek.  And she said yes.  So we did. 

TEAGUE:  During the interview, Couey tells investigators prison won‘t cure his desires.  He asks for professional help. 

COUEY:  I feel that I need help for myself.  And that‘s why I‘m confessing to my crime that I committed tonight, because I want help for myself.

TEAGUE:  He may have asked for help.  But, in recent years, Couey reportedly took jobs that gave him access to hundreds of children.  He worked construction at two Florida schools, most recently the elementary school where 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was a third grader. 

MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF JESSICA:  Our kids are exposed to this, and they‘re killing our children.  I mean, isn‘t that like a terrorism against children?  And we need to stop that. 

TEAGUE:  Today, Jessica‘s community is fighting back.  Warning signs are popping up to alert neighbors of other convicted sex offenders living nearby. 

FRANK, NEIGHBOR OF JESSICA LUNSFORD:  This is all about the little girl and every other little girl, little boy from this point on that could go through the same thing this little girl went through, because these guys are being put in our communities. 

TEAGUE:  It‘s too late to help Jessica Lunsford.  But, as John Couey awaits trial for her murder, neighbors hope to save other children from predators who may live next door.

Don Teague, NBC News Atlanta. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Question:  Can sex offenders really be rehabilitated?  Can they really change? 

Joining me now is Jake Goldenflame, convicted child molester and author of “Overcoming Sexual Terrorism: 40 Ways to Protect Your Children From Sexual Predators,” and Bill Fallon, former Essex County, Massachusetts, prosecutor. 

All right, thanks a lot.

Mr. Goldenflame, bottom line, do you think that sex offenders can be rehabilitated? 

JAKE GOLDENFLAME, REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER:  Well, we can do better than that.  We can be, with our consent, brainwashed.  And that‘s exactly the kind of therapy we voluntarily put ourselves through.  Once it‘s there...

ABRAMS:  What do you mean? 

GOLDENFLAME:  Well, it‘s called cognitive behavioral reconditioning therapy. 

Before an act occurs, there‘s not only an urge, but in between, there‘s something called the plan.  With this kind of therapy, we change the way our own brains work, so that, when an urge comes up, a fire wall shifts into position internally and we don‘t go into the plan.  We walk away from the urge.  

ABRAMS:  Do you still have the urge to molest children? 

GOLDENFLAME:  I will always have the urge to molest children.  But the urge will never become a plan and therefore won‘t become an act as long as that fire wall stays in place. 

ABRAMS:  Bill Fallon, do you buy it? 

BILL FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  No.  I buy it that maybe Jake doesn‘t do this.  But this is the exact reason.  The urge doesn‘t go away. 

And I‘m not relying on anybody‘s thought process, therapy, medicine or otherwise to put all these kids at risk.  This is what is so crazy about this.  We know—I mean, I‘m so glad that we‘re honest enough here to say that urge never goes away.  What we know is the child molester sees somebody. 

Not to trivialize it, but if you think of a diet, everybody is on a low-carb diet.  I‘m not going to go.  I‘m not going to go.  I‘m loving it.  The reason we all gain weight is because we give in to that urge.  We make a plan to eat the doughnut.  And, I mean, it‘s much more serious than that, but, quite frankly, the children are, in fact, our target that we have to protect. 

So maybe people are like Jake.  But, as a society, we cannot count on people saying, I‘m going to follow through with the plan. 

ABRAMS:  How do we—yes, Mr. Goldenflame, how do we create a system?  Because I think Bill is right, that the bottom line is people aren‘t going to trust that convicted child molesters are going to, on their own, do certain things and put up the fire wall.  Is there a way, do you think, to force it on people? 

GOLDENFLAME:  Well, constitutionally, of course, there are problems. 

You can‘t force mental conditioning on anybody. 

But what you can do is this.  After they‘ve been given the therapy I‘m talking about, which is the mainstream kind of therapy that‘s made available through our prisons and mental hospitals today that use it, what you can do, and what I want to do and what the community corrections people have asked me to do, is start a maintenance group for these guys who are registered, just like myself, who are registered, their sentences behind them, where they come once a week voluntarily and work on keeping that fire wall in place. 

Just like AA has its meetings every week, we would have the same kind of thing. 

ABRAMS:  Do you avoid children?  I mean, do you...

GOLDENFLAME:  Yes, I do. 

ABRAMS:  You do? 

GOLDENFLAME:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  You just stay away? 

GOLDENFLAME:  Yes. 

FALLON:  Dan, you know, I think, Jake—I respect his honesty here, because I think one of the difficulties is, he‘s exactly said it.  We have the AA people.  We have the people who say, I can never give up this urge. 

If you are going to—AA arguably are going to go, take care of their problem.  But when they fail, there maybe isn‘t that victimization unless they‘re in the car.  The failure here is how we put our children, and if it‘s adult rape victims, those potential victims at risk.  And that‘s what I say.  That fire wall sometimes is just a paper wall that burns down.  And I don‘t think we can take the risk, on the state of the science right now, because it is only an art. 

And, quite frankly, even when we‘re hearing, we‘re trusting the pedophile, we‘re trusting the rapist, we‘re trusting the molester to say, oops, the fire wall is breaking.  I need another—kind of to put up another one.  We are not at a state where we can really protect people without locking them, putting them away or worse. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

GOLDENFLAME:  Let me reply to that, if I may. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Yes.  Go ahead.

GOLDENFLAME:  There is a second part to this, too.

And with all due respect to what the prosecutor said, he‘s quite right.  I don‘t suggest that America simply trust us, trust me to do this on my own.  There is a second part that‘s vitally, vitally important.  Use Megan‘s Law.  Know who we are.  And you, the community, must monitor us.  I urge that again and again that, if the community monitors us, that‘s going to encourage us to monitor ourselves. 

I don‘t know or think we can do it all on our own.  I don‘t claim that I‘ve done on it my own.  I give a lot of credit to my community, which monitors me and encourages me. 

ABRAMS:  But you could see why people wouldn‘t want to live near you, right?  I mean...

GOLDENFLAME:  I can understand that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

GOLDENFLAME:  And I have no quarrel with that.  I‘ve gold the guys, don‘t move into neighborhoods where you‘re not wanted.  That‘s a crazy thing to do.  It isn‘t going to help you to cause the community any concern.  Don‘t do things that cause the community concern. 

FALLON:  Jake, Jake, you know what?  You‘ve said a good thing about Megan‘s Law.  But Megan‘s Law only protects if somebody is going to abuse somebody in that neighborhood. 

As you know, many child molesters go down to, as we used to say in my community, to the railroad tracks.  And that‘s where people say, you know, you caught me for molesting one kid, but I molested 300 kids down the railroad track.  There‘s no way to protect those kids whose parents aren‘t on top of who is on the Megan‘s registration list. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you Jake, just to get a—Mr. Goldenflame, to get a sense of exactly sort of—you seem to have come a long way, etcetera.  What did you do?  What were you convicted of? 

GOLDENFLAME:  There are two things here. 

No. 1, I was convicted of molesting my daughter.  What I did, in addition to molesting my daughter, for a number of years, I molested teenage boys, adolescent boys.  That was my attraction.  And it was a compulsion that just kept continuing no matter how much I wanted it to stop. 

ABRAMS:  Hmm.  And you haven‘t—when was the last time you molested a boy? 

GOLDENFLAME:  Twenty years ago. 

ABRAMS:  And it‘s still there?  And you just fight, have to fight it every day? 

GOLDENFLAME:  You know, an example, very simply, I had to go file my income tax report, like everybody else at this time of the year.  I took a bus to go to the service that I use. 

And when I stepped off the bus, not more than three feet away from me was an adolescent boy of exactly the kind that I find attractive.  I almost walked into him as I got off the bus.  And, immediately, that fire wall springs up, because not only do the therapists do a good job, but I remain in an ongoing counseling program and I remain accountable to my neighbors and to my community and to police all the time.

And that encourages me to keep that urge locked up.  Either I give it life or I get life. 

FALLON:  And the thing is...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Final word, Bill.  I‘m out of time.  Yes, go ahead.

FALLON:  Dan, you know what? 

Just as Jake said, he can control that urge.  He‘s maybe stronger in knowing that we cannot rely on either therapists who don‘t know what‘s going on or potential convicts to say, I‘ll control that urge.  We must protect the children. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right. 

Jake Goldenflame, Bill Fallon, thank you very much.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, another medical emergency in court at the Michael Jackson trial.  This just happened.  Someone who saw exactly what happened tells us what is going on in the Jackson trial.  They might as well build a tent outside there for emergency medical help. 

Plus, “American Idol” setting a new standard in the electoral process? 

My “Closing Argument.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Want to very quickly show you a live picture of the U.S.

Supreme Court.  It‘s a little off-center there, but that is the U.S.  Supreme Court.  We‘re monitoring the court to see if there‘s any activity in connection with the Terri Schiavo case.  Their final hope to have that feeding tube reinserted is there. 

All other courts have ruled against them, the district court, the federal courts of appeal, the courts of Florida.  Terri Schiavo has only days left to live, and if anything is going to happen, it‘s going to happen there.  We‘ll bring it to you as soon as it happens.  We‘re keeping an eye out. 

All right, we told you we were going to talk to Michael Jackson‘s former personal magician, Majestic Magnificent.  Somehow, he has magically disappeared, perhaps because of what happened in court today.  That‘s more serious. 

One of Jackson‘s attorneys had to be carried out of the courtroom on a stretcher. 

Joining me now, “Santa Barbara News-Press” reporter Dawn Hobbs was in the courtroom today, watched it happen. 

Dawn, what happened? 

DAWN HOBBS, “SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS”:  Hi, Dan. 

Actually, a prosecution witness was testifying about fingerprint processing.  And, all of a sudden, Brian Oxman slid his chair back from the counsel table, towards where the bailiff sits.  And he was holding his head, looking down.  He asked the bailiff for some water.  She brought some over.  He took a couple sips, put his head back down, and then was wiping sweat from his forehead. 

Well, Michael Jackson turns around, seeing Oxman over to the side with his head down, and is patting him on his shoulder, going, are you OK?  Oxman is going, I‘m OK, I‘m OK.  But then he‘s wiping sweat.  His head is down.  And so Michael Jackson taps Tom Mesereau on the shoulder.  And he‘s like, look, look. 

And so Tom Mesereau signals to the judge.  The judge looks at the clock.  OK, we have two minutes.  Maybe the jury can leave now.  I think we‘re done for the day.  And Michael then gets up and starts taking off Brian Oxman‘s coat, which is a turn of twist of things, with Brian usually taking care of Michael.  And so he takes off Brian Oxman‘s coat, starts undoing his tie.  The bailiffs come up and get him more relaxed in the chair.  They call for an ambulance. 

They get all of the press out of there, of course. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

HOBBS:  And clear the hallway.  The ambulance comes around the back with a fire engine.  They go in.  And what I understand, while they were in there, then they monitored his blood pressure, put him on a gurney, wheeled him out.  He was sitting up when he came out.  And he...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you.

HOBBS:  He still was very pale.  He was taken to Marion Medical Center, where he‘s being evaluated. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  And if we get any update on his condition, we‘ll let you know. 

But very quickly, about Michael Jackson, he is literally sitting there like taking off Oxman‘s jacket and sort of almost treating him medically? 

HOBBS:  He was.  He was.  Well, not medically, but just trying to help him.  He got up, turned around, took off his coat.

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

HOBBS:  Was taking off the sleeves, pulling it down the back, trying to get him comfortable, started undoing the tie. 

ABRAMS:  I guess Michael‘s back is feeling better, so he‘s able to help out. 

All right, Dawn Hobbs, good to see you.  Thanks again.  Appreciate it. 

HOBBS:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, what America‘s electoral process can learn from “American Idol.”  It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, who would have thought “American Idol” would be a groundbreaking program, groundbreaking everything when it comes to votes and the electoral process?  All right.  I don‘t know.  It‘s good, though.  I made a good thing about this.  Come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument.”

There‘s a major revote scheduled for tonight, 30 million expected to recast ballots in an election that will ultimately elevate one person to a position of enormous influence, the next “American Idol.”  Now, getting a revote, effectively a do-over, no easy feat.  The 11 “American Idol” contestants are getting what many politicians, even presidential candidates, could not. 

Al Gore called for a revote in one Florida county in 2000.  The Republican Party in Washington state wanted one after the most recent governor‘s race.  South Africa asked for one after it lost the chance to host the 2006 World Cup finals. 

All right, let‘s go to the next one.  There we go. 

And actress Valerie Harper, better known as Rhoda, demanded one after she lost her bid for president of the Screen Actors Guild to Melissa Gilbert, better known as Laura Ingalls. 

In those cases, you only had disenfranchised voters, irregularities, possibly even some fraud.  But, tonight, a far more serious and insidious problem to address.  Fox posted the wrong phone numbers to vote for three contestants at the end of Tuesday night‘s program, apparently a problem with graphics.  With an error so grave, one other remedy than to allow the electorate an opportunity to be heard, another chance to vote tonight for your favorite performance?

The decision to stage a recount was swift and decisive, Fox execs announcing their plans within hours.  Could “American Idol” be setting a precedent?  Now, it has happened in other situations, seriously.  The state of North Carolina just held a revote for state agriculture commissioner after a voting machine broke down and 5,000 votes were lost.  The voters in the Ukraine had to storm the country‘s parliament last year in order to get one.  They prevailed. 

So, how was “American Idol” able to enact this Draconian measure without a public cry and hue?  Probably because viewers will actually vote again, choosing their favorite musical performance from the comfort of their own homes.  Actually getting people to the polls is a far thornier issue.  I don‘t watch “American Idol.”  It seems like everyone else does.  One has to wonder, what if, just what if this “American Idol” revote had gone off without a hitch before the 2000 election?  Who knows whether the U.S. Supreme Court might have just looked at everything a little bit differently.  In the words Ryan Seacrest, Abrams out. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, your e-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  All right, I‘ve had my say.  Now it is time for your rebuttal. 

The tragic story of Terri Schiavo may end at the U.S. Supreme Court now that her parents have lost at every other state and federal court.  They still hope to reinsert her feeding tube.  I have said it is a tough situation for everyone, but that all this last-ditch unconstitutional effort should cease and Terri‘s wish not to live this way should be respected. 

Kim Jennings in New Orleans: “I am appalled by your show tonight.  You usually tend to be on the conservative side.  How could you be so heartless?”

Kim, I don‘t just view this as conservative vs. liberal.  You can argue it‘s religious vs. secular.  And sometimes, conservatives tend to be more religious.  But I don‘t accept the typical political labeling here. 

For example, in Columbia, Maryland, Stephanie Seglin: “I‘m a pro-choice Democrat who believes that what is happening to Terri Schiavo is appalling.  This is a horrible tragedy.”

On the other hand, Rene Strong in Ocala, Florida: “As a Republican, Christian, registered nurse, I applaud the federal judge for his decision.  This is no case for the Congress.  I do not Congress to decide my fate.”

Moving on, in Tucson, Arizona, Sandee Brooke: “Your handling of this incredibly difficult case was excellent.  Thank you for bringing experts on who spoke with clear and honest voices for a change.”

Jack Morgan: “I‘m so sick of hearing how the husband in this case has the final say.  I thought a husband was to stick by his wife no matter what, until death do us part.”

To me, Jack, by sticking by your wife would mean executing her wishes, even if it means that she would not want to be kept alive in this type of situation. 

From White Plains, New York, Mary and Douglas Graham: “Thank you for What you are doing with this case and how you are doing it.  Shame on those using the emotion of the situation to bring mobs of uniformed strangers into their private situation.”

And Chad Parker: “I enjoy watching your show, but find it a little disheartening when you are taking sides with Terri Schiavo‘s circumstances. 

I don‘t know what is right or wrong in this case, but if I were in your

shoes, I wouldn‘t give any insinuation of my personal thoughts.‘

Thanks for the tip, Chad, but I‘m not going to insinuate.  I‘m going to simply tell my viewers exactly how I feel about it, so they can make their own decision knowing my opinion coming into it.  I think it‘s the only way to make an informed decision.

Also last night, in my “Closing Argument,” I asked if we had become desensitized to school shootings, the latest in Minnesota, Red Lake High.  A student killed at least 10 before killing himself.  I said it no only feels as terrifying these days the way it did after Columbine.  I feel like there is almost an expectation that it is going to happen again. 

Nancy in Chicago: “I believe that our human race is becoming desensitized to such horrific events.  It is no longer as shocking as it was when we heard about Columbine for the first time.”

In College Park, Maryland, Ryan Abel: “Why don‘t we care about the Minnesota shootings as much as Columbine?  Simple.  There wasn‘t enough footage of kids running out of a school.  If the same situation played itself out in suburbia in proximity to many local news stations and not an Indian reservation far away from everything, you bet we would be getting extensive coverage of the event.”

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 someone owes you money.  Three teenagers in Fort Myers, Florida, trying to get 15-year-old David Gibbs to pay them back $50 they say he owed.  Gibbs shows up at 17-year-old Joseph Garrett‘s house, can‘t show Garrett the money.  Garrett and two other teens punch Gibbs, allegedly, hold him at knifepoint, force Gibbs to call his father, ordering him to drop off $50, just $50 in ransom money in a planter at the Taco bell. 

Gibbs‘ father calls police.  Look, the arrest was made easier because the teen kidnappers didn‘t even want to go pick up the payoff themselves.  They hired a high-priced duo to pick up the loot.  Their take, $10 of the $50.  Well, as always is the case in these failed crimes, the middle man blew the teens‘ cover, led police to the kidnappers.  The three kidnappers have been arrested.  Gibbs is fine.  You can bully a kid, but trying to extort dad?  “Oh, Pleas.”

That does it for us tonight.  I‘ll be back at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time for a special live hour, as we wait for the next move in the Terri Schiavo case. 

Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS” up next.  See you in two hours.

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

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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