updated 3/29/2005 2:10:19 PM ET 2005-03-29T19:10:19

Guest: Dr. Ronald Cranford, Reverend Robert Schuller, Ronald Richards, John Burris, Susan Filan

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Terri Schiavo‘s father says Terri is still fighting to live, still communicating with him.  That‘s not possible, is it? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Watching his daughter die, Terri Schiavo‘s father says she‘s still responding and begging to live.  But a doctor who actually examined her says that‘s not possible.  We talk to him. 

And who would think husbands and wives having final say over a spouse‘s life would be a controversial concept?  But now some saying it‘s time to change that and give parents more control over their children.  Would you really want your parents making the decisions for you? 

Plus prosecutors in the Michael Jackson case can now tell jurors about other allegations of abuse against Jackson.  It‘s a huge legal ruling that could change the outcome of the case. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, you would think with all of the appeals exhausted, with no more legal avenues to pursue, the Terri Schiavo case might be racing to an end, but it seems the controversy still continues.  This as her father claims Terri is still communicating with him, fighting to live, 11 days after her feeding tube was removed.  In a moment we‘re going to talk to a doctor who actually examined Terri about whether that is possible. 

But first, let‘s go outside the Hospice where Terri Schiavo is spending her final days.  Lisa Daniels joins us now.  So Lisa what‘s the latest? 

LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  All right, Dan, let‘s go through the day.  We just heard from George Felos, Michael Schiavo‘s attorney.  He apparently visited with Terri earlier in the day and these are the points that he conveyed.  He says that from what he can tell, Terri Schiavo does not appear to be in any pain.  She‘s resting comfortably from what he says and he clarified that she is not on a morphine drip as had been previously reported. 

He said he checked the medical files.  She was only administered morphine twice and it was very low doses.  Then we heard a description of Terri Schiavo, which crashed dramatically with the description that we heard from the Schindler family.  Here is how George Felos describes Terri Schiavo.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE FELOS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL SCHIAVO:  Mrs. Schiavo‘s appearance to me was very calm, very relaxed, very peaceful.  There was no—I saw no evidence of any bodily discomfort whatsoever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  Now, earlier today Bob Schindler, Terri‘s father, broke his silence.  He had been not talking to reporters for about 48 hours.  He said his daughter is very much alive.  She is responsive, she has the will to live, but she is fading fast, and he pleaded with lawmakers to do something, he said anything to save his daughter.  Let‘s listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S FATHER:  She‘s alive and she‘s fighting like hell to live, and she‘s begging for help.  She‘s still communicating, still responding.  She‘s emaciated, but she‘s responsive. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  Now, it‘s interesting, Dan, why Bob Schindler decided to break his silence.  He wanted to refute a statement that the family attorney, David Gibbs made earlier this weekend.  The statement at issue that David Biggs said was—quote—“Terri has passed the point of no return.”  Well our sources say that when the family heard that, they were livid.  They said that is absolutely not true.  And they got the family representatives to come out here and talk to the press to say it is not too late to save Terri.  Let‘s listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROTHER PAUL O‘DONNELL, SCHINDLER SPOKESPERSON:  The Schindlers would like to have Terri‘s body for the mass of Christian burial and have her buried here in Florida.  Michael Schiavo has said he wants to have her cremated immediately upon death and take her body to—or her remains to Pennsylvania.  The family is questioning why the urgency. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  And just about a half hour ago, to complete the day, police arrested seven people, all of the protesters came from two busloads of people from Miami.  Here is what happened.  The protesters come up, Dan, with a cup of water.  They then scream “water”.  The police promptly arrest them. 

These are not spontaneous arrests.  The press is told way in advance. 

The police are told way in advance.  The protesters are told in advance.  It‘s very much staged.  It‘s more symbolic than actually happening.  The purpose is to get these people out from the streets to make sure that there are no security breaches.  Everything is very carefully orchestrated.

And the last footnote I want to say is that Terri‘s sister, Suzanne, came out here, responded to George Felos, Michael Schiavo‘s attorney, and said it‘s true that her health is failing but she is very much alive, although she is not resting peacefully as George Felos alleges—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Lisa thanks very much.  We‘re going to ask you to stand by.  If anything happens in the next hour, Lisa will be there and bring it to us because in this case, it seems that there are developments at each and every hour, so Lisa is going to stick around there and bring it to us as soon as it happens. 

Terri Schiavo down to her last days, possibly her final hours.  As we just heard, Terri‘s family saying she‘s alert, still very much alive, trying to communicate with her father.  A few doctors say it‘s possible Terri has been misdiagnosed and not in a persistent vegetative state, but rather in a state of what they call minimal consciousness but even that would mean she‘s not communicating. 

The overwhelming majority in the medical community say Terri has close to no brain activity and has no chance of regaining awareness.  Joining me now is a doctor who actually examined Terri Schiavo in 2002 and testified to her condition.  Dr. Ronald Cranford is the assistant chief of neurology at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis as well as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota‘s Center for Bioethics.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

All right.  So you are one of the...

DR. RONALD CRANFORD, UNIV. OF MN NEUROLOGIST:  It‘s a pleasure.

ABRAMS:  ... you‘re one of the few people who has actually examined Terri Schiavo and you‘re hearing all of these people who are coming on from the sidelines saying, well, I can tell that she‘s—she has been misdiagnosed, et cetera.  How confident are you in your diagnosis and why? 

CRANFORD:  I‘m extremely confident.  I think at the time of the trial in 2002 there had been eight neurologists who examined her.  Four doctors caring for Terri Schiavo from 1990 to 2002 and three neurologists (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and of those eight neurologists total, seven of them said beyond any doubt whatsoever Terri is in a vegetative state.  Her CAT scan shows severe atrophy or shrinkage of the brain.  Her EEG is flat and there‘s absolutely no doubt that she‘s been in a permanent vegetative state ever since 1990.  There‘s no doubt whatsoever, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Doctor, let me read you this from Dr. Cheshire.  I know you‘ve heard about him.  He‘s from the Mayo Clinic and he is the reason that they appealed to the federal courts saying, look we‘ve got a doctor who is saying the following.

“There remain huge uncertainties in regard to Terri‘s true neurological status.  I believe that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty there is a great likelihood that Terri is in a minimally conscious state rather than a persistent vegetative state.”

Your response.

CRANFORD:  Well actually if you read his report, he says she has no visual tracking and she has no conscious awareness which are the cardinal signs of the vegetative state, so I don‘t think there‘s any doubt she‘s in a vegetative state.  He never examined her. 

He did an interview with her for 90 minutes, which—observing her.  He never viewed her CAT scans.  He makes no mention of her EEG, so while he‘s a reputable neurologist, perhaps, at the Mayo Clinic, his report means absolutely nothing.  It‘s a desperation, last minute move by the governor who just doesn‘t know what else to do, so he brings in a Christian fundamentalist neurologist.  It‘s just not true. 

ABRAMS:  And this is what—you know, again, I feel for the parents here and I‘m going to play a sound bite...

CRANFORD:  So do I.

ABRAMS:  ... from Terri‘s...

CRANFORD:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... father here and...

CRANFORD:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... I want you to listen to it and just tell me if it‘s even medically possible that this is the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHINDLER:  She‘s alive and she‘s fighting like hell to live, and she‘s begging for help.  She‘s still communicating, still responding.  She‘s emaciated, but she‘s responsive. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Doctor, I mean you hate to say it but that‘s just a father wishful thinking, isn‘t it? 

CRANFORD:  I hate to say it but it‘s a father wishful thinking.  These are sincere caring people.  I think the Schindlers as opposed to the right to life activists and the president and Congress and all the others, I think they really believe that she‘s interacting.  They really believe she‘s been denied medical care, and I think about sympathizes with their concerns.

This is a loving, caring family but they‘re wrong.  And they‘ve known they‘ve been wrong.  She‘s been diagnosed a vegetative state ever since the early 1990‘s.  They were told that repeatedly in the early 1990‘s.  It‘s wishful thinking on the part of parents who dearly love their daughter and don‘t want her to be in the vegetative state she‘s in.  But Dan, there‘s really no doubt whatsoever. 

No credible neurologist has come along who‘s examined her who‘s said she‘s not in a vegetative state.  It‘s just what they want to see.  And you can see how scary the tapes are that show her apparently interacting with her eyes open.  But her eyes are open, but she‘s not even looking at her mother when you look at those tapes. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRANFORD:  So I‘m afraid they‘re just wrong. 

ABRAMS:  I want to very quickly—I‘m going to ask you about the CAT scan in a second.  But at the...

CRANFORD:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... trial where Judge Greer evaluated this, were the neurologists actually split as to whether she was in a persistent vegetative state?

CRANFORD:  No, not the credible neurologists.  There were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) neurologists three who agreed and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) court appointed expert and the trial court judge just didn‘t believe Dr.  Hammersfahr.  He felt it was bogus.  He called him a self-promoter and he said he had nothing to support his position.  So no, there was no split at the trial...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let‘s talk...

(CROSSTALK)

CRANFORD:  Go ahead.

ABRAMS:  I just want—I‘m running out of time and we‘ve talked extensively about Judge Greer‘s opinion, which I have supported on this program.  All right, let‘s talk about the CAT scan.  You actually have the CAT scan.  This is it.  This is the CAT scan of Terri Schiavo, is that correct? 

CRANFORD:  Yes, this is a CAT scan of Terri Schiavo taken in 2002, the most recent CAT scan done on her, 2002. 

ABRAMS:  Tell us what it means.

CRANFORD:  Well it shows extremely severe atrophy.  Of course, we don‘t have one to compare it to, but where those black areas are, that should be white.  That should be cerebral cortex, and so really there is no cerebral cortex left.  It‘s just a shrinkage of the cerebral cortex.  It‘s a thin band of white on the outside and any neurologist or any radiologist looking at those CAT scans will tell you that her atrophy could not be more severe than it is.  So even if she were mentally conscious, which she‘s not, she‘s irreversible.  She‘s been like this for 15 years, Dan, and that CAT scan shows the most extreme severe atrophy of the higher centers of the brain. 

ABRAMS:  And what about those who say that there should have been more tests?  That she‘s never had a PET scan.  That she needs another MRI.

CRANFORD:  Well she doesn‘t need an MRI because a MRI will not show any more damage than this C.T. and you can again check with any radiologists.  They‘ll tell you this CAT scan is more than adequate.  A PET scan will show (UNINTELLIGIBLE) activity. 

I consider the C.T.—PET scan in 2002, but the only place in the country that would do a reliable one is New York City and I don‘t think back then they would ever take her to New York City for a PET scan and you know what, it‘s just a stalling technique by the pro-lifers.  It has nothing to do with Terri‘s condition.  They know she‘s in a vegetative state except for the family and a PET scan with anything to what we know already and that was a flat EEG and not with that...

ABRAMS:  All right.

CRANFORD:  ... not with that CAT scan showing atrophy...

ABRAMS:  Very quickly a lot of my viewers asking if she‘s not in pain as you and many others have said, why is she getting any morphine? 

CRANFORD:  Well we commonly do that because it‘s a comfort to the family and I will commonly give morphine to patients who are in a vegetative—I explain to the family that they‘re not suffering but sometimes it helps the family just to know the patient is getting a little morphine.  So that‘s perfectly an accepted standard of care to give morphine to a patient who‘s dying in a vegetative state of dehydration. 

I‘ve done that on many, many occasions and that‘s perfectly acceptable to do that.  It‘s not for the patient.  The patient is not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pain.  It‘s to benefit the family and to relieve them and there‘s no problems giving morphine in a situation like this...

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, you are at the center of a case—we‘ve never received as many e-mails as we have on this case, this sort of divide and the passion in this case.  You‘re in the center of it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You‘re the doctor who so many people are relying on in this case.  How has that been for you? 

CRANFORD:  Well, I‘m not the doctor.  I mean they‘ve had two other neurologists included a court-appointed expert...

ABRAMS:  Fair enough, one of the doctors. 

CRANFORD:  One of the seven doctors who actually examined her who said beyond any doubt she‘s in a vegetative state.  So there‘s just no doubt about the diagnosis.  I know there‘s sympathy for the family.  When you see those pictures, it looks like Terri is interacting, but do you know what?  She‘s really not.  That‘s what the vegetative state is.  It looks like they‘re interacting, but they‘re really not.  And there‘s nothing I can do to change that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Dr. Cranford thanks a lot for taking time to come on the program.  Appreciate it. 

CRANFORD:  My pleasure, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the courts have ruled that Michael Schiavo has the final say over his wife‘s fate.  Terri‘s parents have known her much longer.  Some saying it‘s time to change the law so that parents have more rights than their married - over their married children‘s health?  I say no way. 

And a huge day in the Michael Jackson case—huge ruling.  Big win for prosecutors allows them to call other witnesses to say Jackson molested other boys.  This really could make the case for prosecutors coming up.  Plus the Jackson witness list full of celebrities.  Today the first one takes the stand—comedian George Lopez.  There he was. 

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

We‘re keeping our eye on the Schiavo case.  If anything comes up, we‘ll bring it to you. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case some religious leaders now say it‘s time to take away a husband or wife‘s final say over their spouse‘s life and give some of that power to their parents.  Is that really a good idea? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Right now as Terri Schiavo is dying in a Florida Hospice, the unrelenting legal battle between her parents and her husband over her feeding tube has some calling for changes in the law.  Dr. Land of the - sorry—Terry Land of the Southern Baptist Conference took on the issue on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONFERENCE PRESIDENT:  And I think millions of Americans and I certainly would number myself among them are shocked that parents have so few rights in this case and have had so little ability to get a hearing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Last Monday Terri‘s husband Michael told the “Today” show that the parents‘ rights and wishes weren‘t at stake here and neither were his. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S HUSBAND:  This is about Terri.  Not about me, not about the Schindlers, not about Congress.  It was adjudicated for seven years.  This is Terri‘s wish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But what if Michael Schiavo did not have the power to serve as Terri‘s guardian?  It is time to give parents more rights? 

“My Take”—no way.  I say a spouse chooses his or her spouse for better or worse.  If the marriage contract is going to mean anything, it means your spouse has the final say over the most important issues in your life and death.  I love my parents very much but I do not want them to take precedence over my wife. 

Joining me now is the Reverend Robert Schuller, founder and pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California and author of “Don‘t Throw Away Tomorrow: Living God‘s Dream for Your Life”.  Reverend, thank you for taking the time to come on the program.  Where do you think I have this wrong?

REV. ROBERT SCHULLER, CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL:  Well, number one, I think we should avoid arbitrary, narrow definitions that do not leave room for right to resolve contradictions.  You know, I don‘t think it‘s the right question that you‘ve asked.  Should parents have the right over a husband? 

I think we have to say we hope that the law will allow the people who are suffering to be receptive to love at its best when it‘s offered to them.  That‘s where it‘s at.  The parents may be bad people.  In this case they are very loving persons and you can‘t just say because this is a spouse, therefore, that spouse should have the last word always and forever.   

You know, I mean I can‘t—I‘m a clergyman and I can‘t understand why Michael still calls himself her husband.  He‘s been living with another woman for 11 years, has two children.  And I don‘t think that when that relationship was started that his love still existed for Terri.  I don‘t think he has—well, let me say in my new book, and I‘m going to lay this on you whether you like it or not. 

You asked me on the show.  I didn‘t ask to come on.  You‘re stuck with me.  I say there are three kinds of love.  There‘s self-centered love, which says I love you because I want you.  There‘s self-serving love, which says I love you because I need you.  And then there is self-giving love, which says I love you because you need me. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Reverend, now I‘ve given you the chance to lay out the three kinds of love.  I didn‘t interrupt you at all and as you said, I did invite you to be on this program because you are extremely prestigious, well known and you‘re an important figure and I think your view on this issue matters a lot.  And that‘s why I‘m trying to figure out, again, we were just listening to Mr. Land talk about the fact that he thinks parents‘ need more rights. 

As you know, you have to create rules, though.  You can‘t just say, well, you know, in some cases we need to do this.  In some cases we need to do that.  There has to be some sort of structure in the law that either says a spouse has the final say or maybe we shouldn‘t always say that.  It sounds like what you‘re saying is we‘ve got to create a system that says the spouse doesn‘t always get the final say. 

SCHULLER:  I think we have to be intelligent and if we‘re intelligent, we just don‘t make an arbitrary statement without qualifications.  We always try to look for them—when I say yes, yes, if or yes but or yes, after or yes, however, but don‘t just say yes this way, or no that way.  That‘s not intelligent. 

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t that what the court did?  I mean the court...

SCHULLER:  I don‘t know what the courts did.  I do not know, but I do know that I‘ve written one of the most important chapters I‘ve written.  I‘ve written 36 books and had five on “The New York Times” list and I‘ve never written anything more perspective than this chapter in this book, which says, let assumptions lead you.  There are so many assumptions from whatever argument the position comes from. 

ABRAMS:  Might this fall into the category of self-serving love? 

SCHULLER:  There is self-serving love...

ABRAMS:  I‘m just kidding.  I‘m kidding, Reverend. 

SCHULLER:  ... and you know, this is what gives us the basis for real ethics.  It is the kind of love which says I love you because you need me and that‘s—that I sense in her parents and I think there must be reasons why a court could allow parents to have greater respect...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Reverend Schuller, you‘re right.  We invited you on the program.  We appreciate you coming on the program.  Thank you very much, sir, for taking the time.

SCHULLER:  Thank you.  Thank you and I hope everybody goes out and buys this book...

ABRAMS:  I‘m sure you do...

SCHULLER:  ... because it‘s the title.  Don‘t throw away tomorrow...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULLER:  ... when you pull out the tube you‘re throwing away tomorrow. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  We just put it up for you again.  You get one more little plug.  Reverend, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

SCHULLER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Coming up, a rough day for Michael Jackson—the judge rules jurors can hear about five other boys in alleged abuse.  A ruling that could change the outcome of the case.  And Jackson goes on the record with Jesse Jackson this weekend comparing his flight to get this, Nelson Mandela. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m handling it by using other people in the past who have gone through this sort of thing.  Mandela‘s story has given me a lot of strength. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Michael Jackson of all people really claiming he‘s a victim of racism? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up a huge ruling today in the Michael Jackson case.  I‘ve said all along if the judge allows previous allegations of child molestation it could mean big trouble for Jackson.  So we‘re going to get a live report from the courthouse about exactly what‘s coming in and he arrived at court in pajamas, remember, saying he suffered from back pain.  Well now we know how Michael Jackson says he hurt his back.  We‘ve got it on tape. 

And your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show. We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A huge day in the Michael Jackson case.  A ruling that could change the course of this trial, plus Michael Jackson compares himself to Nelson Mandela.  It‘s on tape.  Is he kidding?  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S ATTORNEY:  These two false allegations must be placed in a proper perspective.  Mr. Jackson has interacted with millions of children.  Many millions of children around the world love Michael Jackson and never allege that he harmed them in any way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It is official.  The ruling that could make or break the case against Michael Jackson has been handed down.  Jurors will hear about prior allegations of abuse by Michael Jackson.  Testimony about five other incidents fair game will come from a handful of witnesses, including a number of former Neverland employees and one of the prior accusers who was paid millions for his silence back in the 1990‘s. 

The judge saying earlier today he‘d—quote—“permit testimony with regard to sexual offenses and alleged pattern of grooming activity by the defendant.”  Up until now, prosecutors have been taking some heat for the state of their case, but this ruling could turn it all around for them. 

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom today.  He‘s standing by at the courthouse with the latest.  So Mike, who are we going to see on the witness stand and what are they going to say about these alleged prior acts? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well you called it a handful of witnesses.  It is exactly that, Dan, nine in number.  You know, this was a big ruling.  You could tell because it got really personal and intense in the arguments before Judge Melville.  At one point Tom Mesereau, whom you just heard from, Jackson‘s lead attorney, saying that the prosecution is desperate.  That their case is weak.  It‘s bad and it‘s getting worse. 

And Tom Sneddon, the prosecutor, answering back that Mesereau himself was obnoxious, abusive, mean-spirited in his questioning of the accuser in this case.  But at the end of the day, Melville, as you said, the judge allowed these nine witnesses.  They are and we‘ll give you a list here, that 1990 accuser to whom you referred, his mother, and the mother of the 1993 accuser, that accuser and his family were paid upwards of $15 million.

And then people—Charli Michaels, who was a female security guard from that ‘93 case, Philip Lemark (ph), a chef at Neverland in ‘93, Adrian McManus, who‘s a maid and Ralph Chacon, a security guard, the two of them involved in a suit against Jackson which they lost and were ordered to pay damages, upwards of $1 million.  Bob Jones, who worked for MJJ Productions for a number of years, is writing a book, and Charmane Sternberg (ph), who worked for MJJ Productions and was a gift coordinator, which means presumably that she could testify to some of his grooming activity that you were just mentioning. 

But here is the thing.  I talked to Jim Rogan last week, the former California assemblyman who offered the bill allowing this old evidence in and he said this could be a case of be careful what you wish for, for the prosecution because every one of these witnesses is going to be attacked by Jackson‘s team.  Many of them sold their stories to supermarket tabloids and tabloid televisions.  Two, as I mentioned, were involved in a losing lawsuit against Jackson.

Others, Bob Jones writing a book, others have changed their stories demonstrably and you know that Tom Mesereau, as he said in court today, is going to conduct full-blown trials if it comes to that to try and impeach every one of these stories.  But the stories are going to get in.  It‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stuff and you wonder what the effect on the jury is going to be when they hear not one, not two, not three or four, but five previous incidents and witnesses who are saying it happened to them, too...

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, Mike, today George Lopez, the comedian on the witness stand, quickly summarize if you can.

TAIBBI:  Strong witness for the prosecution.  He said that the mother of the accuser in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) case never once asked for money, never once asked for any assistance whatsoever and that‘s a cornerstone of the defense case that the mother was in it for the money, so another strong witness for the prosecution.

ABRAMS:  George Lopez saying it was actually the father instead of the mother who seemed to be sort of trying to scam him. 

TAIBBI:  Correct.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mike Taibbi, actually you‘re going to stick around. 

TAIBBI:  All right.

ABRAMS:  All right.  “My Take”—I‘ve said it before, even if this boy and his family have questionable credibility, this could change everything for prosecutors.  It is the right legal decision, a devastating blow to Jackson‘s defense.  How devastating?

Joining me now criminal defense attorney, NBC News legal analyst Ron Richards, who was in court today and criminal defense attorney John Burris, and Connecticut State Prosecutor Susan Filan. 

All right.  Ron, I told you this was going to be admitted and you kept telling me it‘s not going to be. 

RONALD RICHARDS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, Dan, I was still waiting for some accuser to actually want to testify in this case and still we‘re not getting any.  I think the prosecution...

ABRAMS:  You‘re getting one of them. 

RICHARDS:  ... is going to be in...

ABRAMS:  You‘re getting the 1990 accuser. 

RICHARDS:  Well one out of six...

ABRAMS:  Wait a minute.  That‘s a big deal.  You‘re making it seem like this isn‘t a big deal.  There‘s going be another kid who is going to come into that courtroom, now an adult and say, yes, Michael Jackson molested me and that‘s why he paid X amount of dollars to me. 

RICHARDS:  Well, let me respond to that.  That kid was interviewed by Lauren Weis, who‘s a district attorney in Los Angeles, now a superior court judge, and she didn‘t think a crime had been committed and neither did the Santa Barbara sheriffs when they interviewed him and nobody filed any charges at that time and I think that it‘s going to be very suspect 15 years after the fact coming into court. 

ABRAMS:  John Burris, do you agree with Ron?  No big deal.  Come on.

JOHN BURRIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well it‘s a big deal...

ABRAMS:  This is a huge deal.

BURRIS:  No, it‘s a huge deal in the sense that the evidence is coming in and at least the jury will have access to it, but I do think that it‘s not necessarily the death nail for Michael Jackson in this case because each one of these witnesses will have their own credibility problems.  And when that happens, you may then have the whole question what is the motive here?  What is the interest here? 

And it very well may be that this could be very helpful in the long run to show how desperate the prosecution case really is as it relates to this other case.  Because you have to bring in all of these others to try make this case through these other witnesses.  It‘s not good.  You‘d rather not have it, but it‘s not the end.  He does have an opportunity to really blast these individual witnesses as to their own individual motives. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but Susan, the problem is that each individual is going to have a different motive.  And look, I‘m not saying that it‘s necessarily going to lead to a conviction, but this is the biggest thing that‘s come out of the Michael Jackson case for the prosecution in my mind even bigger than the accuser testifying because he had problems.  And I think that this is the one thing that could lead these jurors in conjunction with everything else to convict. 

SUSAN FILAN, CONNECTICUT STATE PROSECUTOR:  Dan, it‘s huge.  It‘s huge.  I mean on the one hand they hear the accuser testify about what happened to him.  They‘ve heard him cross.  They‘ve heard him be impeached partially, but now they‘re going to hear a parade of other people saying it happened to me.  It happened to me.  It happened to me.  And it‘s pretty much identical. 

It is the same pattern of grooming.  It‘s going to be very, very hard for a jury to just disregard everybody is lying, absolutely everybody, everybody in this case and everybody in every other case?  I think it‘s not game over for Michael Jackson, but it‘s a huge win for the prosecution...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... and the prosecution can‘t speak but one of the things that the Peterson prosecutors got to say finally when it was all over and the gag order was removed was if they could have said two words all along they would have said trust us. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, well you know what?  Don‘t give them the credit that they want to get now.  The bottom line is they were trying that case horribly at the beginning of this case.  Let‘s not revise history just because they won the case that they had a lot of strong evidence that they were somehow, you know, the Clarence Darrow of our day. 

I mean the bottom line is those guys—you know look, I like the guys.  They did a good job at the end of the case, but at the beginning of that case, it was a disaster.  All right...

BURRIS:  You know, Dan, I don‘t agree that this testimony should have come in.  A lot of this testimony is well over 10 years old.  It is sort of a rule of thumb that evidence over 10 years old on pattern and practice, common plan of scheme doesn‘t come in, so this is very surprising. 

ABRAMS:  Mike Taibbi, do you want to get in? 

TAIBBI:  Yes, not under California law.  That‘s absolutely not the case.  In fact, I think Tom Sneddon made a very tight argument based on case law saying that there is not a situation where this evidence was allowed in and a court of appeals overturned it.  That the legislature and the judiciary up to the California Supreme Court affirmed the admissibility of this evidence...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... on that basis, it‘s in. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  I go to the question of timing. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS:  I think it‘s remote.  It‘s very remote in time.

FILAN:  But the laws in California...

RICHARDS:  Dan...

FILAN:  ... doesn‘t talk about remoteness.  It talks about similarity...

ABRAMS:  Well it does—it actually does talk about remoteness. 

But...

RICHARDS:  But Dan...

FILAN:  ... it‘s not in the code. 

ABRAMS:  Ron Richards, go ahead.

RICHARDS:  Just real quick, there‘s never been a case, Susan, and you know this, in the history of California jurisprudence where you‘ve had five people accusing someone else of molestation, but those five don‘t show up.  And what is Tom Sneddon going to say when that child actor, and we all know who it is, gets on the stand and says those witnesses of yours were lying.  That‘s going to be a problem. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Well we shall see.  Look again, we‘re talking about some people are going to say that they witnessed abuse.  There are going to be others—you know one kid who is going to—now an adult is going to come in.  I got to tell you I think some of the witnesses could be even more powerful because they didn‘t get the money. 

But you know they‘ll attack them for other reasons.  All right, Mike Taibbi thanks a lot. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Good to see you.  All right, everyone else is going to stick around because we‘ve got another Michael Jackson topic and this one—I don‘t—Michael Jackson compared his child molestation trial to who else?  Nelson Mandela.  It‘s on tape.  Is he really going to play the race card? 

We‘ll play the tape of Michael Jackson after the break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m handling it by using other people in the past who have gone through this sort of thing.  Mandela‘s story has given me a lot of strength. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You heard that right.  Michael Jackson on trial for child molestation comparing himself to legendary Nelson Mandela.  On Sunday Jackson gave an hour long, wide ranging interview to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is also his spiritual advisor, professing his innocence, explaining his back trouble.  The most controversial comment of them all insinuating he‘s in this predicament because of his celebrity and race. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just the pain of what I‘m going through to be accused of something where I know in my heart and in my experiences in life I‘m totally innocent.  It‘s just very painful.  But this has been kind of a pattern among black luminaries in this country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  “My Take”—as I‘ve said, I have real questions about this accuser and his family, but let‘s be clear.  If Michael Jackson is innocent, it‘s about money, not race.  For Jackson who seems to stray from his roots more and more every day to suggest otherwise is just unnecessary and counter productive race (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  John Burris, do you disagree with me? 

BURRIS:  I don‘t disagree with you.  I don‘t think that it‘s a case about race.  I never have thought about it as one of race. 

ABRAMS:  So what is he doing?  What‘s he doing...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... spouting off about black luminaries? 

BURRIS:  I do think...

ABRAMS:  It‘s insulting, I think. 

BURRIS:  ... in some circles and in his own—he may very well believe that.  I mean there are issues that around certain black superstars being caught up in various events.  I don‘t think that in the Michael Jackson case that one should make—he can make that legitimately an argument in light of the fact that the case involves around his interaction with kids.  Now, no one put him in that particular predicament.  He put himself in it. 

So no, he very well may feel paranoid.  He may feel self protective about it and his family may very well as well.  But I don‘t believe that the evidence suggests that, at least from my perspective and knowing what I know.

ABRAMS:  Ron Richards, why would he do—why would his attorneys let him do this interview? 

BURRIS:  Well I don‘t know that their lawyers let him do this.

RICHARDS:  I don‘t—yes that‘s an assumption, Dan. 

BURRIS:  That‘s a different question, right.

RICHARDS:  ... he‘s a captain of his own ship sometimes. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

RICHARDS:  I think that symbolically he compares himself to Nelson Mandela because he‘s been such—he‘s had—been such the target of this legal system for years with lawsuit after lawsuit, most Americans have never had as much litigation as Michael Jackson and he feels...

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS:  ... that this legal system has run amuck in this prosecution. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t know.  Well let me play a piece of—you‘re wondering what happened to Michael, how he got hurt, why he showed up in his pajamas that day?  Well an explanation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was in London a couple of weeks ago and 24/7 was Michael Jackson all day and all night long and the day that you came to the hospital late and you said you were injured, what happened that day? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was coming out of the shower and I fell and all my body weight, I‘m pretty fragile, all my body weight fell against my rib cage and I pretty much—I bruised my lung very badly.  My lung on the right is very—I‘m in pain as we speak.  And I‘ve been going to court every day in immense pain and agonizing pain and I sit there and I‘m strong.  I try to be as strong as I can. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t know.  We heard back pain.  I guess you know lungs hurting, I guess could go to your—I mean you know, it could be your back.  I don‘t know.  Susan, what do you make of this? 

FILAN:  Dan, how does he get to give that interview?  How is that not violating the gag order?  That is so offensive to me that a defendant in a criminal trial can go on national Internet airwaves and say I‘m innocent.  I‘m innocent.  That‘s got to be wrong and I don‘t understand why the judge hasn‘t taken up with that. 

I‘m sure his lawyers didn‘t sanction this.  And the other thing I would find interesting is to subpoena his medical records and find out if there‘s any veracity that a lung being implicated in this crazy fall.  And I‘d like to know...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... did he really get up at 4:30 and take a shower? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  What‘s the truth? 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I don‘t even care.  I mean...

FILAN:  How does he get away with it? 

ABRAMS:  All right.  This is my favorite part.  This is—I just had to play this piece of sound.  All right, this is my favorite part of the interview. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Elizabeth Taylor used to feed me, hand feed me at times because I do have a problem with eating, but I do my very best and I am eating.  Yes, I am.  I don‘t—please I don‘t want anybody to think I‘m starving.  I‘m not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got to give Jessie credit, right?  He‘s picturing Elizabeth Taylor hand-feeding Michael Jackson and he‘s sitting there with a straight face.  I mean come on, you know, here you go Michael—anyway, Ron Richards, John Burris, Susan Filan, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, why does everyone in trouble with the law or even accused of terrorism compare themselves to Nelson Mandela?  Are they kidding?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why I feel sorry for Nelson Mandela and the company he does not keep.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—poor Nelson Mandela.  No not because the man spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner in South Africa for refusing to support an unconscionable system of apartheid.  But because it seems some of the world‘s more unsavory characters think that Mandela being jailed for leading a mass political struggle against racism is somehow comparable to their plights.  The most recent, Michael Jackson. 

He told the Reverend Jesse Jackson this weekend that he like Mandela was being victimized by white officials pursuing child molestation charges against him.  Whatever you think about the Jackson case and even the motive of the prosecutors, it has nothing to do with Jackson‘s seemingly ever-changing race. 

Martha Stewart told Larry King she was going to be able to face her time in prison and get over it with—just like Mandela did.  Of course, that ignores the evidence in the case against her.  It was proven in court.  Again, the arrogance. 

Just before he died, even Palestinian leader and terrorist Yasser Arafat told the “Pan-Arab” newspaper that he was “nearly ready to meet Nelson Mandela”—quote, unquote.  To retire and serve as an elder statesman.  Oh, please. 

And of course, the American Taliban fighter seems to be another

Mandela.  According to his father, after John Walker Lindh, the American

who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan, pled guilty to conspiring to

kill American citizens, his dad said that like Mandela and other—quote -

·         “great men, his son was prepared to serve his time in prison.”

What a perversion of the suffering and bravery of the 86-year-old Noble Peace Prize winner and global icon.  Maybe the accused child molesters, convicted domestic divas and terrorists have the wrong Mandela.  Maybe it is actually Winnie, Nelson‘s ex-wife, who was convicted of kidnapping, assault, fraud, and theft.  Maybe she was the kindred spirit they meant to invoke.

But alas, I fear not.  So please, please, give the Mandela business a rest. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, there‘s been no other story that I can remember that has led to as many e-mails from you as the Terri Schiavo case.  We‘ve got your thoughts coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday, lawyers for Terri Schiavo‘s parents argued that Terri actually tried to speak before her feeding tube was removed.  That she tried to say I want to live.  I said the claim made by one of her attorneys, Barbara Weller, was very hard to believe particularly because she only mentioned it a week after the alleged incident.  Any of the legitimate doctors, even those cited by Schiavo‘s parents would say that‘s impossible. 

Kurt Kreimier in Clermont, Florida asks, “Are you accusing Barbara Weller, the attorney who claims Terri Schiavo was trying to say I want to live and an officer of the court of perjury?”

No, Kurt, just some very wishful thinking. 

And in my “Closing Argument” Friday, I said Terri would be appalled by some of the people claiming to speak on her behalf.  In particular, said the video of her in such a vulnerable state, I said I never knew Terri and most of us didn‘t, but I don‘t think the shy 26-year-old woman who was so sensitive about her appearance would have wanted to be remembered like that. 

From Inverness, Florida, Jacqui Frazee, “You‘re so right Dan.  You said what I‘ve been thinking all along.  Terri would be appalled as anyone would to have her picture shown around the world in her vulnerable condition.  Thank you for showing the sweet picture of her when you signed off that part of your program.”

P. Michael in Millersburg, Pennsylvania, “If my family did that to me, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thank you Dan for making this issue your ‘Closing Argument‘ today.  Terri deserves much more respect than she received.”

From Bermuda Dunes, California, Tami Gelesko, “You‘re so right.  A woman like Terri who was very concerned about her appearance before her unfortunate collapse would definitely not want to be remembered by those pictures of her that are seen over and over again on all the news channels this week.”

And Dr. Velana Huntington from the University of Iowa.  “Amen Mr.  Abrams, your points were elegantly made and I agree with you wholeheartedly.”

But Joe Carlson in Fridley, Minnesota writes, “In closing, for you to say shy Terri would be appalled by all the support and attention is the same thing as saying Terri would be appalled by her parents and siblings trying to save her life.  For it is the parents, not the politicians, that brought this sad situation to the Congress and politics.”

No, Joe, not quite.  I‘ve always been very respectful of the parents‘ efforts.  With that said, it‘s not unheard of for parents to do something their kids might find appalling.  But I was specifically targeting the politicians who abused her in that video for political gain. 

And Steve Meyer, who has—says he has known—long known Terri and the Schindlers.  “This was probably one of the most insensitive and ridiculous comments I heard all week on this case.  As you said, you don‘t know Terri.  I do.  I can tell you with knowledge that Terri would not want to be left to die this way and she would be proud and grateful of her family for trying to save her life.  Please don‘t comment on what you think Terri would want or what she would think.”

Steve, I respect your point of view, but I will continue to comment on the fact that not a single court that has evaluated the testimony from friends and family members has agreed with your assessment. 

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

“OH PLEAs!”—Italians may be known as some of the world‘s best lovers, but one Italian man didn‘t live up to his country‘s honor and he‘s paying for it literally.  Francesco and Piera were happily married until Piera didn‘t stand by her man.  During a family dispute over money, Piera sided against her husband. 

Francesco was none too pleased with his wife‘s stance and decided to go on a self-deprivation crusade of sorts.  Yes, Francesco embarked on a sex strike for seven years.  Every night from the early ‘90‘s to 2000 Francesco refused to perform his husbandly duties.  But now it seems that stubborn prudishness has gotten Francesco into legal trouble. 

See, Francesco refused to make support payments because he said she was responsible for their break-up.  But Italy‘s high courts staying true to its romantic roots ruled otherwise stating the refusal of affection or sexual attention must constitute the blame for the separation.  As a result, Francesco must pay court costs, as well as support payments and endure the shame of being remembered as the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who not only didn‘t get any for seven years but now actually has to pay for it. 

That‘s it for tonight.  Be back here at 9:00 Eastern.  Another special edition of the program.  More on Schiavo and the Michael Jackson case.

“HARDBALL” up next.

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