updated 4/25/2005 8:25:32 AM ET 2005-04-25T12:25:32

Guest:  Dr. Cyril Wecht, Tim Russert, Barry Lynn, Jay Sekulow, Robert Dunn, Randy Harris

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, police turn the tables on a woman who says she found a finger tip in her chili at Wendy‘s. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  She said she saw the finger when she was about to take a bite of chili.  Now the authorities believe she put it there, so instead of suing Wendy‘s, she‘s charged with grand larceny. 

And Supreme Court justices almost never speak in public, but last night three of them sat down with our own Tim Russert.  We‘ve got the tape and Tim joins us. 

Plus, a convicted sex offender apparently commits suicide after posters go up labeling him a child rapist.  Now the people who put up those posters could be arrested.

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, police finally pointing fingers tonight, in the case of the woman who claimed she found a human finger in her chili at Wendy‘s.  Today the woman, Anna Ayala, was charged with grand theft and attempted grand theft.  Bottom line they believe she put it there.  We still don‘t know where the finger came from. 

Noelle Walker from KNTV is live in San Jose, California with more on this story.  Hi Noelle. 

NOELLE WALKER, KNTV REPORTER:  Hi Dan.  That‘s the big mystery. 

Police wrapped up a press conference here oh about an hour ago in San Jose.  They are talking like this case is solved, but we know it is far from closed. 


WALKER (voice-over):  It was a claim that made a fly in your soup sound comparatively appetizing.  A woman claimed she found a finger in her chili at Wendy‘s in San Jose, California.  Now investigators are pointing the finger at Anna Ayala. 

CHIEF ROB DAVIS, SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Anna Ayala was arrested last night at 8:15 p.m. at her Las Vegas residence on a $500,000 arrest warrant. 

WALKER:  At Ayala‘s Las Vegas home, a note greets visitors warning them not to think about knocking—quote—“emotionally disturbed.”  A man walking into her home came to her defense. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think about her arrest? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re making a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Making a mistake?

WALKER:  The spotlight turned to Ayala when the case moved from a public health investigation to a criminal one.  Wendy‘s and health investigators just couldn‘t link the finger to the fast food chain, which begs the question—whose finger was it? 

DAVIS:  That‘s a key part of our case clearly.  There is more investigation to do.  I will not go into detail other than what you already have in your press release on that because of the fact it goes to the heart of the case. 

WALKER:  Police are following up on leads, and there is still a $100,000 reward from Wendy‘s for anyone who can help solve this case.  Right now, Ayala is being held without bail on charges of attempted grand theft. 

CAPT. DAVE KENELLER, SAN JOSE POLICE DEPT.:  Technical legal jargon, but basically it‘s the loss that Wendy‘s suffered is the—is what was stolen. 

WALKER:  Business losses are estimated at $2.5 million.  That has the franchise owner extending this invitation. 

JOSEPH DESMOND, WENDY‘S FRANCHISE OWNER:  Please come back to Wendy‘s, because we do serve wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches and everything else. 


WALKER:  Now to entice customers back they are going straight to their stomachs.  Wendy‘s franchises here in the bay area are offering free frosties to customers here.  So maybe, Dan, can you follow your sweet tooth up to San Jose. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, notice he didn‘t mention chili, though, as one of the things they serve...


WALKER:  No he did not.

ABRAMS:  It put Wendy‘s in a real tough position now because people are sort of associating chili falsely you know with this nonsense that this woman started.  Let me ask you she is charged with two crimes today, right?  One...

WALKER:  Correct.

ABRAMS:  ... for Wendy‘s and one for something else.  Explain that to us. 

WALKER:  The Wendy‘s is the attempted grand theft.  The other charge really has nothing to do with this Wendy‘s incident.  The other charge is for grand theft.  And investigators say in investigating this Wendy‘s case, they found a case where 2002 where they say that Ms. Ayala misrepresented herself in the purchase of a mobile home causing the alleged victim there to lose $11,000, so she has that separate case that she‘ll be dealing with as well.  There is an extradition hearing on Tuesday in Las Vegas, so we will see how long it takes them to get her back here. 

ABRAMS:  And she sued before, right, some of the fast food chains? 

WALKER:  She has sued.  She sued El Pollo Loco before, though there is some conflicted reporting about whether or not she actually got money out of El Pollo Loco so she said her child got sick after eating there.  She has also sued General Motors, which is a former employer of hers. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, she‘s going to become the poster child for lawsuit reform.  Noelle Walker thanks very much.  We appreciate it.

WALKER:  It wasn‘t a bad mug shot though, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  No.  There is clearly more to this story here—police not releasing any information on how she got this finger.  But they mentioned a lot of detective work that went into the investigation. 

Joining me now to talk about how they might be investigating this case is medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht.  All right, Dr. Wecht, what are they doing?  You‘ve got this finger out there and you know, look, you can view this as sort of just one of these disgusting, irrelevant, oh but the bottom line is that you know I would certainly like to know where that came from to make sure there was no other crime here. 

DR. CYRIL WECHT, MEDICAL EXAMINER:  Yes.  Dan, they will attempt to get a fingerprint.  They will take material for DNA, it will be examined by a pathologist.  Microscopic sections will be taken to see whether there is any evidence of infection, inflammation, trauma, whether the finger could possibly have been severed.  They should do a physical chemical analysis.  I think most probably this portion of a finger—and I don‘t know how much, but anyway, I bet you that it was probably removed from a corpse. 

ABRAMS:  Now how do you...


ABRAMS:  Can you determine that? 

WECHT:  Well...

ABRAMS:  I mean I assume you can tell if it came from a corpse or from a live person...

WECHT:  Well, a physical, chemical analysis to look for embalming fluid, that would have been profused into the tissues of the finger.  They should be able to see if there is any formulate or so on.  It‘s almost certainly not an amputation from a hospital, because it doesn‘t seem to fit in with that.  I would check very carefully as to every funeral home that this lady is known to have been in or possibly may have been in. 

The problem here, of course, is that obviously she would have done this surreptitiously, cutting off a portion of a finger, from a body as it lay in a casket.  And you‘re not going to go and dig up bodies now to see whether or not there is a missing finger.  That‘s the problem that confronts the police.  I would be wiling to wager 10-to-1 odds that this finger was removed from a corpse in a funeral home, I‘ll bet you.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me let you listen to this piece of sound from the police, then I want to ask you about it. 


DAVIS:  Indeed we even had the state authorities conducting what we are calling a—excuse me, let me rephrase that.  They conducted what we called an ingredient trace-back investigation to determine if the finger involved in this case may have actually been introduced into the chili somewhere in the production or preparation processes, so the state was also conducting that type of an exam. 


ABRAMS:  Dr. Wecht, I assume that that‘s pretty easy to determine or not.

WECHT:  Well, I don‘t think that can be so easily determined.  The finger, once in the chili, was contaminated by the ingredients.  There does not necessarily then have to have been some permeation of the ingredients into the finger, had it come from somebody on the assembly line.  But if you think about I—and obviously the investigation has been conducted - nobody...


WECHT:  ... working with any of those products has reported a missing finger.  This isn‘t...


WECHT:  ... you know this—not the same as...

ABRAMS:  You ever had to do anything like this Dr. Wecht?  Any...


ABRAMS:  ... this seems like crazy. 

WECHT:  Well, I‘ve had one or two objects, not in food products, but some things that had to be identified.  But the problem is going to be that it‘s highly unlikely that anything is going to come up on a cold hit from a DNA database. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

WECHT:  But they will put it in anyway.  And as I said, a fingerprint analysis will be attempted, too, through CODAS, and I don‘t know whether they‘ll hit anything on that.  But...


WECHT:  ... if they see that it does show evidence of embalming fluid...


WECHT:  ... that is the lead to follow. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and mutilation of a corpse can be a crime...


ABRAMS:  ... that can be a crime as well.  Dr. Wecht...


ABRAMS:  ... thanks very much for coming on the program...

WECHT:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... appreciate it. 

Coming up, three Supreme Court justices do something they almost never do—sit down for a TV interview.  Tim Russert was the interviewer.  We‘ve got the tape and Tim joins us. 

And are Democrats out to keep people of faith off the bench?  That is what Senate majority leader Bill Frist appears ready to say.  We debate. 

Plus a convicted sex offender apparently commits suicide after neighbors put up flyers saying he is a child rapist and giving out his address.  Get this—now they could be charged. 

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



ABRAMS:  It is not a sight you see very often—i.e.  almost ever.  Three U.S. Supreme Court justices, Sandra Day O‘Connor, Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia together in public on a stage, answering questions.  As a rule, the high court communicates only through its decisions.  But Thursday the justices took questions from “Meet The Press” moderator Tim Russert about the Constitution, the courts and the recent criticism of federal judges by some religious leaders and conservative politicians.  Tim asked them about some of the rhetoric we have heard lately about judges who will answer for their behavior and a judiciary run amok. 


JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O‘CONNOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  It is and there have been other times in the history of the country when there have been some feelings—ill feelings on the part of the president about the court or perhaps the legislative branch.  This isn‘t new. 

JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  In the last two or three years we have decided cases, Bush v. Gore and others, that lots of people in the country feel are totally wrong, and emotions run very high on a lot of these issues.  And it‘s hardly surprising that they think one group or the other, that we are wrong on this or that.  But what is amazing—and not surprising—is there is no talk of needing the paratroopers because of terrible things that have happened to the country.  We have overcome them.  We‘ve survived them.  We‘ve grown together on it being accepted widely in the country that I can criticize that court all I want, but I will follow the rule of law.  And that‘s the treasure that I think this country has. 


JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  I dissent on this point, I have to tell you.  It‘s not a question of the country disobeying the decisions of the court.  That‘s not what‘s going on.  What I think what...


SCALIA:  ... is going on is unprecedented in the difficulty of getting judicial nominations confirmed.  I just—I was nominated almost 20 years ago.  I was known to be conservative in my policy views, but I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man, and somebody who could be fair and write an intelligent opinion. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... confirmed 98 to nothing.

SCALIA:  I was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.  Now something very fundamentalist changed.  What we originalists think of change is—has changed, and we have been saying this for a long time is that you cannot adopt a theory that the Constitution is evolving, and the Supreme Court will tell you what it means from age to age.  You cannot do that without causing the Supreme Court to become a very political institution.  And when that happens, the people in a democracy will try to seize control of it.  Judges have become political (UNINTELLIGIBLE) much more than they ever were. 


ABRAMS:  Tim Russert joins us now.  Tim, thanks so much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  Tim, why do you think that these three justices agreed?  This is so rare to get together and do this interview. 

RUSSERT:  One reason—this document right here.  The Constitution of the United States.  They simply believe, Dan, that people in this country, particularly young people, don‘t know enough about this.  I told them about a story—last week I was on “The Tonight Show” and Jay Leno was interviewing people in line going into the show and he asked a young couple what is the Fifth Amendment.  And the lady said is that the one that says you have to be 21 to drink? 


RUSSERT:  Trust me.  We all need to know more about our Constitution. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think Scalia is right that he would have had an easier time—a harder time getting confirmed now than he did back then? 

RUSSERT:  He was confirmed unanimously 98 to nothing and now when you ask Democratic senators whether or not they would vote for him to be chief justice, you get a much different response.  The entire judicial nomination process has become extremely politicized on both sides. 

ABRAMS:  Scalia seems to be blaming the recent attacks on the courts, at least in part, on the court itself decisions in the past and saying, it should be really no surprise that there is this public uproar based on the type of decisions this court has made, right?

RUSSERT:  Yes, it‘s quite interesting.  He—you know judicial activism over the last 50 or 60 years, policymaking by the court, he believes politicizes the court and when people sense that the court is a political entity, they begin to treat it like one, and want to gain control of it.  Other observers of Justice Scalia will say well he is also a judicial activist.  He has called himself an originalist, but he finds his way to more conservative opinions.  He strongly denies that. 

ABRAMS:  The—you asked the justices about the desire to have a unanimous opinion for the sake of the country.  That wouldn‘t it be nice if they could come back, and all agree—what did they say about that? 

RUSSERT:  You know I was so taken by this, Dan.  I said, do you ever horse trade votes?  I‘ll be you on this case, if you‘ll be with me (INAUDIBLE) and they said absolutely not.  Every case decided on the merits and I take them at their word and there is no evidence otherwise. 

I said what about a case that is controversial, sensitive like Bush v.  Gore, the 2000 presidential race.  Do you come together and say you know it would be a lot better for our country if this was unanimous, all of us no matter appointed by whatever president, which ever president, and they said yes, yes.  And I said do you—are you aware of the impact on society, on culture, on the political system your decisions have? 

Yes.  And they seem to acknowledge that it would be better if they could find a unanimous decision.  But then Justice Scalia said, but I could never vote for something just to make something unanimous...


RUSSERT:  ... if it was against my principles.  It was a very revealing exchange. 

ABRAMS:  They would love to do it but they just can‘t.  Finally, Tim, quick political question.  Do you expect that the Senate is going to end up changing the rules when it comes to filibusters and judicial choices? 

RUSSERT:  Based on everything I have learned and heard and sources on both sides of the aisle, they expect that the nuclear option will be exercised by the majority leader Bill Frist, which means that they will try to change the rule for filibuster, no longer needing 60 votes to break it, but just a simple majority.  And then who knows what will‘s going to happen in the United States Senate because the Democrats have pledged to in effect close it down, not cooperate on anything that‘s not necessary for national security.  It‘s got to be something to watch. 

ABRAMS:  Tim Russert, thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

RUSSERT:  Thanks, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  We are going to talk about that issue more in a moment, but I want to play another piece of sound from the Supreme Court justices.  The question was, what about the possibility of a camera in the United States Supreme Court. 


SCALIA:  I wouldn‘t mind having the proceedings of the court—not just audioed, but televised, if I thought it would only go out on a channel that everybody would watch gavel to gavel.  But if you send it out on C-SPAN, you—what will happen is for every one person who sees it on C-SPAN, gavel-to-gavel so that they could really understand what the court is about, what the whole process is, 10,000 will see 15-second takeouts on the network news, which I guarantee you will be uncharacteristic of what the court does.  So I have come to the conclusion that it will misinform the public rather than inform the public to have our proceedings televised. 


ABRAMS:  I know that everyone wants to play editor and apparently Justice Scalia does also.  He wants to decide what makes it in the newscast and what doesn‘t, but that argument always just drives me crazy.  The idea everyone always says oh you know if I thought they could see the entire, the same way they interview someone, they say oh I wanted my whole interview put in there.

Think about it.  Print reporters, when they write an article, pick and choose which pieces, quotes, to put into their article from the U.S.  Supreme Court.  How is that any different from people picking and choosing pieces of sound? 

All right.  Let me ask Reverend Barry Lynn.  He‘s going to join us in a moment for a debate.  Let me—real quick before we debate the big issues, filibuster, what do you make of this issue of a camera in the Supreme Court? 

REV. BARRY LYNN, SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE ADVOCATE:  You know I think it‘s a closed question, but on balance, you know you‘re going to get this information.  You‘re going to find “The New York Times” frequently as quoting—in fact frequently quoting Justice Scalia because he has a way of articulating his views, with which I rarely agree, but nevertheless with sound bitey (ph) kinds of statements.  So the truth is you are going to get that editing process no matter what the venue is.

I think one good step before we take cameras into the courtroom of the Supreme Court, that‘s not going to happen in the near future, is just to release those audiotapes sooner, right after a big debate on a contentious issue, like the recent debates on the Ten Commandments.  Why not do what C-SPAN and other organizations ask, that is an immediate release of the tapes themselves so that people can get a flavor for how those arguments went. 


LYNN:  We‘re going to—we just don‘t do enough education about the Constitution and about the courts and that‘s why we have so much public confusion over...

ABRAMS:  I say there is absolutely no legitimate argument as to why there shouldn‘t be a camera in the U.S. Supreme Court.  You can argue that in trials, courtrooms, witnesses are going to feel particular ways, et cetera.  In the U.S. Supreme Court, the idea that the people can‘t see our justices doing the people‘s business, to me it makes absolutely no sense. 

All right, shifting gears.  The big issue—this heated issue.  The majority leader is providing a taped statement for a 90-minute program produced by the Family Research Council called “Justice Sunday”.  Here is part of an ad the group is running on its Web site. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Filibustering people of faith needs to stop now.  Join Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Dr. Al Mohler for a live simulcast on this station, “Justice Sunday”.  Together let‘s tell the Senate to stop filibustering people of faith. 


ABRAMS:  Question:  Should the Senate change its rules, put an end to judicial filibusters?  “My Take”—it‘s dangerous business for the Senate to be changing rules because they don‘t like the outcome.  As they often say in court, tough cases make bad law.  I think it‘s probably true here. 

Jay Sekulow is chief council for the American Center for Law and Justice and Reverend Barry Lynn is executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  I mean what bothers me—and Jay, let‘s take this out of the judicial realm...


ABRAMS:  ... for me.  But when you‘re looking at the big picture, it seems to me either you get rid of filibusters altogether or you don‘t.  But to sort of pick and choose a topic and say you know we‘re just going to get rid of it for this topic because we don‘t like the outcome, it seems to me a problem down the road. 

SEKULOW:  Well no—but there is a constitutional reason why that‘s OK and that is when you‘re dealing with a judicial appointment, you‘re dealing not just with a legislative determination, which would be solely within the legislative branch, which would be the passing of a particulars bill, making it a law, but in the context of judges, you are dealing with the power of the executive as well.  Under Article Two of the Constitution, the president has the authority to nominate and appoint.  The role of the Senate is advice and consent.  If you filibuster a judge—a judicial nomination, what you effectively have done is amended the Constitution because there is no requirement in the Constitution for the super majority that‘s being imposed right now on this.

ABRAMS:  But you could make that argument, right, for anything they are filibustering...

SEKULOW:  The difference though, Dan, of course, would be that legislative bodies when they make these kind of determinations set their own rules for legislation.  But they shouldn‘t be able to affect the portions of the Constitution—I‘m not—I don‘t like filibusters generally by the way...


SEKULOW:  Their history is terrible. 


SEKULOW:  Filibusters came to their notoriety in the 1950‘s when they were used to stop—in the ‘60‘s to stop civil rights legislation...


SEKULOW:  ... so I‘m not a fan of filibusters, period.

ABRAMS:  Reverend Lynn.

LYNN:  You know these are just rules of the Senate, Jay, and they can be changed and have been changed frequently.  But let me explain what is really wrong here.  The problem with Senator Frist, for example, going to this...

ABRAMS:  We‘ll talk about that in a minute.  Let‘s...


ABRAMS:  ... strictly though to the issue of filibusters...

LYNN:  Yes, it absolutely makes perfectly good sense for there to be a check and balance in the United States Senate, so that even if you have a majority of people, a bare majority elected from one party that they will not simply be able to take every nominee that comes from the president and kind of pass them through like they were greased pigs in a greased pig contest. 

SEKULOW:  But Barry the Constitution doesn‘t say that...

LYNN:  You want to have some way in which the minority has a legitimate role in saying there are some people—very few, in a case...


LYNN:  ... this president, 10 who are so far out of the judicial mainstream...


SEKULOW:  Out of the judicial mainstream, of course, because their concern is they‘re out of the judicial mainstream because they might be pro-life...


ABRAMS:  That‘s what we‘re going to talk about...


ABRAMS:  Hang on.


ABRAMS:  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  That‘s going to be our big topic coming up.


ABRAMS:  Let me ask you both to stick around...


ABRAMS:  ... for a minute because when we come back, Senate majority leader Bill Frist says Democrats want to keep judges off the bench because of their religious beliefs.  Is there any truth to it? 

And neighbors in one Florida town—excuse me—put up flyers labeling a convicted sex offender a child rapist.  Now he has apparently committed suicide.  His parents say it is because of those flyers and get this—now some of the neighbors could be arrested and face up to a year in jail, coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, Senate Democrats appear ready to filibuster to keep some of President Bush‘s judicial nominees off the bench.  Are they doing it because of the prospective judges‘ religious beliefs?  That is what one powerful Republican says.  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  A tape that Senator Bill Frist will be presented on Sunday, a videotaped statement on a program produced by the conservative Family Research Council accusing Senate Democrats of blocking some of President Bush‘s judicial nominees because they are opposed to judges who are—quote—“people of faith.”  Like many Christian conservatives, the Family Research Council wants to put an end to Democrats blocking some of the president‘s appointments by threatening a filibuster, but are the Democrats really holding up these judges because of their religious beliefs? 

“My Take”—look, I think the Democrats need to be intellectually honest here and concede that in part they are opposed to some of these judges because of their strong religious beliefs.  There is no such thing as a judge who comes as a blank slate.  But with that said, it‘s also entirely fair to scrutinize and possibly reject a candidate for the appellate courts who elevates his or her religious beliefs however sacred over the law of the land.  If those religious beliefs come to define their legal rulings, that not an attack on their faith, as Frist and others claim, it just reflects an inability on the part of the judge to let man‘s law rather than God‘s law define their positions. 

Jay, do you disagree with me?

SEKULOW:  Well I‘ll tell you where I disagree with you, Dan.  I think that—first let me tell you where I agree.  You can‘t ignore the fact that faith is playing a role in this.  I mean it would be ridiculous to ignore that.  I agree...


SEKULOW:  But number two, what is it that is motivating these groups?  If someone is going to follow the rule of law—and some of these judges have already been on other courts, the California Supreme Court in Janice Rogers Brown situation, Texas Supreme Court for Priscilla Owen, Bill Pryor has already been on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  They are following the rule of law.  They‘re not ignoring precedents because of their religious faith. 

Why don‘t we all just be honest and say this is about one thing and that is abortion.  That you read the Web sites and there were statements coming out from the National Abortion Rights Action League, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood—and in fact the only one that‘s being honest about all of this I think is my friend Barry Lynn.  He tells you what he thinks is going on here, but this is all about abortion. 


SEKULOW:  They don‘t want pro-life judges on the bench. 

ABRAMS:  Here is...


ABRAMS:  Hang on one second.  I‘ll let you respond.   But here‘s what bothers me.  For example, you mention William Pryor nominated the 11th Circuit.  He told the Christian Coalition—quote—“we derive our rights from God and not from government.”


SEKULOW:  So did Thomas Jefferson, by the way...


SEKULOW:  ... in the Declaration of Independence. 


SEKULOW:  ... truths are self-evidence.  They come from the creator to God.  That‘s (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Well that‘s different than saying not from government...


SEKULOW:  Well no, government—no, that‘s actually...


SEKULOW:  ... exactly what John Locke said.  And when you read...


ABRAMS:  Sorry, I thought you were talking about Jefferson...


ABRAMS:  OK, not about Jefferson...


ABRAMS:  All right...

SEKULOW:  No, Jefferson said that too. 


SEKULOW:  That‘s why you couldn‘t take the rights away.  If they came from...

ABRAMS:  Right.

SEKULOW:  ... the government, government could remove them, so that‘s the distinction.  Those are fine distinctions.  To reject a judge because of that statement I think is pretty dangerous. 

ABRAMS:  Well...


ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

LYNN:  If can I jump in here and bring this down a little bit closer to contemporary times, the truth is if you look at the 204 judges that have already been approved, nominated by President Bush, approved by the Senate, under the standards set by the president, he said two and a half years ago he would not nominate anyone who did not believe in God.  And in fact, believed that our rights come from God.  So all of these people...

SEKULOW:  That is not true. 

LYNN:  ... are people—yes, he did.  He said it in Canada.  All of these people are people of faith...


LYNN:  ... and so, why is it there are Roman Catholics...

SEKULOW:  He couldn‘t see how you could be president without...

LYNN:  ... there are—excuse me—there are evangelical Christians, Jay, in all of those 204 judges...


LYNN:  Can you name a single atheist who...


ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a question...


ABRAMS:  ... though, Reverend Lynn...


ABRAMS:  Isn‘t - but you would concede, would you not, that this is about how deeply people feel about their faith?  Meaning—what I said at the outset, meaning if they‘re going to put their faith over man‘s law, that‘s still about faith. 

LYNN:  No, it is and to that degree, you are right.  That is to say I think the people who are filibustered are the people who many members of the United States Senate think cannot separate the intensity of their religious belief from their duty as a federal judge.  Now most of the people, again, that have been nominated and selected are probably pro-choice in their attitudes.  The difference is many of them, I believe, could in fact separate the intensity of their belief from the role that they have to play as judge...


LYNN:  ... Jay, I‘d be surprised if you disagreed with...

SEKULOW:  Well let me tell you where I disagree and this is a—it‘s a philosophical issue and that is this.  The idea that if someone takes their religion so seriously that it‘s going to impact their decisions and that disqualifies them is pretty dangerous.  None of these judges are going to disregard the law.  That‘s why we have an appellate review process...

LYNN:  Not in the Supreme Court you don‘t. 

SEKULOW:  ... United States—no, of course not, but look, the most conservative justice of the Supreme Court of the United States was clearly one of them, Justice Scalia is a man that follows the rule of law.  He takes his faith very seriously.  The idea that this is now a disqualification or that we‘re having a national great...

LYNN:  It‘s not...

SEKULOW:  ... television program that says, gee, you know Senator Frist is giving a video in a church, is that a violation of separation and church and state...

LYNN:  It‘s not...


SEKULOW:  This is crazy. 


LYNN:  Wait a minute.  I never said that.  What I said that Bill Frist should not be associated with a movement...


LYNN:  ... that argue—wait a minute—that argues that the filibuster is in fact against people of faith.  That is empirically wrong.  If you add up the numbers, it‘s a completely false statement.  I don‘t think Senator Frist is doing himself any good or the argument about the qualifications...


LYNN:  ... of judges by appearing in what is not really a religious service, is may be on a Sunday night and it‘s going to be in a lot of...


LYNN:  ... Baptist churches, but it‘s really a political pep rally...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... perfectly legal of course. 


ABRAMS:  Yes...


ABRAMS:  I don‘t even think Jay would dispute it‘s a political pep rally...

SEKULOW:  Oh sure, but look...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Yes.  All right...

SEKULOW:  ... churches don‘t have to divorce themselves...

ABRAMS:  I got to...


SEKULOW:  ... from the political issues of the day. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t want—I got to wrap it up. 


ABRAMS:  That‘s a separate issue for another day on the question of you know...


ABRAMS:  ... politicking, et cetera, at churches.  Two great guests, Jay Sekulow and Barry Lynn...

SEKULOW:  Thanks a lot.

LYNN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a convicted sex offender apparently commits suicide after residents in his community post signs calling him a child rapist, giving out his address.  Now officials say the residents could be charged.  That‘s right the residents. 

And later, the only man to be charged in connection with 9/11 says he‘s guilty, asked for the death penalty, so why are his lawyers still fighting? 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a convicted sex offender‘s parents say he killed himself because neighbors put up posters labeling him a child rapist, now the neighbors could be arrested.



ABRAMS:  Clovis Ivan Claxton convicted of sexually assaulting a child in 1991 was found dead in his home yesterday, apparently a suicide.  His parents are blaming his death on flyers posted in his neighborhood, flyers that provided his home address and labeled him a child rapist. 


JANE CLAXTON, CLOVIS CLAXTON‘S MOTHER:  We still have people coming down and looking and pointing and yelling names.  And all we did is try to protect our son and now he‘s dead, thanks to them. 


ABRAMS:  They didn‘t want their faces shown.  The flyers were pulled directly from Florida‘s registry of sex offenders, providing his picture and profile, but because Claxton‘s address and the words “child rapist” were added to them, the person or persons who tampered with the signs could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail.  On Tuesday, when Claxton noticed the signs in his neighborhood he called the sheriff‘s office and said he was scared, worried his neighbors might be out to hurt him. 

The sheriff‘s office brought Claxton to a local mental facility for evaluation.  He was later released.  He was found dead on Thursday.  Apparently at his side, an empty liquor bottle, empty bottle of pills, and one of the flyers. 

“My Take”—to charge any of the neighbors with the ultimate and legal technicalities.  They could have made their own signs, but because they altered the official ones they may get charged?  Come on.

Joining me now Marion County Commissioner Randy Harris.  He did not approve of the Clovis Claxton posters, but he is proposing the idea of having the Sheriff‘s Department to post signs to alert people where sex offenders live and defense attorney Robert Dunn. 

All right, Robert, they will not really going to charge these neighbors, are they? 

ROBERT DUNN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Probably not, Dan, but...

ABRAMS:  They should, right? 

DUNN:  ... they may feel that there‘s a need to do something to correct people going on their own and, you know, altering public information in a manner that is incorrect.  This guy was not convicted of rape nor was he a rapist, so they—so not only did they alter the material, but they altered it in a matter that was incorrect and even though as you say they could have made up their own signs, the fact is they didn‘t.  They took public material.  It has the appearance of being a lawful notice. 


DUNN:  It actually could be confused with...

ABRAMS:  Well...

DUNN:  ... a lawful notice if you went on the Internet, so there is a basis. 

ABRAMS:  Suddenly to see you, Robert, who‘s always sort of—suddenly to see you adhering to the very strict definition of the law, when you‘re usually saying just the opposite is kind of interesting. 

DUNN:  Well I mean intellectually you‘re asking me whether or not they could be charged, whether or not they would be charged...


DUNN:  ... and so I was responding to the question that‘s posed.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Randy Harris, what do you make of this? 

RANDY HARRIS, MARION COUNTY FL COMMISSION:  Well I think that obviously they could have produced their own signs and they could have said child molester instead of child rapist, and very possibly there wouldn‘t have been a breach in the law at all.  I think it‘s kind of petty to suggest that they have broken the law.  In fact, I would agree with Robert.  The Sheriff‘s Department might work with the County Commission in providing accurate information, and perhaps...


HARRIS:  ... cases like this can be avoided. 

ABRAMS:  Randy, let me...

DUNN:  I wasn‘t suggesting that they work with the public in that particular manner...


DUNN:  I think that the sheriff‘s point is a fair one, that there isn‘t any need for public action in this regard. 

ABRAMS:  Well that—let me ask you this, Mr. Harris.  The mother of the guy who killed himself apparently...

HARRIS:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... said quote—“there‘s going to be other deaths if Randy Harris has his way.  Clovis hasn‘t been in trouble for 18 years and he‘s branded for life.”

HARRIS:  Well I would say if he‘s branded, he branded himself.  The general public did not brand him.  And you know, we could suggest that those persons who commit suicide that are sitting in jail waiting to be tried, if it is a justification to try to protect them, then we should stop trying criminals.  So I‘m not buying into the argument that it‘s the fault of the general public or the fault of the County Commission for having a discussion on informing the general public on potential threats in their neighborhoods where these sex offenders live. 

DUNN:  Well no, it‘s not—I don‘t think anyone is suggesting that.  I think it‘s the way that the hysteria was whipped up by the posting of these notices in and around the community, with the false information, and done in a manner that actually had people harassing the mother and father of this individual and harassing this individual...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask...

DUNN:  ... and that is the part...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Mr. Harris...

DUNN:  ... that is wrong. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Harris, let me ask if you agree with the sheriff who made this comment.  Oh I‘m sorry.  It‘s—“I think this is clear example of an unintended consequence which can occur when we go beyond what we call police protocol when handling sex offenders.  What we want to guard against is creating a stigma in a neighborhood of innocent people who happen to own a home or rent a home where a sex offender lives.  I don‘t think we need to stigmatize a neighborhood with signs.  It creates violence.”

What do you make of that? 

HARRIS:  Well I disagree with the sheriff.  I think what‘s going to occur if government doesn‘t try to provide accurate information, the general public is going to produce information on their own, as they did in this particular case.  The only outstanding issue then is that of accuracy and I think that they should provide accurate information if it‘s going to be provided at all. 

ABRAMS:  Ten seconds Robert.

DUNN:  I‘m sorry.  But the government does provide the information. 


DUNN:  What might be necessary is maybe to tell people where they can find the information if and when they want it, but as far...


DUNN:  ... as just posting it out, and whipping up the hysteria of everybody in the neighborhood, that‘s inappropriate. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Randy Harris, Robert Dunn, thanks a lot.

Coming up, last night we told you about the Jessica Lunsford Act that would require tougher sentences for sex offenders.  Many of you writing saying it‘s not tough enough.  Your e-mails.

But up next, why al Qaeda hijacker in training Zacarias Moussaoui‘s lawyers don‘t seem to understand the difference between his fanaticism and incompetence.  I say they should back off and he says he‘ll accept the death penalty.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—before al Qaeda operatives, Zacarias Moussaoui entered a plea of guilty in a federal court today.  His lawyers refused to give up the fight, claiming he‘s not competent to plead guilty to crimes that carry a death sentence.  Come on, enough with the legal shenanigans.

It‘s time for them to back off and accept that his fanaticism is evil and maybe crazy but not incompetent as defined by our criminal justice system.  Moussaoui was arrested on immigration violations a month before September 11, was later discovered to have been a hijacker in training for a terrorist attack on the U.S.  He‘s been deemed competent by federal Judge Leona Brinkema twice, most recently this past week. 

The legal standards, that the defendant understands the proceedings against him and is able to assist in his defense.  Moussaoui now seems prepared to die, not because he‘s incompetent, because—but because he‘s an Islamic fundamentalist who puts no value on human life and may even some day hope for martyr.  Crazy?  Yes.  Legally incompetent?  No.

Look, this judge was accused by Moussaoui in court documents of having acute symptoms of Islam phobia with complex of gender inferiority.  Today the judge still said of Moussaoui he has a better understanding of the legal system than some lawyers I‘ve seen in court.  After three and a half years of using the American justice system as a tool for his own musings and propaganda, filing hundreds of frivolous motions, verbally abusing the judge, his lawyers, Attorney General Ashcroft, Israel, the U.S., his lawyer should stop the legal nonsense.  Just let him plead guilty to the charges. 

Sure, we see this kind of legal maneuvering in death penalty cases all the time.  But with a case that could become the poster child for military tribunals, these lawyers, I believe, are doing everyone a disservice, even their own client by arguing that he does not know what he‘s doing.  Before September 11, many might have been willing to consider that possibility, but even his lawyer should appreciate that this is a guy who‘s declared his allegiance to al Qaeda, bin Laden, over and over.  There is no need for yet another hearing.  Let him plead guilty.  Let him die.  And don‘t do truly incompetent defendants a disservice by lumping this evil in with them. 

Come up, your e-mails.  Many of you think longer sentences not enough for sex offenders.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  We debated the Florida legislature passing the Jessica Lunsford Act yesterday.  The new law increases penalties for sex offenders.  Some of the provisions include a sentence of 25 to life when the victims are under 12 years old and a lifetime of satellite monitoring in the event a defender is released. 

Bonnie Wagstaff in Baltimore, “Why strengthen the laws only for children under 12?  Is not a violent rape of a woman or a young girl just as bad?  They‘re all horrible crimes and all sexual offenders should be lifers.”

But Jann McHollan, “If one in four girls are sexually abused before they turn 18, we‘d have to build more prisons than Wal-Marts if every offender got 25 to life.”

Karen Stone, “What good are stricter sentencing laws for sex offenders or attaching GPS devices to them if people leave their doors unlocked, leave children unattended, or with people they barely know, or if mothers date known child molesters?  Most children who are molested are molested by someone they know.”

In my “Closing Argument” last night I said it‘s time for columnist Robert Novak to take responsibility for the fact that his reporting the name of a covert CIA agent has resulted in two of his media colleagues being ordered jailed.  He refuses to even say whether he‘s testified in connection with the investigation.  That puts them at a distinct legal disadvantage.

Neva Riviere, “Finally, someone has confronted the question of Novak‘s role in the security breach.  Where are his professional ethics that allow two fellow journalists to face jail when he could provide the information being sought?  Thank you for having the courage to bring this forward.”

Sheryl Melkonian in Palm Beach, “Alas, someone has finally asked why Novak is getting away scot-free and others may be going to prison for the exposure of the CIA operative‘s name.”

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

“OH PLEAs!”—two Norwegian burglars in Oscville (ph), Norway thought they had a stellar plan to hit up an ambulance boat for drug or cash, whatever was available, and then escape in a getaway rowboat.  Unfortunately, for the two nautically challenged thieves, the rowboat didn‘t come with directions or instructions. 

The bandits broke into the ambulance boat, setting off the security alarm, alerting the ambulance crewmembers.  The thieves rushed out of the ambulance boat into a rowboat for the getaway.  When the crew arrived, it didn‘t take much time to find the thieves.  The two boneheads were rowing in two different directions, leading them to move in tiny circles.  The two thieves finally figured it out, made it to land.  They were welcomed by the police. 

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great weekend.



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