updated 5/2/2005 2:12:58 PM ET 2005-05-02T18:12:58

Guests:  Lou Palumbo, Don Clark, Diane Dimond, Gloria Allred, Daniel Horowitz, Stacy Brown

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up—police widen the search for a missing bride-to-be, turning it into a criminal investigation. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Thirty-two-year-old Jennifer Wilbanks is supposed to get married on Saturday.  Her fianc’ said she went out for a jog Tuesday night and never returned.  We‘ve got the latest on the search. 

And Michael Jackson‘s biggest fan takes the stand for the prosecution.  His ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, was supposed to be the bombshell witness who would tell jurors that she, too, was instructed, maybe even coerced into saying nice things about Jackson on a video, instead she denied it and said how great a person he is.  How devastating is that to prosecutors? 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, a bride-to-be missing since Tuesday.  She is supposed to get married on Saturday.  Jennifer Wilbanks, last seen by her fianc’, John Mason, in Duluth, Georgia on Tuesday night when at 8:30 he says she left to go on a jog.  Mason says he expected her to be gone about 40 minutes.  At about 10:00 p.m., over an hour after she was due home, her fianc’ says he went out looking for her.  At 10:30 says he went out searching again, this time with his parents. 

Two hours later—actually three hours later it seems at 1:30 a.m., they called the police to report that Jennifer was missing.  Police haven‘t yet identified any suspects or persons of interest.  Atlanta‘s Channel 2 reporting that two searchers found a shovel in a large-wooded area in Duluth, but police have said it‘s—quote—“of no interest to them.”  And just moments ago police held a press conference with an update on the search efforts. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY BELCHER, DULUTH, GA POLICE CHIEF:  Right now we are pretty much calling off the search for the citizens, the civilian personnel.  We have one area that we will probably search within the next hour or two, with law enforcement personnel. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  NBC‘s Mark Potter is in Duluth with the latest.  Mark, listening to that press conference, it struck me, I didn‘t quite understand why they had called off the civilian search.  Did you? 

MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, because it‘s getting dark. 

They are getting into wooded areas.  They don‘t want anybody getting hurt.  They are going to continue those intensive searches.  They found nothing so far that explains what happened to this woman, but they are continuing those searches, mostly with law enforcement personnel and canine units.  They will continue tonight a little bit and go on tomorrow. 

They‘ve had to broaden the searches too, because the theory is that she left Tuesday night to go to a run.  It‘s believed she was preparing for a marathon, so now they have gone out many miles to cover that possibility in their search, making it more difficult.  You mentioned, Dan that she is getting married on—was scheduled to be married on Saturday.  There was some talk that maybe she got cold feet and ran away but the more time passes, the more that theory diminishes.  They are also not putting much stock anymore in the idea that maybe she had been hit by a car along the road and left to lie there.  So increasingly, this is taking on the look of a criminal case.

ABRAMS:  And they are making it clear...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELCHER:  In fact 24 hours has passed.  She has not shown up.  She‘s not—we have not located her in a hospital or any place of that nature.  Therefore, since she has not returned and we can‘t place her in a hospital, we feel that, you know, there has to be another reason for not—her not being here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER:  Now Dan, they‘ve also found some hair and clothing in various areas.  They are testing them.  You mentioned the shovel that they found.  They pretty much discounted that.  One last point, they‘re also asking Wilbanks‘ fianc’ to take a lie detector test.  They say that‘s routine in a case like this.  The police chief says that the fianc’, John Mason, has said he‘ll tell police by tomorrow if he‘s going to do that.  The police chief pointing out that all along through this investigation, the fianc’ has been fully cooperative.  But as to the case in total, they just don‘t have very much right now.  They are baffled as to what happened. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, may be routine but they also said he‘s the only one who they‘ve asked to take a lie detector test.  All right...

POTTER:  (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  Mark Potter, thanks very much.  Joining me now is Don Clark, retired special agent in charge of the FBI‘s Houston office and Lou Palumbo, a private investigator, former New York Police Department detective. 

All right, gentlemen, two issues I want to address here—or actually three.  First let me just ask you real quick, Mr. Palumbo, any issue about the fact they are calling off the civilian search?  You agree with Mark Potter, just getting dark, typical, tell people don‘t get lost out there? 

LOU PALUMBO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  I wouldn‘t recommend it personally.  I don‘t think there‘s any harm in allowing the civilians to continue to support the police effort as long as the police instruct them...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PALUMBO:  ... how to avoid situations that could put them in physical harm, since that seems to be their concern.  I personally would not diminish any of the resources you have right now looking for this young lady...

ABRAMS:  So what do you think they are up to?  Why do you think they are doing it? 

PALUMBO:  I really couldn‘t tell you.  I would say to you that you know philosophically each agency differs. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  Special Agent Clark, do you have any theory about that, about why they are telling civilians, you know call off your search? 

DON CLARK, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  Well you know, Dan, civilians have been a real integral part of looking for people these days and law enforcements really want that to happen and even to continue as long as they can keep it controlled and safe.  And I suspect here, and I would not want to second guess them, but I suspect that safety may be a primary issue, unless that they do have a lead or something that we don‘t know about. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me touch on another issue here.  And this is number one on our list here.  There was a question asked in the press conference—it happened only moments ago—where a member of the media asked the chief, said, we‘ve been told Mr. Mason‘s family that you‘ve asked them not to speak to the media.  Here was the chief‘s response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELCHER:  I have not made that comment to Mr. Mason.  He may have gotten that from someone else, but I‘m not aware of that comment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Detective Palumbo, little—make you wonder at all? 

PALUMBO:  Yes, I think it‘s a little irregular.  But as the chief just mentioned, maybe a comment or remark was made that they took out of context.  He‘s denied the fact that he‘s instructed the family not to discuss this with the media.  So it seems to be a little bit of difference...

ABRAMS:  No, but I guess what I‘m saying, Mr. Clark is that I wonder whether the family is using that as an excuse not to speak to the media.  And you know you‘ve got to wonder, when someone is missing, generally we see people want to get out there.  They want the information out there.  They want the public looking.  They want the help, et cetera. 

CLARK:  Well Dan, you‘re absolutely right.  You want to get as much information out there as you possibly can.  But we‘ve got to give the law enforcement community a bit of the benefit of the doubt here, depending on where their investigative strategy may be going.  Because whether they call this a criminal investigation or not, in the fast world of reality that we live in and the world has become so shrunk these days that they can‘t wait.  They‘ve got to be conducting an investigation as it was...

ABRAMS:  And I apologize because I think for some reason, I‘m misstating the question to both of you.  I mean is there something odd if the Mason family is saying that to the media? 

CLARK:  Well, that‘s a tough question.  You don‘t know what‘s going on inside and you would really only be second-guessing and not really knowing, Dan, so I‘ve got to believe that the Mason family, in my experience, would be trying to cooperate with the police and trying to keep as much information contained as they can, if there is information about something that‘s gone array here. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me let you listen to another piece of sound.  This is about that issue of the polygraph.  Remember, the authorities saying that the fianc’ is the only person they‘ve asked to take a polygraph so far and not that surprising considering he was the last one to have seen her.  Here was the response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELCHER:  We have asked Mr. Mason to take a polygraph test, and right now we are simply waiting for him to confirm whether he will take that test or not.  We were—he advises us that he will tell us tomorrow as to whether he will take it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Is it—Mr. Palumbo, am I just being like a media type wondering, why wait a day to make that decision?  Is that—am I being unfair in thinking that? 

PALUMBO:  No, I agree with you 100 percent Dan.  In fact, if something ever tragic happened in my life—and of course I come from a background of law enforcement—the first thing that I would do is I would volunteer to take a polygraph test, simply to eliminate me as a potential suspect and to diminish a waste of resources targeting me.  So, although they‘ve indicated that he has been very cooperative, maybe the only thing this gentlemen is doing is wanting to speak to an attorney, but I think it‘s a little irregular.  I think he should have just immediately said, absolutely, I will take a polygraph so you can eliminate me as a potential suspect...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I agree.  Mr. Clark, do you agree with that? 

CLARK:  Well you know Dan, sitting on the side of law enforcement that have I been for years, I would say, yes, look, if you didn‘t have anything to do with this, go ahead on and take the polygraph examination and stop using up the resources so we can move them onto something else.  Now having said that, Dan, I‘ve seen many people take this same position and it‘s not that they are guilty of anything but I think they really want to be sure and I think they have that right to be sure to do that.

ABRAMS:  No question...

CLARK:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... he‘s got a right and a polygraph is not admissible in a court of law, but as you know, Mr. Clark, it is used in law enforcement all the time.  Do you—but it must lead your ears to go up a little bit when you hear the fianc’ say, I am going to wait a day to let you know whether I‘m going to take a polygraph.  Doesn‘t mean anything apart from—I‘m saying from a law enforcement perspective, it must make you say, what‘s going on here?

CLARK:  Without a doubt, Dan.  If you‘re in that command center and the fianc’ said, hey, I got to think about this, you can bet that the antennas have gone up.  Now hopefully, they have not come to any conclusions without some evidence, but, surely, they would go up and wonder what‘s going on here.

ABRAMS:  Let me play one more piece of sound from the chief, and this is about, you know, them talking about having any suspects. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELCHER:  We really have no suspects at this time.  We are just doing the normal investigation.  You know we are looking at sex offenders that live in this area.  You know just—we are just trying to gather information at this point.  We really have nothing at this point. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Detective Palumbo, the first thing you want to do, though, is rule out those closest to the person, right? 

PALUMBO:  Absolutely.  The fact of the matter is more than 50 percent of the homicides involve someone that‘s known to them.  But I just want to speak to one quick topic.  They alluded to the usage of bloodhounds, which I happen to agree with.  I‘m wondering if they intend on implementing thermal imaging at some point.  And one other thing you have to realize, they have already volunteered the fact that this young lady was a marathon runner, which means if she were just to run a half a marathon, which would be 13 miles...

(CROSSTALK)

PALUMBO:  ... she‘d be running out six and a half miles.  I was a runner myself, so you know you don‘t run...

(CROSSTALK)

PALUMBO:  ... back and forth and zigzag.  You pace off or you run for time, is normally how you build up the training for a marathon. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PALUMBO:  So this grid that they need to create...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PALUMBO:  ... is a rather large grid and I think they need to implement as many resources...

ABRAMS:  And I agree—that‘s why I didn‘t understand why they are calling off the civilians on this.  But anyway, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Again, though there‘s still the hope that she‘s, you know, passed out somewhere or something.  So here‘s the number, if you‘ve got any information, it‘s 770-476-4151.  If you have any information, please call that number.  Gentlemen, thanks very much.  Appreciate it, Don Clark, Lou Palumbo. 

PALUMBO:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up—Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife takes the witness stand for the prosecution.  (INAUDIBLE) she didn‘t say exactly what they were hoping.  Becomes more of a defense witness than a prosecution witness.

And later, yesterday I said the music in the interview with Debbie Rowe, the ex-wife, I thought it sounded like something that might be in a porn film.  Well a lot of you wondering how would I know what that sounds like. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We are back.  In the words of an old Michael Jackson hit, “The girl is mine.”  Debbie Rowe, Jackson‘s ex-wife and mother of his two children, supposed to be a witness for the prosecution, but she stood by her man for a second day in his trial, telling the jury Jackson‘s a great person and a great father, and tearfully describing her feelings towards her ex saying there‘s different Michaels.  There‘s like my Michael and the Michael that everyone else sees.

Now Jackson‘s attorney, Tom Mesereau, had started the day by asking the judge to strike Rowe‘s testimony from the record, but as the day wore on, he changed his mind.  It was just too good or maybe he remembered the title of another Jackson hit “Don‘t Stop Until You Get Enough.”

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in court today.  Mike, she offered up a few points for prosecutors but generally she was a disaster for them, right?

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I think all of the analysts and observers who have been following this case, Dan, reached the same conclusion at the end of the day.  She did tie Michael Jackson himself directly to discussions with the other alleged unindicted co-conspirators about her own role in this, which was of course to do this video interview.  She said that Michael asked for her help in a two and a half minute phone call and she said oh, how are you?  How are the kids?  I want to see them. 

When this is all over, when it all shakes out, can I see them?  And he said yes.  So that would be the promise that was given in exchange for her cooperation in doing this interview.  But she reiterated in a strong and unequivocal language as possible that this was not a rehearsed or scripted interview.  She didn‘t even want to see the questions list. 

As you know, we had an exclusive look at the entire transcript for the interview that she gave and while she says it was probably an edited down version or a cleaned-up version from a marathon day of being interviewed—about a three-hour tape from what we understand, was said in court—she never veered from that and she was uniformly supportive of Michael in her comments in the interview and in her testimony on the stand today.

ABRAMS:  So Mike, let me—I want to quote here for a minute because this is what the D.A., Tom Sneddon, promised—this is number one—in his opening statement.  Rowe will tell you their interview was also scripted.  Only a bit—little bit different from the accuser‘s family because they took her upstairs and did a complete rehearsal before they ever brought her down to be interviewed and when she‘s going to do the interview, when they didn‘t like her answers, they would stop the tape and they would tell her how to answer it.

Well, here‘s what her testimony said.  At some point in time did you look at a script?

No.  Mr. Drew had questions.  I assume they were questions.  He had a number of pages and asked if I wanted to see them and I said no.

You know, Mike, Stacy Brown, who is sitting here with me, asked a question.  He said was there ever a point in court where the prosecutor said, didn‘t you tell us in an interview something different? 

TAIBBI:  You know there wasn‘t a time in court, Stacy and Dan, when that happened and we half expected that it did.  After yesterday‘s 22-minute appearance on the stand, when she first said that she‘d never rehearsed anything, wouldn‘t look at a script, wouldn‘t look at any question, that there was no script.  We wondered overnight, I mean there has to be something.  The prosecutor wouldn‘t walk into court with a witness who is saying something totally opposite from what she said before if in fact she‘d said it.

And if she changed her story on the stand, you impeach her to save your own credibility.  That didn‘t happen.  So—and I had asked some sources too whether or not in the prior pre-interview with prosecutors and a sheriff‘s investigator she had made a significant promise...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... to say that it was scripted and the sources said, no, we didn‘t see anything like that.  They didn‘t know what would happen today and then it did. 

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got to wonder whether she just snookered the prosecutors here.  All right Mike...

TAIBBI:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... real quick...

TAIBBI:  ... who knows?  Yes.  Yes.  I mean she was important.  Let‘s not forget this because she was supposed to shore up the testimony of the accuser‘s mother, who said that she, too, was coerced into during an interview.  In her case fear of death threats from Jackson‘s people, the killer, she kept saying, even a threat to disappear her children by hot air balloon.  This was a witness who needed shoring up and Debbie Rowe, if she were to testify that she, too, was coerced, albeit in a different way, would have been an impeccable witness for the prosecution...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... and a really important one for this jury to have heard.

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike stick around.  Joining me now...

TAIBBI:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... Court TV‘s chief investigative editor, NBC News analyst Diane Dimond, who was also in court, criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz, and civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who represented Jackson‘s 1993 accuser and she was in court today as well.  We are also joined here by Jackson family friend sometimes—sometimes they are mad at you, Stacy—Stacy Brown, who actually had to testify for the prosecution.  He is also an MSNBC analyst.

All right, Diane, you know I heard you earlier saying that you didn‘t think it was quite as disastrous as many of us perceived it to be.

DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE EDITOR:  Yes, I really don‘t, Dan.  Look, Tom Sneddon has to be embarrassed that she did not say what he said she was going to say in the opening statement.  But you and I and Mike Taibbi and all of the rest, we have the luxury of looking back at the opening statement and saying oh, look at this. 

These jurors have now heard from 79 witnesses.  I‘m not sure that they remember that.  But I‘ll tell you, when they go home tonight, they are going to remember that Debbie Rowe said she hadn‘t talked to Michael since October ‘99.  They had a two and a half minute conversation.  She was delighted to help him out, even though he had not seen her children in years.  And when they did have visitation, she got eight hours every 45 days. 

Now the makeup of this jury, I think, is very important.  It doesn‘t mater what we think or any of the other pundits think.  It matters what their mindset is and of the 12 main jurors, eight of them are parents and many of them are women.  Most of them are women.  There are eight women, four men...

ABRAMS:  So they may be asking, why would a woman give away her children for money?

DIMOND:  Yes.  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DIMOND:  Absolutely.  And they may also be asking, well wow, how does Michael Jackson get all of these women to do these things?  Got the mother, got Debbie Rowe, you know is he that manipulative?  And Tom Mesereau did a fabulous job today getting Debbie Rowe to say, it wasn‘t Michael.  It was all of these terrible men around him. 

But on redirect, they said well, wait a minute, have you ever been around Michael and all of these terrible men?  Well, no, she said she had to admit that she hadn‘t.  She‘d only overheard one two and a half minute telephone conversation with Michael and one unindicted co-conspirator.  So I just don‘t think it was a complete disaster...

(CROSSTALK)

DIMOND:  ... and I don‘t agree that all the pundits think that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well Gloria, I‘ve got to tell you, I mean the way we are talking about it, though, we‘re talking about it as if she were a witness for the defense and then we‘re pointing some potential holes in her testimony. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No we‘re not.

ABRAMS:  I mean that‘s to me the way this all sounds.  The bottom line is we‘re saying well, you know, it wasn‘t all good for the defense.  But on balance, I don‘t think there‘s any other way to look at it.  You‘ve got a witness coming on the stand who likes Michael Jackson, who says he‘s a good father, and you can try and read through the lines and say, well, there was this little point which might have been good and this one.  Bottom line though on the whole, bad witness for the prosecutors.

GLORIA ALLRED, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  Well you could also look at it, Dan, as Michael Jackson, the master manipulator, kind of alike a puppeteer.  You never really see the puppeteer behind the scenes but you see people pulling strings.  Somehow the puppets are going.  And the reason I say that is because she testified that she participated in the rebuttal video after a conversation, two and a half minute conversation with Michael Jackson, which she expressed an interest in visiting with her children. 

And she obviously believed that if she participated in this video, she was going to get to see her children, whom she hasn‘t seen for so many years.  And guess what?  She never has been able to visit with her children.  She‘s got her parental rights restored, she is litigating it, but she—he has still not allowed her to visit with the children.  It might be that some of the parents on the jury that Diane was just talking about are thinking, what kind of father won‘t let the mother of his children...

ABRAMS:  What do you mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... what kind of mother...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... what kind of mother...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait—what kind of mother says, I asked the kids not to call me mommy because I didn‘t want them to establish a...

DIMOND:  Yes, but she‘s not on trial, Dan...

ABRAMS:  It doesn‘t matter if she‘s on trial or not...

DIMOND:  She‘s not on trial.

ABRAMS:  But her credibility is on trial.  And the point is, what did she say?  Do they believe it?  How are they going to perceive it?  And so the answer isn‘t just is she on trial or not, the question is, is she credible and how is she going to come...

DIMOND:  The question is have they proven that there was a conspiracy to make a rebuttal video...

ABRAMS:  No, no, it‘s not a conspiracy to make a rebuttal video...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  No, see that‘s not what it is.  It‘s not about is there a conspiracy to make a rebuttal video...

DIMOND:  That‘s what the extortion is...

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s about...

DIMOND:  That‘s the extortion part of it, Dan...

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s a conspiracy to keep them at Neverland so that they would make the rebuttal video...

DIMOND:  No, it‘s not.  I‘ve got the indictment right here...

ABRAMS:  You‘re going to say that it‘s a crime...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Just so I understand, it‘s a crime to conspire to make a rebuttal video. 

DIMOND:  No, it‘s not.

ABRAMS:  Oh, OK.

DIMOND:  But the extortion part of this conspiracy charge is that they were holding them until they made the rebuttal video...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.

DIMOND:  They were trying to extort...

ABRAMS:  Right.

DIMOND:  ... a video out of them. 

ABRAMS:  But there‘s no claim...

DIMOND:  Debbie Rowe said Michael Jackson called her himself...

ABRAMS:  And she agreed.

DIMOND:  Michael Jackson had to sign away a confidentiality so she could speak.  That makes him an active participant twice and she was fully feeling that after she did it, she‘d get to see her kids. 

ABRAMS:  How does it make him an active participant...

DIMOND:  Now that is part of some sort of concerted effort.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  He has to sign the agreement because otherwise he‘s not allowed to talk. 

DIMOND:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  How does that...

DIMOND:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  ... but how does that implicate him?

DIMOND:  That makes him an active participant.

ABRAMS:  What do you mean active participant? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  There‘s no other way she can talk. 

TAIBBI:  You know I‘m listening...

DIMOND:  Right.

TAIBBI:  ... to this commentary, Dan...

DIMOND:  He gets her to talk...

TAIBBI:  I have to tell you Dan, I came out of the court...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Mike.  Mike Taibbi...

TAIBBI:  This sounds so much like another reporter I heard coming out of court today, another reporter who was invested in the result in the story who said could you believe that woman?  She was just as crazy as the accuser‘s mother was.  She was lying and all of the jurors saw it.  And I said, did you really think so?  And this reporter said, oh, come on.  I don‘t think this witness came across that way at all, at all that way. 

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  I don‘t think any of the observers who came out said that...

ABRAMS:  All right, hang on, here‘s the one part...

TAIBBI:  This is a story about whether this witness corroborated the accuser‘s...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Here‘s the part about it though...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... where I agree with Diane, that there—you know I don‘t think that—I mean while I think on the whole this witness was not helpful at all to prosecutors.  There were some points.  I‘m going to challenge Daniel Horowitz with this, all right.

Question:  Why did you do it?  Meaning, why did you do the rebuttal video?

To protect the children and to try to keep the media and questions away and out of their focus.

How did you approach this interview in terms of your affect?

I was excited to do it because I would get to see my children and possibly renew a relationship with Mr. Jackson.

Why did you want to do that?

They‘re my family.

How long had it been since you had seen your children?

About two and a half years.

I mean you know, Daniel, there is an argument to be made that Gloria made a moment ago, which is that, you know, it sounds like there‘s a carrot and a stick and that is the same sort of thing we saw with the accuser‘s mother and Michael Jackson, at least she claimed it.

DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I agree with that Dan.  I mean here is a woman who‘s showing Michael is holding children almost as hostage and a mother wants to see them and will do anything to get them.  It‘s a different Michael Jackson than the public persona he wants to portray.  But that‘s just a small part of her testimony.  The overall effect of Debbie Rowe is that here is a woman who knows Michael Jackson better than almost any witness who‘s been in that courtroom and the people on that jury knows that whatever‘s gone on between them, she loves Michael Jackson today.  She has feelings for him.  The entire prosecution case, his character assassination, and she was just the reverse.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a quick break here.  I think Diane...

ALLRED:  That‘s ridiculous. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead --  who—is that, Gloria?  Let me take a quick break here...

ALLRED:  Gloria, Gloria...

ABRAMS:  I think Diane...

ALLRED:  OK.

ABRAMS:  ... and I would agree and Mike that if there was just a camera in that courtroom, we could all just agree here.  All right, everyone is going to stick around...

TAIBBI:  Probably not...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We could all make up our own minds. 

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  Exactly.  All right, let me take a quick break.  Stacy Brown, I‘m coming to you in a minute because Stacy says we shouldn‘t be surprised that Debbie Rowe backfired on prosecutors.

And coming up later, finally the House leaders have decided to crack down on fellow members of Congress when it comes to questionable ethical moves.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Big day in the Michael Jackson trial.  His ex-wife on the stand.  We‘re talking about whether she completely backfired or just sort of backfired on the prosecutors.  Coming up.

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBBIE ROWE, FORMER WIFE OF MICHAEL JACKSON:  If he called me tonight and said, “let‘s have five more,” in a heartbeat. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  Debbie Rowe, ex-wife of Michael Jackson.  That tape never played in court today.  Diane Dimond, why didn‘t they end up playing it?

DIMOND:  Well I don‘t know why.  The prosecution didn‘t ask and the defense has threatened to do it.  It was a three-hour, two-minute-long chunk that they had, and when they were trying to keep Debbie Rowe off the stand, Robert Sanger, one of the Jackson attorneys said to the judge, well you know, if they bring her in, we are going to try to get this in, but nary a word about it. 

I really think both sides were kind of glad to see Debbie Rowe off the stand.  They didn‘t hold her very long today.  There was some redirect and some re-cross.  But, you know, in terms of her validity as a witness, we may find out at the very end of all this when we talk to the jurors that she maybe had little or no impact at all. 

ABRAMS:  You know Stacy Brown, we always introduced you as a Jackson family friend, but I think it‘s fair to say that you have been a pretty straight shooter on this case in terms of evaluating it.  You say that we should be not surprised at all that Debbie Rowe backfired.

STACY BROWN, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND:  No and Dan, in your opening monologue I noticed when you mentioned ultimate fan and you remember last month, this fan they carried out of court, she was yelling, she was saving herself for Michael, she wanted to have his kids.  Well that‘s Debbie Rowe except Debbie did have the kids.  Debbie Rowe, I submit, was Michael‘s biggest fan.  He trusted her. 

He was introduced to her by his doctor.  He was told she can be trusted.  She convinced him she could be trusted.  She had these children.  She was a huge fan.  And as I said earlier, if Michael Jackson salvages his career, goes on tour, Debbie Rowe will have front row seats and she‘s hoping for a ticket to Neverland. 

ABRAMS:  So what happened here, Gloria?  I mean how did the prosecutors end up calling her thinking she was going to be a good witness? 

ALLRED:  Well, you know, it‘s interesting because she was asked on the witness stand by the defense if she had basically talked to the district attorneys last night and what they had asked her in preparation for her testimony today.  And in essence she said she had seen the video, but no, they hadn‘t told her what they was going to ask her. 

This is the problem.  If a person doesn‘t have a private attorney, often district attorneys are afraid really to prepare their witnesses for fear the defense is going to ask, what did the D.A. say?  Then since the D.A. doesn‘t represent them, there‘s no privilege of confidentiality. 

ABRAMS:  So you don‘t blame them. 

ALLRED:  They have to say everything the D.A. told them and that‘s a problem.  But this is a witness who obviously wants to carry favor with Michael Jackson because she still hopes to be able to see her children and maybe she feels that if she just makes nice-nice with Michael that somehow she will be able to accomplish that.  It‘s really sad that she is still living in fantasyland, although not Neverland, and still thinks that he‘s going to let her visit with the children, maybe have a role in their lives.  Right now it hasn‘t happened.  I don‘t know why she still thinks it may. 

ABRAMS:  You know, she seems really angry at the authorities, though, I‘ve got to tell you, Gloria.  She doesn‘t seem angry at Michael Jackson. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me read this to you.

Question:  Did you learn that—this is on cross-examination—did you learn that the Santa Barbara sheriffs had recorded a discussion with you?

You did?  You did?  No, I didn‘t know that.  Damn you guys.  You don‘t share anything—talking to the prosecutors.

Mike, was she being serious when she said that?  Was she literally angry at them? 

TAIBBI:  I think she was for a second until it was explained to her that the interview that they were referring to that was recorded was one where she knew there was a recorder out there.  The implication and the question by Mr. Mesereau, which by the way was under the original cross-examination.  Diane, there was no re-cross.  Mr. Mesereau just got up and said there no questions, said we withdraw our motion to exclude all the testimony...

DIMOND:  You‘re absolutely right, Mike. 

TAIBBI:  But—that‘s right.  But in this instance, that was not real anger that lasted at all.  She was angry at other times.  She used a profanity at one point and apologized to the judge saying this guy—referring to Fred Schaffel, one of the alleged co-conspirators—is full of “s”, ending “t”, four letters.  You can probably figure it out. 

And at other times said, she said these people were just out to—I mean she said in as many words, they were just out to get his millions, 7.5 million she claimed of Schaffel bragged that he had made from Michael Jackson in the interview with Debbie Rowe.  She was really angry with all of them.

And it‘s possible, Gloria, that she wasn‘t just trying to curry favor by telling lies or telling an untruth, but that she was telling the truth and really does want to get back with Michael and with the children.  I think there was some genuine connection between the two of them.  At one point when she looked at Michael Jackson and said what was that tour we were on after “Bad”?  Was it “Invincible”?  Was it the other one?  She was admonished and Ron Zonen, the prosecutor, had to say we object to the communication between the witness and the defense as the other prosecutors slumped in their chairs...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  It was one of those moments.

ABRAMS:  But Daniel, would you be concerned as a defense attorney, when you see somebody like Debbie Rowe, who is clearly smitten with Michael Jackson, that some of these jurors might leave there with the feeling, the sense that there is this striking disparity and power with all of the people Michael Jackson‘s involved with.  You‘ve got this woman who really has given everything up for Michael Jackson.  That they are these kids.  That some of the jurors may get back there in the jury room and say boy, that‘s the pattern. 

HOROWITZ:  Well Dan, you know, it is the reality.  You just stated the truth of Michael Jackson‘s life.  Nothing is normal.  Nobody really apparently cares about Michael.  Everybody wants something from him.  That‘s the problem with being rich and powerful.  But this woman... 

ABRAMS:  Do you have—Daniel, have you faced that because of your success? 

HOROWITZ:  Well Dan, actually one person once said I recognize you all the time I‘ve been on your show, but I‘m working at it.  But the point is, in all seriousness, that she knows him better than anyone else and if she sees him in that courtroom and feels love and caring, maybe what the jury picks up is deep down Michael is a kind man. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, Stacy Brown, go ahead...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLRED:  Dan...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me just get Stacy...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Stacy, real quick...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  Yes, I wanted to add quickly when Debbie got on that stand, something—Michael Jackson has this charisma about him that attracts a lot of people and it kind of changes a person.  It happened with other witnesses in this case.  I can tell you when Bob Jones got on the stand, he related how you know seeing Michael there, it did something to him.  I happen to have a relationship with his family.  I‘ve never had a relationship with him, never really desired to have a relationship with him, but when I saw him sitting here, there was a part of me that really felt bad for this guy, so that probably worked here with Debbie Rowe. 

ABRAMS:  Diane, quickly -- 10 seconds and then I‘ve got to take a break. 

DIMOND:  Yes.  Nine months she tried to get to Frederick Marc Schaffel to make him make good on her promise that she got to see her kids.  She spoke over and over about that...

TAIBBI:  Three months, 90 days...

DIMOND:  She still wants to see them. 

ABRAMS:  Take a quick break...

DIMOND:  Nine months she kept trying. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re coming back.  We‘re coming back.  We‘re coming back.  We‘ve got more on the Michael Jackson case.  Big witness on the stand and Mike‘s got a lot of all the, you know, the juicy stuff that didn‘t come up in court.  Taibbi‘s got it.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, what did Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife, say about all the details about how the babies were conceived and all that.  It didn‘t come up in court, but we‘ve got it, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Back more on the Michael Jackson case.  His ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, on the witness stand today.  And whether you believe that she was not such a great witness for the prosecution or a terrible witness for the prosecution, she certainly didn‘t turn out as they hoped.  But Mike Taibbi, you‘ve got some of the details about exactly what she said about all of the sort of nitty gritty details that didn‘t come up in court. 

TAIBBI:  Yes, we had a chance to look at the entire transcript of the three hours, which she said may have been an edited-down version of that long shooting day when the interview was done back in February 5 of 2003.  And it was pretty interesting, pretty revealing.  She said all of the glowing things about Michael, some of which were exerted in that FOX special.  But she also said a lot of other things. 

She said he‘s not gay, in answer to the direct question is he gay.  He‘s not gay.  He is not a pedophile.  She talked about him and her sleeping in a bed with lots of children of all ages and races and gender, et cetera, how we‘d always done, that how he himself was a big kid.  The kinds of things we might guess that other people who believe in Michael would have said, she said them.

There was also an interesting exchange where she refused to answer some direct questions.  Had she ever seen him naked?  She wouldn‘t answer that.  Had she ever—did she have sex with him to make the children?  Prince Michael in particular she was asked about and she got angry, and said “angry” in the transcript, saying when that bedroom door closes, that‘s my business.  That‘s not your business. 

And she talked also about whether or not she‘d dated anyone since the divorce in October of 1999.  Her answer was no.  She said listen, he‘s a tough act to follow.  How do you replace Michael Jackson?  Extraordinary guy.  And she also talked—and this was important, I think, if it were brought out, it would have been something significant for this jury, about the payoffs that were made, the settlements that were paid in prior cases. 

Don‘t forget she was not yet married to him but a very good friend of his and she said look, they were good business decisions.  He‘s a good businessman.  And you think about it, for Michael Jackson, the money he had, 20 million to him is like 20,000 to me...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  This is from one of the things that Mike got and Gloria, it refers specifically to you, Gloria Allred—says Ms. Allred—this is what Debbie Rowe said—is extremely selective when she picks on people.  Her comments are not constructive.  They are empty.  They mean nothing.  She doesn‘t even know him.  She‘s out of line completely.  I think she thinks she‘s Super Woman.  She just happens to like picking on Michael, but so does everyone else—Gloria.

ALLRED:  Well, let me just say, of course my concern has been about the children who were in his care and custody.  And the danger that he may present to those children, dangling the baby over the balcony, the ‘93 child, and by the way, she says that he‘s a tough act to follow.  There aren‘t a lot of people like Michael.  Thank God, there are not a lot of people—adult males sleeping with children unrelated to them in their bedrooms with no other adult around.  Yes—no, there aren‘t a lot of other people like Michael and I‘m very glad about that. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, Diane, we‘re expecting them to wrap up what Tuesday, the prosecutors? 

DIMOND:  Yes, Tom Sneddon announced to the court today when they literally ran out of witnesses, I think, that by Tuesday he hopes to wrap up.  I think the last witness will be a man named Rudy Provencio.  He was Frederick Marc Schaffel‘s business partner and he along the way somewhere turned mole, started to keep a diary and help the police do some of those pretext phone calls to some of the other unindicted co-conspirators. 

ABRAMS:  That could be a little bang at the end there.  All right, Mike Taibbi, Diane Dimond, Daniel Horowitz, Gloria Allred, Stacy Brown, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, why the House leadership finally recognized that ethics rules apply to everybody—even someone as powerful as the majority leader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—thank goodness the House leadership has come to realize that the rules of ethics are rules that should apply to everyone, not guidelines that should be changed when they don‘t like the outcome.  In an effort to protect their majority leader Tom DeLay from investigation into questionable political activities, the leadership changed the House ethics rules so that investigations would go nowhere unless Republicans and Democrats agreed it was warranted. 

They claim that would avoid political witch-hunts and make the Ethics Committee more member friendly, which of course really meant a bit more Tom DeLay friendly.  I must say I was surprised by the Republican leadership on this one.  They are tough on crime, tough on terrorists and usually tough on those who cross ethical and moral lines as well.  I would think they would not want to weaken the standards to which our elected representatives must adhere. 

Well after months of battling over the new rules, which it effectively made the Ethics Committee useless, the House Republican leadership finally agreed yesterday that the rule change wasn‘t such a good idea and agreed to return to its old procedures which allowed for investigations, just investigations, as long as half the committee agreed to it.  Look, you don‘t change the rules to suit one person.  You don‘t change the rules about attorney-client privilege because a high, powerful lawyer might be investigated. 

Goes for doctors, if a well-known surgeon ends up performing a medical procedure she‘s not trained to perform.  We don‘t turn around and change the standards of medical ethics to prevent one doctor from losing her license.  If there‘s a systematic problem with the rules, that‘s a different story.  Last year using the old rules, the Ethics Committee admonished DeLay nearly unanimously on three separate matters.  There was hardly any partisan divide.  The system seemed to work. 

Unfortunately, some don‘t appreciate bipartisan.  Speaker Hastert kicked most of the Republicans on the committee off and replaced them with a more DeLay friendly panel.  Look, regardless of who‘s on the committee, DeLay should be investigated in the same way and using the same rules as the guy who allegedly violated the rules before him.  That‘s why we have rules, so they apply to everybody.  Bravo to the House leadership for realizing no one, not even the majority leader, is entitled to special treatment when it comes to these kinds of serious allegations. 

Coming up, you want to know how do I know what porn music sounds like? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last time in my “Closing Argument” I argued that some of the famous and powerful just won‘t admit it when they are wrong, from Maggie Gyllenhaal and her comments that suggests the U.S. is to blame for 9/11, to President Bush‘s refusal to say that we were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 

Chris Yang writes, “You think they‘re just going to say woops, we were wrong.  It would mean the U.S. spent 200 and will probably spend three to five by the time it‘s over, billion, killed tens of thousands of people for absolutely no reason except to satisfy the personal vendetta of a president‘s son.”

Oh come on Chris.  You know, this president could easily admit we were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction and still get out there and talk about the benefits that, in his mind, have resulted from the war. 

As for those alleged WMDs in Iraq, Gene Watts writes, “You didn‘t mention the possibility that they most probably were removed to Syria.”

Well Gene, most not probably, according to the just released CIA report.  That‘s why I didn‘t mention it. 

From California, Tony Verderosa gets me from the other side.  “Why should Maggie Gyllenhaal say she blew it?  She was voicing an opinion.  What‘s so wrong with what she said anyway?”

Allan Trumbull from Georgia, “Just because this opinion may not be in the mainstream media does not mean Maggie should apologize.”

Look, I said either she was ignorant or just unwilling to admit she was wrong.  I said I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but maybe you‘re right, maybe she was just ignorant. 

From New Jersey, Jeanine Robenault, “I loved your ‘Closing Argument‘ because it‘s the truth.  People may not want to admit that they‘re wrong, but in the end it is the right thing to do.  Sometimes you have to face the facts and own up to the truth.”

Last night we showed part of the interview with Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe.  I said the soundtrack sounded a little like a porn movie. 

Troy Loney from Ohio, “How exactly do you know what porn music sounds like?”

From South Carolina, Jay Copeland, “How did you know that the music was porn-like?  Was it from experience or just a wild guess?”

Joanne Telea from Colorado, “I was shocked, totally shocked to learn that you know what video porn music sounds like and all along I pictured you as Mr.  Clean.  How wrong could I be?”

OK, you know I had another career before I got into this business and let‘s just say I got sick of the music after awhile.  No, I‘m just kidding.  You know my stage manager, Joe here, he brings in these videos.  The minute I hear the music, I turn if off.  I say, Joe, get that away from me. 

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

“OH PLEAs!”—it seems the beggars in Minneapolis may need to amend their will work for food cardboard signs with some additional information like their photo, name, height, eye color, date of birth.  Police William -

Police Chief William McManus is proposing that it become mandatory for all panhandlers to have licenses, he says in order to combat aggressive begging.

McManus believes the vagabonds will be less overbearing while begging if they are wearing a photo I.D. badge.  The street people will have to register at a government center for their photo I.D. each year.  This proposal in addition to the city‘s law prohibiting begging in front of ATMs, bus stops and restrooms.  If the panhandler fails to wear his license, it‘s grounds for a 30-day stay in jail, a possible fine.  You know what they say, right?  You know beggars can‘t be choosers. 

All right.  That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next—“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching.

END

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