updated 5/17/2005 1:56:41 PM ET 2005-05-17T17:56:41

Guest: Ken Starr, James Goldberg, Ron Richards, Susan Filan, Lisa Pinto, Gary Casimir, Elaine Young

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Michael Jackson‘s defense team tries to show that the accuser and his family were not exactly being forced to stay at Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Witnesses tell jurors of a leg wax and a trip to the orthodontist, this while they were supposedly imprisoned at Neverland. 

And a death row inmate set to die next week for killing an 82-year-old woman, fighting for the right to donate his liver to his dying sister. 

Plus, would you want to live in the house where Scott Peterson apparently killed his wife, Laci?  Someone does.  It‘s on the market and the buyers are lining up. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  We‘ll get to those stories in a minute, but first up on the docket, I won a huge victory today in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Finally, it looks like I will be able to order my favorite wines directly from California.  One lawyer called the landmark ruling the best news for wine lovers since the invention of the corkscrew. 

The court today just said no to laws in Michigan and New York, which prevented customers in those states and many others from ordering wine directly from out-of-state wineries.  The laws date back to the first half of the 20th Century, the era of prohibition and speak easies.  After the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933 ending prohibition, the states assumed regulation of the direct sell of alcohol to consumers. 

Twenty-four states highlighted here by empty wine glasses have laws like those in Michigan and New York that prevent out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to customers and it drives me nuts.  Why should have I to go through a middleman to get my wine if it is out of state when I can order it directly from the winery if it is in my state?  How does that help prevent underage drinking if people can order directly from a New York winery but not from California? 

Just like a good glass of Cabernet, I can just taste the Supreme Court ruling on my tongue.  Quote—“States have broad power to regulate liquor under Section Two of the 21st Amendment, this power, however, does not allow states to ban or severely limit the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers.  If a state chooses to allow direct shipment of wine, it must do so on even handed terms.”

So now, for example, I love PlumpJack wine in Napa Valley, California, but up until I can‘t order wine directly from them from them to be shipped to me in New York.  New York State just doesn‘t allow it.  Instead, I have to find a retailer that sells Plump Jack Cabernet reserve, if I can even find it, and get them to send it to me—big money for the middleman, a big pain for me.  Now New York will have to make it just as easy for me to order Cabernet from California as it is for me to order Chardonnay from a New York-based winery.  New York makes better Chardonnay than they do Cabernets.

“My Take”—hallelujah, it‘s pretty obvious I‘m thrilled.  Joining me now on my side former independent counsel and former appeals court judge Kenneth Starr, who represented me and every wine other wine lover and the wine industry before the U.S. Supreme Court.  And on the dark side—I‘m just kidding—James Goldberg an attorney for the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators.  Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

Ken Starr, yes, we won! We won!

KEN STARR, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE:  You won big time Dan...

ABRAMS:  We won...

STARR:  Let it go.

ABRAMS:  We won. 

STARR:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  We won.  How would you explain the meaning of this ruling in lay terms? 

STARR:  The basic rule is thou shall not discriminate.  You should be

even handed.  Legislature, if you‘re going to allow, as you wisely do,

wineries in your own state, New York State, Michigan State, to direct ship

to consumers, why don‘t you allow the same privilege to out-of-state

wineries?  And this is such a huge boon for consumers, but you know the

real winner here, in addition to consumers, are those small wineries that

cannot find a wholesaler, a distributor who will handle their product

because they just don‘t produce enough and that‘s what this case really was

all about.  These small wineries in California and Michigan that really

cannot, or in California and elsewhere, they cannot get their product sold

by wholesalers in those two states. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mr. Goldberg look, I‘ve made my bias on this very clear so everyone can hear me and know my bias coming into this, but why wasn‘t the effort on your side just an effort to protect the middleman, to say you know we‘re going to get cut out of the process and as a result we‘re going to be just losing money.

JAMES GOLDBERG, ATTORNEY FOR STATE ALCOHOL REGULATORS:  Dan, this isn‘t about protecting the middleman.  This is about protecting the rights and THE responsibilities of the states to regulate the interstate shipment of alcohol beverages.  And the Supreme Court clearly upheld that right today, saying that the states unquestionably have the right to set up a liquor distribution system as they see fit...

ABRAMS:  So you won?  Your side won today? 


ABRAMS:  Did I misinterpret the ruling?

GOLDBERG:  I think we did because...

ABRAMS:  Really?

GOLDBERG:  ... it is entirely possible that there are some states who will decide to treat shipments in an evenhanded manner by shutting down all shipments.  They will just determine that it‘s too much trouble, it may be too difficult, and it may violate our international trade obligations to allow out-of-state shippers to ship directly to consumers, so don‘t pop the cork on that bottle of Cabernet just yet.

ABRAMS:  But—let‘s assume that they decide to take the easy way out, all right, or what I would say is the lazy way out and that is to say all right, so all wineries if it is from New York or if it‘s from California, wherever it is, can‘t do it directly.  I think then you‘re going to have even more people are going to be angry at the time—now you have the system in place where, all right so the New York wineries are happy about it because they get to ship directly.  You start saying that no wineries can ship directly to people, I think you‘re going to see an uproar, don‘t you? 

GOLDBERG:  Well, that is for the state legislators to determine.  The states clearly have the right under the 21st Amendment and they clearly have the responsibility to regulate alcohol beverage shipments to assure that people who sell alcohol are licensed.  People who buy alcohol are over 21 and that the appropriate tax is collected.  And there are going to be some states who decide simply that the best way to do that is to allow no direct shipment at all and to require face-to-face transactions, just like there may be some who decide we will allow direct shipping on some kind of a limited regulated basis. 

ABRAMS:  But the bottom line is, Ken Starr, as a practical matter, maybe—you know look, maybe there will be a few states who will do that.  As a practical matter, there are going to be more states in this country that are now going to say look, we‘ve been told by the U.S. Supreme Court we can‘t treat our own wineries different than wineries from out of state and as a result, we‘re just going to apply the same rules and that‘s going to be that wineries can ship directly. 

STARR:  That‘s exactly right.  We saw that just last week in Texas.  Texas has now passed a law that allows direct shipping.  The states are coming around.  They are now 26 states that do allow direct shipping under a permit system that allows the states to collect revenue.  So that when you buy your favorite Cabernet or whatever it is that you chose to buy, those taxes are going to be paid to Albany.  So it does work.  There‘s a model build, the national (INAUDIBLE) and state legislators has recommended it is before all the states and it is now for consumers to speak up and say Mr. Goldberg, with all due respect, the answer in this country is more trade rather than more regulation.  But let‘s have reasonable regulation as opposed to a sort of odd form of prohibition.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Goldberg, let me ask if you agree with this part of the Supreme Court‘s opinion because I‘ve always found it to be so disingenuous that people on your side have been saying oh we need to be able to prevent people from under 21 from getting access to alcohol even though they can get it directly from a New York winery but not from California.

Here‘s what the Supreme Court said.  The states provide little evidence that the purchase of wine over the Internet by minors is a problem.  Indeed, there is some evidence to the contrary.  A recent study by the staff of the FTC found that the 26 states currently allowing direct shipments report no problems with minors increased access to wine.  Without concrete evidence, the direct shipping of wine is likely to increase alcohol consumption by minors; we are left with the states‘ unsupported assertions.

Isn‘t that true? 

GOLDBERG:  Well there are a couple of problems with that statement, Dan.  First of all the Federal Trade Commission report is flawed in the methodology that was conducted.  Second of all, the states weren‘t allowed in most of these cases to present these assertions because these cases were decided without the benefit of a trial, which would have brought all this evidence forward.  But even that aside, the fact of the matter is that states can and should regulate alcohol beverages. 

The people of every state have decided they want the states to regulate alcohol beverages, to make sure that people under 21 don‘t get them and to make sure that only properly licensed people can sell alcohol.  And that‘s—that was what was upheld by today‘s decision. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well look, I think that‘s a very broad reading of the Supreme Court‘s opinion.  But let me—I want to just ask Ken Starr a question or two about a different topic.  Let me just switch topics real quick.  You‘ve been in the news as of late talking about a report that came up on CBS as of late where is seemed to sound like you were saying that you thought that if the Republicans end up changing the filibuster system with regard to judges in this country, that they will be changing history and sort of doing so at their peril, et cetera.  You have been saying that you were taken out of context. 

STARR:  Yes, I made it very clear that I have cautioned and I‘ve been saying this all along, caution and prudence in changing rules and interpretations of rules and so forth.  So I‘m Burkian.  That is a disciple of Edmund Burke.  I respect tradition and the traditions of the Senate, but my strongest comments went to what I do view as really unfortunate in terms of the independence of the judiciary and that is taking philosophy, and (INAUDIBLE) the example I used that wasn‘t shown, was Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a very distinguished justice and who voted the right way on wine today, but individual senators could have said I oppose her nomination some years ago...


STARR:  ... because she had been a ACLU staff lawyer, and I said that‘s wrong.  That is absolutely wrong to oppose someone who is very intelligent, very competent and very fair on the basis of I disagree with that person‘s philosophy.

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, though, but do you think that they should—I mean do you think that they should change the system? 

STARR:  I think that the judges deserve their vote...

ABRAMS:  So the filibuster should be eliminated. 


STARR:  I am not—I just said caution and prudence with respect to how this is done.  But I have said in the strongest possible language that the senators should, they have got the raw power to do it, should follow the great tradition of voting on the basis of competence, of qualifications...

ABRAMS:  Right...

STARR:  ... and not on the basis of philosophy and...

ABRAMS:  But that doesn‘t sound to me like you‘re really—I mean you‘re basically—it sounds to me like you are saying is well, it would have been nice if there was more context, but it sure sounds like the essence of the piece was exactly what you‘re saying, which is you know, it‘s a dangerous business to start changing the rules with regard to filibusters now. 

STARR:  No I‘m saying that there should be caution.  There should be prudence, but I have objected to the idea of the use, and I think this is what is going on of the use of philosophy as a basis for opposing qualified judges.  I‘m going to just respectfully disagree with your interpretation. 

ABRAMS:  All right, but you‘re not going to say one way or the other whether—you are not taking a public position one way or the other as to whether the Senate should pass this or not? 

STARR:  That‘s correct.  I‘ve said there should be caution, there should be prudence, and I hope they can just come to a more sensible approach in allowing judges to have their vote.

ABRAMS:  Sounds to me like me you don‘t want them to pass it, but you‘d like to do things differently, but that‘s just again my interpretation.

Ken Starr, good to see you again.  Thank you for coming back...

STARR:  Good to see you...

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.  James Goldberg thanks for being a good sport. 

GOLDBERG:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, prosecutors say Michael Jackson tried to hold the

accuser and his family captive at Neverland, but today jurors heard about

the accuser‘s mother getting a leg wax outside of Neverland.  Doesn‘t like

·         sound like something a prisoner does.

And he‘s sitting on death row for stomping an elderly women to death, now he wants to live a little longer so he can donate his liver to his sister who needs it.  Should he or is this just a ploy to delay his execution?

Plus, Scott and Laci Peterson‘s house is on the market—already a lot of offers.  Who wants to buy it?  We ask the realtor who sold Sharon Tate‘s house.

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:  Michael Jackson has been called the ultimate performer before, but can he pull off a winning performance in court if he testifies in his own defense?  We are hearing there are serious discussions about whether to put Jackson on the stand, his attorneys winning some points in courts today.  The prosecution who said Jackson associates were holding the accuser‘s family at Neverland Ranch against their will, but today several witness from an orthodontist who saw the accuser and his brother, to a woman who gave a body wax to the boy‘s mother, say none of them acted like they were crying to escape from Neverland.

NBC Mike Taibbi is live in Santa Maria outside the courthouse with more and he joins us now. So Mike, a good day for the defense? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well a full day for the defense, Dan.  Exactly the day that we knew would happen when we were told that a whole bunch of Neverland employees would testify.  In fact, five of the nine witnesses were present or former or still continuing employees of Neverland who knew this family of the accuser, his younger brother, his older sister and the mother of course.  So we heard a lot about their behavior and alleged misbehavior, behaving erratically and destructively around the ranch, around Neverland Ranch. 

There were two witnesses who spoke specifically about the accuser and his brother drinking, not with Michael Jackson present.  One an assistant chef said that the younger brother at one point in the kitchen standing at the bar, pointed to a bottle of liquor on the chef, he said make me a milk shake and put some of that in it.  And then another witness, his name was Shane Meredith, saying he was a security guard, saying that he walked into the wine cellar and he said when I walked in, I saw the two children, the accuser and his brother, laughing and giggling, a bottle of alcohol was in front of them and it was open.  Now this is important...

ABRAMS:  Why don‘t you explain—yes, I was going to say why don‘t you explain why that is important in terms of so, if the boys are drinking alone, then what? 

TAIBBI:  Well, of course the two boys and their sister all testified that they were only introduced to alcohol and to pornography by Jackson and only looked at pornography and drank alcohol when Jackson gave it to them or showed them the pornography and now this is testimony that contradicts that.  They are alone, Michael Jackson is not there, and it directly contradicts their testimony on that score. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Mike, is Jackson going to take the stand? 

TAIBBI:  Well you know we‘ve thought about that.  Everybody‘s thought about that.  I know you have had I think a reasonable position that a lot of defense attorneys say that, it is a good thing to say I guess early in the trial, you know that jurors are going to want to hear from our guy.  My guy wants to tell the story, et cetera, but in this instance because it‘s a case just about credibility and not about incontrovertible, physical or forensic evidence, the credibility of the accuser is already out there.  It‘s going to attack and the credibility of Jackson hasn‘t been attacked.  In some cases by what his own witnesses have said about his habits, specifically the habit of spending night after night with a succession of individual boys, maybe dozens of boys and hundreds if not more nights that he spend alone with those boys. 

So the question is—should Jackson actually take the stand and tell his story even though part of his story has been told in the so-called outtakes that his videographer, Hamid Moslehi, shot of the Bashir interview for the Bashir infamous documentary.  So I think from talking to all those sources that we cultivate on both sides that Jackson testifying is still a possibility. 


TAIBBI (voice-over):  The last time Michael Jackson testified in his own defense in a civil trial brought by concert promoter Marcel Avram, he was hardly effective, disoriented and medicated after what he said was a spider bite.  Court observers say his woozy testimony probably contributed to his losing a judgment of more than $5 million. 


TAIBBI:  Now, in the trial of his life, and in many ways for his life, three defense sources confirm there is serious talk about Jackson taking the stand so the jury can weigh his credibility against his accuser‘s.  On the trial‘s eve, he‘d released a Web site statement about the accusations.

MICHAEL JACKSON, ACCUSED OF MOLESTATION:  The information is disgusting and false. 

TAIBBI:  And in fact, Jackson has been denying he‘s a pedophile since a 1993 accuser first made such a claim. 

JACKSON:  Don‘t treat me like a criminal, because I am innocent.

TAIBBI (on camera):  But now, the landscape for Jackson‘s claims of innocence has changed with the concession by his defense team that the pop star has shared a bed with dozens of young boys on hundreds of nights or more. 

(voice-over):  In nearly three hours of never broadcast interview outtakes with Jackson last week, the singer spoke freely and plaintively about the isolation of his celebrity and about the often paralyzing loneliness he came to believe only children and animals could relieve.  It was Jackson‘s story without limits with the threat of cross-examination. 

CRAIG SMITH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  That is a 46-year-old man who has inside of him trapped the soul of an 11 or 12-year-old.

TAIBBI:  But if Jackson‘s lawyer, Tom Mesereau, thinks the video isn‘t enough he may still put him on the stand.  Some legal experts believe he‘d be taking too big of a risk putting the pop star with all his peculiarities in the witness box. 

RON RICHARDS, NBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It‘s a legal high wire act that if Michael Jackson isn‘t careful he‘s going to fall right off. 

TAIBBI:  But if Jackson sticks to his story and connects with the jury, there are also risks with the prosecution in going after him too aggressively.

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  If the prosecution is unable to lay a glove on him, then it is game over. 

TAIBBI:  No decision has yet been announced on whether Jackson will testify.  But his attorney, Tom Mesereau, has won acquittals for other clients he‘s put on the stand and is said to be not afraid of Jackson‘s story or of letting him tell it. 



TAIBBI:  Still an intriguing question and also intriguing, what about the body wax of his accuser‘s mother?  There were testimony about that today, too, Dan.  I‘ll bet you that your panel gets to it...

ABRAMS:  Yes...


ABRAMS:  I mean who—you know, come on, how can you have testimony about a body wax and not get to it.  I mean all right, so Mike...


ABRAMS:  ... is going to stay with us, and oh I got a setup in my head (INAUDIBLE) it‘s not appropriate.  MSNBC legal analyst and former Connecticut state prosecutor Susan Filan joins us and NBC legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Ron Richards. 

All right.  Bottom line, Ron we saw you there in the piece.  What do you think?  Is he going to take the stand?

RICHARDS:  Well, I think he really wants to and I think his attorney is strongly considering putting him on, but I think it would be a mistake if he did.

ABRAMS:  You think he would?  Yes, I kind of think it would be—let‘s take this picture—Mike I don‘t think used this picture in his piece.  This is Michael Jackson during the civil case.  Those of you who can‘t see the screen, it‘s Michael Jackson holding up the whatever, the devil, bunny ears, I don‘t know what it is, over his head. 

You know, Susan, look, the bottom line is even the defense is conceding this guy‘s wacky.  Can they really risk putting him on? 

FILAN:  Yes, I think they can.  Michael Jackson has testified in this case already.  He testified when the jury listened to the outtakes...

ABRAMS:  Right.

FILAN:  ... of the Bashir documentary.  They heard from him without having...

ABRAMS:  So do they need to call him? 

FILAN:  ... cross-examination and when Geragos testified, he essentially gave the defense closing argument and they heard Michael Jackson‘s testimony again.  The thing is the defense theory of the case is much more cohesive and much more consistent at this point than the prosecution‘s theory...

ABRAMS:  You‘re saying he won‘t take the stand? 

FILAN:  ... Michael Jackson because I think he will.  He‘s be icing on the cake.  The jury is used to him.  They know he‘s weird.  They‘re already over that.  They know about the celebrity parties for animals. 

ABRAMS:  Wait...

FILAN:  They‘ve gotten used to...

ABRAMS:  Wait. 

FILAN:  Now it‘s just...

ABRAMS:  You think this is weird?  Hold it.  Here we go.

FILAN:  Do you want to hear about body waxing Dan...

ABRAMS:  Hold on.  Hold on.  Come on—no, not that.  I meant the Bashir documentary, number three. 


JACKSON:  If I come home from a hard day at the studio and I come home to my deer or my chimps and I can hug them and they don‘t ask you anything.  They don‘t complain.  You know they don‘t gossip.  They just want a hug and some love and you get on with it.


ABRAMS:  Sorry, I didn‘t mean to interrupt you Susan.  Go ahead.  You were saying about Michael Jackson being a little odd, yes.

FILAN:  Yes, I mean they are used to him now.  And in fact, during the outtakes, I watched the jury very closely and they were chuckling and at sometimes they were moved by what they were seeing.  What‘s troublesome and what‘s of concern is yes, he shares his bed with boys, but does he do anything?  Geragos says he didn‘t, he says he didn‘t.  Some of the witnesses, their credibility is on the line.  If he gets up and hits a homerun and the prosecution is not able to lay a glove with him on cross-exam...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

FILAN:  ... that‘s a homerun. 

ABRAMS:  But see...

FILAN:  The danger, of course...

ABRAMS:  ... they will be...

FILAN:  ... is that if he does...

ABRAMS:  But they will be able to lay a hand on him...


ABRAMS:  ... and that‘s the bottom line.  You can say whatever you want.  There‘s no question if Michael Jackson takes the stand he‘s not going to leave unscathed.  I mean he may leave without being bloodied and bruised—Mike, did...

RICHARDS:  That was me. 


ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  I guess it was Ron.  I‘m sorry.  Ron...



RICHARDS:  You know, Dan like in a boxing match, it is when you win by decision where the judge is 3-1 or 2-1.  Michael Jackson doesn‘t need to get a knockout here.  He just needs to get an acquittal.  And you have to use discipline in defending these cases and right now the water is so muddied, the jury‘s heard Michael on the outtakes.  They‘ve heard Geragos and I think he‘d be taking the prosecutorial bait if he got on the stand now.  It could only bury him.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I guess I think—Ron, do you know that or are you just guessing?

RICHARDS:  Know what?

ABRAMS:  I mean you know your little talks with Mesereau.  You and Tom Mesereau are pals.  Has he said to you hey Ronnie boy, come here.  I‘ve got to tell you something.  He whispers in your ear and he says look, Michael wants to take the stand, but he‘s not going to.

RICHARDS:  I could tell you this, that I‘ve advised the defense that if Michael Jackson doesn‘t get on the stand and repudiate this sleeping in beds with young boys and doesn‘t explain it, he‘s going to be on there for a long time backtracking why this is acceptable behavior.  And I think unless he‘s going to do that he should stay off the stand.  That‘s my analysis and that‘s my opinion.  I think the case is in good shape for the defense now and they should just finish it. 

ABRAMS:  Mike, final thought?

TAIBBI:  Yes Dan, this isn‘t really just a case about getting a narrow victory here, winning on cuts, winning on decision, a TKO.  I think a lot of people, a lot of observers think that this is only a huge story because it is Michael Jackson.  A huge figure in our time who has been in decline now since these first allegations surfaced...


TAIBBI:  ... more than a dozen years ago.  He has got to do more than just win this case.  He‘s got to win.  That‘s why I use a line in my piece, this is a trial not just of his life, but perhaps for his life to have any chance to be Michael Jackson again, pre-scandal.  He‘s got to win this one by a knockout...


TAIBBI:  He‘s got to speak for himself...

ABRAMS:  That‘s a big chance to take...

TAIBBI:  ... and a chance to say who he is and why he is.  Sure it is and I‘m not sure his lawyers are going to agree with that.  I mean Ron may be right about that.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Susan Filan, Ron Richards, and Mike Taibbi—you know we ran—we didn‘t get to talk about—the bottom line is it appears she did get the wax.  All right.  Very -- 10 second Mike.  It was a body wax.  There was a dispute about was it a leg wax or a body wax? 

TAIBBI:  It was a full body wax...

ABRAMS:  Full body...

TAIBBI:  ... various parts that could be waxed, I suppose.  But the important thing was that she never explained about anything at Neverland.  She was left alone by her driver for more than an hour and said she loved Michael Jackson, et cetera, et cetera.  That is the testimony today. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, you know she had said...

FILAN:  But Dan, while you are getting waxed there is not much you can complain about other than the pain of getting waxed. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well thank you.  We needed that. 


ABRAMS:  Thank you.  And if Ron Richards wants to add something about

·         Ron, do you have another thought about body waxing or can we move on?

RICHARDS:  Well, you don‘t get a body wax in the jail cell. 

ABRAMS:  All right, very good.  Everyone thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up...

TAIBBI:  All right.

RICHARDS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... the fight over a death row inmate‘s liver.  He wants to donate it to his sister.  He‘s scheduled to die next weeks.  The question is should his execution be put on hold? 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, should an inmate set to die in days be allowed to donate his liver to his sister?  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  It‘s a fight for life on death row.  The inmate, Gregory Scott Johnson, is not trying to save himself.  He says he‘s just trying to save his sister by donating his liver to her.  A similar issue raised, remember, when Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was on death row.  He received requests from people waiting for kidney transplants.  Those requests were denied.  Johnson is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next Wednesday. 

NBC‘s Janet Shamlian has the story. 


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Scott Johnson is on Indiana‘s death row, nine days from execution for stomping to death an 82-year-old woman during a burglary.  His death wish?  To save a life, donating his liver to his sick sister. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She is my sister.  If there‘s going to be a match, it is sitting right here. 

SHAMLIAN:  Even if he‘s compatible, there are obstacles.  Taking his liver before he‘s executed would kill him violating state law.  Waiting until the state executed him by lethal injection may poison the liver.  Taking part of the liver might not save his sister and the state objects to funding the tests and operations.  There is also the ethical issue of harvesting organs from death row. 

ERIC MESLIN, INDIANA UNIV. CTR. FOR BIOETHICS:  Should he be allowed to do this?  Do prisoners have the right to make that kind of donation? 

SHAMLIAN:  Debbie Otis is not on a liver wait list but says a transplant is her best chance for survival and a bond with her brother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would truly feel like he was with me all the time. 

SHAMLIAN:  Alice Newman is Debbie and Scott‘s mother. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I only have two children.  If they‘re going to take one, please don‘t take the other.

SHAMLIAN:  Johnson hopes the donation will somehow make amends. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have done so much harm out there, my life is all that I have to pay them. 

SHAMLIAN:  He has little more than a week to learn whether he‘ll get that chance before he ultimately pays his debt to society. 

Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Chicago. 


ABRAMS:  I don‘t think they are helping their base by talking about a bond with her brother.  It‘s not going to help anyone I don‘t think.

Joining me now defense attorney Gary Casimir and former New York State prosecutor Lisa Pinto.  All right, so Lisa, what‘s the problem with this?  I mean why not just—why not at least just give him the test see if he‘s going to be a match.

LISA PINTO, FORMER NY STATE PROSECUTOR:  Oh please.  You are opening Pandora‘s Box here.  It‘s funny how, Dan, a week before his scheduled execution he finds religion.  Twenty years after he killed this old lady he suddenly wants to help out his sister.  That‘s not how liver transplants work in Indiana.  There is a wait list and the person at the top of the wait list gets the next liver to come in and by the way, that‘s only a 20-day wait.  So he‘s not going to save anybody.  He‘s avoiding his execution.  It‘s all a ploy...

ABRAMS:  You can chose to donate your liver, can‘t you, to a relative?

PINTO:  Not in Indiana. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

PINTO:  The policy is you can‘t—that a patient cannot—that the potential donor cannot choose who it‘s going to.  There is a wait list. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Gary, what do you make of it?

GARY CASIMIR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:   Well there is a wait list, but I mean the courts can step into this case and find that there is an exception here.  He is the only match.  I don‘t see any reason for him not to be able to give the liver.  He can and Lisa‘s got—one thing that Lisa doesn‘t get.  Once he gives the liver he is dying, whether he gives it on the day he‘s scheduled to die or he gives it five days later...

PINTO:  Gary, Gary...

CASIMIR:  ... he dies after he gives his liver, so what are you talking about? 

PINTO:  Gary...

CASIMIR:  ... except for the sense that you don‘t want to be able to allow him to pay back society or maybe let his sister live. 

PINTO:  First of all, it‘s illegal to execute a condemned man by any way other than lethal injection, so even if he wanted to die this way, it‘s against the law and no doctor will do it.  Second of all, we don‘t know that he‘s compatible with his sister.  That‘s just pie in the sky. 

CASIMIR:  So take a test.

PINTO:  And last of all, this is clearly opening a Pandora‘s box.  What‘s next?  Scott Peterson gives his nose to Michael Jackson?  I mean come on Gary.  Where are we going with this? 

CASIMIR:  He‘s already got—Michael Jackson already has Scott Peterson‘s nose.  I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with somebody trying to help his sister, try to make good.  I understand that all of a sudden all the prisoners who want to give up their liver and die subsequently from giving their liver.  This is a different case.  I mean the organ he is giving up here would cause his demise, Lisa.  So it‘s not the same thing like he‘s trying to...


ABRAMS:  But Gary, you know legally they can‘t allow you to die any other way.  Meaning, if they do this, they would have to actually nurse him back to health in order to be executed. 

PINTO:  Right Dan...

CASIMIR:  Right or they would have to put him on sort of—some sort of machine that would imitate his liver and then have him executed.  I don‘t know.  But what‘s the worst cause?  Saving his sister‘s life, too...

PINTO:  No...

CASIMIR:  Now you have a chance to...

PINTO:  The worst thing is everybody is suing and America is being compared to China for harvesting organs from death row prisoners...

CASIMIR:  Everybody is suing...

PINTO:  ... and all of a sudden...

CASIMIR:  Who‘s going to sue?

PINTO:  ... Amnesty International and all your colleagues in the defense bar attacking the death penalty...

CASIMIR:  Your colleagues as well, Lisa...

PINTO:  ... which is properly imposed in Indiana for 20 years...

ABRAMS:  All right...


CASIMIR:  I don‘t think there‘s any problem with this and I think it would be doing good.

ABRAMS:  Got to wrap it.  You know Gary has a radio show too...

CASIMIR:  That‘s right.

ABRAMS:  ... “Legally Speaking”...


CASIMIR:  ... good plug. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

CASIMIR:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Lisa, Gary, good to see you.  Thanks a lot.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the home of Laci and Scott Peterson has been on the market for only days, already three bids.  Is it the price or just the fascination with the house?  Does it help or hurt the value?  We‘re going to  talk about some other high profile sales as well. 

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:  Coming up, he apparently killed his wife there and the most notorious murder in years, so why would anyone want to buy Scott and Laci Peterson‘s house?  Apparently they do.  There are already three bids in for the house.  Coming up.



ABRAMS:  Laci and Scott Peterson‘s Modesto home on the market for less than a week and already the offers are streaming in.  The 1,770 square foot, three bedroom cottage is listed for $379,996.  The couple bought the house in October of 2000 for $177,000.  A few renovations, a swimming pool, and a murder conviction later the value has jumped more than $200,000.  But according to the agency listing the home, the asking price is right on par with comparable homes in the area. 

So what is the attraction?  Is it just that it is the right price or can it really be that it‘s just a sweet, charming little starter house?  Keep in mind some other high profile homes, O.J. Simpson‘s Brentwood home sold in ‘98 for about four million.  The new owners demolished the house and built a new one in its place.

I think that was probably a smart move.  Nicole Brown Simpson‘s condo, where she and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death, sold—the new owners exchanged the exterior, the house number as well to confuse golfers. 

So joining me now to try and figure this out is Beverly Hills realtor Elaine Young.  Elaine leased film star Sharon Tate‘s, her home.  It was the very home Tate was murdered in on August 9, 1969 by four followers of Charles Manson.  She also sold O.J. Simpson his Brentwood home.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  All right.  So what do you make of the Peterson home?  There are three offers?  Is that just normal because the real estate market is booming? 

YOUNG:  Absolutely not.  I guarantee it will go over asking price because it is an infamous home.  When I leased Sharon Tate the house and it came out in the newspaper that I was the real estate broker, I got calls from all over the world, people offering hundreds of thousands more because of the murder.  Plus, they even said if the blood is still there I‘ll pay you more. 


YOUNG:  It‘s macobb (ph).

ABRAMS:  Why would someone want—I mean I can understand you know some people buy weird things on eBay and things like that, but why would you want to buy a home that I guess theoretically you‘re going to live in or you‘re going to rent, knowing that something like that has happened there?  How does that add to the value?

YOUNG:  It‘s a phenomenon I don‘t understand but it adds to the value. 

There are people who will pay anything to get an infamous home like that.

ABRAMS:  So when the—when we are hearing about the Petersons‘ home, remember as you know, they have done a very, very careful screening of the people who can come in and look at it.  Do you know what they‘ve been—basically they‘ve been, what, saying no media, et cetera? 

YOUNG:  Right.  And they probably want financials and to know all about them to make sure they‘re just not lookie-loos to check out the house.

ABRAMS:  How do you prevent that?  I mean how do you prevent—they‘re looking in their background to make sure there are no ties to the media, et cetera, but how do you really sort out when it comes to a house like that the real buyers from the ones who just want to take a look inside the Peterson home? 

YOUNG:  Well I had to do it with the Jayne Mansfield house when she passed away.  I had to keep people from just looking at it because it was on Sunset Boulevard.  It was the Pink Palace.  I just have to talk to their business managers, their lawyers and get a letter and just make sure they are just not wanting to tour the house. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think that someone should make changes?  If they buy the house, should they do the things that we‘ve seen in Nicole Brown Simpson and O.J.‘s house?  Change the exterior?  Change the address, something?

YOUNG:  Well one thing about the O.J. house, it made Brentwood Park famous.  The houses were $2 million and they went up to five and 20 million because all you heard during the trial for two years was Brentwood Park, Rockingham, Rockingham.  It became bigger than Rodeo Drive. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

YOUNG:  So a murder tends to create a higher value on a house. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s unbelievable.  Isn‘t that weird? 

YOUNG:  Very weird, but it‘s a fact. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  All right.  Elaine Young, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.

YOUNG:  Thank you.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the report set off riots in Muslim countries killing at least 16 people.  “Newsweek” finally retracts its story that interrogators at Gitmo flushed the Koran down the toilet while questioning a prisoner.  I ask what took so long?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—the problem many in the media have admitting we got it wrong.  The government officials suffer from the same disease, but I‘m just going to talk about media here.  The latest flap over a “Newsweek” magazine story reporting that an internal government report found U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated detainees copies of the Koran.  In one case, flushing a Koran down the toilet.  Serious allegations.  The news item led to heavy riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan with at least 16 people killed in the uproar.  Well now it seems the story wasn‘t accurate and yet “Newsweek” initially refused to retract the story, releasing only an apology in this week‘s new issue.

Only late today did they finally retract and that delay of 24 hours or whatever, I think costs us all some credibility.  Initially the editor said only—quote—“We regret that we got any part of our story wrong and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.”

They conceded that the government source, their source, said he now couldn‘t be sure the information was in the official results of the Guantanamo investigation.  It turns out it may have been from a detainee just trying to stir up trouble and wasn‘t credible.  “Newsweek” initially cited the fact that when the government was asked to comment, two separate Defense Department officials didn‘t deny the story.  So what? 

If “Newsweek” is unsure of the truth of its story, particularly one this sensitive, why not immediately retract and then continue the investigation?  Not the other way around.  It shouldn‘t be that hard for them to say look, we blew it.  Turns out they were right, they can report it again later, but this is what got CBS News into trouble as well.  The unwillingness to say if we knew then what we knew now it never would have made it out. 

Look, we all make mistakes.  Journalists no exception.  We have an additional obligation to admit it quickly.  Is it any wonder that the University of Kentucky released a survey today that found that 72 percent of journalists said their profession did a good job or excellent job of reporting information accurately.  Only 39 percent of the public felt the same way.  Look, the administration is often going to be angry with news reports, but if “Newsweek” itself conceded they were doubting the source, the story should have been pulled immediately without another delay that further erodes public trust in what we all do. 

Coming up, got some funny e-mails from all of you about the Michael Jackson case and the fact that he hugs his chimp and his deer when he comes home.  A lot of you guys coming to Michael‘s defense. 


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday, we showed you some clips.  I played one of them earlier in the show as well.  Michael Jackson talking about his relationship with some of the animals at Neverland, including his chimp‘s households responsibilities, which of course include cleaning his room, dusting, the dishes.  Bubbles even flushed the toilet after he used it.  I thought it was as hilarious as it was ridiculous.  But as always, some found a way to be offended. 

Zoe Heiser in Ashland, Pennsylvania, “Hey Abrams, I take my parrot with me to the bathroom.  She uses the toilet, can flush it, and I shower with her as do tens of thousands of people.  I don‘t consider it weird at all.  Just because you can‘t relate, don‘t ridicule.”

There‘s no question, Zoe, I cannot relate.  That is true.  But I think you may be a part of a more exclusive club than you think.  Look, I have a couple of good friends whose parrots mean the world to them.  I actually called them today.  They think it‘s a little weird what you‘re doing with the toilet business.  But let me just say that it is really thoughtful of your parrot to flush after using the facilities. 

From Richmond, Virginia, J. Jones, “You and your guests seem to think that Michael is a freak because he interacts closely with his pets.  You expressed concern about his chimp using the master bathroom.  Oh, I shudder at the thought.”

Inga in Grandview, Missouri, “So what if Bubbles was using his toilet?  I bet a damn monkey that Michael Jackson owns has a behind a lot cleaner than some of us humans.”

What does that have to do with anything, Inga?  I mean honestly the cleanliness factor. 

Jackson also said that after a long day at the studio, he wants to come home and just give a little hug to the deer, chimps.  Saying they don‘t complain, they don‘t gossip.  They just want a hug and some love. 

Sandy in Michigan loves the idea.  She‘s a great grandmother with 17 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.  She writes, “I am as busy and tired as Michael Jackson could ever be and there are times I wish I just had a chimp to hug with no complaints, no arguing, no gossip, no jealousy and probably not as much mess.”

Let me ask you Sandy, would you have the chimp like clean up the house and sort of like, you‘ve got a lot of people there.  Would you say, hey, you know, Bubbles, or I guess you might name it something else, clean up.  You know, you can finish the dusting and I‘ll be back in a little bit.

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

“OH PLEAs!”—for all of you who say who cares about runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks and say why are we interested in her disappearing act?  I say look, it‘s not just us.  Jennifer Wilbanks, cold feet, igniting a fire on the shelves at Pappy‘s Peppers.  It seems hot sauce aficionados just can‘t get enough of what is being called “Jennifer‘s High Tailin‘ Hot Sauce” literally, that is the name of the private labeled hot sauce.  Pappy‘s Peppers owner David Ryan has the hottest store in Lawrenceville, Georgia, already selling 10 cases of the runaway bride‘s hot sauce. 

Mr. Ryan, not the only one cashing in on this brief moment of unwedded bliss.  If hot sauce is too spicy for you, there‘s a Web site offering, of course, the Jennifer action figure for 24.95.  You can reenact Jennifer‘s run for freedom with a 30-centimeter tall dark-haired figure.  For that price, you get the jogging pants, the midriff baring shirt, with “Vegas Baby” written on it and the oh, so famous colorful towel for the doll to put over its head.  That‘s a bargain.  Someone offered to pay $15,400 for a piece of toast being sole on eBay believed to have Jennifer‘s face carved on it.  So when all of you ask who cares, don‘t ask me.  Ask them. 

That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  See you back here tomorrow.


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