Video: Celebrities who walk
updated 6/2/2005 4:50:07 PM ET 2005-06-02T20:50:07

You can never truly anticipate the outcome of a celebrity trial: There's O.J.  And then there's Martha, to name a few.  But nobody covers the stars in court better than Scarborough Country guest Dominick Dunne.  The Vanity Fair columnist discusses past and present trials and what made him (and everyone else) interested in these cases.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC-TV HOST: In the age of O.J. Simpson, what can we expect in the final days of the Michael Jackson trial? 

DOMINICK DUNNE, 'VANITY FAIR' COLUMNIST:  Well, you never can anticipate.  At the O.J. Simpson trial, I was certain he was going to be found guilty.  And I tell you, that was the shock of the world to me when he was acquitted that day.  So, you never really know, of course, and there’s no way of knowing here.  But my feeling is, it's possible that Michael could be acquitted. 

SCARBOROUGH: I have been critical, in the age of O.J., when talking about juries and celebrity trials.  They seem to be held under some magical spell by some of these celebrities.  They are more willing to acquit a celebrity.  As Blake said cynically, he was going to parade celebrities through the courtroom and then have them hold press conferences outside. 

But it’s not just jury members.  All of America seems to be fascinated by these celebrity trials.  In fact, during the O.J. trial, you kept Nancy Reagan updated daily, didn‘t you? 

DUNNE: I did.  I used to meet her once a week and fill her in on every single thing that was going on there, yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What is it about celebrity trials that interests all Americans? 

DUNNE: Well, I was just out at a prison in Las Vegas to visit Peter Bacanovic, who was the stockbroker for Martha Stewart, who was doing his time at the federal prison.  I found all the prisoners in the prison watch my television show, “Power, Privilege & Justice.”  And they were yelling out at me, “we love it when you get those rich people.” 

There’s something about rich and privileged people and famous people that just attracts an audience.  Of course, I am one of them.  I have made a whole living covering these trials. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, sometimes, the rich, the famous, the powerful can’t outrun their past.  Tell us about Michael Skakel, that trial, and your interest in it through the years.  A forward that you helped write for a book may have got that retrial started up that ended up getting him convicted.

DUNNE: As a matter of fact, that was a case — the Michael Skakel-Martha Moxley case was a case that had gone cold for 23 years or 22 years at the time that I took an interest in it.
And I went to see the mother of Martha Moxley, Dorthy Moxley — an extraordinary woman.  I said why did you leave Greenwich?  There’s nobody fighting for you.  Your case is just forgotten.  And I said to her, I could write a novel and I could put this case on the front pages again.  And I did that.  And that novel and the miniseries that followed reawakened interest in that case.

And Michael Skakel was eventually arrested, tried, and found guilty and is serving 20 years. 

SCARBOROUGH: The Martha Moxley case obviously had to be very personal to you.

DUNNE:  It was.  I will tell you exactly why.  I, too, in my own personal life had a daughter who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend, strangled.  And I felt a great empathy for Dorthy Moxley.  And her daughter was born the same year that my daughter was.  They were different ages, of course, when they died.  And Martha Moxley was only 15.  And it just devastated Mrs. Moxley‘s life.

I became very, very close to her.  I think she is an absolutely wonderful woman.

SCARBOROUGH:  Dominick, you never get over something like that, do you? 

DUNNE: You do not. 

SCARBOROUGH: After all these years. 

DUNNE:  You do not. 

It changed my life.  It put me in a new direction.  When the guy who killed my daughter got two and a half years in prison — that's all he got — I went like a nut.  I was like a crazy person.  I thought about hiring somebody to kill him — you know, all that nonsense talk and the thought that you go through.

Then I realized, I have got the talent to write about this.  I have got the ability to go on TV and talk about this.

And that is what I have done.  It changed my whole life and my thinking.  And that’s why I have covered so many trials in the last 20 years. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I've got to ask you one more question.  Can you look into the crystal ball and tell us whether Michael Jackson is convicted or he walks? 

DUNNE:  Well, we haven’t mentioned hung jury.  And I think that’s a possibility.  But I do not think he will be convicted. 

'Scarborough Country' airs weeknights at 10 p.m. ET

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