updated 9/30/2005 10:33:15 AM ET 2005-09-30T14:33:15

Guest: Heather Gerkin, Fletcher Mackel, Marlon Defillo, Eddie Jordan,

Stephen Meyer, Eugenie Scott, Ted Simon

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, just hours ago John Roberts sworn in as the nation's top judge after the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed him. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Chief Justice John Roberts will now lead the U.S. Supreme Court.  But the real fight lies ahead with President Bush expected to name his pick to replace Justice O'Connor on Monday. 

And New Orleans police under fire, being investigated and investigating some of their own.  The allegation?  That they were looting in the days after Katrina.  Can they explain why some were driving brand new Cadillacs?  We talk with one of the city's top cops. 

Plus, Natalee Holloway's mother talking with new international lawyers.  What could her legal strategy be? 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the dock tonight, Judge John Roberts confirmed and sworn in at the White House today as the 17th chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. 


CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  I, John G. Roberts, Jr., do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all...


ABRAMS:  The final Senate vote, 78-22 with half of the Senate Democrats voting to confirm Roberts to the nation's highest judicial post.  Roberts thanked the entire Senate for how it conducted the confirmation hearings. 


ROBERTS:  Thank you very much for the conduct of the hearings, conducting them in a civil and dignified manner as the president requested on the night of the nomination.  I appreciate it very much. 


ABRAMS:  At 50, Roberts will be the country's youngest chief justice in two centuries.  The question a lot of people have asked me is how are the other justices going to feel about the new man on the block coming in and running the show? 

Harvard Law professor and former Supreme Court clerk, Heather Gerkin joins us now.  Thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Good to see you.


ABRAMS:  So, what do you make of that?  I mean some people who don't know the court say wait a sec, this young guy, this whippersnapper is coming in there and suddenly he gets to be the chief?  Are other justices going to be offended, concerned, et cetera? 

GERKIN:  Well it's certainly hard to come in as an outsider to a court like this, which has been working together for really a long time and old habits die-hard.  But if anyone is going to be the good outsider to come in it's John Roberts because he actually knows the court so well and he's so familiar to the justices.  He comes in with a lot more credibility than the usually outside candidate. 

ABRAMS:  And is it fairly common for someone to be appointed chief justice even though they've never served on the Supreme Court before? 

GERKIN:  It's quite common.  In fact, presidents sort of like to do this.  It makes an easier confirmation battle often and so, it's quite usual for them to do such a thing.

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, people overstate, don't they, the value of being the chief justice versus being a justice?  I mean it's really somewhat administrative job, isn't it?

GERKIN:  It's really too—I mean the chief is first among equals, but his vote counts just for one vote, no more.  What really matters is things like the assignment power and the administrative power that he has at the court. 

ABRAMS:  But the bottom line is, what, he gets to assign the opinions if he's in the majority, that's the primary job he's got? 

GERKIN:  Exactly, he shouldn't underestimate that.  It can make a big difference for how an opinion looks.  If you choose to have it, give it to the most radical justice on that group or to the most moderate one.  So it's an important power, but it isn't one that's going to determine what the law is going forward. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Heather Gerkin thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

GERKIN:  Thanks Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right, the big issue now, early next week President Bush expected to announce his choice to fill retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's spot, another choice.  Now, remember, he had one choice, it was initially going to be Sandra Day O'Connor and turns out that Justice Rehnquist passed away.  They had to switch that.  And now the question is, again who's going to fill O'Connor's spot.

NBC's Pete Williams takes a look.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  President bush has been lobbied extensively to appoint a woman to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor.  Among those urging him to do it is the first lady herself saying so at least three times beginning in July here on “Today”.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  Sure, I would really like for him to name another woman. 

WILLIAMS:  And again just this month in a radio interview. 

BUSH:  Of course, as a woman myself, I hope it will be a woman. 

WILLIAMS:  Among the women most often mentioned by insiders as a potential nominee is Federal Appeals Court Judge Priscilla Owen of Texas.  Others include Judges Alice Batchelder of Ohio, Karen Williams of South Carolina and Edith Clement of Louisiana.  If the president decides instead to appoint the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice names mentioned most often include Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada. 

Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, says Senate Democrats should be prepared to filibuster if a nominee turns out to be too conservative.  Democrats pledge a tougher battle than Roberts faced. 

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  If the president sends us a nominee who's committed to an agenda of turning back the clock on civil rights, worker's rights, individual autonomy or other vital constitutional protections, there will likely be a fight. 

WILLIAMS:  But Republicans say at least wait for the name. 

SEN. RICHARD BURR ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Some in this institution are already suggesting that the next nominee has no chance. 


ABRAMS:  NBC's Pete Williams reporting.  Joining us now, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, host of “HARDBALL”.  All right, so Chris look, we can talk law all we want.  The bottom line is this is very, very political.  You hear Schumer there saying, effectively warning the president.  But does he have any credibility since he just voted against Roberts, who many believe was a very fair candidate? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:    I think you are getting to the point that there's 22 Democrats he won't get if he named superman.  It's not going to happen, so—or Oliver Wendell Holmes.  He probably still won't get those 22 if he has a Republican tag on him.

So I think you're right.  I think those people don't have—the big noise is going to be people like Pat Leahy who voted for the nominee will now be able to say Mr. President, 22 Democrats voted against you, 22 voted for your guy.  If you don't get that 22 to do it again you're going to have a problem with a filibuster.

ABRAMS:  If you are a Democrat and you are thinking about running for president it seems you had to vote against Roberts.  Why?

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.  Absolutely.  Because it was once said of Dick Gephardt as he was contemplating running for president.  He's the Democratic congressman from Missouri.  He was told by his people if you don't change your position on abortion rights and come out for abortion rights, pro choice, you will not only have women fighting with you, you'll have no women in your headquarters.  In the Democratic Party today you must be pro choice.  That explains why all of the candidates, with the possible exception of Feingold, voted against this nomination.  You can't be a pro lifer and run for the Democratic nomination for president.  It can't be done...

ABRAMS:  It also seems to me that if you are running for president, in a way you've got nothing to lose by voting against him.  In a sense that if you vote for him and he becomes a super conservative...


ABRAMS:  ... justice by 2008 you've got it used against you in the Democratic primary, but...

MATTHEWS:  It's like lending your card to somebody...

ABRAMS:  Yes, if it...

MATTHEWS:  ... if you lend your car to somebody and they crack it up somewhere, hit somebody with it, it's you that did it.  So if you are a Democrat and you approve this guy, and this is Pat Leahy's problem, somewhere down the road the guy votes on a conservative side of an issue that matters to your women or your constituents and you are blamed, rightfully so you could argue.

ABRAMS:  But if you voted against him, it's like OK, so what? 

MATTHEWS:  Safest vote on the Capitol Hill is to vote against a winning proposition.  You always want to vote against a proposition, against one that passes or for one that fails.  They are the safest votes in town.  You are not responsible for what happens then. 

ABRAMS:  Are you surprised that 22 voted against him? 

MATTHEWS:  No, I thought it had gone down a bit.  I thought it was a bit more than that two or three weeks ago.  I think they did a fabulous job.  I think Ed Gillespie, the former RNC chair, I think Fred Thompson really widdled (ph) these guys down.  This guy is such a good, nice guy.  He reminds me of the people you meet at church on Sunday, a regular guy standing outside talking with the priest about life with a regular family.  He is not a stiff. 


MATTHEWS:  He's not a pias (ph) sort of person.  He is a regular seeming person who has a regular, incredibly supportive wife who is also an attorney.  I think the guy is just the...


MATTHEWS:  ... perfect threading of the needle...


MATTHEWS:  I don't think the president could do this again though.  Two of these is tough...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I thought so too.  Real quick, Chris—Chris Matthews on the record, who will the president choose on Monday? 

MATTHEWS:  I think—well let me give you a little more complicated than that...

ABRAMS:  No, no, no...


ABRAMS:  ... we are playing hardball here. 


MATTHEWS:  He will go a notch to the right if it's a white male, two notches to the right if it's a white female. 


MATTHEWS:  I think that's the chances. 


MATTHEWS:  He can get away with more conservatives...

ABRAMS:  Are we going to get a name?  Are we going to get a name?


ABRAMS:  Chris Matthews on the record.

MATTHEWS:  One of the appellate judges who's a woman. 

ABRAMS:  Chris Matthews, good to see you. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

ABRAMS:  Chris will be back at 7:00 Eastern with more on Chief Justice Roberts on “HARDBALL”.

Coming up, New Orleans police investigating some of their own.  The issue, were they looting in the days after Katrina hit?  We are not just talking food and water.  What were some doing driving brand new Cadillacs?  We'll ask one of the police department's top cops. 

And what could become a historic courtroom battle underway over teaching evolution in school.  The critics say it's not about God, it is about the science, but is it really?  I say it's time for some honesty in the debate.

Plus, Natalee Holloway's mother looking to hire an international lawyer—what for? 

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



EDDIE COMPASS, FORMER NEW ORLEANS POLICE SUPT.:  I want to make this perfectly clear that looters will be dealt with very severely and very harshly and they will be punished to the full extent of the law. 


ABRAMS:  Former New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass a couple of days before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.  But he never thought that warning might apply to some of his own officers.  But these pictures from an NBC camera crew seem to show New Orleans police helping themselves to various items at a Wal-Mart in a flooded district.  And now Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti says he's investigating allegations New Orleans police may have looted cars from a Cadillac dealer.  Police say they are investigating, too.  But the city's new acting police superintendent, Warren Riley, says if Cadillacs were taken, it may have been out of necessity. 


WARREN RILEY, ACTING NEW ORLEANS POLICE SUPT.:  Some officers who did use Cadillacs, and I can tell you that they used them because we had lost over 270 cars.  We had one district that did not have any cars and there were some officers who actually patrolled in Cadillacs, I will tell you that, but it was done with the greatest intent.  Those cars were not stolen.  We recovered I believe 90-something Cadillacs.  We recovered some of those that were stolen.  We warehoused those cars.  We still have those cars.  We have obtained the keys for those cars and they are in a safe place for the owner. 


ABRAMS:  So what was missing from the Sewell Cadillac Chevrolet dealership? 

Well apparently more than 200 vehicles, including Cadillacs, and a—quote

·         “handful of Corvettes”.  Doug Stead, the dealership president, says—quote—“They took anything that was drivable.  They even hot-wired a tractor we use to move cars around, a thing that can't go any faster than 12 miles per hour.” 


Fletcher Mackel is a correspondent with NBC's New Orleans affiliate WDSU and he joins us now.  All right, so Fletcher how serious is this investigation?  I mean you hear Charles Foti saying he's looking into it.  You can look into a lot of things.  Are they really digging deep here? 

FLETCHER MACKEL, WDSU REPORTER:  Yes, I think Charles Foti is going to dig deep.  You know he's a pretty thorough attorney general and he doesn't take things like this lightly, especially not when it's officers doing it.  I know that it was a time of crisis and the police department is going to say that they commandeered those vehicles because they needed them. 

Well first, it was such poor planning on their part that half of their vehicles are under water.  Even common citizens had enough sense to put their cars on overpasses or in dry parking lots.  Why didn't the police department motor pool have enough common sense to put their vehicles where after the storm they'd be able to use them? 

And also, some of the facts and the stories don't match up.  At first they said they commandeered those vehicles because they caught someone breaking into the Sewell Cadillac dealership and they stopped a crime in progress and commandeered those vehicles.  Now they are admitting that they actually used them as patrol vehicles, which they denied at first.  So there are some discrepancies in their story, so when all of this Katrina situation ends, we do expect Charles Foti to follow through with this.

ABRAMS:  And I remember when I was there even a week after I saw police teams patrolling in Cadillac Escalades, and I remember talking to my producers about you know well that's interesting, what are they doing?  And you know I think we assumed that they had taken them because their vehicles had—were under water or they had spoken to the dealerships and worked out some sort of arrangement where they could borrow the cars, et cetera.  Are we just talking, Fletcher, about cars? 

MACKEL:  Yes, I believe we are just talking about cars.  You know, they have had reports of allegations of wrongdoing amongst police officers, and that probably did happen.  But it is a small minority, but it only takes a small minority to taint an entire department.  You saw the two female officers at the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas, who were obviously looting, shopping with the looters in there, which is just a sad sight for those of us who grew up here in New Orleans to know that your police department has done something like that. 

And let's be honest, the New Orleans Police Department doesn't have the greatest reputation in the world.  Going back to the '80's they have had widespread corruption in this department.  They have done a great job trying to clean it up and deputy superintendent, who is now acting superintendent, Warren Riley, is one of the most respected men on the force.  He ran for sheriff last year and it was a close race and a lot of people thought that he should have been superintendent instead of Eddie Compass, so if anybody can clean it up, it seems like it'll be Warren Riley. 

But again, the Sewell Cadillac cars were the biggest problem and led to the biggest questions from the media and from the public. But there have been other discrepancies where you have seen officers—you've heard stories of officer taking flat-screen TVs and looting as well, but again, it's all unconfirmed and rumors at this point...

ABRAMS:  Yes, and we've got to be careful with stuff like that.  I mean when you are just sort of saying you know oh there are reports out there.  I mean I'd like to know more specifics before we start getting into that business.

Fletcher Mackel, all right, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Captain Marlon Defillo is the New Orleans Police Department's spokesperson.  He joins us now.  All right, Captain, thanks for taking the time.  All right, you've heard what we've been talking about here.  What is the official response to this? 

CAPT. MARLON DEFILLO, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPT. (via phone):  Let me just first say that a lot of—I have been dealing with the press for the last 35 days and I've been trying to get factual information out as best I can.  There are a lot of rumors out there and some of the rumors are not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) police department.  When you talk about a police department that has more than 2,000 employees and when you talk about right now maybe 12 officers who may have, who are accused of possibly some misappropriation of nonessential items from business during Hurricane Katrina that's a very small percentage. 

There is a zero tolerance in this police department.  I am very proud of the New Orleans Police Department.  You know I've been here 25 years, and I have had opportunities to leave and go elsewhere, but I stayed, because I love this department.  And the men and women, the vast majority of the police officers on their job will have given their lives and will take their lives to protect this city...

ABRAMS:  Captain...


ABRAMS:  ... so I understand what you're talking—when you say misappropriation of nonessential items, that means stealing things, right? 

DEFILLO:  Well let me just say that is your word.  I am talking about the fact that we were in a crisis time where police officers needed food.  They needed water.  We understand that.  Police officers needed clothing...

ABRAMS:  Right.  But when you say nonessential items you mean things that are not clothing and not food and not water. 

DEFILLO:  Again, those are allegations that we're going to investigate.  We certainly don't condone any of that type of activity (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and if we can prove that a police officer acted inappropriately, I can bet you and I can guarantee that the appropriate action will be taken against those officers...

ABRAMS:  What's the position on the Cadillacs?  I did see myself police officers patrolling in Cadillac Escalades when I was down there.  What were they doing? 

DEFILLO:  You know someone said that we finally—we admitted that we used the cars.  We never denied that fact.  As a matter of fact (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Let me just tell you what happened with that and these are—this is factual.  We caught individuals breaking into the Sewell Cadillac dealership.  They were taking the cars.  Two Cadillacs—they reported 250 cars that were taken. 

We recovered nearly 100 of their cars.  We recovered 100 of their cars.  Thirty of those cars were used for patrolling because the officers lost their cars in the flood. 


DEFILLO:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cars were parked in the convention center and warehoused there until after the storm.  Once the crisis had ended, all of those cars that were being used by police officers were sent to the convention center and were inventoried, so we have nearly 100 cars that were recovered for Sewell Cadillac.

ABRAMS:  Right.

DEFILLO:  There were a number of dealerships around the city where they lost their entire fleet of cars.  And so when I—when we met with the Sewell representative, they were very appreciative of the fact that we got half of their vehicles back.  So you know people are going to second guess, people are going to Monday morning quarterback...


DEFILLO:  ... New Orleans police should have done this or done that.  But the fact is we were in a crisis situation.  These officers were saving lives you know and doing the best job they could possibly do under the circumstances.  And you know, I guess some police officers, the good officers are saying man, why don't the press give us a break, give us—at least give us a little credit...

ABRAMS:  Well...

DEFILLO:  ... for trying to do the right thing. 

ABRAMS:  Let me just say this.  I have given your officers a lot of credit after I went on my patrol with the team of officers that I went with.  I repeatedly talked about what a great job the people I had seen did and I said it on the air again and again.  Let me ask you, there seems to be some ambiguity of whether there was an order issued, which allowed officers to commandeer the cars. 

DEFILLO:  Well let me just say that we welcome any competent body, investigative body to look at the process.  I don't want to get into the authorization side because that's a part of the review process.  But I will say that the officers needed essential items.  Let me tell you about myself first of all.  I spent eight days without a bath, eight days without a change of clothes or underwear, and when someone gave me a pair of pants, a change of underwear...


DEFILLO:  ... I jumped for joy. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  But Captain, as you know, that doesn't really relate to Cadillacs though. 

DEFILLO:  Well let me just say, you know when you talk about 270 of your vehicles gone, flooded out, and you still have people out there who was dying and some of these cars were used to rescue people and save lives, you know, you have to make a decision.  A judgment call has to be made.  And of course some people are going to say well maybe they shouldn't have, maybe they should have.  But that's going to come out in the review process and we welcome that and we recognize that and we, you know, we'll cooperate fully. 

ABRAMS:  All right, here is acting Police Superintendent Warren Riley, talking about the internal investigation that is going on. 


RILEY:  I have ordered an immediate internal investigation by the department's Public Integrity Bureau, which will focus on at least 12 police officers who are being accused of misconduct.  Already, I have suspended four officers in connection with the investigation.  And I have reassigned one officer.  Once the other police officers are identified who are accused of these allegations, who are accused of misconduct, an investigation will be conducted. 


ABRAMS:  Captain, what sort of misconduct is he talking about? 

DEFILLO:  Well the four officers that we saw, the superintendent was smart enough to where he felt there was sufficient information to suspend those four officers.  Now with respect to the remaining eight officers, there is still a question of whether these officers did anything wrong.  So an investigation has to take place.  We have to confirm the allegations and then the action will be taken.  But right now, there is still a question of whether these officers broke any department of policies, broke any laws, so right now we're still in investigative stages.

ABRAMS:  And are you also still investigating the officers who are—quote—“missing”, meaning the people who didn't show up to work for—some probably for very good and sad reasons and possibly the others? 

DEFILLO:  Well, there is a review process.  You know the media again was reporting that there were 249 deserters.  And the word desertion is not a good term for this because as you know in the press conference, the factual information is that a lot of officers were stranded on their rooftops...

ABRAMS:  Right.

DEFILLO:  ... for four or five days and we had to rescue them.  A lot of officers were displaced in other assignments and divisions because they could not communicate with their commander.  Now there was a very small segment of police officers, and we admit that...


DEFILLO:  ... who did not show up for work.  And we'll deal with them at the appropriate time and that's why the superintendent established a committee to handle each case on a case-by-case basis.  You know we're not a perfect police department and we don't profess to be.  I don't know of any office in this world that's free of any type of problem with their employees.  But certainly when we identify their problem we will take the appropriate action and deal with those individuals accordingly. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Captain, I don't envy you.  You got a tough job ahead of you.  You've had an incredibly tough job up to this point...

DEFILLO:  I am proud to be a member of the New Orleans Police Department (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just as the other 2,000 people are, and we have dedicated our lives to protecting this city.  And you now all we're asking for the public to do is weigh what's going on.  You got 12 officers, 2,000 employees.  OK, 12 officers maybe done something wrong.  You got 2,000 good officers. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

DEFILLO:  You know you can see where I'm going. 

ABRAMS:  Captain, thanks a lot. 

DEFILLO:  Thank you.  You're welcome.  Bye-bye.

ABRAMS:  Eddie Jordan, Jr. is the New Orleans district attorney who's been kind enough to join us once again.  Mr. District Attorney, thank you for coming back on the show. 

All right, so you've got the attorney general...


ABRAMS:  ... of the state who's doing this investigation.  Why isn't it your office that's conducting this sort of investigation?  Is this the norm? 

JORDAN:  Well this is an investigation that the Attorney General's Office is taking the lead on.  Apparently he received the information first, and it's perfectly appropriate for him to conduct the initial investigation.  And he will submit his findings to my office.  I do have an investigator assigned to work with the Attorney General's Office. 

ABRAMS:  Have you been able to get any information through that investigator, through your own investigation, as to generally the conduct of police officers?  I mean is it pretty clear to you that some engaged in some sort of misconduct or are you not convinced of that at this point? 

JORDAN:  We certainly don't have sufficient information at this time to form an opinion as to whether the conduct in question was legal or not.  I think that the investigation has just begun, so I think it would be premature for anyone to cast judgment on what has happened. 

ABRAMS:  Is it fair to say that, let's say someone is able to demonstrate, videotape, eyewitnesses, whatever, that there were police officers who were stealing quote—unquote—“food, water, clothing”.  I assume you're not going to be prosecuting any of that, right? 

JORDAN:  If we are talking about food and water and clothing, I would think that generally speaking that that would not be the kind of conduct we would be interested in prosecuting.  But every case stands on its own merits and we'd have to look at all the facts...

ABRAMS:  It's a fair point.  It's a fair distinction.  Because I mean a fur coat is clothing and I would assume that, you know, that would be treated differently than t-shirts and shorts.  All right, District Attorney Eddie Jordan thanks again for coming back on the program. 

JORDAN:  You're welcome. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the battle over teaching evolution heats up.  Heading back to the courtroom, one school board ordering its teachers to teach intelligent design in science class, but I'm just not sure that's a scientific theory.  We debate next.

And Natalee Holloway's mother says she'll do what it takes to find her daughter.  Now she's looking at hiring an international lawyer.  What could the legal strategy be? 

And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike again. 

Our search this week in Arizona—authorities would like your help trying to find James F. Hawes, 56, 5'7”, 168, level three sex offender, convicted of sexual conduct with a minor, has not registered with the authorities.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please call the Arizona Department of Public Safety, 602-255-0611.

Back in a moment.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, what could become a historic courtroom battle over what your children can learn in science class.  Shocker, it relates to a guy whose first name was Charles.  First the headlines.


ABRAMS:  We're back.  Ask almost all biologists and scientists, for that matter, and they will agree Darwin's theory of evolution is as tried and true as the grass is green.  It explains how we became we.  But some would say well we are asking the wrong people.  They point to gaps in the theory and want to make sure public schools question the answers.  Among them, the Dover Pennsylvania School District now in court because of a mandate passed last year that says—quote—“students will be made aware of gaps, problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including but not limited to intelligent design.”

NBC's Robert Bazell has the story. 


ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The students at this one high school in the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania are the focus of the latest court battle over the theory of evolution. 

(on camera):  The local school board passed a requirement that a theory called intelligent design be offered as an alternative explanation for the diversity of life on earth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Morning.  Good morning.

BAZELL (voice-over): But several parents sued in federal court, saying that intelligent design is nothing but religion in disguise and that teaching it deprives their children of a proper education.  It is a view many scientists share.

ALAN LESHNER, AMER. ASSOC. FOR ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE:  The scientific community is very concerned that we not compromise the integrity of the science education we are providing to young people. 

BAZELL:  This is an argument that goes back 80 years to the Scopes trial that challenged a Tennessee law banning the teaching of evolution and many see no end to it.

EDWARD LARSON, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, ATHENS:  We're a deeply religious nation, we were religious in 1920, we're religious now, and part of that concern centers on the religious implications of evolution. 

BAZELL:  The trial is expected to last five weeks and Judge John Jones' decision will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Robert Bazell, NBC News, Dover, Pennsylvania. 


ABRAMS:  All right, “My Take”—I have two fundamental problems with intelligent design.  Number one, I think it is somewhat dishonest.  It is another name for creationism.  Who else is the intelligent designer?  I have the utmost respect for those who believe and admit they believe that God created life.  But the intelligent design movement refuses to come clean about that.

Number two, intelligent designers have provided no new evidence to show why evolution should not continue to be the science taught in schools.  They offer no other scientific theories.  Remember, a scientific theory is not just a hunch, it's in this case the conclusion of the scientific community based on evidence, fossils, pure reviewed studies, et cetera. 

Why don't the intelligent designers question the theory of relativity or gravity?  Both of those theories have unanswered questions as well.  Maybe it's because those theories don't upset those who want religion taught in schools.

Joining me now is Stephen Meyer, director and senior fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute.  He co-authored the book “Darwinism, Design, and Public Education” and backs the teaching of intelligent design.  And Eugene Scott is an anthropologist, executive director of the National Center for Science Education and a strong supporter of teaching evolution. 

All right, Mr. Meyer, let me deal with that question first.  Why just—if the problem is that you think that the schools need to teach other possibilities, why not go after the theory of gravity and the theory of relativity as well? 

STEPHEN MEYER, DISCOVER INSTITUTE:  Well, we are a group of scientists who are interested in the question of biological origins.  And the theory of Darwinian evolution, which is the standard textbook theory is now being questioned by an increasing number of scientists, contrary to the lead-in piece that you had.  Over 425 scientists have signed a statement of dissent questioning the power of natural selection to explain the complexity of life.  and many scientists are pointing to evidence just in exactly the way you said we should be to support the design phthisis (ph)...


ABRAMS:  Which major scientific groups have supported intelligent design? 

MEYER:  There are scientists at the university...

ABRAMS:  No, not scientists...


ABRAMS:  I asked which major scientific groups...

MEYER:  You've got your mind made up already...

ABRAMS:  I do.  No, I do.


ABRAMS:  Yes, I'm admitting it.

MEYER:  ... why don't you let me respond to the two points that you made at the top of the hour. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

MEYER:  You said there was no scientific evidence supporting intelligent design.  Oh contraire.  The cell is now known to be chock full of miniature machines, nanotechnology and digital code that was unknown in Darwin's time. 


MEYER:  And there are peer-reviewed articles and books that have made very eloquent and sophisticated cases for the idea of intelligent design based on these new discoveries. 


MEYER:  It is a science-based argument.  And in fact, I have a book right here if you will permit me...


MEYER:  This is from Cambridge University Press...

ABRAMS:  Right...

MEYER:  ... called Debating Design...

ABRAMS:  Just because there is a book doesn't tell me anything...

MEYER:  Well, there are also articles. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  All right, look...


ABRAMS:  ... Scott, my understanding is that there is not a single peer-reviewed article out there that supports intelligent design.  Am I wrong? 


You are correct. 

ABRAMS:  So what is Mr. Meyers...

SCOTT:  The thing about...

MEYER:  I have published a peer-reviewed article in Eugenia Scott's organization, and The National Center for Science Education, led the charge to discredit not only the article, but the editor who allowed it to go through peer review.  Since that time...


SCOTT:  ... eight or 10 additional...

SCOTT:  ... Steve...

MEYER:  ... articles have been published and there are...

SCOTT:  ... Steve...

MEYER:  ... peer-reviewed books advocating intelligent design...

SCOTT:  ... Steve...

ABRAMS:  I think the peers may be the other people involved...

SCOTT:  ... Steve...

ABRAMS:  ... in this organization, but...

MEYER:  No...


MEYER:  ... this was published at the Smithsonian Technical...

ABRAMS:  All right...

MEYER:  ... Biology Journal by...

SCOTT:  That's right Steve.

MEYER:  ... an editor with two...

ABRAMS:  Eugenia Scott...

MEYER:  ... not one but two...

ABRAMS:  Let me let her respond.  Let me let her respond.  Go ahead.

MEYER:  Well you're asserting false things...

SCOTT:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Eugenia Scott...

SCOTT:  Steve, your article doesn't mention intelligent design.  Your article...

MEYER:  Of course it does. 

SCOTT:  ... is an attack on evolution.  No...

MEYER:  No, the last...

SCOTT:  As far as I'm concerned...

MEYER:  ... the last part of the article...

SCOTT:  ... intelligent design...

MEYER:  ... is an article about intelligent design.  It's a case for it...

SCOTT:  Steve...


MEYER:  Get on our Web site...

SCOTT:  Steve...


ABRAMS:  Hang on, Steve.  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  Let her respond.  Let her respond.


ABRAMS:  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  Steve Meyer, hang on a second...


ABRAMS:  When you and I are going at it, I'll let you interrupt me, but let me let you—let her respond...

MEYER:  She can't tell me what was in my own article...


ABRAMS:  She can be more honest maybe about what's in the article though.  Go ahead.  What's --  go ahead.  Finish your thought.

SCOTT:  Intelligent design makes the claim that there are things out there in nature that are just categorically unexplainable by natural cause, therefore they were created, designed by an intelligent agent and nobody is fooled, the intelligent agent is God.  Now, how can you call that a science when your basic organizing principle is we can't explain this through natural cause.  What science does is explain things through natural cause.  And the whole idea of intelligent design just completely flies in the face of that.  You can talk about refereed articles, you can talk about books, you can talk about everything else, but...

MEYER:  You've just shifted your ground, Eugenie. 

SCOTT:  The bottom line is...

MEYER:  You said there were none. 

SCOTT:  ... is anybody...

MEYER:  Yes.

SCOTT:  Excuse me sir.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about that, Steve. 


ABRAMS:  The point that she is making—let me ask this question. 

SCOTT:  Steve...

ABRAMS:  ... the follow-up exactly what you just said...

SCOTT:  ... will you please let me finish my thought...

ABRAMS:  Hang on Eugenie.  It's Dan Abrams...

SCOTT:  I'm sorry.  You're being very rude.

ABRAMS:  Eugenie, it's Dan Abrams...

SCOTT:  All right.

ABRAMS:  I just want to follow up on the thought that you just offered and ask Stephen Meyer...

SCOTT:  Excuse me, I haven't finished the thought. 

ABRAMS:  All right, but just let me follow up. 

SCOTT:  All right.

ABRAMS:  Is intelligent design God, Stephen Meyer? 

MEYER:  The...

ABRAMS:  What is intelligent design...

MEYER:  ... the theory by saying that we are arguing from...

ABRAMS:  I'm asking you what is intelligent design?


ABRAMS:  Who is the intelligent...

MEYER:  I'll tell you what intelligent design is.

ABRAMS:  Who is the intelligent designer?  Who is the intelligent designer?

MEYER:  The intelligent—what the theory of intelligent design says is there are certain features of living systems that are best explained by an intelligence...

ABRAMS:  And what does that mean...


ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait, that's the most circular thing I've ever heard. 

MEYER:  No...

ABRAMS:  What—who is the intelligent designer? 

MEYER:  We do not identify...

ABRAMS:  I know you don't.  That's why I'm calling you on it...


ABRAMS:  I want to know who it is. 


ABRAMS:  Just admit it.  It's religion...


ABRAMS:  You just can't—it's religion.

MEYER:  You're asserting without letting me answer your question. 

ABRAMS:  So respond.  You are not responding to my question. 


ABRAMS:  Is it religion or not? 

MEYER:  I'd be happy to respond.

ABRAMS:  Is it religion or not?

MEYER:  No, it is a scientific theory based on scientific evidence and that's why we can't identify the designer.  We see signatures of intelligence that can be analyzed with established methods of design detection. 

ABRAMS:  I don't know what any of that means. 

MEYER:  OK, let me explain...


MEYER:  ... information...




MEYER:  ... digital code.  If you found information, a software code in any other realm of experience, you would infer that intelligence had play a role.  You might not be able to tell...


ABRAMS:  No, no, that assumes...


ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  That assumes evolution doesn't exist.  That's the problem with your argument...


ABRAMS:  You assume—to accept your argument is to assume, first of all, that evolution can't be the explanation...

MEYER:  No...


MEYER:  We have included that undirected natural processes...

ABRAMS:  All right...

MEYER:  ... are insufficient to explain that information. 

ABRAMS:  Eugenie Scott, I get the feeling that the game that's being played here is a lot of circular talk. 

MEYER:  That's a lovely baited question there, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Yes, it was...

MEYER:  That's not an objective question.

ABRAMS:  Look, have I claimed to be objective?  Did I not come out at the beginning and tell people...

MEYER:  Yes you did...

ABRAMS:  ... exactly what my position is? 


ABRAMS:  OK.  I'm totally owning up to it.  I will never on this program disguise or hide because I want my viewers to know I'm being straight with them.  Go ahead Eugenie.

SCOTT:  Intelligent design has descended with very little modification from creation science.  And the reason why they're so coy about the identity of the designer is why we are here in Dover.  The Supreme Court and other courts have ruled that religious advocacy such as creationism violates the First Amendment establishment clause.  So the intelligent design proponents from the very beginning tried to whitewash religion out as much as they could.  Now to say well we're not claiming who the designer is, is just a sham.  Either the designer is God or somebody with the same skill set and there's no point...


ABRAMS:  And as I said at the outset...


MEYER:  Let me respond to that, Dan...


ABRAMS:  I'll let you...


ABRAMS:  I'll give you the final word...


ABRAMS:  I'll give you the final...


ABRAMS:  I will give you the final word...


ABRAMS:  I will give you the final word, but I respect the people who come out and say you know what, I think that God created life, and I have the utmost respect for those people.  What we're talking about here are people who are not admitting what we're talking about and are talking in a lot of codes and circular arguments, et cetera.  Mr. Stephen Meyer, you get the final word. 

MEYER:  I personally do think that God created the world.  But the reason that as a design theorist, we are careful not to say more than we can detect intelligence is not because we are trying to pull a sham or the wool over anyone's eyes, we're trying to be careful about what the evidence can establish and what it can't. 


MEYER:  The argument for design is based on evidence and the evidence establishes an intelligent cause, but it can't establish the identity of the intelligence...

ABRAMS:  Yes...


ABRAMS:  And the bottom line is when you get any major scientific organization on your side I will then apologize.  Until then, I will continue...

MEYER:  That's a procedural argument...


ABRAMS:  All right.

MEYER:  We want people to examine the evidence. 

ABRAMS:  Yes...


ABRAMS:  The problem...


ABRAMS:  ... scientific organizations...


ABRAMS:  ... that's all they do. 

MEYER:  ... the National Center for Science Education...

ABRAMS:  Yes, all they do is examine the evidence, and reject again and again...

MEYER:  You explain digital code and cells...

ABRAMS:  OK.  All right.  Yes, all right.

Coming up—thank you both.  Appreciate it, by the way.  Stephen Meyer, you're a good sport. 

Beth Holloway fighting mad and fighting back, she's talking with international lawyers, but what can she really do?  How can they help her?  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, Natalee Holloway's mother fighting back, talking to an international lawyer.  What are her legal options in or out of Aruba? 


ABRAMS:  She is not backing down just yet.  Beth Holloway Twitty, mother of Natalee Holloway, Alabama teen, missing in Aruba since May 30 is in Philadelphia meeting with a lawyer, gearing up for what could be major legal action as a result to the investigation to her daughter's unsolved disappearance. 

Natalee last seen almost four months ago, leaving a club with Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe.  The three were arrested, spent months in jail, now are free.  None of the men denies being with Natalee that night, but all say they knew nothing about her disappearance.  The months spent searching for Natalee on the island haven't turned up a clue as to what might have happened to her in those early-morning hours. 

Joining me now, criminal defense attorney Ted Simon.  Ted has represented clients in Aruba and other place in the world.  All right, Ted, what possible legal action could Natalee's mother take? 

TED SIMON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well you know we're hearing rumors and I'm sure you're hearing them too that there is—and I don't know how true or not they are, but they—someone is at least talking about it.  Not necessarily the lawyers, but talking about possible action against the government of Aruba.  And the quick response to that is the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a statute in the United States pretty much protects foreign governments and it gives them immunity from their...

ABRAMS:  So it's a nonstarter.

SIMON:  It's a nonstarter.  I mean if you recall in '98 in Kenya when there was that horrific truck bombing, the Kenyans, and there were some 200 people that died, brought a lawsuit in the United States against the government of Afghanistan, as well as Osama bin Laden, and the government of Afghanistan was you know taken out of the case under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, but that doesn't mean there are some exceptions that are potentially employable. 

ABRAMS:  What are they going to sue Aruba?  I mean the bottom line is look, we see investigations in this country—let's even assume the investigation was botched.  I mean they arrested them much later, there was evidence that was probably destroyed, et cetera.  But in this county we see botched investigations all the time. 

SIMON:  Yes, all that's quite true.  But I think the real question here is, before you dictate or consider a certain legal strategy, you have to know what the objective is of the client.  And without talking to the client you don't know what that objective is.  And some of things that come to mind include what?  One, solving this event, whether it was a crime or not. 

Two, perhaps exacting a pound of flesh.  Three, suing the responsible parties and that would depend in various places, achieving a successful criminal prosecution if that's appropriate.  And lastly, but not necessarily lastly, but including, you know exploring and demonstrating whether or not there was a full, fair and complete investigation of this event or whether or not there was something less...


SIMON:  ... even a cover-up. 

ABRAMS:  But as a legal --  well I guess—as a legal matter, if they didn't fully investigate, there is no legal action that can be taken against them. 

SIMON:  Again, Dan, never say never.  And the question is, what information does Beth Holloway have that perhaps the rest of the world doesn't know? 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SIMON:  and there may be pieces of information that would help once you digest those facts and exhaust your review of the law to come up with a creative way in which to proceed and you know there are various ways to proceed and—but it would depend largely...


SIMON:  ... on the specific facts. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ted Simon, thanks for coming on.  Appreciate it.

SIMON:  You're welcome.  Good to see you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, some of you actually upset at Laci Peterson's mother.  Your e-mails are up next.

And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  Arizona authorities looking for Wayne Klima, 39, 5'11”, 165.  He's a level-three sex offender, convicted of sexual abuse, has not registered with authorities.

If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please call the Arizona Department of Public Safety, 602-255-0611.

We're back in a minute.


ABRAMS:  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Yesterday House Majority Leader Tom DeLay charged with conspiracy to violate Texas election laws by a Texas grand jury.  The charges filed by a D.A. in Travis County, Ronnie Earle, a Democrat who DeLay considers a—quote—“rogue prosecutor.”  I said  I thought the indictment seemed thin and then spoke to DeLay's attorney, Dick Deguerin.

Korby Siamis in Los Angeles, “You just gave Tom DeLay five uninterrupted minutes of air time to tell his side.  It was followed by an interview with Mr. DeLay's lawyer.  You called him by his first name, Dick, repeatedly, and ended by saying he was a good lawyer.  Wow, so objective, Dan.”

Korby, objectivity does not mean that I can't draw conclusions based on what I see.  I said going in that I've been tough on DeLay in the past fight and I was.  And I think here the D.A. is going to have a rough go.  That's how I see it.  And for the record, Korby, the DeLay sound bite wasn't five minutes.  It was 2:49. 

Also last night, Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother, fighting Scott Peterson for Laci's $250,000 life insurance policy.  Peterson's attorney refusing to give up until all of the appeals are exhausted.

Lisa Killeen in Greenwich, Connecticut, “I'm disgusted by the fact that Laci's mother seems to be very concerned about money.  If she believes Scott killed her daughter, then she got justice.  Why does she need the money?  It will not get her daughter back.”

Oh come on, Lisa.  What should she do?  Just let Scott Peterson get the money or let the insurance company keep it?  She has every right to fight for that and I encourage her to continue. 

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

Coming up, you can bid on a couple of items that were very important to me. 

It's for two great causes.  The details are up next.


ABRAMS:  We're about to have a big auction to raise some money to help the victims of Katrina and for abused children.  I'm going to be auctioning off my press passes, two from two of the biggest trials I've ever covered. 

First, there's this from the Scott Peterson trial.  It got me in the door in Redwood City each day and it can be yours if you're the highest bidder.  And then there's this one from Santa Maria, California, my pass to the Michael Jackson case. 

Peterson proceeds will go to Habitat for Humanity, which is busy building houses for Katrina victims.  They're hard at work now in New York on Rockefeller Plaza or as it's known, Humanity Plaza.  And the other half is for the National CASA Association.  CASA stands for court appointed special advocate.  The group makes sure abused and neglected children get legal representation in court if they need it. 

Our auction is going to start on Monday, so stay tuned for details.  Now, you know, they're both, I don't know, pretty nice I guess.  This one has a picture.  This one doesn't, but you know maybe you were more into the Peterson case than you were to the Michael Jackson case.  Who knows?  But it's for a great cause. 

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you tomorrow.



Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

The Abrams Report each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET


Discussion comments