updated 9/30/2005 10:46:23 AM ET 2005-09-30T14:46:23

Guest: Larry Weeks, Don Hutchinson, Fred Cerise, Pat Williamson, Franki

Phelps, Stephen Stock, Jay Etheridge, Jack Kevorkian, Mayer Morganroth,

Ruth Holmes, Wendy Murphy

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Tonight, the mayor of New Orleans facing a double punch.  A bombshell report says he forced the police chief to quit, and the new top cop is facing allegations that police officers may have been looting, stealing some very pricey items.

And shocking surveillance video puts the main suspect in the murder of a 13-year-old girl at the scene of another brutal killing.

Plus, my exclusive and very revealing interview with Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  He tells me if he'd again help people die, if he ever gets out of prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JACK KEVORKIAN, “DR. DEATH”:  Do you see a criminal?  Do you see a murderer?  Do you see what's called a killer?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  But first, a developing story happening at this hour.  Massive wildfires are burning out of control in southern California.  So far, the Topanga fire has consumed thousands of acres in two counties.  Many families have already evacuated their homes.  You're looking at some live pictures right now.  Homes are in danger of burning down.  We just got word that at least three so far have been destroyed.

Let's turn now Kurt Schaefer.  He's a firefighter who is working to contain these wildfires.  Kurt, let me ask you, first of all, how many acres have burned so far?  What's the latest?

KURT SCHAEFER, FIGHTING TOPANGA FIRE:  We're at 16,200 acres.

COSBY:  And how much of it is contained, at this point, as we're looking at these live pictures?

SCHAEFER:  Right now, we're only 5 percent contained, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us.

COSBY:  What's making it so difficult to contain?  Is it the high winds, just the speed of the fire?

SCHAEFER:  It's a combination of both.  It's the high winds we experienced yesterday and early this morning and throughout last night, as well as inaccessible terrain.  But the weather is making a change for us, so we should start make some headway.

COSBY:  Are the flames threatening homes?

SCHAEFER:  They are threatening some homes in the Bell (ph) Canyon area.  We have strike teams, which are five engines—several strike teams there on these homes actively knocking down fire.  So that's the area we're concentrating on now.

COSBY:  Do you have any idea what started this?  Was it arson, mother Nature?  What caused it?

SCHAEFER:  You know, that's still under investigation.  It started yesterday at about 1:50 in the afternoon just north of the 118 freeway at Topanga Canyon, so just on the freeway shoulder.  So we really don't have the cause nailed down.

COSBY:  All right, Kurt.  Well, we appreciate it.  We know you have a lot of work to do.  We'd love to have you on at some point later on.  Thank you.

And joining me now on the phone is Oak Park resident Larry Weeks, whose house was threatened earlier today.  Flames are just tens of feet from your home.  Where are the flames now in relation to your house, Larry?

LARRY WEEKS, OAK PARK, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT:  They're quite a ways east of us now.  I think what we're seeing is the Bell Canyon fire.  It seems to have pretty much died out in the Oak Park area, thankfully.

COSBY:  How worried were you about your home?  And where are you now?

WEEKS:  I'm at home now.  We were, of course, quite worried, but there were four engine companies in our cul-de-sac, waiting for the fire to creep down the hill towards us.  So it—we felt like we were in good hands at all times, and they were very reassuring.  And they, in fact, did their job excellently.

COSBY:  You know, we saw some pretty dramatic pictures earlier today, Larry.  Did you ever imagine a day where the flames would be so close to your own house?

WEEKS:  Well, I've always worried about it, I have to admit.  You don't move to an area like this without worrying about it and without knowing about it.  But you know, it's just part of life here.

COSBY:  Are you thinking about moving, at some point?

WEEKS:  Oh, gosh, not...

COSBY:  Did this give you a scare?

WEEKS:  Not at all.  I love it here.  I would never think of moving.

COSBY:  Are you concerned that this is just sort of the beginning of fire season?

WEEKS:  Yes.  But on the other hand, now that the flames have burned down fairly close to our homes around here, the fuel is pretty well spent, and we're probably a lot better off than a lot of other people in the area.

COSBY:  Well, Larry Weeks, I'm glad that your home is safe and that you're safe, as well.

WEEKS:  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  Thank you very much.

And now to a firestorm in the middle of a hurricane-ravaged flood zone.  New Orleans police are looking into reports that members of its own department looted after Hurricane Katrina, the investigation triggered in part by this MSNBC video showing uniformed officers taking items from a Wal-Mart.  NBC's Donna Gregory is live in New Orleans with the latest on this—Donna.

DONNA GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Rita.  Pretty shocking, isn't it.  But I'll tell you, there is an investigation under way.  We learned about it at a news conference today called by the new interim police superintendent, Warren Riley.  He says that his office has looked at these videotapes, and including the one that you just showed from NBC.  And there's questions on whether the officers were actually involved in the looting or may have been simply standing by and not stopping the looters.

Again, that at a news conference today, where they discussed several things.  This news conference, we learned that there were 12 officers who are under suspicion.  They're being investigated.  Four have been suspended.  One has been reassigned.

And all of this comes on the heels of another brewing controversy, what some are calling the forced resignation on Tuesday of former New Orleans superintendent Eddie Compass.  And there are some officers who want to remain nameless who have told “The Times-Picayune” here in New Orleans that they spoke personally with Eddie Compass, who said that Mayor Nagin forced him to resign.  The mayor then and today denies that that happened, but there are still a lot of questions surrounding the resignation of Eddie Compass.

He did make one thing clear—the new interim superintendent made one thing clear today.  The 249 officers we've been talking about, who were AWOL, away without leave, during the violence immediately after Hurricane Katrina—he says that there are specific cases that they've already investigated where these officers had a legitimate excuse to be gone.  He said some were simply stuck in their homes and had to be rescued by the police.  Others reported to precincts that were nearer their homes.  But that investigation is continuing, as well—Rita.

COSBY:  Donna, thanks so much.

Well, all of this comes as officials get ready to reopen more of New Orleans tomorrow.  Joining us now is one of the mayor's closest advisers, Don Hutchinson.  He's New Orleans's economic development director.  And of course, this comes as lots of folks from New Orleans are coming back into the city.  Some of the key areas that folks are going to be going back in, of course, the French Quarter, the Garden District, also Algiers.  Those are some of the areas that didn't encounter a lot of the severe damage.  But it looks like it's good news for those residents, and also business owners, who are indeed ready to come back.

And joining us now is Mr. Hutchinson.  I'm first going to ask you about what Donna was talking about.  Do you know if the police chief was forced out by the mayor?

DON HUTCHINSON, DIR., NEW ORLEANS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:  Well, I'm not going to comment on that.  I'm here to talk about economic development in the city of New Orleans, on how we're bringing businesses back to our city.  Today was day one, and we're welcoming our businesses here.  And some of them are already opened and getting their businesses ready to welcome customers.

COSBY:  Let's talk about the juggling act, if we could, because I just talked about some of the different districts where folks are coming in—the Garden District, the French Quarter, which, of course, is the big popular spot, Algiers.  How tough is this juggling?

HUTCHINSON:  Well, it's not a juggling act.  We're being very strategic on how we're bringing the citizens back to New Orleans.  We've discussed this over many, many days, and we're bringing the people back into those areas that are dry.  And those areas that we are bringing back is the central business district, the French Quarter, Uptown, which is really the mainstay of our economy anyway.  And we're also bringing businesses back on the eastern side of our city, some of the manufacturers.

So we feel pretty good with the progress that we're making, especially for the business community.  We want to breathe life back into the city of New Orleans.  We want to open up our economy and bring some more people back to work in our city.

COSBY:  Now, some people are saying they don't want to come back.  That's got to be disturbing to you, who are trying to rejuvenate New Orleans.

HUTCHINSON:  Well, it's—I'm very optimistic.  I think that once we lay out our game plan and let the citizens know, let the business community know what our game plan is, we'll bring people back.

COSBY:  You know, we're going to talk to the state health secretary in a moment, who has some concerns about getting back too soon.  Do you feel it's safe?  You know, I mean, we talk about particularly the businesses.  But there's word if the water is even clean.  Is it premature to tell folks, Hey, it's OK to come back in?

HUTCHINSON:  No, we've met with the health department locally.  We've met with the health department at the state level.  We're telling the citizens who are coming back into the community, the businesses that are coming back into the community, to bring a sufficient water supply.  We know that we still have a few more adjustments to make, but we're moving in the right direction and we feel positive about it.  The last thing we will do is bring our citizens back to an environment that is not safe and is not healthy for them on the long term.

COSBY:  you know, there's been a lot of talk about Ray Nagin, whom you're very close to.  You work for him, close adviser.  Has he talked about stepping down?  We heard just so many changes in light of what's happened in Katrina.

HUTCHINSON:  I didn't quite get what you just said.

COSBY:  Has the mayor talked about...

HUTCHINSON:  Would you repeat the question?

COSBY:  Has the mayor talked about stepping down at all?  Because in light of the police chief stepping down, a lot of people have said, Is the mayor going to be next?

HUTCHINSON:  Absolutely not.  The mayor is here.  The mayor is going to help us make New Orleans one of the best cities on the planet.

COSBY:  All right.  Well, we thank you very much, Mr. Hutchison.  And of course, we want to see that city come back to life.  We appreciate you being with us.

HUTCHINSON:  We thank you for giving us the opportunity to help us breathe life back into the city.

COSBY:  You're welcome.

And as you heard, one of the mayor's biggest efforts, of course, is to get people to come back to New Orleans, but the city may be too sick for some of them to stay.  That's the opinion of my next guest, who is Dr. Fred Cerise, who is Louisiana's secretary of health and hospitals.

You have some concern about people coming back too soon for possible disease reasons.  Tell us about that.

DR. FRED CERISE, LA SECY. OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS:  Well, we've issued some advisories.  It's not that I'm concerned about people coming back into the city.  We know that people need to come back into the city.  There's a lot of work to be done in the city, and there are areas that are dry now.

What we are trying to do is alert people that we don't have all the traditional and typical public health protections in place, and so people need to be careful, as they come back in to carry out these essential tasks and business functions, that the water is not clear, yet we're still under a bowl (ph) advisory on the east bank of the river.  And so as people come back in, we want them to be aware of that kind of issue, just so that they can exert proper caution.

COSBY:  You know, one of the other things, too—I mean, I saw just, you know, all that muck in these people's homes.  Now there's a lot of mold.  How big of a concern is mold for folks coming back to their residence?

CERISE:  Well, you know, when we look at the kind of—we're doing surveillance, and when we look at what we're seeing in our hospitals and in the emergency centers that are set up around the city, most of what we're seeing is injuries, people that are back at work and the kind of things that you might expect.  We are seeing some people with some respiratory complaints.

You know, going into homes, mold is going to be a big issue as more and more people get back into these homes that have been under water.  And so there's some things that people need to be aware of and can do.  We advise people if you've got respiratory conditions, if you've got young children, elderly people or people with immune problems, immunocompromised states, to take caution.  And those people we don't—we advise that those people not be returning to those homes.

But others, you can take precautions, like a typical face mask, N-95 (ph) respirator that you can get in a typical home improvement store.  That's one of the precautions that you can take.  And we do expect to see a fair amount of issues related to mold.

COSBY:  Now, Dr. Cerise, you and I talked a few weeks ago.  And at that point, there was an investigation into patients who may have been euthanized, some doctors essentially playing God, deciding who's going to survive, who wouldn't during the hurricane and soon after the hurricane.  Where does that investigation stand?

CERISE:  We have a number of investigations in the state that are going on right now.  The attorney general's office has some cases going on with hospitals and nursing homes.  Those investigations are under way, and I don't have any specific information on the results of them, at this point.

COSBY:  Still being looked into, though?

CERISE:  That's correct.

COSBY:  All right, Dr. Cerise.  Thank you very much.  We always appreciate you being here and being on.

And speaking of euthanasia, my exclusive prison interview with Dr.  Jack Kevorkian, also called the doctor of death, is coming up in just a few minutes.  You will be surprised by what he says.  And that's not all we have on tap.  Take a look.

Still ahead, proof that the suspected killer of a 13-year-old girl is alive, on the run and very dangerous.  He's caught on tape at the scene of another murder.  And that's not the only clue he's left behind.

And a horrible misunderstanding leads one police officer to kill another.  Terrifying pictures show the final moments.  But what went so wrong?

And another teacher caught having sex with her 16-year-old student.  Get this.  They even videotaped it.  But wait until you find out what happened when she went to court.  It's ahead LIVE AND DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  New clues that may lead investigators to find a man suspected of killing three people.  We've obtained this surveillance video of Melvin Keeling.  He's the man suspected of killing two store clerks in cold blood at an Indiana convenience store.  He's also suspected of brutally murdering 13-year-old Katelind Caudill, seen here in this home video.

Joining me now on the phone be is Pat Williamson.  He's a lead detective in the Indiana double murder case.  And also, Katelind Caudill's aunt, Franki Phelps, joins us again with all the latest details.

And let me start with you, if I could, Detective.  We're going to walk through this surveillance video that we got from “America's Most Wanted.”  It's pretty amazing stuff.  Walk us through what happened at this convenience store.

PAT WILLIAMSON, JASPER CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.:  Well, the suspect entered the store.  There was no patrons in the store, just actually the two store clerks.  And he did enter into the counter area near the front doors and looked to ask for a pack of cigarettes.  We—in our opinion, it appears that he may be attempting a robbery.  He looks at the cash register.  From that point, we can't—we don't have audio, so we don't know what was said.  But the clerk backs away from the cash register, and he proceeds to, of course, pull the weapon out of his waistband and later fires upon her and then walks around the counter.  And the other clerk, who was kneeled down behind counter, apparently working, he did attack her, as well, and shot her.  And both of them were deceased behind the counter.

COSBY:  Actually, he shoots one woman in the face, shoots another clerk, who's kneeling, kills both of them.  I understand also there's another development.  A billfold, his billfold, has been found within the last 24 hours or so.  Tell us why you know it's his and also why it's significant where it was found.

WILLIAMSON:  Well, we found, first of all, identification that belongs with the billfold.  We did find the billfold in the immediate area of this personal identification, which was basically picture identification of Melvin Keeling.  And this was located approximately a block west of where the van was discovered.  It was in a heavily wooded area, and we had a search party of about 45 individuals walking the woods that day.

COSBY:  And of course, that was his van that was found.  Let me bring in, if I could, Franki.  Franki, I know that we gave you a monitor, and I want to show you this video.  This is the surveillance tape of Melvin Keeling, who we believe, authorities say, is him, when he went through the store.  You've had a chance to look at this.  As you're looking at it, are you 100 percent sure that this is the man who also killed your niece?

FRANKI PHELPS, KATELIND'S AUNT:  I'm 100 percent sure.

COSBY:  And why is that?

PHELPS:  When we first saw it—when I first saw it, the sections of it on our local news, we all looked at it and said instantly, That's him!  That's him!  And then we first saw the complete footage on “America's Most Wanted.”  And it was just brutal.  It was senseless.  It was brutal.

COSBY:  How do you feel to know this man, first of all, you know, killed your beautiful 13-year-old niece, you know, allegedly, and then, you know, goes in, allegedly, in this case, you know, he's charged in this case for killing two store clerks?

PHELPS:  It's unreal.  I can't believe.  I am so, so sorry for the family.  Our whole family feels so bad that this had to happen to them, and we feel so—we just feel for them.  We feel for them.  And we feel so bad.

COSBY:  And I know we're showing some pictures.  I don't know if you can see these pictures.  These are the home video.  It's just got to break your heart.  Are you praying that there are now some more leads, Franki, with the billfold found, just to get some answers for your beautiful niece?

PHELPS:  If we can get some answers and get some closure on this and have our grieving time—we haven't really been able to do that because we all—we all stay together.  We don't go anywhere without someone with us because we are afraid.  And just to get some closure for us and the other families, so that they can have their grief time and just be at peace, knowing that he's caught or he's dead.

COSBY:  And really quickly, if there's someone out there that has any information—just have a few seconds left—what would you want to say to them tonight?

PHELPS:  Please, please, we beg of you, please turn him in.  He's not worth hiding out.  He's a monster.  He's a brutal killer.  He killed three people.  I know he killed Katie.  He killed those two other women senselessly.  Please turn him in.

COSBY:  Well, I hope somebody's out there listening, and I hope that you get some answers soon.  Franki, thank you.  We will stay on this.

PHELPS:  Thank you very much.

COSBY:  Thank you.

And now to a bizarre story in Florida.  Investigators want to know why a police officer at the University of Central Florida was shot dead.  His killer, a police officer from the city of Orlando.  Reporter Stephen Stock with NBC affiliate WESH in that area is LIVE AND DIRECT tonight with the details of this tailgate tragedy—Stephen.

STEPHEN STOCK, WESH-TV, ORLANDO:  Rita, eyewitnesses tell us tonight that a simple confusion over school colors may have been a contributing factor in this officer's death.  University of Central Florida police officer Mario Jenkins was working a detail at the Citrus Bowl here in Orlando on Saturday.  He was working in plainclothes, trying to catch underage drinkers.

Now, still pictures taken by one witness shows Jenkins actually holding his gun along the side of the head of an unidentified UCF student.  Witnesses say Jenkins also fired several warning shots in the air.  Jenkins apparently also shot another UCF student during a scuffle.

Now, Jenkins was wearing green and white, which happened to be the colors of UCF's football opponent that day, Marshall (ph) University.  And the witnesses tell me tonight that they thought that this scuffle was merely just a fight between football fans.  Now, apparently, Orlando's police officer, Dennis Smith, thought the same thing because the officer, who was in uniform, ran to the scene and opened fire on Jenkins, apparently with that gun in his hand.

Florida's Department of Law Enforcement and Orlando's police department are both investigating.  It could be several months or even weeks before any kind of answer is forthcoming—Rita.

COSBY:  Stephen, what a sad story.  Please keep us posted.  Thank you.

And for more information into the tailgate tragedy, we're joined now by Jay Etheridge of the Florida Department Law Enforcement.  He's the assistant special agent in charge.

Agent Etheridge, where does the investigation stand?  And are you looking into what Stephen was just saying, that it may have been a confusion over colors, over who was the opponent?

JAY ETHERIDGE, FLORIDA DEPT. OF LAW ENFORCEMENT:  Rita, we're going to interview everyone involved as far as witnesses.  To my knowledge at this time, no one has indicated to us that that was a possible cause of the incident.  But at this time, we have not interviewed Officer Smith yet.

COSBY:  What are some of the leading reasons?  Because, clearly, what, there were more than two departments involved, and one didn't know the other one was undercover, right?

ETHERIDGE:  We're still looking into that.  As far as the reasons, from what we do know at this time, Officer Smith was responding to a citizen's, I guess, complaint or information to an officer that there was a man with a gun.  That's all that was given at that particular time.  Officer Smith was dispatched to that area.  It's a possibility that he heard gunshots while he was en route, and then what we would describe as he encountered an active shooter.

COSBY:  Encountered an active shooter, meaning the other officer or someone else?

ETHERIDGE:  At this time, the only persons that we know were armed would have been Officer Jenkins and Officer Smith.

COSBY:  And I know that Officer Smith obviously feels just horrible about it.  There's a statement from him, in fact, commenting about it, essentially saying, “My family and I are coping with this terrible tragedy that happened to the Central Florida police family.  Our concern is for the family of Officer Jenkins and the officers at the UCF Police Department.”

Do we know—the procedure for Officer Jenkins firing in the air, as we heard—is that standard procedure, especially when you're dealing with a college ground?

ETHERIDGE:  Well, no, it is not standard procedures, but some of what we're looking into is the circumstances surrounding that and trying to determine possibly the cause or the reason of why Officer Jenkins would do that.  He did have his weapon out.  And we were unable to interview Officer Jenkins, so we do not know at this time why he did do that.

COSBY:  And really quick, the president of the university is looking into whether alcohol was a factor, particularly should there be alcohol with tailgating.  Do we know if alcohol played a role—real fast?

ETHERIDGE:  We do know that alcohol was present, but at this time, we don't know to what extent.

COSBY:  All right.  Please keep us posted.  Thank you very much.

And still ahead, everybody, a teacher and her 16-year-old student get busted in a sex scandal.  Was it their videotape memento that gave them away?

And up next, my exclusive prison interview with a man who made many headlines when he was convicted almost seven years ago, Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  If he gets out of prison, will he help others die again?

And what do you think?  Has he spent enough time behind bars?  There's still time to log onto our Web site and answer that controversial question.  We would love to hear from you tonight, so log on at rita.msnbc.com and be sure to vote.

·         California.  We continue to cover the California wildfires as they continue to put out those flames.  Three homes have been taken under flames.  The fires keep raging, as we're told, 17,000 acres.  We will keep you posted, as we've got this live picture of the two fires that are burning out of control.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Tonight, everybody, a LIVE & DIRECT exclusive, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man who helped more than 100 people commit suicide, breaks his silence.  In just a minute, you'll hear what he's got to say about being in prison.  But first, here's how the man know as Dr. Death got behind bars in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY (voice-over):  His controversial right to die crusade polarized a nation.  Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the former Michigan pathologist, made national headlines as the world's leading advocate of legalizing assisted suicide for ill people. 

DR. JACK KEVORKIAN, PATHOLOGIST:  In a civilized society, this could never be a crime.  You may pass a law that says it is, but it can't be a crime. 

COSBY:  In 1989, he built his so-called suicide machine, a lethal cocktail of chemicals often using it over the next decade to assist in the suicide of over 100 patients.  During that period, for his actions, he stood trial four times, acquitted on three occasions and one mistrial. 

But in 1998, Kevorkian pushed the limit.  A videotape he submitted to CBS's “60 Minutes” showed him helping a 52-year-old patient with Lou Gehrig's disease die. 

KEVORKIAN:  You sure you thought about this very well now? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

COSBY:  In the murder trial that resulted, he acted as his own attorney with no witnesses and no evidence in his defense, just Kevorkian trying to justify his actions before a jury. 

KEVORKIAN:  He calls it a murder, crime, killing.  I call it a medical service. 

COSBY:  But in his defense, Kevorkian ultimately failed. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is your verdict? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One is guilty of lesser charge of second degree murder. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He took this man's life.  And he gave up his own. 

And it was for—it was a useless gesture on his part part. 

COSBY:  He was rushed to prison and sentenced to a maximum of 25 years.  He's now serving his time at some correctional facility in Lapeer, Michigan. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And Dr. Kevorkian said some pretty startling things. 

I began by asking him why he's been keeping such a low profile all these years behind bars. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  One was convicted murderer.  You're 77 years old.  You're 145 pounds.  How is that for you? 

KEVORKIAN:  Well I don't mind.  See some of the inmates who have been convicted of murder and you'd never know it, unless you find out by asking them.  Many of them aren't the stereotype murderer. 

COSBY:  How did the other inmates react towards you?  I would imagine you're pretty high profile. 

KEVORKIAN:  Many of them are fairly respectful of me, quite respectful, in fact.  Several dislike intensely what I was doing to get in here. 

COSBY:  You're eligible for parole in 2007, but you plan to ask the governor to commute your sentence.  If the governor is watching right now, what would you want to say to her, Dr. Kevorkian? 

KEVORKIAN:  I would very much request of her a commutation.  I think for the seriousness of my so-called crime, I think seven years is plenty.  Considering the fact that I'm—as guess, as far as I know, I'm the only physician who has done this and was sent to prison.  Several other physicians in history were either given probation or community service, but I'm the only one that went to prison.  I think that's punishment enough. 

COSBY:  Now, if your sentence isn't moved up and if you do get parole in 2007, what do you plan to do when you get out? 

KEVORKIAN:  Well, for one thing, I'd like to travel a little bit.  Visit my sister overseas and visit many friends.  But as far as activity goes, I have said publicly and officially that I will not do it—perform that act again in—when I get out.  What I will do is what I should have done earlier is pursue this from a legal standpoint by campaigning to get the laws changed. 

COSBY:  Will you encourage other doctors to perform assisted suicides? 

KEVORKIAN:  Not until it's legal. 

COSBY:  Not until it's legal? 

KEVORKIAN:  Yes. 

COSBY:  You finally agreed to share your life story in a book and also a movie, both are expected to come out some time next year.  Why did you think it is important to tell your story now? 

KEVORKIAN:  I know the people that are doing it.  And when you get a request to do it, just help them out, because there's—I lose by helping them out.  And I thought if I refused that it would be rather selfish. 

COSBY:  What actor would you like to play you?  I know one of the producers was saying Ben Kingsly is a possibility.  Who would you like to play you? 

KEVORKIAN:  He's a great actor.  He carries the implication of Gandhi which is OK with me also. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And more of my exclusive interview with Dr. Jack Kevorkian in just a few minutes.  But first, we're joined by his attorney, Mayer Morganroth and also acting legal assistant and very close Kevorkian friend Ruth Holmes. 

Ruth, let me start with you, because I understand that you actually spent four hours with Dr. Kevorkian just yesterday in prison.  How's he doing? 

RUTH HOLMES, DR. KEVORIKIAN'S CLOSE FRIEND:  Well, considering he's 77-years-old and has the health conditions that he has, we had a marvelous afternoon going through the history, getting some background in preparation for this movie and this book. 

COSBY:  Tell us about the health problems.  What did he have, hepatitis, a couple of things? 

HOLMES:  He's had the hepatitis.  He has high blood pressure.  So we're just very glad that he's been able to sustain his courage and the health that he has right now. 

COSBY:  You know, Mr. Morganroth, my sense, I expected a lit more ardent, a little more fervent.  Has Jack Kevorkian mellowed over the years?  I mean, he even said, I won't perform assisted suicides.  I won't even encourage it if it's not legal.  I don't think if I would have heard that line from Jack Kevorkian seven years ago. 

MAYER MORGANROTH, DR. JACK KEVORKIAN'S ATTORNEY:  That's probably true.  But Jack Kevorkian always been a private and always been a pretty mellow person.  He does believe in assisted suicide.  He does believe in the dignity of dying, and that people should have the right to decide their own destiny when they're in irremedial pain and suffering and terminal.  But I don't think it's a question of mellowing.  I think it's a question of change of direction.  Now he wants to do it legally as opposed to performing. 

COSBY:  Now, he's also asking the governor to commute his sentence.  He's eligible for parole in 2007.  But he's hoping that the governor may give him a reprieve, give him a commutation?  What do you think the chances are?  And when will that filing be done? 

MORGANROTH:  The filing will be done in November.  And I am hopeful the chance are quite good. 

COSBY:  Let me show a statement.  We did ask, of course, the prosecutor, David Gorcyca to comment on the prospect of a commutation.  And his comment was, “our office has opposed commutation of the sentence.  I think his request if fruitless.  The governor has rarely commuted anyone's sentence.”  What's your reaction, sir? 

MORGANROTH:  Well, I wouldn't like to presuppose that the governor will do one thing or the other, except I'm hopeful that she will.  And she has commuted sentences before.  And hopefully this is the type of case that she will. 

And the last time that we did file, we were requested to file again this November. 

COSBY:  All right, well both of you, stick with us, because when we come back, I asked Dr. Kevorkian if he would have accepted Terri Schiavo as an assisted suicide patient.  And the big question, is he a killer?  You'll be surprised to hear his answer.

And later, what kind of punishment is appropriate for a teacher who videotaped herself having sex with a 16-year-old student?  Wait until you find out what she got.  Some folks are up in arms.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  More now of my exclusive interview with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, which is very timely.  Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the state of Oregon's so-called death with dignity laws that dr.  Kevorkian fought so hard to get passed.  What does the doctor think about that as he sits behind bars?  I asked him. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVORKIAN:  The Oregon law is fine as far as it goes but it's restricted.  There are some patients who could never get that service because they cannot swallow, and a doctor cannot perform the act. 

It should be, first of all, legalized only for physicians as a medical service, not for laymen, not for family members or friends to help someone die, because doctors are the only ones who are justifiable in determining the health status of the patient. 

COSBY:  Do you hope ultimately that every state in the country has such a law in the books? 

KEVORKIAN:  Yes.  And I think it should be fairly uniform in all the states.  Doing it now with this limited restrictions, that's fine.  That's a step in the right direction, because it helps many patients. 

COSBY:  Now, the Terri Schiavo case certainly sort of accelerated the right to die debate.  Do you think after watching it, that America has sort of changed its mood towards what you did? 

KEVORKIAN:  If they're rational I think they would, because first of all, that's considered a good way to end a suffering patient's life, which is true today—medical profession endorses that, religion endorses it.  Well, then if did you that for condemned criminals, how far would you get? 

It would about take two seconds for the court to strike it down as cruel and unusual.  And yet, all of these officials and all of these authorities, everybody who said, yes, she should be allowed to die, they chose that as a humane method, which no condemned person has to undergo?

COSBY:  Now, had it been 10 years ago, would you have considered Terri Schiavo to be a potential patient of yours? 

KEVORKIAN:  It could qualify because the husband was the next of kin legally.  That's all that counts.  Because you can't have interference by family members who might be antagonistic or hostile. 

And the next thing is the medical profession had declared her to be hopeless.  That means there'd be nothing done to help her.  And after all of that long period of time in a coma, I think she would qualify. 

COSBY:  Now, by your own admission, you assisted in about 130 people dying.  Some of your critics have said you played God, that you're a killer.  What do you say to that? 

KEVORKIAN:  Well, I guess it's technically correct, but the act of ending a life is dependent be entirely on the motive.  How about a doctor who takes—opens a chest wide open for a patient on a heart operation?  Isn't that gross mayhem?  And mayhem a crime. 

COSBY:  Are you a killer? 

KEVORKIAN:  Well, I don't know.  I suppose if helping a patient die is killing, I suppose I'm a killer.  But suppose every soldier in Iraq is now a killer. 

COSBY:  Do you still hope, Dr. Kevorkian, that your issue goes before the Supreme Court at some point in your lifetime? 

KEVORKIAN:  Yes, I do.  I think the Supreme Court does have the authority which is not used to declare it a blanket right for all people, all adults, but it must be a right for the medical profession to perform.  And in that case, it's covered by law automatically, because law doesn't tell doctors how to do kidney and heart transplants. 

They just say you've got to act professionally, correctly according to your ethics.  That's all the law says.  And it's up to the doctors once it's legalized to get together and set these guidelines like they do with every medical procedure. 

COSBY:  Do you have any regrets?  Was it was worth going to prison for all of this? 

KEVORKIAN:  Well, I do a little.  It was disappointing, because what I did turned out to be in vain, even though I know it could possibly end that way.  And my only regret was not having done it through the legal system through legislation possibly. 

COSBY:  And I'm joined once again by Dr. Kevorkian's attorney Mayer Morganroth and also acting legal assistant and close working friend, Ruth Holmes.  Mr. Morganroth, do you think the doctor is going to have his chance to go before the Supreme Court at some point, he himself? 

MAYER MORGANROTH, DR. JACK KEVORKIAN'S ATTORNEY:  He can't go in front of the United States Supreme Court.  We attempted to do that and they turned him down.  Despite the fact that in 1997, they had the case of Gluxburg (ph) versus Washington wherein four justices said they wanted to hear a particularized case wherein the particular person was irremedial pain and suffering and was terminal. 

That's exactly the case that Dr. Kevorkian had with Thomas Youpe (ph), the one he was convicted upon.  However the United States Supreme Court turned it down.  I guess they would much rather have Anna Nicole Smith as their appellate decision. 

COSBY:  Yes, and in fact, she's coming up soon.  That's kind of wacky how the court works in terms of issues.  Ruth, talk about Jack Kevorkian.  You've had interesting experiences and first hand opportunities to spend a lot of time with this man. 

You really have had that opportunity.  He gets lots of letters, right?  Tell us about how many and some of the interesting ones.  In fact, from one guy who said I'm going to commit suicide, I've got a gun in my hand. 

RUTH HOLMES, CLOSE FRIEND OF DR. KEVORKIAN:  I handle all of his correspondence through the office.  And he has this man who said he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  And he said, you're not available to me. 

He said I purchased a .22 caliber pistol.  And I did speak to him shortly thereafter, and he just said God bless and you God bless Dr.  Kevorkian.  So we haven't heard from him since, though he did give us an opportunity to use his letter in a book. 

COSBY:  You know, you have some interesting personal photos.  I want to show those because, you know, we all know him for sort of the famous bell-bottom pants and sweaters.  What type of a man is he?  He spent a lot of time with you when he was hanging out with folks like us in the media in 1998, 1999.  And he's an artist too, right? 

HOLMES:  Oh, This man is a brilliant man.  He's a scholar.  He's a researcher.  He's a writer.  He's a poet.  He's an artist.  He's an accomplished musician.  He has played—for two years, he played flute with my daughter.  You may be seeing some of those pictures there. 

But he is an unknown person and we're just hoping that this movie and the book are going to show the other side of Dr. Jack that just people aren't familiar with.  And I think, you know, we go through the history and he'll be recorded in history.  And the only thing this man is guilty of is just being ahead of his time. 

COSBY:  Well, Ruth and Mr. Morganroth, we thank you both for being here.  We, of course, thank Dr. Jack Kevorkian for giving us that exclusive interview. 

And all of you at home, for the past three days—you've probably been watching our coverage.  It's been wall to wall.  All of you know, we've been conducting a live opinion poll on our Web site, rita.msnbc.com., asking all of you at home the question.  After spending seven years in prison, has Dr. Jack Kevorkian spent enough time behind bars? 

As you just heard, he wants the governor of Michigan to commute his sentence.  Well, here are the results of our unscientific poll.  More than 2,500 people responded, lots of people were calling in as well, 88 percent say, yes, he's spent enough time behind bars. 

That's an overwhelming response -- 88 percent saying he has spent enough time behind bars.  Twelve percent say, no, should he stay in prison.  So overwhelmingly, again, our unscientific poll saying he should get let out, that seven years is enough time. 

And everybody, stick with us.  Still ahead, a teacher busted for having sex with her student gets off easy in court.  The prosecutors even had videotaped evidence, but what happened to the case? 

And the latest on that breaking news out of California, wildfires raging on.  We have some live pictures there.  Incredible pictures as those fires are burning out of control.  Stick with us.  We'll continue to cover this when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Another teacher pleads guilty to charges connected to a sexual relationship with a student.  Massachusetts teacher Amber Jennings has plead guilty to sending naked photos of herself to her then 16-year-old student.  But she was also seen having sex with him on a videotape.  Get this, she got no jail for her plea, she was sentenced to two years' probation and will not have to register as a sex offender. 

So does the punishment really fit the crime?  Live & Direct tonight, is former sex crimes prosecutor, Wendy Murphy.  Wendy, was this a big slap on the wrist? 

WENDY MURPHY, FRM. SEX CRIME PROSECUTOR:  Rita, first of all, I want to apologize for being from Massachusetts for this kind of case.  This is so insulting to what we really should be caring about in this country, that the teacher-student relationship is a position of trust, whether you are male or female, cute, or fat and ugly, you shouldn't be doing these things with your students.  And if you do, it should be a crime irrespective of whether the boy likes it and irrespective of consent. 

In many states, Rita, we don't ask the question consent, even if you are 16-years-old, we say the teacher-student relationship is enough to constitute a crime in circumstances like this.  This is embarrassing to Massachusetts. 

COSBY:  And you know what is interesting, it really seems to vary from case to case, state to state.  Let me show the comparison with this new case.  This woman, Amber Jennings, in her case, you know, she pleaded guilty to disseminating harmful materials.  She gets sentenced to a whole bunch of probation, a whole bunch of different issues right here, sentenced to two years' probation, will not register as a sex offender, all of that.

Beth on the on the other hand, this Beth Giesel, this other particular case, she pleads guilty to rape.  She owns up to everything.  In turn, she gets sentenced to six months in jail and she has to register as a sex offender.  What does that say, don't plead guilty to everything you do? 

MURPHY:  Well, I think, even six months is embarrassing.  That's not sufficient when you rape a child, six months is the wrong sentence. 

The reason these women are getting discounts is because they are cute, they're blonde, in some cases they're shapely.  What a crazy message to send.  We all know that if these were men doing this to 16-year-old girls, there would be outrage.  We would absolutely insist that they register as sex offenders.  Just because your parts don't work the same way, you are still causing sexual penetration of a kid who is too young to consent, plus, it's a teacher-student relationship.  This is craziness. 

COSBY:  You know, as we are looking at pictures: Pam Turner, Debra LaFave, some of these famous cases that have been happening, what should the proper punishment be?  And how can we deter this, Wendy? 

MURPHY:  Well, you know, big question, Rita.  I think one of the things you have to do to deter teachers from exploiting kids.  And look—let's face it, we all had crushes on teachers at one time or another, and the job of a teacher is to resist that, to rise above it, to be a grown-up, and a professional.  You have to send a strong message and wack the teachers who get caught, because most don't get caught. 

I think we have to do a better job for screening teachers for psychological problems.  I mean, I don't want to suggest sex offenders, whether you're male or female are sick, they not, they are evil.  But we have to get them out of the business of teaching before they have a chance to hurt a child. 

COSBY:  Great points.  Wendy, thank you very much.  Always great to have you one. 

And still ahead everybody, the latest on the breaking news, the wildfires that are burning in California, 17,000 acres.  We are going to keep you posted.  You are looking at these amazing live pictures, burning out of control, two counties, several homes engulfed.  We're going to keep you posted right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COBSY:  And back to our breaking news, the top story of the night, wildfires burning out of control in California.  Right now, you are looking at live pictures.  The largest of at least three different wildfires has already burned about 17,000 acres.  Firefighters are battling the flames along the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.  Only 5 percent of the wildfire is contained.  And mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for residents in that region.  So far, three homes have been destroyed.  And at least one firefighter has been hurt.  We will, of course, keep you posted.

And that does it for me.  I'm LIVE & DIRECT tonight.  I am sending it down the hall to Joe Scarborough who is just a few feet away here in New York.  Nice to have you here in New York with us tonight, Joe.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Content and programming copyright 2005 NBC.  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 NBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Rita Cosby Live & Direct each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,