updated 10/5/2005 2:52:05 PM ET 2005-10-05T18:52:05

Guest: Jay Batt, Randy Barnett, Stuart Taylor, Catherine Crier, Elizabeth Haile, Dennis Baxley, George Peterson, Clint Van Zandt, Marq Claxton

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, New Orleans mayor says he‘s laying off 3,000 city workers, nearly half the city‘s workforce. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  His reasoning, they can‘t afford to pay the workers.  But how is he going to rebuild the city with half his employees gone? 

And President Bush says Harriet Miers is the most qualified person in the nation to be a Supreme Court justice.  Some just not buying it.  We debate what it really means to be qualified for the Supreme Court. 

Plus a grand jury has just been convened in the case of missing Virginia college freshman Taylor Behl. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  Breaking news on the docket right now out of New Orleans this afternoon, the mayor announced that about half the city‘s workers, 3,000 people, will be laid off effective immediately.  The question, how can the city possibly get back on its feet with so few people there to help? 

Let‘s go to MSNBC‘s Donna Gregory in New Orleans with the story. 

Donna, so how does this affect the recovery effort? 

DONNA GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, it could help or hurt, depending on your point of view.  Obviously, the mayor has to cut some jobs to make payroll.  He said this will save between five and $8 million a month out of the $20 million monthly budget, but these are the very workers that could actually help rebuild the city. 

Think about it.  The bus drivers driving the lower wage workers to the hotels and restaurants that are trying to open.  The mayor talked about it at an afternoon news conference where he dropped the bombshell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS:  The city of New Orleans today announces it has been forced to lay off up to 3,000 classified and unclassified city workers as a result of the financial constraints in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  He calls these nonessential employees.  They will keep the police, fire department.  They‘ll also keep the ambulance workers and some health inspectors to get those restaurants up and running.  And Dan, to add insult to injury, these workers, 3,000 of them, will find out through a mass e-mail whether they‘ve lost their jobs. 

A couple of other things to tell you about, President Clinton was on the Louisiana Gulf Coast today visiting with some New Orleans‘ evacuees at a convention center in Baton Rouge.  He was shaking hands, talking to people, trying to spend the best way to spend the foundation money that he‘s been raising with former President Bush. 

Also we‘ve learned that a total of 972 bodies have been recovered and the effort to go door to door to search for bodies has been suspended, although Dan a private company has been put on retainer in case there‘s a need to remove any more bodies that are found.  Back to you. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Donna, thanks a lot.  According to Mayor Nagin, the layoffs will save anywhere from five to $8 million, the city‘s payroll. 

All right, Jay Batt, Jr. of the New Orleans City Council joins us now.  All right, sir, thank you very much for joining us.  I think the question that many people are going to ask is, can New Orleans really ever be the same if now half of the city‘s workforce is being laid off? 

JAY BATT, JR., NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL:  Well, first of all, it was a brutal decision that the mayor had to make today but with the constraints of the monies on FEMA, he had to make it.  And the answer to your question is no.  They are just as much part of the infrastructure as our streets and our drainage system and we need those people back.

I have a district that half is under water.  I represent District D and Lakeview, and I‘m going to have to lay off a couple of my folks in my office and I only have five employees.  That can‘t happen in our city.  And I know the president and his administration are going to recognize this.  And President Bush will step up and be able to address the situation.  And we have great leadership in our Congress with Bobby Jindal, Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, and I believe the situation is going to get corrected...

ABRAMS:  I guess that‘s the question I have.  Is this a political statement?  I mean is the mayor saying hey look, I‘m going to make this huge statement so that the federal government steps in, in response to this? 

BATT:  No, sir.  We‘ve had financial difficulties in our city for the last number of years.  And it‘s almost hand to mouth with our revenue stream.  And we don‘t have a revenue stream right now.  We don‘t have a revenue source.  We don‘t have a tax base, so this isn‘t a game.  This isn‘t a political game.  The city is in trouble.  And we need to go ahead and address that issue and get these people back on the payroll because quite frankly I find them...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BATT:  ... very essential. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m sure they are.  All right, Jay Batt, Jr., thanks a lot for taking the time.  Appreciate it.

BATT:  Thank you sir.

ABRAMS:  Moving on to the big story about the U.S. SUPREME COURT.  Everyone is talking about her politics, some on the right saying, she is not conservative enough.  On the left saying, we fear she is not going to uphold a woman‘s right to have an abortion. 

Forget the politics for a moment.  Is Harriet Miers qualified for a spot on the Supreme Court?  She will be the only sitting Supreme Court justice without a degree from one of the nation‘s so-called elite law schools and without the words “federal judge” on her resume.  President Bush says that‘s actually one of the reasons he picked her. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And one of the most interesting ideas I heard was why don‘t you pick somebody who hasn‘t been a judge.  Why don‘t you reach outside the—I think one senator said the judicial monastery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Question, is she too far outside that judicial monastery.  Do her credentials fall short of what we should expect of Supreme Court justices?

“My Take”—I don‘t really care much what law school she attended.  She did well at a fine law school.  I also don‘t know why it really should matter if she was an appeals court judge.  There are a lot of judges on appeals courts who I would argue are from Supreme Court material. 

It‘s tough to objectively who is the best or the smartest of the most objective on the appeals courts.  She is one of the most prominent lawyers in Texas.  While I disagree that being an outsider is some sort of badge of honor, her—quote—“lack of experience as a judge” doesn‘t really bother me. 

Joining us now is Stuart Taylor, columnist for “National Journal” and “Newsweek” Randy Barnett, a professor at Boston University Law School and author of “Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty”, and Catherine Crier who got to know Harriet Miers while surviving as a judge in Texas.  She is of course the host of “The Crier Report” on Court TV and author of “Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice”.

All right, Professor Barnett, let me start with you.  I mean why should it really matter whether someone has been an appeals court judge or went to Harvard Law School? 

RANDY BARNETT, PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIV. LAW SCHOOL:  Well no one factor matters above all other factors.  The question is you look at her record to see if she has an experience that shows she has developed some insight, some judicial philosophy about how the various problems involving the Constitution should be handled.  And if we look at her record, we just don‘t see any evidence that she‘s ever wrestled with these subjects, that she really has any knowledge or expertise on these subjects.  And so then we ask, well then how did she get nominated if that‘s true...

ABRAMS:  But why do you need experience? 

BARNETT:  ... and the answer to that is pretty obvious.

ABRAMS:  I mean would you say a professor of law has experience? 

BARNETT:  That‘s one form of experience.  It is by no means the only form of experience.  In fact, not that many professors of law have ever been nominated to the Supreme Court.  You mention in your opening that of course you know a lot of federal or appellate court judges who are not Supreme Court material, but you know that because you‘ve seen their performance on the federal bench and you can tell one from the other.  We haven‘t seen her performance, so we can‘t tell.

ABRAMS:  But Stuart, the point that you made in an interesting article was that you think that there is not enough practical experience on the Supreme Court, that you are afraid that just the opposite.  That many of these Supreme Court justices don‘t understand the practical impact of their rulings? 

STUART TAYLOR, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  That‘s right.  Now it‘s a matter of diversity frankly, but not race, sex.  It‘s a matter of diversity of experience.  We now have eight justices plus Sandra Day O‘Connor and every single one of the was an appeals court judge before going into the Supreme Court and eight of them, all but Sandra Day O‘Connor were federal appeals court judges including the new chief justice.

Now that‘s fine to have some appeals court judges, but all appeals court judges?  So just on the resume I think that Harriet Miers‘ experience is a valuable asset.  She‘s been a commercial litigator.  She‘s served in high levels of the executive branch.  She has had experience that the others haven‘t had and I think she‘s a commendable person with a commendable record. 

The doubt I have about her is that as Professor Barnett says, we‘ve never seen evidence that she‘s really exceptional, that she‘s really one of the best legal minds in the country.  And I‘m not going to take the president‘s word for it, frankly.  He‘s the one who gazed into Mr. Cutin‘s (ph) eyes and pronounced him morally fit.  And I think his judgment in people is in question, so I think she has some convincing to do to convince me that she is well qualified...

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR:  I think she‘s minimally qualified...

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR:  ... she can do the job.

ABRAMS:  Are you concerned about what Professor Barnett was talking about, about having never, I guess, publicly weighed the most important issues of the day as she might as a Supreme Court justice? 

TAYLOR:  I think it would be an asset if she had, but frankly, hardly anybody in the private practice of law has had that experience.  Louis Powell, who‘s a fine justice, didn‘t have that experience.  Chief Justice Warren hadn‘t had that experience, and so I don‘t think it‘s absolutely indispensable.  I think it would be valuable. 

If you‘ve got a first rate mind, the kind of mind that John Roberts already has, obviously has for example, I think you could come to the court and learn constitutional law on the job. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR:  I‘m not sure she‘s got a first rate mind though.

ABRAMS:  All right, Catherine...

CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... you actually know her.  I was saving you for last... 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... because you know her.  What do you make of it? 

CRIER:  Well I‘ve got to give a little preface.  One of the famous Supreme Court justice in our history who served for 30-something years began this country, in fact was never a lawyer, he learned it about four months when he took over the...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

CRIER:  ... Supreme Court of this country.  Our last non-lawyer, non-lawyer was in the late 40‘s, early 50‘s.  In fact...

ABRAMS:  Right.

CRIER:  ... Stuart, you were talking about that this morning.  Justice Rehnquist was never on the bench.  This conversation with due apologies gentlemen is nonsense and I‘ve known Harriet.

I may have complaints about some of her positions I‘m unaware of, but this woman has a very sharp mind.  She was an extraordinary litigator.  She was the managing partner of her firm, which you don‘t slide into.  She managed the Dallas and Texas Bar Associations.  She has done enormous things within the profession and, and if you have a sharply legal mind, which she does, I promise you, you can get up to speed on particular constitutional issues...

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER:  ... particularly if this court for many years has had plenty of non...

ABRAMS:  But Catherine, what Stuart and Professor Barnett I think are saying is that‘s fine, but we don‘t know that except for a few people like you telling us that.  With other people...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... we would know from their records...

CRIER:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... we‘d know from their judicial rulings, et cetera.

CRIER:  Yes, but Dan you can look at her record.  Obviously, she‘s got an enormous record in cases she‘s represented, the pleadings and the material she‘s done.  And by the way, it is good to have a trial lawyer on there that has a bit of perspective on another angle, but you can also look at the many workings that involved intricacies of the law, whether it‘s family law and kids or corporate law or criminal aspects that the bar associations have to deal with.  She‘s been immersed in this her entire legal career.

ABRAMS:  Professor Barnett, what do you make of the fact that as Catherine points out William Rehnquist, Louis Powell, Arthur Goldberg, Earl Warren, Tom Clark, Hugo Black, William Douglas, Felix Frankfurter or Louis Brandeis, justices without judicial experience?

BARNETT:  If you hold up their actual accomplishments to Harriet Miers‘ accomplishments, they really don‘t compare.  Look, I used to be a criminal prosecutor.  I was a good criminal prosecutor.  I prosecuted with some great criminal prosecutors.  That doesn‘t mean...

CRIER:  She‘s not a criminal prosecutor...

BARNETT:  But that doesn‘t mean that they were qualified to be on the Supreme Court.  And if she was a great litigator, which we really don‘t know that she was, that also doesn‘t qualify her to be on the Supreme Court.  If she is qualified to be on the Supreme Court on the basis of the record that Catherine has just recited to you, so are thousands of other lawyers.  And that—but I think President Bush had to pass over dozens of extraordinarily well qualified people to reach his close confidant and former secretary. 

CRIER:  Any time somebody makes an appointment, they are going to work from a limited universe.  There‘s no doubt.  They are not going to pull out the Martindale Hubbell and say well I‘ve got 10,000 lawyers to pick from.  Now let me go from there.  You‘re going to work from a small universe.  Again, I‘m not defending or not.  I‘m just saying once we look at her record, and I‘m certainly familiar with the woman and integrity is probably her middle name...

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER:  I don‘t think it‘s a question of going oh my lord this woman is unqualified...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Stuart, let me ask you a question.  Everyone is saying once we see her record, once we see her record.  I don‘t think we are going to see much of a record. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But I don‘t believe we are going to know a whole lot more than we know right now.  Stuart, do you disagree? 

TAYLOR:  I think we‘ll know more and her testimony will tell us something,

but I think we should be clear about what we are talking about here.  I

don‘t think any of us doubts—Professor Barnett can tell me if I‘m wrong

that you know on the scale of American lawyers, she is a good solid B-Plus, maybe better.  But I want my Supreme Court justices to be A‘s and A-Pluses and I‘m not sure she meets that standard.  Now I‘ll take Catherine Crier‘s word for it more than I‘ll take George W. Bush‘s, but I need some convincing on that.  Now, would I vote against her, knowing whoever might come next from George W. Bush?  That‘s another question. 

     

BARNETT:  I think we‘re perfectly within our rights to complain about a B-Plus appointment, if she‘s a B-Plus appointment, and you know one reason to be skeptical about this is simply who she knows, and she happens to be very close friends with the president. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BARNETT:  That—I think that puts a higher standard—a higher burden on meeting this standard to show that she really is even a B-Plus appointment. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well Catherine, do you give her a B-Plus? 

CRIER:  I‘d give her a B-Plus and like Stuart said though, I certainly want to hear what she has to say...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CRIER:  ... before I make up my own mind. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Stuart Taylor, Randy Barnett, and Catherine Crier thanks a lot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, in Florida a new law lets you shoot first, ask questions later to protect yourself in public, now one gun control group is warning tourists hey, before you go down to Florida, you better protect yourself.  Florida not amused by that.

Plus a grand jury convened in the case of missing college freshman Taylor Behl as police hope her own blog will help their investigation. 

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

And don‘t forget about our big auction, my press passes from the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials going to the highest bidders with all of the proceeds going to two great charities.  Go to our Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com for the details.  The bidding has just started, already well over $1,200 for each one. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDY SMITH, FLORIDA TOURIST:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) threatened you and how I threatened you that would constitute even a threat to even be shot at, no, way.  No way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s how one tourist reacted after she was greeted at Miami International Airport with a leaflet from the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence.  The group says it‘s just educating tourists about a law that took effect on Saturday. 

First of its kind, it allows anyone in a public place to use deadly force, even shoot to kill, if they reasonably believe they need to do so to protect themselves.  The Brady Campaign is clearly trying to make a point in opposition to this law.  Its leaflet is full of advice for tourists.  It makes the Sunshine State sound pretty scary. 

Quote --  “Please take sensible precautions.  Do not argue unnecessarily with local people.  If you‘re involved in a traffic accident or near miss, remain in your car and keep your hands in plain sight.  And if someone appears to be angry with you, maintain a positive attitude.  Do not shout or make threatening gestures.”

The group is also running similar newspaper ads in Boston, Detroit,

Chicago and London.  Supporters say the law makes Florida a safer place to

visit.  Governor Jeb Bush saying the Brady Campaign‘s leaflets are—quote

“pure unadulterated politics.”

Elizabeth Haile is staff attorney with the Brady Center to prevent gun violence.  Dennis Baxley is the Florida state legislator who sponsored the Stand Your Ground Bill.  Thank you both for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, Ms. Haile, you would admit would you not that the advice for tourists to Florida is a political statement about the law; it‘s not actually intended as advice for tourists, is it? 

ELIZABETH HAILE, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE:  It is intended as advice for tourists.  We just want to educate tourists (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on what the truth about the facts of this law are.  It‘s up to visitors to decide whether knowing what the effects of this law is will make them uncomfortable and make them not want to visit Florida...

ABRAMS:  But saying you are teaching them about the facts of this law and talking about whether they not want to visit Florida, sounds to me a lot more political than the notion that you‘re actually offering tourists advice.  I mean come on, this is not the sort of advice that most tourists will get and be useful to them.  You are not suggesting it‘s actually going to be useful to the tourists every day walking around in Florida, are you? 

HAILE:  Well we really do hope it is useful for visitors coming to Florida.  We want them to realize that Florida is the only state in the country that has a law like this, that allows people carrying concealed weapons in public places to shoot first, to not try and walk away from a situation, to not try and get themselves out of a bad situation before resorting to the use of deadly force.  And this law in Florida goes farther than the law in any other state. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and—look, my opinion would be that your position should be, yes, it‘s political.  We admit it.  We are making a political statement by offering up these—quote—“supposed tips”, which are not really intended as tips.  They‘re intended as a statement in our opposition to the law.  But you‘d say that there are tips, I don‘t really buy that part of it.

Let me talk to Representative Baxley.  All right, so Representative, let me let you listen to this from the police chief of Miami, John Timoney.

REP. DENNIS BAXLEY ®, FLORIDA STATE LEGISLATURE:  Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY, MIAMI POLICE DEPT.:  For the vast majority of people, this law will not affect, but there will be an occasional person or two who will use it to their advantage, not the intent of the law. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Sounds like even the police chief there is a little bit worried about the possible effect of the law. 

BAXLEY:  Well, he is out of step with his own state association, who had an opportunity to scrub this bill and signed on with it.  And the fact is we‘ve just—it‘s a self-protection bill.  It‘s really not a gun bill at all.

I don‘t care if you use a chair leg to protect yourself.  The point is that we are going to stand with people who are subjects of violent attack and they‘re doing nothing wrong and tell them they have a right to protect themselves.  We are actually joining a number of other states.  We are one of the few states that had inserted into it this duty to retreat.  That is not common across the nation.

ABRAMS:  Let me read from the law.  A person is justified in using force that is intended or likely to cause death or bodily injury against another to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another.  A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

See, here‘s my concern, is that even police officers, right, are very reluctant to use their weapons in public for fear of harming bystanders.  I‘m afraid this law could—look, I think the chief is right, that it‘s not going to have much practical impact—but that this law could lead you know some cowboy types to say you know what, I remember that the law says, I can protect even if someone else is getting hurt and I‘m going to go in and start using my gun a little bit here. 

BAXLEY:  Well Dan that‘s simply not the record.  The record is that if you let law-abiding citizens protect themselves, they use very good judgment.  We had this same kind of hysteria whenever we...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We trust law-abiding citizens but we don‘t trust the police when it comes to using weapons in public? 

BAXLEY:  We absolutely trust the police, but they can‘t always be there for you.  And sometimes you have three seconds...

(CROSSTALK)

BAXLEY:  ... to decide if you want to live and defend yourself...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BAXLEY:  ... or if you want to be another statistic of crime. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  But, again, my concern, which you haven‘t addressed, which I think you can, is the idea that the police have these specific rules in place, rules of engagement, et cetera, when they are allowed to fire, when they‘re not.  Seems like there is no rules of engagement with regard to the citizens.  They can just say you know what, if I think that somebody over there could get hurt and I had reason to believe it, I could start shooting. 

BAXLEY:  No, the limitation is to meet force with force.  So if somebody is yelling at you or looking at you ugly, that‘s all you do is look ugly back at them, but if somebody comes at you in an attack to take your life or to cause you severe bodily injury, we will stand with you if you defend yourself. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Ms. Haile, what do you make of that? 

HAILE:  That‘s absolutely not what the bill does.  If all the bill did was give you a right to defend yourself, then prosecutors and chiefs of police across the state of Florida would not be against this bill, which they were.  The bill says that you can use deadly force, even in a public place, even when innocent bystanders can be injured, even if you as the shooter might have escalated the fight, you can still use deadly force even if you did have the opportunity to flee.  You can‘t be prosecuted.  You can‘t be held civilly liable.  And the bill even goes so far as to make it more difficult for police officers to arrest or detain the shooter to figure out what‘s been going on. 

BAXLEY:  Well it absolutely does protect innocent people and it is limited to meeting force with force.  And it is very carefully crafted.  As a matter of fact, one of the crafters who helped polish this bill was Senator Rod Smith, a Democratic nominee for governor in Florida, a former prosecutor who prosecuted serial killers and he scrubbed this bill and said it‘s ready. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you both a question because you know I‘ve read the bill and I thought about this and Ms. Haile, and I‘m going to ask the same question to Representative Baxley, it seems to me as a practical matter, this isn‘t going to have much impact.  I mean that‘s what bothers me, Ms.  Haile, about the flyers, et cetera, in Florida.  I understand that you are opposed to it as a matter of principle and you think that it‘s bad public policy, et cetera, but as a practical matter it seems to me the same people who would have shot before are going to shoot now.  And the question is going to be are they going to be prosecuted or not later.

HAILE:  Well unfortunately, even before this bill went into effect, it had already been used as an excuse to shoot someone.  There was an individual who thought a guy had slashed his tires.  He shot him and said after the fact that he thought that this new bill...

(CROSSTALK)

HAILE:  ... that was coming up would let him get away with doing that.

ABRAMS:  Well that sounds like he‘s an idiot...

(CROSSTALK)

BAXLEY:  Well a lot of people misinterpret laws all the time...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BAXLEY:  ... and there‘s no way to ensure against that...

ABRAMS:  Representative...

BAXLEY:  I thank you for helping us clarify what it actually does.  But this hanging out flyers is totally wrong.  That—I can‘t imagine.  It‘s an irony that Jim Brady was himself the victim of a violent attack.  I wish somebody would have been able to protect him or he would have been able to protect himself.  Unfortunately, that wasn‘t the circumstances...

ABRAMS:  Well he was ambushed.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... he wouldn‘t have been able to pull out a gun.  I mean you‘re not suggesting that Jim Brady would have been able to actually pull out...

BAXLEY:  What I‘m suggesting is we need to be able to self protect. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BAXLEY:  And that it‘s—this is not the way to have that debate.  That debate was held in the Capitol in Tallahassee.  All the senators understood it.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BAXLEY:  All the cabinet officers understood it.  The governor understood it, 94-20 in the House understood it.  Twenty anti-gun people...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Representative...

BAXLEY:  ... in the House...

ABRAMS:  ... Baxley thanks a lot.  Elizabeth Haile...

BAXLEY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... thank you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

HAILE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, grand jury now looking into the disappearance of Virginia college freshman Taylor Behl.  The family‘s attorney is here next.

Plus, new details in the search for this little girl‘s mother—remember her—police say her boyfriend killed her and left the little girl on the street alone, no shoes.

And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Our search this week is in Arkansas.

Authorities are looking for Stephen Lawson, 53, 6‘1”, 280, convicted of rape in the first degree and has not registered with the authorities.  If you‘ve got any information on where he is, 501-682-2222.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a grand jury is convened in the case of a missing Virginia college freshman and what could Taylor Behl‘s own blog tell investigators?  First the headlines.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  As Taylor Behl‘s 18th birthday nears, a grand jury is being convened to look into her disappearance.  This while police say the investigation is—quote—“still very active.”  Some members of the task force there are combing Behl‘s online postings for any hints of where the missing college freshman could be.  Before she disappeared from her college campus more than four weeks ago, she maintained at least two blogs or online journals.

Here is what she wrote about herself on one of them.—Quote—“I just graduated from high school.  I‘m now off to Richmond for college.  I‘m looking forward to meeting people that are in Richmond because I only know a few people down there, but I love to meet new people in general, so feel free to message me whenever to chat.”

Joining me now is George Peterson, attorney for Taylor Behl‘s mother and former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt.  Clint‘s weekly column called “Profilers Perspective” can be found at our Web site at abramsreport@msnbc.com—abramsreport.msnbc.com. 

All right, Mr. Peterson, let me start with you.  What are you hoping will be discovered, resolved as a result of the grand jury being convened? 

GEORGE PETERSON, ATTORNEY FOR TAYLOR BEHL‘S MOTHER:  Well the grand jury in Virginia has the ability to bring witnesses and put them under oath and get sworn testimony from them.  We are hoping that we get the proper people in front of them, who will give us a definitive timeline of their whereabouts or else be forced to the take the Fifth Amendment. 

ABRAMS:  Are they having some trouble getting accounts from certain people? 

PETERSON:  Well it‘s my understanding, I heard an earlier report, that some few—select few have refused to take polygraph tests, which of course is not admissible in court but the police certainly use it as an investigative tool. 

ABRAMS:  More than one person?

PETERSON:  My understanding that Ben Fawley has refused to take a polygraph test. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s explain who Ben Fawley is.  Ben Fawley, of course, is an unemployed photographer who had some sort of relationship with Taylor.  His house was searched.  They found evidence of other crimes at his house.  They have arrested him.  He now claims that he was kidnapped the same morning that Taylor disappeared and they‘ve got a lot of questions for him.  I apologize for interrupting. 

PETERSON:  That‘s all right.  Just maybe fill in a few more details.  Ben Fawley is a 38-year-old man and he‘s been hanging around the VCU campus, he befriended her, came into contact with Taylor.  He was arrested on 16 counts of child pornography that is unrelated to Taylor‘s disappearance, but nonetheless disturbing.

ABRAMS:  All right, Clint, we‘ve got a lot of her online blogs.  Let me read from one more account that she offered on June 3, 2004.

So I‘ve decided that I‘m a royal (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  I know that I‘ve always said it, but I never realized how bad I am.  Please be patient with me.  I‘ve decided that I‘m going to try and not be like my father and not judge people and be nice.  I wish I had real friends that would hang out with me, but I‘m kind of a “blank” so I really didn‘t think they -- 

I‘d want to hang out with me, not to mention I‘m kind of full of myself.  I‘m not really that nice.  Oh well at least I‘m honest.  No wonder I‘m single though.  Damn.

What can you learn as an investigative tool from reading blogs like this? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well some yes, some no.  You know Dan, I can recall as a FBI agent working in missing person and kidnapped investigations of young women, college age.  You know it was a gold mine if we ever found their diary.  It was something that perhaps would tell us who their friends were, what their social activities were, what they were drinking, where they were going, if somebody had hit on them, if they were a man or a woman or something like that. 

So it was always—but it was something you had to find, you had to go, you know, look under the bed, look behind a mattress.  Here, somebody gets on the Internet now and Dan, these are men, women and children, you know from teenagers all the way up to senior citizens, create their own blog and really talk about themselves.  They tell what do I think about myself, what do I do think about others, what did I do today, who did I do it with, what is the timeframe.  And this lets the authorities really lay out an electronic timeframe for the days before...

ABRAMS:  But Clint...

VAN ZANDT:  ... and perhaps the days after.

ABRAMS:  ... what about the psychology?  I mean look, you were doing a lot of profiling in the FBI...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  You weren‘t profiling victims, but I‘m sure that was part of the job...

VAN ZANDT:  Sure it is.

ABRAMS:  ... is to figure out who they might have associated with...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... where they might have been.  Let me read one more from her blog.

I‘m so tired of everyone making decisions in my best interest.  Please stop telling me what to feel and especially what not to feel.  I can figure things like that out on my own.  Why can‘t everyone just go away and leave me to fend for myself?  I want to be free.  I need some space, but I need someone to be here.  I love my mom to pieces, but I need a friend, not a mom.

It sounds like at least you know in April, June, 2004...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... that you are talking about a young woman who was frustrated with her friends, et cetera, and I—what could that tell you in terms of the investigation? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, part of that tells you she is like every probably 14 to 20-year-old young man or young woman who is trying to find themselves in life and who has you know somewhat of a perhaps low sense of self-esteem.  That‘s OK.  That gives us a little insight into the challenges she‘s had.  But what‘s more important is who is she writing, who writes her back, what are the various timeframes. 

That helps.  The authorities have to create this pool of potential suspects...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  ... with the idea of potentially, it was someone she knew who got her in those critical hours, you know, the night she disappeared. 

ABRAMS:  I think with this grand jury being convened, we are going to have news in this case in the very near future.  What do you think of that George (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Peterson?

PETERSON:  Well we‘ve very, very hopeful that we will get some good news.  I do want to emphasize that  Taylor has been missing for 29 days now.  We don‘t have any evidence that she‘s anything other than safe and sound.  We‘re hoping that the public keeps their eyes open and make sure they focus on Taylor. 

ABRAMS:  All right, we‘ve been putting up the tip line.  Again, I know that‘s why you‘re here, 804-514-TIPS, 877-244-HELP.  If you have any information.

George Peterson, Clint Van Zandt, thanks a lot. 

PETERSON:  Thank you.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, New York police still searching for the mother of a 4-year-old girl, allegedly left on the street by her mother‘s boyfriend.  The boyfriend now charged with murder. 

Plus, a lot of e-mails about my off-the-cuff comment criticizing those who pay to get an autograph from O.J.,  I respond.  Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  

And please go to our Web site—get your bids in for our big auction.  We‘re auctioning my press passes from the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials.  All the proceeds are going to great charities, abramsreport.msnbc.com for details. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, police search for the mother of that little 4-year-old girl, say the mother‘s boyfriend left her on the street, no shoes, and then they say he killed the mother. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERY LOZADA, ABANDONED IN QUEENS:  And...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Your daddy...

LOZADA:  ... he took me outside with no shoes, so I was crying.  And some people find me and they give me sweater and everything. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh just adorable, little Valery Lozada left alone in the streets

of New York.  At first no one knew who she was, now the authorities believe

they know who left her there.  Cesar Ascarrunz allegedly confessed to

killing Monica Lozada-Rivaineira and told police that after strangling her

quote—“Monica was bleeding from the nose and mouth because of the choking.  I placed her body into the garbage bag by placing her in a fetal position.”

Now there are reports that Ascarrunz moved another woman into the apartment he shared with the little girl‘s mother just days after killing mom.  Ascarrunz is being held without bail on two counts of second-degree murder, one count of reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, child abandonment, tampering with evidence.  NYPD detectives continue to search two landfills in Pennsylvania, will take garbage (UNINTELLIGIBLE) collected on New York streets. 

Joining me now is retired NYPD detective Mark .  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

MARQ CLAXTON, RET. NYPD DETECTIVE:  Thanks for having me Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right, so what do you make of where the investigation is now? 

CLAXTON:  First, up to this point, the investigators have done a tremendous job in trying to nail down as much information as possible.  I think the difficulty with the case or the investigation as it stands right now, is they won‘t have the opportunity to further interrogate Mr. Ascarrunz.

ABRAMS:  Do you think that they believe he might have had an accomplice? 

CLAXTON:  That is—that would be expected of an investigation of this nature.  I mean to move a body after you‘ve killed it from one location to the next location, it‘s very likely that you did have someone else along with you.  And I‘m sure they are investigating all the possibilities, all the leads that they have, and all people who are connected to Mr. Ascarrunz.

ABRAMS:  This is more of his alleged confession. 

I woke up Valery and drove her to a street in Juniper Park, stopped at a house, and told her to open the car, look and walk towards the house.  I couldn‘t take care of her.  Are you convinced that this confession was made willingly without coercion, et cetera? 

CLAXTON:  Absolutely.  I firmly believe that this confession was made as it has been reported, although there is some indication from the defense attorney, Mr. Ascarrunz‘s defense attorney, that there is a question about the timing of the statements themselves and whether the police were advised that he had retained an attorney and that he went through the question, if he stopped.  But I think the investigators realized and had their priorities in order and realized that the most important thing was nothing that was procedural...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CLAXTON:  ... but in fact trying to save a life. 

ABRAMS:  I want to talk to you about how you go about talking to little Valery, how you go about eliciting information from her.  This is a little bit more—again, what happened here was the authorities wanted help in identifying her and as a result, she spoke briefly with some reporters.  Here is a little bit of what we heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you know what kind of work mommy does? 

LOZADA:  She cooks. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She cooks (UNINTELLIGIBLE) she cooks for you or she cooks for other people? 

LOZADA:  Other people and little people.  But I don‘t go in the store,

because I stayed with my daddy in the night when it‘s time to sleep.  They

take her (UNINTELLIGIBLE) take her to work and I sleep, then she come back

by herself. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I listen to her, people who are watching going to listen to her, they are going to want justice...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... for this little girl as I know that the officers working on this case are going to want as well.  How do you go about talking to her about what happened without pushing her, without saying too much, et cetera? 

CLAXTON:  It‘s very difficult from a police standpoint, because investigate—interrogations and interviews are usually done on adults and we do it in a very particular way.  I think when you have a child involved here, you have to bring in other professionals.  You have to bring in the child welfare professionals, the child psychologists and basically painstakingly go over this over a period of time as not to further traumatize the child.

This beautiful angel, this Valery really will turn out to be once this case is concluded to be the most important aspect of the entire investigation.  And everyone‘s heart goes out to her, and that‘s why I think this was such a tremendous job done by the investigators, because that was their focus on bringing some sort of justice and closure...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CLAXTON:  ... for Valery and safety if Ms. Rivaineira had been located.

ABRAMS:  Retired Detective Marq Claxton, thanks for taking the time to come on the program. 

CLAXTON:  Thank you Dan.  A pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, who would have thought nabbed while trolling for kids on the Internet would actually hope that they‘d get caught by undercover agents?  That‘s right, there is a loophole in the law that needs to be closed now.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  This week we are focusing on the state of Arkansas.

Todd Taylor, 41, 5‘9”, 140, convicted of violating a minor, has not registered with the authorities.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please call the Arkansas Crime Information Center, 501-682-2222.

Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Who would have thought pedophiles busted trolling for kids on the Internet would actually hope they get caught by undercover agents?  That‘s right.  It‘s a loophole in the federal law that needs to be closed now.  Last month, a jury convicted a Kansas lawyer of attempting to entice a minor for sex over the Internet.  The lawyer, 42-year-old Jan Helder, apparently thought he was hitting on a 14-year-old girl.  It turned out that girl was actually a local county detective. 

The chief federal judge in Missouri threw the jury verdict out, ruling that because the detective wasn‘t actually a minor, Helder hadn‘t technically broken the law.  Maryland, same thing happened.  Convicted pedophile Richard Joseph Moore (ph) released after a state appeals court found he hadn‘t violated the law because the two 14-year-old girls he met over the Internet and thought he was meeting for sex turned out to be one female adult police officer.  So technically, she wasn‘t a minor. 

Maryland has changed its state law closed the loophole.  Unfortunately, we can‘t say the same thing for the federal law.  As written by Congress it apparently still requires that the defendant literally entice a minor, not an adult undercover officer posing as a minor on the Internet.  Across the nation, prosecutors trying to trap child sex offenders legally, not entrapment, depend on undercover agents to catch pedophiles. 

The federal law is their best weapon to put a pedophile away for up to 30 years, which most state laws cannot.  Think about it.  So now the agent must say I love her.  I‘m a 37-year-old man working for the FBI, but I promise I can sound a whole lot like a little girl.  Look, there may be procedural issues, appeals to address.  We need to figure out how to create a law that allows undercover law enforcement officers to do their work and take back a field, the Internet where pedophiles often roam free. 

As expected, many of you writing in about my off the cuff criticism of those who buy O.J. Simpson‘s autograph.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. 

Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the not guilty verdict in O.J.  Simpson‘s murder trial.  We looked back at the case with the families of the victims, as well as two of O.J.‘s lawyers.  I said in no uncertain terms I believe the jury got it wrong. 

Dave in Florence, Wisconsin, “Those of you who only honor guilty verdicts discredit the entire judicial system.  You dishonor the system.”

Oh Dave and I assume that means you don‘t accept the civil verdict.  If you accept both verdicts, two juries applying different standards of proof effectively found that there is somewhere between 51 percent and 90-something percent certainty that O.J. killed Ron and Nicole. 

And to commemorate the anniversary, O.J. signed autographs at a convention for horror movie and comic book fans.  His lawyer pointed out that people were lining up to see it.  OK, I said it must be a line of people who are mentally challenged. 

Michael Clark, “Those that disagree with you on the O.J. Simpson case are mentally challenged?  I have a B.A. in criminal justice with a minor in criminal and constitutional law and I feel that there were far too many things that were unexplained and evidence that was questionable at the very least.”

Michael, don‘t give me the reasonable doubt argument, all right. 

That‘s why he‘s free.  I‘m not suggesting someone should go and arrest him.  But I say this to anyone who like me, watched or even read the transcripts from that trial and the civil trial together and still think O.J. actually did not commit the crimes.  I think you should ask yourself whether you really understood the testimony. 

From Ocala, Florida, Charlie Kerr, “Every day my 10-year-old autistic son asks have we missed THE ABRAMS REPORT.  These mentally challenged children crave information and the news is his joy.  The last thing I want him to hear is only mentally challenged people want O.J.‘s autograph.”

Charlie look, I got a lot of e-mails like yours.  Of course I didn‘t mean to demean those with mental or learning disabilities by comparing them to the numbskulls waiting on line to pay for O.J.‘s autograph.  Sure, the term mentally challenged can be used to describe a wide array of disabilities.  I think it is also fair to use it in a completely different way, but I am sorry if there was any confusion. 

Murph writes, “While I certainly understand where you‘re coming from, perhaps a better fit would be ethically challenged.”

Mary from Charlestown, Rhode Island, “You do not need to clarify your comments.  Kudos to your honest and heartfelt opinions.”

From North Olmsted, Ohio, Matt Koehler, “Anybody who doesn‘t think O.J.  Simpson is guilty not to mention a disgusting excuse for a human being, is mentally challenged.”

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

All right, now a reminder about the first ever “ABRAMS REPORT” auction.  I am auctioning off my press pass from the Scott Peterson trial and from Santa Maria, California, my pass to the Michael Jackson case.  I will autograph both of them, with all of the money going to two very worthy charities. 

The money raised from the Peterson pass will go to Habitat for Humanity, busy building homes for Katrina victims and the proceeds from the Jackson pass will go to CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate, a group that makes sure abused and neglected children get representation in court.  Two of my producers on the show actually had done work with CASA. 

The auctions taking place on e-Bay.  The bidding is now open with the highest bid on both are about $1,200, I think.  I got to check to see where it is right now, but there they are.  And the Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com.  Please get the bids in now.  The auction is over at the end of the week.

“HARDBALL” up next.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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

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