Guests: Mike Almaleki, Jenny Martinez, David Rivkin, Joel Soler, Issam Ghazzawi, Dean Johnson, Chris Filippi, Edie Lambert
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Saddam Hussein in court and on camera as the world gets its first look at the former dictator since he was captured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historic rights of Iraqis against these dogs.
ABRAMS (voice-over): A testy Saddam Hussein lectures the judge, insists he is still the president of Iraq and refuses to even formally acknowledge the charges against him. How will they rein him in? Might he out maneuver the tribunal?
And in the Scott Peterson trial, we‘ll talk to three people who have been inside the courtroom about what they have seen and heard so far.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First on the docket, Saddam in the dock. The three faces of Saddam Hussein all on display in Baghdad today. Arrogant warlord, dazed captive, and defiant defendant as the former dictator was essentially arraigned for crimes, including the killing of 10‘s of thousands of Iraqis. We‘re going to cover all the legal angles of Saddam‘s arraignment and those of his cronies that will follow, but first ITN‘s Julian Manyon has more.
JULIAN MANYON, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For his first appearance in the dock, the former dictator was by terms dejected and defiant. He began by insisting on his dignity, repeating twice to the judge that his name was Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. He defended himself in sometimes angry bursts, declaring early on that the court was a theater, organized by the criminal George Bush to win an election.
He jabbed his finger in the direction of the judge and demanded to know what jurisdiction the he possessed. At times he looked weary. There were bags under his eyes, he had lost weight and the aura of power which once terrified his underlings had largely gone.
But occasionally the fire returned, particularly when he was told that he was being charged with war crimes in connection with his decision to invade neighboring Kuwait in 1990.
SADDAM HUSSEIN, FORMER IRAQI PRESIDENT (through translator): What kind of law would bring Saddam to trial because of Kuwait? The Kuwaitis wanted to turn our Iraqi women into cheap prostitutes. Saddam defended Iraq honestly and with dignity, revising the historic rights of our country towards those Kuwaiti dogs.
MANYON: The judge told Saddam not to use insulting language in court.
HUSSEIN (through translator): I know I am in court. I know what I am saying and I‘m responsible for every word of it.
MANYON: The charges against Saddam Hussein, which the judge read out, were a first draft, which may be changed later. They included the killing of Iraqi religious leaders in 1974, the killing with poisoned gas of thousands of Kurds in Halabja in 1988, the invasion of Kuwait and the brutal suppression of Shiite and Kurdish revolts after the Gulf War in 1991, as well as a string of political killings over three decades.
In a coffee ship in central Baghdad, consumers crowed around television screens for one of the most dramatic moments in the country‘s broadcasting history. Reactions were passionate and varied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
MANYON: This man said that Saddam is a war criminal and that if he was the judge, he would pass a sentence of death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
MANYON: Another man said that Iraq doesn‘t need this trial. What we need, he said is security, reconstruction and jobs.
Julian Manyon, ITV News, Baghdad.
ABRAMS: Saddam was alone in court today, but he had some friends down the hall who were also charged, 11 of the top leaders in his regime. Among them Tariq Aziz, the former foreign minister. He told the judge the leadership might be morally responsible for crimes, but that individual members cannot be personally responsible. Aziz might want to study up on the Nuremberg trials and other war crimes trials.
And then there was Ali Hassan Majid, Chemical Ali as he was known, also charged today, known for his alleged roll in the murder and disappearance of 100,000 Iraqi Kurds including thousands killed with poison gas.
So, where is this heading? Can Saddam drag the U.S. and other countries that backed him quietly in the ‘80‘s into the proceedings? What‘s the trial going to look like?
Let‘s check in with our panel. Jenny Martinez is a Stanford law professor who served on the U.N.‘s war crime tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. David Rivkin is a former Justice Department official and an expert on international law. Joel Soler is a documentary filmmaker, who exposed some of Saddam‘s excesses in his movie “Uncle Saddam”. And Mike Almaleki is an Iraqi native, now an American citizen who defected to the U.S. after the ‘91 Gulf War. He was tortured by Saddam‘s regime for three years. His mother and father also killed by Saddam.
Thank you all very much for coming on the program. You know, before we get into the legalities, Mr.—let me—Mr. Almaleki, let me start with you. When you see Saddam in court in such a different role than he was ever in before, what are you thinking?
MIKE ALMALEKI, TORTURED IN IRAQ: You know, I have been waiting for almost like seven months now. Today, it was—the day is a historic day for me, for my family, for all the Iraqi people who have been suffering under Saddam Hussein. What I saw today unbelievable. I mean same kind of person, he has refused to admit it and he still say I am the president of Iraq.
ABRAMS: Let me play another piece of sound, and this is from Saddam Hussein in court today, talking about the discussion about the invasion of Kuwait and of course you are not talking about the crime being the invasion of Kuwait, but the war crimes that were committed during that invasion. Here is an interchange between Saddam and the judge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSSEIN (through translator): My occupation of Kuwait, the seventh charge, unfortunately, it is coming from an Iraqi. Is this justice?
UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: The judge saying but this is the law.
Saddam: Law? What law? Law that puts Saddam to trial because the Kuwaitis said that we would make out of every Iraqi women a prostitute for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) street and I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historical rights of Iraqis against these dogs.
Do not insult anybody. This is a legal (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Legal. Professor Martinez, defending honor is not a legal defense, is it?
JENNY MARTINEZ, STANFORD LAW PROFESSOR: No, it‘s not. But I think there were two problems with what we saw today. The first was that Saddam did not have a lawyer at the hearing and the second was that the investigative judge didn‘t retain tight control over the proceedings. And that‘s one of the problems that happened in the Slobodan Milosevic trial and it has the potential to be a forum for Saddam to spout off his viewpoints unless the judge is able to retain control of what goes on.
ABRAMS: And so you‘re saying the two ways to do that are number one, get judge who‘s going to realize that that person has to control the courtroom and number two, actually have an advocate for Saddam there so you can almost talk to the lawyer and say, sir or ma‘am, please keep your client in control here.
MARTINEZ: That‘s exactly right. And you saw Saddam asking a lot of questions about how the court had been established, what the procedures were. And if he had been allowed the opportunity to meet with a lawyer beforehand, those could have been cut off. You wouldn‘t have had the sort of grandstanding that you saw today. And in addition, it‘s simply unfair to have...
MARTINEZ: ... a criminal defendant there without a lawyer.
ABRAMS: Mr. Rivkin, why not give Saddam a lawyer at this proceeding?
DAVID RIVKIN, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. OFFICIAL: Well, this isn‘t a preliminary proceeding. I‘m sure he would have a large team once the actual trial starts. But let me just point out this defined behavior is not necessarily a function of whether or not he had a lawyer.
Look at Slobodan Milosevic. He‘s consistently insisted on the right to be called the president and he has consistently tried to engage the Hague tribunal in the running debate about politics.
ABRAMS: But isn‘t he representing himself? I mean...
RIVKIN: Well, he chose to represent himself.
RIVKIN: I don‘t know what jury Saddam is going to make, but look, this is a process that is going to be refined. The actual trial is not going to start for a number of months.
ABRAMS: But this is about perception today. I mean today is about telling the world Saddam is on trial. And it would seem to me that they would bend over backwards to give it the perception of fairness.
RIVKIN: Dan, you‘re absolutely right. But let‘s remember, this is a brand new government. It‘s a very young government. They just got their sovereignty. They‘re sort of anxious to take first steps. In many ways it‘s a tradeoff. If the United States was trying it, it would have had a very polished, well presented arguments even at this stage. But their fundamental choice and the correct one has been made to let the people who suffered the most try him. We have to take the good with the bad. Of course there are going to be some kinks.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right, Mr. Soler, I mean look, you‘ve done a lot of research about Saddam Hussein, you have studied him, you‘ve done this documentary. Do you—anything you see today surprise you even in the least?
JOEL SOLER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: First of all, I am more than surprised today. I must say I am really appalled. I‘m appalled for several reasons. First of all, to hear (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saying the so-called first wife of Saddam Hussein is financing the lawyers and I think it‘s pretty appalling when we know that that money was—came from the Iraqi people and it‘s amazing that the Iraqi people again will have to pay the price to defend the crimes of Saddam Hussein.
What really surprised me today, it‘s the amazing performance of Saddam Hussein and, you know, this tape played in the Arab world and it definitely he appears a hero and he was running the show. And if you see the way he was acting, pointing the finger, you very much see, you know, Saddam Hussein when he was—when Saddam was in power.
ABRAMS: That‘s a very good point about the—who is funding the defense. I want to bring that up again in a moment, after a quick break. I want to ask all my guests to stay with us. Because when we come back, more—we‘ll play another sound bite from Saddam‘s appearance in court. And we‘ll talk with one of Saddam‘s lawyers.
Later, week five in the Scott Peterson trial, and it looks like the prosecution finally had a good week. We‘ll talk with three people who have been inside the courtroom.
Your e-mails, email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.
ABRAMS: Coming up, more from Saddam Hussein‘s first day in court, as he comes out swinging against the judge and even President Bush. Despite the evidence stacked against him, can he actually trip up the tribunal?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPT. DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: The Iraqi special tribunal has been formed to try Saddam Hussein and other Iraqis who have committed crimes. They are currently drafting rules of procedure and evidence. Some investigations have begun, but, they are certainly a far way I think from collecting everything they need to have. That process is going to take some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The deputy spokesperson for the State Department talking about drafting the rules that will try Saddam Hussein. We‘re talking about the fact that he was in court today, giving the judge a hard time, battling back verbally.
You know Professor Martinez, it raises the question, why effectively arraign him now before the rules have been established? I mean why not establish rules first so you know what you are doing, you know how you are going to file the charges, you know how the system is going to work and then bring him into court?
MARTINEZ: Well, it‘s considered important in most criminal justice systems that the defendant be promptly informed of the charges against him and brought into court. And the rules of this tribunal provide for that, as do international human rights treaties. So it was really important as a matter of the defendant‘s rights that he be brought in and charged right away. So certainly that was the right thing to do.
ABRAMS: But they have no rules to apply. I mean I understand that it‘s sort of a broad concept, but it just seems odd to bring him in and inform him of charges where in a system whereby the rules haven‘t even been established yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dan...
MARTINEZ: Well, absolutely. And I think that one of the problems here is that those rules ought to have been drafted in the past few months prior to the handover of power. What happened when sovereignty was transferred was that under international law Saddam could no longer be held as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention...
MARTINEZ: ...and so there was a need to charge him with a crime promptly in order to make his detention lawful.
ABRAMS: Before I go to David Rivkin, a little bit more today of Saddam Hussein. It seems to almost be laying the foundation for a sort of defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSSEIN (through translator): Is it legitimate to raise accusations against an official, and the official being accused away from the assurances provided by the constitution and the laws, including the one that you are trying me, according to? This is the core of the issue. To raise accusations because it was acted upon during a regime headed by Saddam Hussein but without providing the assurances to the president. Is this legitimate?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Mr. Rivkin, it sounds like Saddam Hussein is saying basically, talking about sovereign immunity here, basically saying as the president, I should be immune from prosecution.
RIVKIN: Somebody should inform him about the Nuremberg and the Tokyo trials. That defense obviously would not stand, neither the head of state immunity nor the act of state doctrine. By now, it‘s firmly established that international law providing immunity in dealing with such manners as aggressive war and genocide. So, he is not going to get that.
The important thing to keep—and you‘ve referenced it a couple of times now—to keep this trial under control, they have to prevent him from being able to deliver speeches about political issues. If it were up to me, I would, for example, rule that you cannot talk about anything that took place after those alleged offenses took place. That would immediately take off the table the second Iraq war and George W. Bush and everything like this and it‘s entirely reasonable as a matter of law.
Second, you can control the mike. If you remember what the Hague tribunal has during Milosevic‘s tirades after being warned several times, they would simply cut off his mike.
ABRAMS: Yes. And Saddam went as far as to refuse to acknowledge that he understood the charges against him. Here is what happened in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge: What assurances are you seeking that you want to sign? These are the assurances.
Saddam Hussein: Well, I‘m talking about the whole process and this is part of the process, the legal process. But in every case—I will find in the presence of lawyers and you being a judge, why act incorrectly and act in an expedited way and then you will be held responsible or at fault. You are an Iraqi judge.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Judge saying well, it‘s your right to sign.
Saddam: I will not sign, except in the presence of an attorney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Mr. Soler, based on your research, would you be concerned that some of these judges are going to be intimidated by Saddam Hussein?
SOLER: I mean completely. Did you see the judge today? I mean it‘s amazing. Saddam was running the show and you can tell that the judge was, you know, barely responding. And you know it‘s very interesting what Saddam—I mean, Saddam today played on several—he played several things at his advantage.
And again, you know in the country today (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I mean it reminded the Iraqi people about the super (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Iraqis saying you know the Kuwaitis are dogs. We are Iraqi.
If you see—you know, again, he plays humor, saying you know oh, I‘ve been told about the Kurds being gassed. I mean if you see—I mean, for example, he played, you know, when he talked about President Bush saying Bush was a criminal, he knew that that definitely will play in the Arab world. And—so definitely, it was a great show and you know, you could tell that the judge wasn‘t really...
SOLER: ...on the same level.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right, take a quick break. We have more of the exchanging between Saddam and the judge coming up. And we‘re going to talk to one of Saddam‘s lawyers live.
For full coverage of the day in court and an interactive look at all of the Iraqi leaders on trial, log on to our Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com.
Later in the program, after a rough start, the prosecution in the Scott Peterson case just finally had a good week. We‘ll talk to three people who have been this the courtroom for the whole trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge: Profession, former president of republic of Iraq.
Saddam: No, present, current, it‘s the will of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Saddam Hussein insisting he remains the president of Iraq. I‘m joined again by Mike Almaleki, who was a victim of Saddam‘s regime as were his parents. When you hear Saddam Hussein continue to insist that he is the president of Iraq, what do you think?
ALMALEKI: I think, you know, it gives you like exactly who is Saddam Hussein. He is the madman. And he still, like confusing in person. He still, I think, thinks he is the president of Iraq. He still, you know he don‘t think like the world has changed. You know this is in Iraq. I‘m telling you one thing.
I think Saddam Hussein think right now because he‘s confusing, he walk into the court and nobody hit him. He walk into court with all respect. He walk into the court without torture. So this what I think because Saddam Hussein was that time when he was the president of Iraq, he was torturing people. He would behead people. Before walk into the court, have notice for anybody, he don‘t allow anybody to have a lawyer.
So now he ask everybody for lawyer. He don‘t want sign the document. He ask about a lawyer. But on the other hand, he said, Americans they accuse me, I have a lot of money in Geneva. Why if I have the money, I don‘t use it to hire a lawyer. Well, from on the other hand, his wife, she hires 20 lawyers and they sit in Amman, Jordan to wait for visa.
ABRAMS: You know that‘s a good point and that‘s the same point Mr. Soler brought up. All right, Professor Martinez, let me let you take that one on. Isn‘t there a concern about that?
MARTINEZ: Well the statute of the tribunal that if a defendant can‘t afford a lawyer himself, the government will pay for one. And certainly, all legal systems recognize that criminal defendants have the right...
ABRAMS: But wait...
ABRAMS: ...but I‘m talking specifically about the notion that both Mr. Soler and Mr. Almaleki have brought up and that is that his wife is funding his defense and that all this money was stolen from the Iraqi people.
MARTINEZ: Well, that absolutely is a concern and defendants certainly don‘t have a right to use stolen money to pay for...
ABRAMS: How do you deal with that in this case?
MARTINEZ: Well, certainly, I think that there ought to be investigations into the source of the funds and to make sure that that isn‘t happening. At the same time, there do need to be provisions made so that he can have adequate defense counsel.
ABRAMS: Mr. Almaleki, I‘ve only got a little time left, but would you want to testify in this case?
ALMALEKI: You know, I‘m ready any time, but you know at the same time, I have to think about my family‘s safety first because I have family here in the United States, my wife, my kid...
ABRAMS: Do you think...
ALMALEKI: I‘m sorry...
ABRAMS: I apologize for interrupting, do you think that‘s going to be the concern that a lot of Iraqis are going to have, which they‘re going to say I would love to testify against Saddam Hussein, but I‘m worried about my safety?
ALMALEKI: You know, I can tell you something off the camera, not now. You know you will understand what I‘m talking about. Because I know Saddam Hussein very well. And Saddam Hussein, like today, we don‘t have to know what he said. Saddam Hussein maybe today, you know, he gives message to the people because one hand, he said I have no money. One hand he said his wife, she has a lawyer. So we have to think about what Saddam Hussein is talking about here.
ABRAMS: Yes. So the bottom line, there is still a lot of fear. Even though Saddam is on the dock, there‘s still a lot of fear amongst the Iraqi people.
All right, if you could all just stay with us. We‘re going to come back. We‘re going to talk live with one of the lawyers defending Saddam Hussein.
And later, the Scott Peterson case. We wrap up the week with three people who were inside the courtroom every day. We‘ll ask them how the jurors are reacting.
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ABRAMS: Coming up, Saddam is defiant on his first day in court. How do you defend a dictator? We‘ll ask one of his lawyers, but first, the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. We have been talking about Saddam in court. But he was there without a lawyer. Now we‘re joined by one of them. Attorney Issam Ghazzawi joins us now on the phone from Amman, Jordan.
Thank you so much sir for taking the time to come on the program. I understand that we are very early in the process, but do you have any sense yet of what you defense will be? Because it sounded today like Saddam was laying a foundation for certain arguments.
ISSAM GHAZZAWI, SADDAM HUSSEIN‘S DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via phone): Yes, the first line of defense we have the invasion of Iran was legal. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) influenced by the United States against a sovereign country, Iraq. In international law, you have only situations for legal war. And self-defense, and we all know that Iraq didn‘t attack the United States. The second is by having a national security council according to Article 7, which the United States must have.
ABRAMS: But even if...
ABRAMS: ...even if the war, let‘s assume for a moment, for argument‘s sake, that the war, that you are right about the international legal status of the war. How does that change Saddam‘s trial with regard to his acts and the acts of his government?
GHAZZAWI: His acts are just accusations. Everybody is entitled to a fair trial. Nobody can call anybody a criminal until proven a criminal at court. We don‘t have a court. He was handed today the accusations without his lawyers and that you know is illegal. And he has rights and he is still innocent until proven guilty.
ABRAMS: So, it...
ABRAMS: ...it sounds like the—and again, I know this is early on, I understand that. But at this point it sounds like the defenses are much more procedural than they are going to be factual. Is that a fair characterization?
GHAZZAWI: No, it will be a real defense because we have documents, tons of documents of our own. We started them. We are many lawyers, group lawyers, 20 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) attorney and 1,500 volunteers and 200 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all volunteered for this job. It will not be easy, but we will do our best to defend our client. We believe he‘s not guilty of anything accused of.
ABRAMS: Is it fair to say that you will try to shift the trial from the trial of Saddam Hussein to the trial of the United States?
GHAZZAWI: No, of course not. We‘ll not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the United States. We will work according to the laws, international laws and Iraqi laws, which are they‘re supposed to in this court, appointed court should use the Iraqi law.
GHAZZAWI: The United States did have an—made an aggression against Iraq. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
GHAZZAWI: It will not be a court to make anything against the States.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you, a number of our guests who appeared before you were questioning the defense team. And they say that because Saddam‘s wife has been funding and paying for the lawyers and that money was obtained by stealing from the Iraqi people, that that shouldn‘t be permitted. What is your response?
GHAZZAWI: I am very grateful for you mentioning this, because Saddam‘s wife doesn‘t have any money and we are all volunteers and we spend our own pockets now, $250,000 and we are willing to spend more. Believe me, we didn‘t have any penny paid for us from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the first lady of Iraq or his daughters or anybody else. And even we don‘t accept money, cash donations from anybody.
ABRAMS: So you are doing this as a matter of principle for free for Saddam Hussein...
GHAZZAWI: Yes, as a principle. Not for Saddam only, for the sake of justice all over the world.
ABRAMS: So it‘s not—it‘s—for you, it‘s a test of the process. It‘s not that you—the reason you didn‘t take this case is you didn‘t say Saddam Hussein, this is the cause we have to take because he is an innocent man. You‘re saying everyone deserves a lawyer.
GHAZZAWI: Everyone deserves the right to have a lawyer and to have a court of law by—not bias, having judgment according to rules. Not to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ABRAMS: So at this point, would you say that it has not been proven, for example, that...
ABRAMS: ...the Kurds and the Iranians were gassed with poisoned gas.
Do you believe that that is just speculation?
GHAZZAWI: No, I don‘t believe that. I believe that there was an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) chemical used for war crimes, but for not Iraqi war crimes. According to the ministry of defense in the United States, they reported at the time that the rules of this chemical are not from Iraq. And once we do that, with the Iranians, according to the intelligence in the United States and you can‘t find it (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ABRAMS: Any reservations? I mean apart from the legal issues, you know, Saddam Hussein has been described by so many as a torturer, as a person who has led one of the most brutal regimes in the world. Any reservations about representing him?
GHAZZAWI: No, no (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because I don‘t believe that. I think all of these are allegations until proven to be right.
ABRAMS: All right. Issam Ghazzawi, thank you very much for taking the time...
ABRAMS: ...and sharing your perspective. I appreciate it.
You know, I am just about out of time. David Rivkin, 30 seconds, do you want to make a final comment there?
RIVKIN: Well, I certainly don‘t begrudge him of the opportunity to represent the client. He is not a client that most of us would want to represent, but it‘s a very important feature of our justice system that people be allowed to represent anybody they want. The point I really wanted to make, it‘s very important in the early phases of a trial to set the right perimeters of what kind of information...
RIVKIN: ...will be allowed. For example, to hold discussion about the second Iraq war, whatever the merits are and I think it‘s ludicrous to call this aggression is utterly irrelevant.
ABRAMS: That‘s why I was saying to him, you know, are you going to try and put the U.S. on trial instead of Saddam Hussein.
RIVKIN: You can rule it out...
ABRAMS: All right.
RIVKIN: You can rule it out of order and basically say stop talking about it.
ABRAMS: I can tell—Mr. Almaleki, I can tell you want to make—
I‘ve no time, but go ahead, final comment.
ALMALEKI: Yes, I just want to say to all the world, all the other countries, especially Jordan, you know we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we called the Americans to help us. You know we are the Iraqis, called for the Americans to help us. So everybody and I ask God to bless this country you know because USA—without USA we cannot do it alone.
ABRAMS: Mike Almaleki, you know you‘re a brave man who has been through a lot and I appreciate you taking the time...
ALMALEKI: Thank you. Thank you.
ABRAMS: ...to come on the program. Mr. Rivkin, Professor, Mr. Soler, I apologize. I didn‘t get more time with all of you, but I appreciate you taking the time to come on the program.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: And of course, tune in tonight, a two-hour special beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on MSNBC, “Saddam in Court”. They‘re going to rebroadcast a lot of what Saddam Hussein said. Chris Jansing and Amy Robach hosts. I‘ll be on the show...
Coming up, prosecution off to a rough start in the Peterson trial. It looks like it made some ground this week. We‘ll talk to three people who have been inside the courtroom, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON GRANTSKI, LACI PETERSON‘S STEPFATHER: You can dazzle (ph) them with brilliance (ph), you dazzle (ph) with pull (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People need to realize, he‘s not getting off because he had—has a good attorney, he‘s getting off because he‘s innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, well, Laci Peterson‘s stepfather talking about his son-in-law‘s attorney, while Scott‘s sister is saying that it‘s not fancy lawyering that is going to get Scott Peterson off.
But in the courtroom, the week began with Detective Allen Brocchini back on the stand, his fourth day being cross-examined. Defense Attorney Mark Geragos getting him to admit a woman who broke into the Peterson home soon after Laci disappeared was infatuated with Scott Peterson. The defense planting yet another seed for an alternate theory of the murder?
But the prosecution gained some points on Tuesday, getting back some of Detective Brocchini‘s lost credibility. Brocchini saying he chose not to follow up on a tip that pointed directly to Peterson, that he didn‘t find anything to corroborate it. That from a man who claimed that Peterson told him how he would dispose of a body.
It mirrored how prosecutors say Scott got rid of Laci‘s body. rMDNM_Now, the prosecutors are trying to show the police did not follow up on certain leads that helped and hurt Peterson, that they were fair. Also, testimony coming from the woman who introduced Scott Peterson and Amber Frey. Shawn Sibley said Peterson told her that he lost his wife and asked here if she had any single friends he could be set up with.
Sibley saying after she confronted Peterson about being married, he still denied it, saying, quote, “And I said, ‘Scott, I don‘t care if you‘re widowed or divorced, all I care about is that you‘re married right now.‘ And he said, ‘No, absolutely not.‘” The conversation took place on December 6th, nearly three weeks before his wife was reported missing.
All right. The trial resumes next Tuesday; there was no court today. So, I wanted to talk to three people who‘ve been following the trial from inside the courtroom: from KFBK radio in Sacramento, Chris Filippi; former San Mateo County prosecutor, Dean Johnson; and Edie Lambert, from NBC affiliate KCRA.
All right. Chris, you were in the courtroom for this week‘s testimony, how were the jurors reacting? We‘re starting to get into some of the human testimony of Shawn Sibley talking about how she introduced Scott Peterson to Amber and said to Scott, hey, only if you‘re interested in a serious relationship am I going to set you up.
Were the jurors sort of showing renewed interest?
CHRIS FILIPPI, REPORTER, KFBK RADIO: Yes, and almost new interest, if you will, because for the most part during the prosecutions case, the jurors have looked forward a lot of times. They‘ve really been interested this week, especially when Shawn Sibley took the stand yesterday.
You could tell that they were definitely interested in what she was talking about, writing a lot of notes—but really, even chuckling along with some of the stories she told about what Scott Peterson allegedly did to try and pick up women.
ABRAMS: And was Peterson looking at her? Was he sort of looking her in the eye?
FILIPPI: He was really trying to avoid it, actually. It always strikes me how confident Scott Peterson looks in court. He always has a grin, always has time to say hello to his family—very confident. He didn‘t look so confident when Sibley was on the stand yesterday. In fact, he tried to avoid eye contact with her. I saw him look down at his desk when she was called to the stand.
And as far as Sibley‘s part, she didn‘t want any part of him either.
FILIPPI: She was locked in directly on the prosecutor.
ABRAMS: Yes, I‘m sure. I mean, you know, she‘s sitting there talking about how he was talking all about sex, from the minute they met, and what positions and all that.
You know, you‘ve got to ask yourself, of course, why she‘s setting up her pal with this guy, but—all right.
Dean Johnson, what observations from the courtroom this week?
DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Well, I think Chris is right. You know, as a trial lawyer, you get very attuned to even the smallest nuances of jurors‘ body language.
And when Shawn Sibley started testifying about her first encounter
with Scott Peterson—where, in a matter of minutes, he was talking about
sexual preferences and positions—I noticed that three jurors in the
front row—eight, nine, and 10, all of whom happened to be female jurors
· leaned forward and the notebooks came out for the first time. And they continued to take copious notes during that testimony.
It‘s not just that the jury is showing some interest, it‘s they‘re showing an interest in this case for the first time. And they‘re leaning forward and taking in that testimony, and that‘s a good thing for the prosecution.
ABRAMS: All right. Edie, I know you‘ve been an invited guest here at
NBC for the last day so you weren‘t in there for that day. But in term of
· since that juror was dismissed. And he comes out and he says, that the prosecution case is going terribly, we don‘t know what they‘re talking about a lot of the time, that he believe that Scott Peterson is—he didn‘t say the words, he‘s innocent, but it‘s pretty clear that he believe Scott Peterson is innocent. Did you see any difference after that juror came out, in terms of the prosecution, the way they were asking question, the demeanor, et cetera?
EDIE LAMBERT, KRCA CORRESPONDENT: You bet, the next time we saw the prosecutors in court and able to do their thing was of course after Geragos had gone through days after days of cross examination of Detective Brocchini. When it was Rick Distaso‘s turn, he came out firing.
And I tell you, I saw the jurors picking up with him, watching him, watching him carefully, watching his interactions with Mark Geragos, who was trying to fight him on that hearsay testimony that was now being allowed for the prosecution with Brocchini.
So, yes, it was a different person. As one of the court observers said, it was the mouse taking on the lion. And yes, we saw a very different prosecutor that day.
ABRAMS: You know, Dean, if you were D.A. running the show, I mean Distaso and Harris‘ boss, and you saw that juror come out, do you call him into your office and you say, look guys, time to change here. Let‘s pep it up, you‘re embarrassing me out there. Look at what that guy is saying about the prosecution. Everyone‘s out there saying that we got a weak case. I want to see something different in the courtroom?
JOHNSON: Oh, you absolutely do. And by coincidence, I happened to work, when I was a young prosecutor, with Distaso‘s boss. And you can bet that over the weekend they regrouped, they came back in, they said, look, we‘ve got to have a theory of the case. But more important than that, you‘ve got to stand up to Mark Geragos. And Distaso‘s doing a great job of it.
At one point, he said what he should have been saying to the jury all the time. Unfortunately, this was out of the presence of the jury, which is, 90 percent of what Geragos is putting in front of this jury is garbage. He needs to subtly and not subtly, get that to the jury as well.
ABRAMS: Chris, what are we expecting next week?
FILIPPI: It‘s very clear that the prosecution is laying the frame work for Amber Frey‘s testimony. I think what we‘re going to see next week is Detective John Mueller with the Modesto Police Department. He was Amber‘s main handler. Expect some detailed testimony from him, possibly even some of the—or I should say, some of the audio recordings involving Amber Frey and Scott Peterson. Those could come into court, probably next week.
ABRAMS: But I should say, I‘m told that Amber Frey will not—is not scheduled to testify next week at this point. Although, it could come at the end of the week, but not expected, at this point.
Edie Lambert, you heading back out there?
LAMBERT: I will be in court on Tuesday.
ABRAMS: We love Edie Lambert. All right, we‘ll see you out there.
Edie, Dean, Chris, thanks a lot for coming on. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Dan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
ABRAMS: Coming up, why one of our views is glad that the former Peterson juror, No. 5, is not going to be a juror in Saddam‘s trial. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: All right, today we are going to head right to your rebuttal. Last night, in my closing argument, I said the presumption of innocent does not and should not exist outside a courtroom. To presume someone innocent, is for us to presume the authorities get it wrong every time they arrest someone.
From Plainfield, New Jersey Kevin S. Long disagrees. “It is ridiculous to suggest that the presumption of innocence should not be assumed in the society-at-large outside the courtroom. Who is it that comprises the juries that are seating in these cases? The people from the society-at-large. If people adopt the notion that citizens charged with crimes are guilty, and must be proven innocent, it totally destroys the integrity of the jury system.”
All right Kevin, No. 1, no one is suggested that people should be presuming defendants guilty, that‘s not what I said. I was saying if the police have presumed them guilty, and as long as we‘re not jurors, we have every right to make our own determination without being told that we must apply the presumption of innocence has to the case.
So the juries, I‘ll say it again, that is what jury selection is for, to make sure the people who are chosen can fairly follow the rules that apply in a courtroom.
For example, just because you‘re told that a witness has to testify under oath and can be prosecuted for perjury, that doesn‘t mean the rest of us are always under oath as well. Different rules apply in the courtroom.
Teresa Moore in California gets it, “thank you for reminding people the concept of innocent until proven guilty refers to the defendant‘s status in a court of law and has no bearing on the rights of others to form their own opinions in order to discuss those opinions openly.”
To the Scott Peterson case. Last night my legal panel debated Scott‘s affair with girlfriend Amber Frey, if it had any relevance to the case against him.
Former Deputy District Attorney David M. Walon in California. “Here all you have is a guy having affairs with no correlation to why that would lead to murder. If that was the case, you would be finding many spouses dead on the highways all across America. It seems the bar should be set higher before general dirt is allowed to be thrown on the defendant in a criminal trial.”
David, it‘s just general dirt to introduce the evidence he told her his wife was dead, that he didn‘t want to have any more children and would be able to spend more time with her in January? Come on, counselor, you know better than that.
On the stand yesterday was the woman who introduced Scott to girlfriend Amber Frey. Shawn Sibley testified they met at a business convention of the California Association of Pest Control Advisers. Attorney Janice Heitzmann in Pallo, Ohio. “You find it ironic that Scott was attending a pest extermination gathering when he met Amber Frey‘s friend? On a scale of repulsiveness for common pests, Scott falls somewhere between roaches and sewer rats. At least with the rats and roaches, you can identify them when you see them.”
Finally, Mike A. on Saddam Hussein and dismissed juror No. 5 in the Scott Peterson case, Justin Falconer, who refuted every piece of evidence presented by the prosecution. “Let‘s just be thankful juror No. 5 is not on Saddam‘s jury. He would say, you know Saddam is just a guy. I like watching murder and torture in movies and TV. Saddam only gave the orders, he didn‘t actually physically kill anyone, he‘s innocent. And you have to prove to me and physically show me how he supposedly killed anyone, and maybe I‘ll change my mind.”
Your emails, email@example.com. We go through them. Read them on the air.
“HARDBALL” next, Chris Matthews. Filling in tonight is Cambell Brown. And don‘t forget, 9:00 pm Eastern time, “Special Report: Saddam In Court” hosted by the 2 women who did such a terrific job this morning of covering the story: Kris Jansing and Amy Robach. And I will make an appearance on that program as well. Very exciting. See you.
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