Guest: Chrissy Gephardt, Richard Burns, Dr. Robert Galatzer-Levy, Genevieve Wood, Bill Fallon, Tacopina
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Political bombshell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: My truth is that I am a gay American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: New Jersey‘s governor resigns with a shocking revelation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGREEVEY: Shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tonight, the man who is stepping down because of a life-long secret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGREEVEY: It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Amber Frey, back on the stand with new details about how she discovered Scott Peterson‘s big secret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY: He lied to Amber from the very beginning, and then he lied again and again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And we‘ll hear newly released tapes of conversations between the two lovers.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH MURDERING HIS WIFE: We could fulfill each other (UNINTELLIGIBLE) together forever.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. An extraordinary event unfolded today. In a stunning declaration, New Jersey governor James McGreevey announced that he is resigning. He admitted to an extramarital affair with a man, saying that quote, he is “a gay American.” McGreevey, who was married with two children, will step down effective November 15. Here is his entire statement from earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am. As a young child, I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact, confused. By virtue of my traditions and my community, I worked hard to ensure that I was accepted as part of the traditional family of America. I married my first wife, Kari, out of respect and love, and together we have a wonderful, extraordinary daughter. Kari then chose to return to British Columbia.
I then had the blessing of marrying Dina, whose love and joy for life has been an incredible source of strength for me. And together, we have the most beautiful daughter.
Yet from my early days in school until the present day, I acknowledged some feelings, a certain sense that separated me from others. But because of my resolve, and also thinking that I was doing the right thing, I forced what I thought was an acceptable reality onto myself, a reality which is layered and layered with all the, quote, “good things,” and all the, quote, “right things” of typical adolescent and adult behavior.
Yet at my most reflective, maybe even spiritual level, there were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me. Were there realities from which I was running? Which master was I trying to serve?
I do not believe that God tortures any person simply for its own sake. I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good. In this, the 47th year of my life, it is arguably too late to have this discussion, but it is here and it is now.
At a point in every person‘s life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one‘s soul and decide one‘s unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American. And I am blessed to live in the greatest nation, with the tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world, in a country which provides so much to its people.
Yet because of the pain and suffering and anguish that I have caused to my beloved family, my parents, my wife, my friends, I would almost rather have this moment pass, for this is an intensely personal decision and not one typically for the public domain. Yet it cannot and should not pass.
I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable. And for this, I ask the forgiveness and the grace of my wife. She has been extraordinary throughout this ordeal, and I am blessed by virtue of her love and strength.
I realize the fact of this affair and my own sexuality, if kept secret, leaves me, and most importantly, the governor‘s office, vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure. So I am removing these threats by telling you directly about my sexuality.
Let me be clear. I accept total and full responsibility for my actions. However, I‘m required to do now—to do what is right to correct the consequences of my actions and to be truthful to my loved ones, to my friends and my family, and also to myself.
It makes little difference that, as governor, I am gay. In fact, having the ability to truthfully set forth my identity might have enabled me to be more forthright in fulfilling and discharging my constitutional obligations.
Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign. To facilitate a responsible transition, my resignation will be effective on November 15 of this year.
I‘m very proud of the things we have accomplished during my administration, and I want to thank humbly the citizens of the state of New Jersey for the privilege to govern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: A bombshell today from the New Jersey governor. Now joining me to talk about the resignation of Governor McGreevey are Chrissy Gephardt, the daughter of Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt. She is an openly gay political activist. Also joining us, psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Galatzer-Levy and Richard Burns, the executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community. We welcome you all here.
First, Chrissy, I‘m going to go to you for the political specter on all of this. It was an elegant, eloquent and very heartfelt speech. It seems to me that he doesn‘t lose in the way he resigned his post today. Am I wrong?
CHRISSY GEPHARDT, GAY AND LESBIAN VICTORY FUND: No, I think you‘re absolutely right, Deborah. I think that he had a tremendous amount of grace and courage in saying what he said. And you know, in listening to him, my goodness, I have felt many of those same things. I have a very similar situation, in that I was married and I came out. And so I feel his pain. I know what he‘s going through, not exactly, but I—you know, it must be really hard. And I think he‘s had a lot of courage to come out the way he has.
NORVILLE: But a lot of people are speculating there must be something else behind not only the announcement but the timing of the announcement. There have been rumors that a sexual harassment, sexual discrimination lawsuit might be in the offing, one that involves a male employee of the state of New Jersey. Could that precipitate this?
GEPHARDT: You know, that may have precipitated this. I heard some stuff about a sexual harassment case. I don‘t know enough about it to comment on it. But I‘m sure that probably prompted him to make this announcement, unfortunately. it‘s too bad it had to come in this context.
NORVILLE: But that‘s not the only thing that‘s been going on in New Jersey. Before this ever happened, Governor McGreevey was in a bit of a tight spot because two of his top fundraisers were recently indicted on federal charges that had to do with fundraising and favors being exchanged. The polls have been just devastating to him. He‘s 38 percent approve, but 47 percent disapprove. And there have been a lot of issues that New Jerseyans don‘t like the way Governor McGreevey‘s handled.
Was this just one more thing that was going to be too much for a politician on the hot seat to handle?
GEPHARDT: You know, I really don‘t think that—I would—at least, I would hope to think that he didn‘t resign because of that. I mean, I don‘t think that—you know, a lot of politicians have bad poll numbers and—you know, but it doesn‘t mean you can‘t come out of it. It doesn‘t mean that there‘s things he couldn‘t do to improve his reelection, you know, chances. But I think something like this, if there is, indeed, a harassment case out there, probably is the main reason why he‘s resigning.
NORVILLE: And you think that that‘s something that would be impossible for a sitting governor to be able to withstand? We just saw the Connecticut governor resign from his office for some financial allegations that have been going on.
GEPHARDT: I think we all know that if there‘s ever any cloud of misconduct, especially sexual misconduct, with a public official, it‘s pretty certain that resignation is going to happen because the American public just doesn‘t—won‘t not stand for that. And you know, if that is the case, it‘s wrong. And I think he did take the right step, if that is the case.
NORVILLE: Dr. Galatzer, it was an emotional press conference. Mrs. McGreevey was right by his side. What is he going through emotionally right now, as he has just revealed his innermost angst to the entire nation?
DR. ROBERT GALATZER-LEVY, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, I suspect what he‘s going through is that he‘s trying to find a place for himself in the world . This is a man who‘s spent his life struggling with the question of whether to be open about his sexuality, whether to hide it, feeling guilty about his sexuality, and now he‘s probably been forced to confront it in a very public way.
NORVILLE: Do you think that Mrs. McGreevey would have known that there was another side to her husband‘s life? Is this something he could have kept hidden from his wife?
GALATZER-LEVY: Yes, it‘s something that men commonly keep hidden from their wives. It‘s not rare for gay men or bisexual men to have ongoing, often quite satisfactory relations with women and marry and have children.
NORVILLE: Right. Rich Burns, I‘m curious about where the gay-lesbian community might come down on this because here‘s a man who is in a position of power, who has come out of the closet, acknowledged his sexuality, and yet at the same time, stepped down from that very powerful position. It‘s kind of, like, you win one, you lose one.
RICHARD BURNS, GAY ACTIVIST: Well, I think the message for today is that the closet is a prison, and every gay man and lesbian remembers that. Every gay man and lesbian has to break out of that prison, face the homophobia perhaps of their family, their colleagues, their church, and come out of the closet to be who they are.
And I thought Governor McGreevey‘s statement today was beautiful, and I felt very proud. When he said, “I am a gay American,” I had chills and I think many gay people did because when we were kids, we could not imagine that being possible, that a sitting governor could announce on live television, “I am a gay American.” Now...
NORVILLE: And yet you also talk about dealing with your church. And he very specifically mentioned that he grew up a Catholic and that that was one more thing that seemed to add to the anxiety that he was wrestling with all these years.
BURNS: Well, clearly, he talked about, as an adolescent, as a young man, struggling with his identity, feeling separate and isolated from his peers. And that led him to believe that he had to live his entire adult life until today as a lie. And what a terrible tragedy that—I don‘t doubt for a moment that he loves his wife and his family. And think of the pain he has caused her, caused himself, because he felt he had to live a lie. And I think that this shows the great cost of homophobia both to the individual and to the society.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. When we come back, we‘re going to talk more about the impact on the family and also the impact on the political career of Governor McGreevey. More on his resignation coming up.
And then later in the program, more from California, those taped telephone conversations between Amber Frey and Scott Peterson. That in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGREEVEY: I am a gay American. And I am blessed to live in the greatest nation, with the tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world, and a country which provides so much to its people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Continuing our look at the shocking announcement today from New Jersey governor James McGreevey that he had an extramarital gay affair and that he is resigning from office. Joining me again, Chrissy Gephardt, psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Galatzer-Levy and Richard Burns. He‘s executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community here in New York.
Richard, I wonder, will people who watch the presentation that Governor McGreevey made today, who are similarly living a life that is not true to their sexual identity, feel like, He did it, I can come out of the closet? Do people get empowered from this?
BURNS: I think that it is empowering whenever a gay man or lesbian comes out of the closet. There‘s another person breaking down a barrier. Now, depending on the facts that emerge in the next few weeks about Governor McGreevey‘s tenure, we‘ll see what kind of future he has in political life.
NORVILLE: When you say facts, you mean this allegation that he may have been...
NORVILLE: ... inappropriately involved with another employee or something?
BURNS: But now it‘s been done. It‘s been shown a strong, articulate, public figure is openly gay. And I think that if I were Governor McGreevey and I were struggling today, I‘d call up former congressman Gerry Studds, who went through a very similar situation in Congress and went on to be relocated multiple times.
NORVILLE: He did. His situation was back in the 1980s. He was censured by Congress for an affair that he‘d had 10 years earlier and then was elected not once but a total of five times. So Chrissy, you have said that you thought that Governor McGreevey‘s career was toast. But here‘s an example of someone who had a gay indiscretion and came back in flying colors. And Bill Clinton had a different kind of indiscretion, and he stayed in office, too.
GEPHARDT: Well, what I‘m saying is that if the indiscretion has anything to do with sexual harassment or anything like that, then in that case, I believe that it‘s a problem. But I just want to make clear here, the problem is not that he came out of the closet and that he‘s openly gay. There are over 275 openly gay elected officials in this country who serve without criticism or without much attention.
NORVILLE: But I wonder, if he had come out prior to beginning his political career, do you think he could have reached the level of governor of the state of New Jersey at the time he was coming along?
GEPHARDT: You know, that‘s a good question. I mean, I don‘t think anyone can really answer that. But I think Governor McGreevey is a very competent, smart individual and who served his—who‘s served the state of New Jersey very well. And hopefully, that wouldn‘t have had anything to do with his ability to lead.
NORVILLE: Do you think if the allegations about this possible lawsuit turn out to be unfounded that he could resurrect his career? He said he‘s resigning effective November 15. He doesn‘t have to step down if everything is hunky-dory by that point, does he?
GEPHARDT: You know, I—I do. I don‘t think that—if nothing comes of this, I think that he does have the ability to resurrect his career. You know, I mean, he‘s a fine individual. And you know, as we‘ve said here on the program, he delivered that announcement with such grace and with such strength that I think that people will see, you know, here‘s a man who‘s fallible and he‘s asking for forgiveness not only from his family but from his constituents.
NORVILLE: Dr. Galatzer-Levy, when Governor McGreevey was making his statement, he said, “I have to be truthful to myself,” but we all know in the process of being truthful to himself and dealing with the pain that he referred to, he‘s creating huge pain for his wife, for his ex-wife, for his two children, and I‘m sure others within his family. How should they be ministered to right now, whether it‘s through someone such as yourself in the psychological field, or a minister or who?
GALATZER-LEVY: Well, in the first place, I‘m not sure he‘s creating huge pain for them. That is, he‘s showing them...
NORVILLE: You‘re telling me that your husband goes on national television that, A, he‘s had an affair, and B, he‘s coming out with his sexuality, you don‘t think that‘s going to be painful to Mrs. McGreevey?
GALATZER-LEVY: Oh, sure, it‘s going to be painful. But when you emphasize only the huge pain, you‘re emphasizing only part of the story. That is, his children will have the opportunity to see a father who acts with integrity, talks with integrity about his sexuality. His wife will have the opportunity to work through a problem honestly, which, of course, is an enormous challenge for her.
NORVILLE: I wonder about—it seems lately we talk an awful lot of television about politicians and sexual indiscretions, affairs in their marriage. I mean, it seems like the landscape that‘s fair game for comment has gotten bigger. Dr. Galatzer-Levy, is that necessarily a healthy thing?
GALATZER-LEVY: I don‘t think so. I think people should be judged in their political role, in the same way we‘re judged in every other role. That is, how well we do the work. And then the question of his sexuality is essentially a private issue. I think he came out very strong and clear that the problem was that he was living in a environment where sexuality, especially homosexuality, is so feared, and therefore, he put his position in jeopardy. But if he were living in an environment where it weren‘t such a problem to be open about sexuality, including gay sexuality, this would be a very different kind of issue.
NORVILLE: We‘re joined in our discussion by Genevieve Wood. She‘s the vice president for communications at the Family Research Council.
Ms. Wood, I know you got to hear part of our discussion as you were getting miked up. What do you think of the impact Governor McGreevey‘s resignation address is going to be?
GENEVIEVE WOOD, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think the fact is that Governor McGreevey today didn‘t give the full story, Deborah. He talked about his affair, but I think he‘s playing on kind of the public heartstrings here. The fact is, there‘s a civil suit that‘s going to be coming out against the governor, and I think he‘s trying to preempt that. That has nothing to do, really, with an affair.
Now, there‘s a lot of allegations in there, such as, did he promote, perhaps, the man that he was having this adulterous affair with over other civil servants in the state of New Jersey? I mean, that‘s the scandal here. This has really nothing to do, frankly, with his sexuality, quote, unquote. It‘s about a scandal surrounding the governor‘s office that‘s bad behavior regardless of whether you‘re gay, straight. Doesn‘t matter.
NORVILLE: But if the employee who was being promoted, allegedly, at the expense of other employees had been a woman, would it necessarily have precipitated a resignation?
WOOD: Well, I would hope so because it‘s certainly still wrong—it‘s still wrong that he cheated on his wife. It‘s still wrong that he would promote someone, as opposed—not on merit but based on a personal relationship. And my understanding is, Deborah—I don‘t have all the details—that it‘s going to be more than just one person in this civil suit, that there are a number of allegations coming out against Governor McGreevey. He didn‘t address any of that today, but I think we‘re going to be hearing a lot about that.
NORVILLE: Chrissy Gephardt, you have been in the political arena for virtually your entire life. Do you believe that if the roles were slightly reversed, if the allegations were about a female employee who‘d been promoted, would any governor had felt compelled to resign his position?
GEPHARDT: You know, I don‘t. I think it is a double standard in this country. I think because Governor McGreevey came out and revealed his sexual orientation and this individual just happened to be a man, I think he‘s getting hit extra hard because of it because I think that this happens a lot in the case of, you know, heterosexual relationships, where it‘s a man and woman. So I do think he‘s being hit extra hard on this.
NORVILLE: On the other hand, Richard, is it a double-edged sword that actually is blunt on one side? Is this is a blessing, if you‘re a gay man who‘s felt constrained by being in the closet? As you said, it‘s a prison, not a closet.
BURNS: I think this is going to a very—is a very difficult day for Governor McGreevey, but I saw a lot of pride in his statement. I didn‘t just see relief, I saw joy when I said, “I am a gay American.” He‘s 47 years old. He has struggled with his identity and hidden in a closet 47 years. And today‘s the day he came out of the closet. His life will be changed for the better, ultimately.
NORVILLE: And Dr. Galatzer-Levy, how important is that age in this whole equation? Is this mid-life stage that Governor McGreevey‘s in a common stage at which others feel it‘s time to be true to your sexual orientation?
GALATZER-LEVY: Yes. It‘s quite common for men in mid-life to realize that their life is passing, that they need to be honest with themselves, they need to be honest with the world. And so many men come out in mid-life or even later. Some men actually change sexual orientation, too. You know, we don‘t really know the details of the governor‘s sexual life and orientation, nor should we. But there are many men who find their sexual orientation shifting during the course of their adult lives.
NORVILLE: Well, we certainly know more about the governor‘s sexual orientation than we did when we got up this morning. That‘s for sure. Chrissy Gephardt, thanks so much for being with us tonight. Dr. Robert Galatzer-Levy, Robert Burns—Richard Burns and Genevieve Wood, thanks to you, as well, for joining us.
When we come back, there are some explosive developments to tell you about, as well, in the Scott Peterson murder trial. The jury‘s been hearing really intimate phone calls between Peterson and Amber Frey. Up next, we‘ve got it. Stay with us.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON, DEFENDANT: Did you see all the news on Paris?
AMBER FREY, FORMER PETERSON MISTRESS: No, I didn‘t, actually.
PETERSON: There was a bomb that exploded.
PETERSON: There was a bomb that exploded and riots were and the whole deal.
FREY: You‘re kidding me?
FREY: You didn‘t get caught in it?
PETERSON: I didn‘t—I didn‘t see any of it, no. I guess I was on the other side of town, but I read it this morning.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
That‘s one of the recorded phone conversations between Amber Frey and Scott Peterson that had been played during Peterson‘s murder trial, as Peterson lies to his mistress that he is in Paris, when he is really back in Modesto, California.
Frey was on the witness stand again today for her third day of testimony. And, once again, some of the more extraordinary taped conversations between the two were played in court, telephone calls that were recorded after Modesto Police became suspicious of Peterson when his wife, Laci, went missing.
In one of the conversations on January 6, 2003, Peterson admit that‘s he lied about traveling to Europe and that he lied to Amber Frey about his marital status, saying that he was married and that his wife was missing. An angry Amber then confronts Peterson.
And here‘s an excerpt of that conversation.
Scott Peterson says: “You deserve so much better. There‘s no question you deserve so much better.”
Frey: “Yes, and I deserve to understand an explanation of why you told me you lost your wife and this was the first holidays you would spend without her. That was December 9, you told me this. And now all of a sudden, your wife is missing? Are you kidding me? Did you hear me?”
Peterson: “I did. I—I—I don‘t know what to say to you.”
Well, joining me now with plenty to say from outside the courthouse in Redwood City, California, is Dan Abrams. He‘s NBC‘s chief political correspondent, host of “THE ABRAMS REPORT” here on MSNBC.
And, Dan, I have to tell you, when you hear these conversations between the two, it really does not look good for Scott Peterson.
DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it doesn‘t, except, remember, he denies, denies, denies, that he had anything to do with Laci‘s disappearance again and again.
But there is no question that it is not helpful. Remember, the only reason he comes clean with Amber Frey is because she says to him, oh, you know, a friend of mine called me. And I don‘t know what was going on. She needed to speak to me immediately. She said she had something very important to talk to me about. And she wanted to know if I was OK.
Scott Peterson calls her back a couple of hours later, thinking, uh-oh, that I‘m going to be discovered. And here‘s what he says. Peterson says: “you haven‘t been watching the news, obviously.”
Peterson: “I have not been traveling during the last couple of weeks.
I have—I‘ve lied to you that I‘ve been traveling.”
“The girl I‘m married to, her name is Laci.”
“She disappeared just before Christmas.”
“For the past two weeks, I‘ve been in Modesto with her family and mine, searching for her.”
And then Frey goes on to confront him about the fact that he said he‘d lost his wife in December...
ABRAMS: ... and that now she‘s missing. Peterson said, “I said I lost my wife.”
Frey: “Yes, you did.”
“I did, yes.”
“How did you lose her then before she was lost? Explain that.”
Peterson: “There‘s different kinds of loss, Amber.”
Frey: “Then explain your loss.”
“I can‘t. I can‘t to you now.”
NORVILLE: And in another conversation that was played in court, Scott Peterson says, quote, “I‘m destroyed.” Now, yes, your wife, he says, “I didn‘t do it. I had nothing to do with it. I had no idea what happened to her.” But he says very clearly, “I‘m destroyed.”
How is the jury reacting to all this?
ABRAMS: Well, first of all, I think the destroyed was more in the context of everything that has happened with Amber. I mean, I was struck by how little he talked about Laci, how little—I mean, if he‘s going to come clean, and he wants to make it seem like everything is OK, you‘d think he say, you know, I miss her, I care for her, I am searching for her. I mean, this is so devastating to me. All he‘s talking about is how sorry he is about the things that he said to Amber, which is sort of interesting.
Jurors listening intently, following along with transcripts, constantly looking over, a number of them, at Scott Peterson, it‘s hard to tell if he‘s reacting in any way. Seems to be reading the transcripts for most of the time.
NORVILLE: And what is Amber Frey‘s reaction? Now, she has to go up into the witness stand and sort of set the stage, I gather, before a certain part of the tape is played?
ABRAMS: You know, today she didn‘t. She did the previous days. She was seen inside the courtroom today, near the end of one of the tapes, getting a little teary-eyed at one point, when she had cried on the tape. She had her attorney, Gloria Allred, put her arm around her.
So, you know, even if—even though Amber Frey knew that Scott Peterson was lying up to this point, she still seems pretty emotional. She‘s probably not emotional about what he‘s saying, but emotional about the fact that he‘s been telling all these lies to her all this time.
NORVILLE: Well, it‘s also emotional just to be a witness in a murder trial. I mean, just the enormity of what she‘s...
ABRAMS: I mean on tape.
NORVILLE: ... been through. Oh, I see, emotional on the tape.
NORVILLE: You know, I want to play one of those tapes, too, where you can understand why she‘s so emotional, because you see just how far down the primrose path she‘s been led by Scott Peterson. Give a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON: My mind (UNINTELLIGIBLE) care for you. In every way.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) care for each other, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see each other.
AMBER FREY: I am a what?
PETERSON: That we could be together, care for and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
PETERSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) each other, you know, forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Dan, it‘s his talking with Amber Frey about creating a life with her and raising her little girl together, I keep thinking about what is the motive being suggested by the prosecution, which is he wanted to get rid of Laci and this impending child so he could be unencumbered and start a new life, but it seems like you‘re jumping from the, you know, the pan into the fire. The life would be just as complicated if he really had hooked up with this girl, who already has a child.
ABRAMS: And that‘s exactly what the defense says. But remember, on that tape, Peterson says, “I want to just live with you and Ayanna, and that‘s enough for me. I don‘t want to have anymore children.” And prosecutors will say, look, there he is, on the tape, talking about the fact that he‘s OK bringing up Ayanna, he just doesn‘t want anymore kids. They say that may be the motive, but no question the defense is going to say exactly what you just said.
NORVILLE: Talk to me a little bit how composed Amber Frey is during these telephone conversations. How much was she coached before she recorded these conversations? It‘s clear she was suspicious when she went to the police and said, guess what, I‘ve been going out with this guy.
ABRAMS: Yeah, well, look, at that point she knew that it‘s the same guy. I mean, she had been in contact with someone, she then calls the police and said that she thinks it‘s the same Scott Peterson, and she wants to provide them with information. And then she starts assisting.
We don‘t know how much they coached her, but she was a pretty good cross-examiner. I mean, Scott Peterson wasn‘t giving up anything. He wasn‘t talking—and once he comes clean, he‘s not talking at all about why he lied. He wouldn‘t even admit that the baby that Laci was going to have was his baby. He just wouldn‘t answer, wouldn‘t answer, wouldn‘t answer, and she keeps pushing and pushing and pushing.
NORVILLE: And finally, just in a couple of seconds we‘ve got less, what about—left, what about these press conferences Gloria Allred, Amber Frey‘s attorney, has every afternoon? How are those being received?
ABRAMS: You know, they‘re interesting, they provide fodder. They‘re not particularly relevant to the outcome of the case, because the lawyer for the witness certainly is not one of the lawyers who‘s arguing in court.
NORVILLE: Absolutely. Dan Abrams, thanks so much for being with us from Redwood City, California. We‘ll take a short break. When we come back, more of these shocking recorded telephone conversations that took place over a period of many weeks, between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey. Stay with us.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PETERSON: ... all this wine. And last night, well, this morning, too, there is this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dog next to hotel.
FREY: This what?
PETERSON: This dog that just keeps barking.
PETERSON: Oh, I want to kill it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was more of the phone conversations played in court between Amber Frey and Scott Peterson. Frey has been testifying now for three days in the Peterson murder trial. But what kind of impact might she be having on the jury?
Joining me to look at that now is former prosecutor Bill Fallon and criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina.
Joe, I have to tell you, a lot of people looked at Amber Frey before she ever entered the courtroom and thought, she is a dumb blonde. What can she possibly offer. She‘s...
JOE TACOPINA, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Massage therapist.
NORVILLE: Yes, massage therapist dating a married man or—we later found out, she is good, Joe. Don‘t you think?
TACOPINA: On this tape, she is good. She wins an Academy—he at least appeared to be a good liar. And she is doing a pretty good job of carrying along her taglines as well. The level of deceit going on in these conversations is mind-boggling, yes.
NORVILLE: Bill Fallon, the bite that we just heard, the last thing he says is...
BILL FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Kill the dog.
NORVILLE: I just wanted to kill the dog.
FALLON: Kill the dog. It‘s Laci‘s dog, like I killed Laci, like I killed Conner. I‘ll kill the dog. He‘s the dog.
But I think the important thing is here, it is not that she is such a fabulous witness. The witness that is really testifying is Scott Peterson.
NORVILLE: You bet.
TACOPINA: That‘s right.
FALLON: And I think that that‘s the most important thing here. When we thought she was a dippy blonde and she might be a dippy blonde and we thought maybe Jessica Simpson could play her role, she is so good on these tapes getting this information out, or giving it that Meryl Streep could play her.
It seems to me that she is drawing out—I know he is not saying he did anything. But if ever I were on a jury—and maybe I‘m a little prejudiced as a prosecutor for a long time—I would be sitting there saying, this is the cold heart, hardest man I ever heard. Never mind that he doesn‘t care about his wife. He doesn‘t care about his child. He doesn‘t care about the loss. That‘s where—if they are going to get the premeditation here, it is in the malice that is going to be the Scott Peterson that we have heard on these tapes.
NORVILLE: He comes from the prosecution point of view. You come from the defense point of view.
TACOPINA: Yes, I do. I do come from the defense point of view. I mean, let‘s be real. I‘m not a Scott Peterson fan. This guy wins the cad of the century. He is not a good guy. He is a liar and he‘s hurt a lot of people.
His conduct here after he supposedly is grieving over his wife‘s disappearance is mind-boggling. It draws you close to the opinion that, yes, he‘s guilty. But the one thing that is still missing, the void that still has not yet been filled is evidence that he killed his wife. And that‘s a problem.
NORVILLE: One second, Bill.
Let me just read one telephone conversation that we heard in court today. It was on January 6. And what Scott says is: “I never cheated on you.”
Amber: “Hah, Hah, Hah,” laughing.
Peterson: “I never did.”
Frey: “You‘re married. How do you figure you never cheated on me?
Explain that one to me.”
Because he has already admitted that he lied, that he really was married, that his wife wasn‘t lost-lost like dead, but lost-lost like missing.
FALLON: For me, the important thing about that—and I disagree with you, Joe, of course, on this—is, it is not the lying cad part of this.
It is that way he is going to make these statements that he—and in that same conversation, Deborah, he really talks about, I can‘t tell you what‘s really going on here. I will tell you some other time, like he has not got his whole story straight. I think that is the closest thing—there is not be any smoking gun—that comes to a smoking gun, because you should be able to say to her, I don‘t know what happened. I have no idea. I will tell you about it later.
TACOPINA: But he does, Bill. He does. He does say that.
TACOPINA: What he does say to Amber is, he says, I hope she is found. I can‘t sleep. And I am sometimes calling you to comfort because I‘m starting to lose hope.
NORVILLE: Both you guys stop, because I have got to read this transcript, because it is so perfect right now. This is the same conversation. You want to talk about as cool as a cucumber.
Scott says: “My God, Amber. I had nothing to do with her disappearance.”
Amber: “Then who did?”
Peterson: “We don‘t have any ideas.”
Peterson: “There was a robbery here. And, you know, there‘s—they have...”
Amber: “You think a robber had something to do with her disappearance?”
Peterson: “Across the house where she disappeared, there was the robbery this morning.”
Amber: “Well, robbers don‘t steal people, pregnant people, for that.”
Peterson: “I‘m telling you, the police, those are the leads they‘ve indicated.”
It certainly sounds like he‘s laying out the defense that he would be laying out if he had his hand on the Bible and standing there swearing to tell the whole truth. Am I wrong?
FALLON: And he‘s not standing there swearing to tell the truth.
And I think, if you look at other things that happened on January 6, which is what, Joe, I‘m talking about, he is kind of implying to her, if you go through the whole tape, he says things like, well, I can‘t give you reasons now. I will tell you later.
And I think somewhere in these tapes, he kind of lets her think—And I don‘t know if it is January 6 -- that he knows something else, like he knows who did it or something. I‘m just telling you, the coldness of heart here, never mind that—if I‘m in the clothes and I‘m doing “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson, who wanted to get rid of his wife and kid, and say, those are those moments of truth that Scott has when he is really as cold as you can be.
And I think the jury doesn‘t care that he cheated on his wife. In
America, it‘s a sad statement, but
NORVILLE: It happens a lot.
FALLON: Domestic violence, you kill your wife, you kill your husband.
It happens. But when you have a cold heart towards killing your baby. And
I know he says
NORVILLE: Well, hold on. Let me just stop you there, because I want to come back and talk about how this is impacting the jury.
We will take a short break. More in just a moment.
NORVILLE: Back looking at the Peterson case with former prosecutor Bill Fallon and criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina, talking about how this is going to affect the jury.
And that‘s really what matters. Yes, there is a little bit of evidence. There is not the knife with Laci‘s name on it, but the jury is listening to this and they are hearing a really solid witness in the case of Scott Peterson.
TACOPINA: Right. And the witness‘ name is Scott Peterson.
He‘s his own worst enemy. I always said, Amber—they‘re talking about, is Geragos going to go after Amber Frey. I mean, he‘d be foolish to do so. Her credibility, quite frankly, is not at issue here. She is the vehicle in which they drive through into the courtroom his voice, the tapes. She plays the tape recorder, basically.
But the thing that I‘m saying here for the defense, if I‘m getting concerned, is this. This jury, any human being would hate Scott Peterson, innocent or not. And if they start filling void where the evidence should be with that sort of visceral reaction, coupled with this one fact that I still want to know how the defense is going to answer.
If he‘s innocent, Deborah, he is the most unlucky human being in the world, because the place he happened to go fishing on Christmas Eve, two hours from his home, by the way, on Christmas Eve, just happens to be the same body of water, two hours from his home, that his wife winds up washing to shore on. That‘s really unlucky, if he‘s innocent.
NORVILLE: You‘re the defense attorney.
But if you were Mark Geragos, what you‘re going to say is, yes, the people read on the news that he had gone fishing and they dumped the body there.
TACOPINA: You know what? If he says that and I‘m the prosecutor—and I don‘t mean to help the prosecutors here. I‘m a recovering prosecutor. I‘m not to do this anymore.
FALLON: You can never recover.
TACOPINA: I can‘t recover, Bill.
TACOPINA: If I‘m the prosecutor, here‘s what I‘m saying about that, Deborah. Aside from, are you kidding me, I would say this.
That means that the person who actually killed her after hearing Scott‘s alibi on the news went back to that body that they decapitated or did whatever they did to, reclaimed the body that the whole world is looking for, took possession of the body, went to the body of water Peterson already said he was at where they‘re searching, and dumped that body into that body of water. Why?
FALLON: The next thing, Joe, is, why would we want to frame Scott unless Amber is part of this whole conspiracy and she‘s going to do it?
TACOPINA: Those are a couple of tough theories. And I‘m a defense attorney.
NORVILLE: But hold on a second. Let‘s move on. How is Mark Geragos going to respond to this? Because these telephone conversations are awfully damning, if not incriminating.
Bill, how do you respond if you‘re Mark Geragos?
FALLON: If I‘m Mark, I would almost say very little. Joe and I agree on this. Sit down, shut up.
What you do when you do your closing to the jury, you don‘t pick on Amber too much. You say you were set up. You went to the police. You were prepared by glow—to kind of give these kind of statements. But you know in the end, he‘s just going to just say, this only proves he‘s a cold cad, a calculating cad about wanting to have this affair, but it doesn‘t cross that line to say, as Fallon thinks, that cold, vicious heart of premeditated malice.
And I think that that‘s what—he keeps singing that same and dance, because—and I‘ll tell you, the reason he shouldn‘t stay too long on these tapes and with Amber, because it gives the prosecution the ability to keep going back to exactly how dispassionate he is.
NORVILLE: Let me give the last word, then, to Joe.
TACOPINA: And, conversely, I would take it a step further if I‘m the defense in closing. Not only does it not cross the line. He says in the conversation he doesn‘t even know is being recorded, I didn‘t do it. I hope to find her.
TACOPINA: He‘s either lying or he‘s not lying.
FALLON: But, Joe, the thing is, lying—as he certainly is, certainly, and this pathology that he has—remember, he gives the story. If you‘re the prosecutor, you trace it back to the beginning: I‘m not married. Well, I lost have my wife.
FALLON: And then he gives her this—on Christmas Eve, he says to
his mother-in-law, she‘s missing. Whoever used the word missing when you
come home and your spouse isn‘t there? And then he‘s not—when he goes
NORVILLE: OK. Bill, I‘m going to let that be the last word.
TACOPINA: You got it.
NORVILLE: And, really, what only matters is what the jury is thinking.
NORVILLE: Bill Fallon, Joe Tacopina, thanks for being with us.
NORVILLE: We‘ll be back.
NORVILLE: Send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.
And that is our program for today. I‘m Deborah Norville. Thanks for watching.
Join us tomorrow. We‘ll be joined by the man whose theme song could be “Mission: Impossible,” Alan Keyes. He is the man running for the Illinois Republican Senate seat against the new rising star of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama. Alan Keyes joins us tomorrow night.
Coming up next, Joe Scarborough, he‘s got the latest on the governor of New Jersey resigning and announcing he‘s gay. “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.
See you tomorrow.
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