Guest: Dean Johnson, Mickey Sherman, Geoffrey Fieger, Norm Early, Jeralyn Merritt, Jim Thomas
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, live from Redwood City, California, Amber Frey grills Scott Peterson about the details of what happened the night before Laci Peterson went missing.
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: But I‘m saying, now, was Laci aware of the situation about me?
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: Yes.
FREY: She was?
FREY: Really? How did she respond about it?
ABRAMS (voice-over): Sounding more like an interrogator than a lover, Amber Frey asks Scott Peterson about his missing wife. What he has been doing to help find her, what he was doing that night and whether he still wants a future with Amber.
Plus, another setback for prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant case. This time from the Colorado Supreme Court refusing to overturn a judge‘s decision that allows some of the alleged victim‘s sexual history into the trial. Could this mean the end of the criminal case against Kobe Bryant?
And Michael Jackson back in court with his family, as the district attorney prosecuting him is forced to take the stand.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. What a day with the high profile trials today, but first on the docket, Amber Frey trading in her sweet innocent demeanor for tough aggressive interrogation tactics. Today in court, more of those secretly recorded phone calls between Frey and Scott Peterson played for the jury. This time she is going in for the kill trying to get him to confess or at least catch inconsistencies in Peterson‘s story about the hours before Laci was reported missing playing both the good and bad cop, but once she asked what time he and Laci went to sleep, did they sleep in the same bed, who woke up first?
Questions that must have been fed to her by the detectives working the case. Peterson refused to answer the touchiest questions, but in this January 8, 2003 phone call, he could clearly recollect what happened the day his wife went missing.
Frey: And what did she eat for breakfast?
Peterson: Some cereal.
Frey: Some cereal?
Peterson: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think they were the cinnamon muffins from Trader Joes‘s...
Frey: There‘s a Trader Joe‘s in Modesto?
Peterson: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I had the same thing after she did.
Frey: How was she feeling when she woke up?
Peterson: And then—what‘s that?
How was she feeling when she woke up?
She was feeling fine.
This coming on the heels of tapes played last week where Peterson confessed to Frey that he lied, that he is not a bachelor at all.
PETERSON: The girl I‘m married to, her name is Laci.
PETERSON: She disappeared just before Christmas.
ABRAMS (voice-over): With those words, Scott Peterson admitted that he had lied about his life and pregnant wife to his girlfriend Amber Frey even as they spoke for hours in the days after Laci Peterson was reported missing.
FREY: You have a missing pregnant wife and you are talking to your girlfriend (UNINTELLIGIBLE) did you think about that one?
PETERSON: It sounds terrible.
FREY: It sounds terrible?
FREY: Yes, actions speak louder that words.
ABRAMS: This conversation came only days after Peterson repeatedly told Amber how much he wanted their relationship to work.
PETERSON: You know, in my mind we could be wonderful together and I could care for you in any and every way.
ABRAMS: Amber confronted him about why two weeks before Laci was reported missing on Christmas Eve, he said that he—quote—“lost his wife”.
FREY: I deserve to understand an explanation of why you told me you lost your wife and this was the first holidays you you‘d 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?
PETERSON: I did. I don‘t know what to say to you.
ABRAMS: Later, Amber all but accused Peterson of killing Laci so he could be with Amber.
FREY: I‘m sure it has something to do with her disappearance...
PETERSON: No, my God, no. Please don‘t...
FREY: You ask me please don‘t...
PETERSON: Please don‘t say that.
FREY: Then tell me different because at this point I...
PETERSON: It is—I had nothing to do with her disappearance.
ABRAMS: But most of the time Peterson refused to answer Amber‘s questions about why he lied, how he felt about his wife and even whether Laci‘s baby was his.
FREY: So, is this baby yours?
PETERSON: I cannot tell you everything.
FREY: You can‘t tell me everything. That‘s a simple yes or no.
PETERSON: Amber, honestly to protect everyone I can‘t tell you everything.
ABRAMS: Amber‘s attorney Gloria Allred was with her in court.
GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY: It was a very draining day today. It was a difficult day. As I said, I think—I mean there was a point at which she was in tears.
ABRAMS: All right, “My Take”—while Peterson is still lying about his relationship with the police and Laci‘s family, remember, he is also lying about what he is talking to them about them, who knows what about the case, and the repeated denials. You could legitimately argue that he is not—you know what, let me just take a step back here. I‘m sorry, you know, we‘re outdoors, I‘m trying to read what I wrote there before, the bottom line is my take on this is that Peterson is clearly lying about his relationship and not just with Amber.
But he‘s also lying to her about his relationship with the police and with Laci‘s family as well. But despite that, he‘s still denying he had anything to do with Laci‘s murder, period. Seems like it might be able to help the defense in this case, no?
Let‘s check in with our legal team—criminal defense attorneys Geoffrey Fieger and Mickey Sherman and inside the courtroom with me today, former San Mateo County prosecutor, Dean Johnson joining us as well.
All right, so Dean, today we‘re seeing a lot of Amber Frey peppering him with question after question after question. Is it possible—it is so clear those questions are coming from the police.
DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Yes, that‘s really obvious especially the factual questions, the details about what happened the day Laci went missing. It‘s real clear...
ABRAMS: Is that going to hurt the prosecution that it‘s clear that she‘s being fed these questions or does that matter?
JOHNSON: Oh, I don‘t think so. I think the jury is anticipating that some of these questions are fed by the police. The certainly know they‘re recorded by the police and the counter balance to that is that Amber Frey‘s emotions on these tapes are genuine. I mean her soul is ripped open when she says why does this always have happen to me. Am I—do I have written across my face that I‘m a sucker, come take advantage of me. That‘s not...
ABRAMS: Mickey, if you‘re the defense attorney in this case do you try and use against her that the police are feeding her the questions? I mean does that even matter?
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, it doesn‘t matter. I think it‘s kind of a given. The bottom line is there is no confession. There is no admission of guilt. There‘s no admission of any culpability. In fact, he even tries to turn the tables on her saying I hope you had nothing to do with it. To me, it‘s the last, you know, section of “Mad” magazine.
ABRAMS: You know...
SHERMAN: It‘s spy versus spy. They‘re trying to trick each other at one point.
ABRAMS: Let me make one thing clear. I know that The Associated Press and some others are reporting that somehow Scott was trying to turn the tables on Amber. That‘s not what was happening. It‘s a misinterpretation of the tapes.
Basically what happened is Scott Peterson says to her that he‘s sorry about whether she‘s involved. He didn‘t mean involved in the murder. He meant involved in the media, et cetera, but she took it that way initially and then he explains to her that‘s not what he was saying. And for everyone is going to keep repeating it I‘m sure until tomorrow that there was some suggestion on his part that she was involved, but that‘s not the case.
Geoffrey Fieger, listen to this piece of sound and then I want you to react to it. This is a January 7 phone call, Amber going after Scott Peterson. Let‘s listen.
FREY: So if you had nothing to do with the disappearance, Scott, then why can‘t you tell me about it?
PETERSON: I can tell you everything about the disappearance.
FREY: OK, tell me.
PETERSON: I mean I went fishing that morning.
PETERSON: And we were supposed to meet up at 4:00...
FREY: Who is we?
PETERSON: Laci and I.
PETERSON: To go to her parents house for Christmas Eve.
PETERSON: And I got to the house and she wasn‘t there. So I called because I thought she‘d be at her parents and she wasn‘t there, so we immediately started searching.
ABRAMS: You know, Dean, what I was so struck by is how careful Peterson was about which questions to answer and which ones not to answer. I mean it‘s almost as if he knew what his defense was going to be, I can say this but no, no, for most of the time he‘d say to her I can‘t answer that question. I can‘t tell you.
JOHNSON: Absolutely, there‘s a pattern here. When he‘s asked a direct question, were you involved with the disappearance of Laci, no, no, no, no, no clear denials. And of course the defense is going to make hay out of that. But what is going to be taken away from this by the jury that helps the prosecution are these unanswered questions. And there is a pattern there, too. A new unanswered question emerged today, which was Amber says, Scott, when you told me you were in Europe over the holidays, was that the time you were going to resolve your issues with Laci? Can‘t answer that.
ABRAMS: He couldn‘t answer anything. I don‘t know. Geoffrey Fieger, what do you make of this peppering of questions by Amber Frey?
GEOFFREY FIEGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well that was the period of time obviously when the police were encouraging her to get him to make some incriminating statements. Frankly, I think the better tapes are the ones in which Frey isn‘t asking—acting as an investigator but is simply acting as a girlfriend and he‘s professing his love to her. I think that‘s far more incriminating than trying to get him to confess something that this guy won‘t confess and he...
FIEGER: ... and he won‘t answer any questions, which probably inerts to his detriment also, but I think the most affective tapes have already been played.
ABRAMS: I think that‘s probably right. I think all you are getting is small details here as to yes, maybe there was an inconsistency here and there.
Listen, Geoffrey, Mickey, Dean stick around. Coming up, we‘re going to play more of the tapes between Scott and Amber.
Plus, Kobe Bryant back in court as Colorado Supreme Court deals another blow to the prosecution. The alleged victim‘s sex life will be a part of the trial if—and this is a big if—if there is one.
And Michael Jackson also in court today along with his entire family. He didn‘t have to be there, he just wanted to see the D.A., he says, that‘s been after him for years to take the stand.
Your e-mails email@example.com. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Scott Peterson tries to explain what he meant by “I lost my wife” before Laci went missing. That‘s an interesting one. It‘s coming up.
FREY: You know...
FREY: ... I can only draw the conclusion that you could possibly have something to do with this disappearance of Laci.
PETERSON: That‘s not true.
FREY: And that the truth that you talk about that you can‘t tell me, wouldn‘t that reveal the truth or reveal what‘s going on?
PETERSON: Reveal my un-involvement, no.
PETERSON: ... it wouldn‘t.
FREY: ... your un-involvement. I don‘t understand.
PETERSON: Well I am not involved in the disappearance of Laci.
ABRAMS: You know, look, Peterson denies, denies, denies, denies that he was involved—Amber couldn‘t have asked it any other way. And every single time he says unequivocally, I didn‘t do it. I wasn‘t involved. We‘re searching for Laci; we‘re hoping we‘re going to find her.
Geoffrey Fieger, you know the defense may make some hay out of that.
FIEGER: Maybe and that‘s clearly what‘s going on. She‘s questioning him, she‘s asking him questions, trying to pin him into an answer that the prosecutor or the police obviously want. And he is not responding. But he is not responding in a cogent way either. He‘s not responding in a manner, in which I believe the jury would conclude that this is a guy who is frantic, who is really trying to do everything. This is a guy who doesn‘t lie very well, in my opinion.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. Mickey, he says again and again, he‘s very consistent...
ABRAMS: ... on this one issue that he didn‘t kill his wife.
ABRAMS: I think if jurors are inclined to believe the defense, they may rely on that.
SHERMAN: But there‘s two issues. One, if the jury picks up on something he says and they decide that they‘re going to be the smart people, smarter than the lawyers, that sometimes is absolute the death nil, but failing that, you have got nothing but denials and I think this is a surrogate, this is a substitute for him taking the witness stand. This way at the end of the case, Geragos can get up there and say you heard my client say I didn‘t do it. Didn‘t hear it physically in the courtroom but they have it there...
FIEGER: That is a dispositive guys.
FIEGER: You know that. How many defendants get on the stand and say they didn‘t have anything to do with it and get convicted?
ABRAMS: He‘s not going to—let‘s make one thing clear; he will not take the stand.
ABRAMS: He will not take the stand...
FIEGER: ... never, ever, ever.
ABRAMS: I‘ll tell everyone—I will apologize to all my viewers profusely. I will do a whole apology segment if Scott Peterson does take the stand.
FIEGER: He will never take the stand.
SHERMAN: But this gives him an excuse...
ABRAMS: All right, go ahead...
ABRAMS: Hang on...
JOHNSON: The difference between this...
JOHNSON: ... and Scott Peterson taking the stand is that Scott Peterson scrupulously avoids answering...
JOHNSON: ... all the tough questions.
ABRAMS: But that‘s the point...
JOHNSON: If he took the stand, he would have to answer those questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
JOHNSON: And he can‘t.
SHERMAN: And that‘s why this is better.
SHERMAN: This way he gets the best of both worlds...
ABRAMS: Let me read you what—I think—look Scott Peterson in one of the transcripts from today is suggesting that when he told Amber Frey on December 9 that he had lost his wife—and this would be his first holidays without her, he may not have actually meant lost her in the dead sense which is really one of my favorite efforts. But then Amber goes in for the kill and says, and you said you lost your wife and what? I mean, what sense do you think people think when you say that in lost? I mean, I took it—and she meaning her friend took it as she had passed away.
Peterson: Recently dead, yes, I know you did.
How else is one to think any different than that Scott?
Peterson: Well I mean...
Frey: And you didn‘t indicate you‘re currently married and living with her.
And then, you know, Peterson didn‘t have any—but, Mickey is the defense really going to suggest that when he said that he lost his wife that he wasn‘t actually trying to pretend that his wife was dead...
ABRAMS: ... that he‘d lost her in some psychological way?
SHERMAN: He would have said she‘s in Tibet. He‘s there to get this woman into bed.
FIEGER: He‘s already had her in bed Mickey...
SHERMAN: Well, he wants to continue the exercise, what can I tell you...
FIEGER: No, no, nobody is going to believe that. And what—the most I think indicting statement that he made during the entire taping process is that in advance of his wife dying or disappearing, he told Amber Frey that his wife had died. What kind of lunatic even trying to get a woman tells a woman that his wife is dead?
SHERMAN: Geoffrey, it may not be your rap or mine, but people...
FIEGER: Whose rap...
SHERMAN: ... say that out there.
FIEGER: Tell me who does that.
SHERMAN: People do say that out there. A lot - there‘s a lot of sleazy people out there...
FIEGER: No, not that sleazy.
SHERMAN: Well, that‘s—hello.
ABRAMS: Yes, well, all right. So, let‘s play a piece of sound here, number three. This is when Amber Frey is confronting Scott about whether Laci knows about their relationship.
FREY: But I‘m saying now was Laci aware of the situation about me?
FREY: She was?
FREY: Really? How did she respond about it?
FREY: An eight-month woman, fine about another woman?
PETERSON: You don‘t know all the facts. Amber, you don‘t know all the facts.
FREY: Oh, she was OK with it, but you continued to lie to me and couldn‘t be with me the holidays, but she was OK, she was fine with knowing about me?
ABRAMS: Dean, he says he told Laci after the first date.
ABRAMS: After the first date he‘s claiming oh yes, you know what Laci, got to let you know but I‘m going to keep having the affair...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a second...
JOHNSON: He says he told her after the first date, if that was true, Laci would have him on a tighter leash than McKenzie. I mean he would never...
JOHNSON: ... be out of the house.
ABRAMS: That‘s a good point Geoffrey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ABRAMS: On the one hand he‘s telling Amber that his wife is dead. On the other hand, he‘s telling his wife supposedly that he is having an affair with—let me just...
ABRAMS: ... before we take a quick break here...
ABRAMS: ... we‘re going to continue with this in a moment. But one of my favorite moments, you know, and I feel like this is one of those ones where you‘ve got to stand before you say it with the National Anthem in the background. This is number 10 here.
Amber Frey: You didn‘t only lie to me, you‘ve lied to a nation, Scott.
No I haven‘t.
Oh yes you have.
No, I haven‘t.
I beg to differ.
ABRAMS: Anyway, take a quick break. More on the Peterson tapes coming up.
Also, a big development today in two other legal stories including a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court that could bring an end to the criminal case against Kobe Bryant.
ABRAMS: Remember that Michael Jackson song about that man? Well Michael Jackson so upset with Tom Sneddon, he wrote a song about him. Today he showed up in court to go face-to-face as Sneddon was questioned on the witness stand. It‘s coming up.
FREY: I‘m looking past this right now that even if we continued in a relationship we could be out for dinner one night and the cops come over or at our home our whatever and arrest you for Laci‘s murder.
FREY: How can I be sure this will not occur?
PETERSON: Because I had nothing to do with it.
ABRAMS: It didn‘t happen during dinner but he sure did get arrested. All right, we‘ve only got a little time left. There is tough cross-examination expected from Mark Geragos, the attorney for Scott Peterson, scheduled to start as early as tomorrow. I‘m going to go around the horn here and get a very quick sense from everyone, how tough, how long.
Dean Johnson, how tough? How long?
JOHNSON: The Clarence Darrow cross-examination, Madam, I am sure this has been very painful for you and I will not add to that pain, no questions.
ABRAMS: Geoffrey Fieger?
FIEGER: That‘s what it should be, but Geragos doesn‘t have that finesse. He just doesn‘t understand that. And this makes it impossible for not only Peterson to take the stand, but the jury is going to hold it against him because they have heard his explanation and they don‘t like it and they want hear another one, and he can‘t give it to him.
SHERMAN: At most two days. I think more than one day because they want to spend the night trying to kind of review the dailies, as they say in show business. But I think what he is going to try and do is not be mean or nasty, but just try and portray her as kind of a pathetic creature who seems to have a pattern of picking up losers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, his client.
SHERMAN: So be it.
ABRAMS: I‘ll tell you what, my entire “Closing Argument” is on what we‘re to expect in the cross-examination. I‘ll tell you most of what might happen I don‘t care about—and that‘s going to be my—I don‘t care about her sexual past. I don‘t care whether she was a good mother. I don‘t care if she was vindictive. I‘ll tell you what I could care about later in the program in my “Closing Argument”.
Dean Johnson, thanks a lot. Mickey and Geoffrey are going to stick around.
Coming up, Kobe Bryant back in an Eagle County Courthouse. The question, could it be his last time? The Colorado Supreme Court issuing a major ruling, which is a setback for prosecutors and I say the end is imminent.
And south of here in Santa Maria, Michael Jackson and his family show up to court in sort of matching outfits, team Jackson. This as the D.A. in the case takes the stand.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. I read them at the end of every show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, another blow to the prosecution in the Kobe Bryant case. The question, does this mean the end of the prosecution case, but first the headlines.
ABRAMS: It might seem that prosecutors should be riding high in the Kobe Bryant case. After all, on Friday a judge ruled that information about the alleged victim‘s supposed suicide attempts, the medications she‘s taking, and information about alleged drug and alcohol use could not be used at trial. But despite that win, these are actually pretty dark days for the prosecution.
Last week Judge Ruckriegel refused to change the start date for the case, scheduled to start August 27, after the prosecution had asked for an indefinite delay citing late rulings by the judge and saying that the court had poisoned the jury pool by mistakenly releasing information about the woman. And now the Colorado Supreme Court stepped in with a ruling that could impact, I think, whether this case ever goes to trial.
Remember earlier this month the judge said he would allow evidence about the sexual activity of the woman in the 72 hours before she took a rape exam. Prosecutors appealed the ruling, asking the Supreme Court to keep out the evidence; today the court upheld the judge‘s decision. Remember, I spoke to the young women‘s attorneys in an exclusive interview earlier this month and they suggested that if the things did not change, the criminal case might not happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIN WOOD, BRYANT ACCUSER‘S ATTORNEY: I think there legitimately should be questions about whether the criminal case should move forward. I don‘t think that the criminal justice system in Eagle, Colorado has treated this young girl fairly at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Kobe Bryant was in court today for a pretrial hearing before the case opens on the 27th.
NBC‘s James Hattori is in Eagle, Colorado. He joins us now with the latest from today‘s hearing. Hi James.
JAMES HATTORI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Dan. Well I think you‘ve recapped it pretty well. The big news was the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court not to take up the appeal that the prosecution brought. It was just the latest setback, if you want to call it that, that they are facing.
Last week the judge, as you mentioned, also denied the request to indefinitely stay the trial. It will now go ahead as scheduled with jury selection on August 27. And also last week, the attorneys for the alleged victim filed a civil suit, as you reported, which if you ask some people, undermines the criminal case. So there were some smiles around the prosecution—rather around the defense table in court today, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right, James Hattori, thanks very much for that.
All right, so the question could today be Kobe Bryant‘s final court appearance in the criminal case? “My Take”—this case is broken beyond repair. The prosecutors have to realize it was a weak case, it‘s now a weaker case; the woman is reluctant to go forward with a criminal trial. Her attorneys believe she has a better shot in a civil case. I predict that with this ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court that this case will go away, I think in the next week.
Joining me now, former Denver D.A. Norm Early who was in the courthouse today and criminal defense attorneys Jeralyn Merritt and Geoffrey Fieger.
Norm, do you agree with me?
NORM EARLY, FORMER DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Nope, I‘ll bet you a steak dinner that you are wrong Dan. If this woman honestly believes that Kobe Bryant sexually assaulted her, that he‘s likely to do it to other woman and that he has these aggressive tendencies towards women, she will indeed proceed. In addition to that, she has been through holy you know what for the last year and now is the time that the jury will start looking at Kobe Bryant. People will start...
ABRAMS: But Norm...
EARLY: ... examining Kobe Bryant‘s activities here. We have never...
ABRAMS: ... why file a civil case Norm...
EARLY: ... heard this woman...
ABRAMS: Norm, why file a civil case...
EARLY: I think...
ABRAMS: ... then, a week...
EARLY: I think that was brilliant, Dan...
ABRAMS: ... before the criminal case...
EARLY: I think it was brilliant, Dan, because first of all, it got out her side of the story a little bit. Because some of what she says happened in that room at the Cordillera Hotel was entailed in the civil suit. In addition to that, the potential for a civil suit would have been a shadow throughout this entire case where there would have been suggestion, innuendo that she is going to file a civil suit. She has taken that right on out the window now. There is no suggestion. There‘s no innuendo...
ABRAMS: I don‘t know...
EARLY: ... I believe he should be held guilty in criminal court, she is saying, and I believe he...
EARLY: ... ought to be held responsible in civil court as well.
ABRAMS: Geoffrey Fieger, I‘d rather have suggestion and innuendo than I would the document in front of me.
FIEGER: Yes, but I still agree with Mr. Early. You‘re entirely wrong. Lin Wood would have never—let me repeat never—and you know who Lin Wood is—he had represented the Ramseys. He represented the guy who was accused of the bombing down in Atlanta. He would never have filed that civil suit knowing that his client or even thinking will withdraw her appearance in the criminal case and not cooperate.
First of all, it would ruin the civil suit. It would really subject him to scorn, especially in front of the federal judge that he is before who tried Timothy McVeigh who is a real hard-liner. And on top of that, the evidence in this case is stronger than you think. Kobe Bryant denied to the cops when he was first questioned and they have him on tape and they don‘t want that in, but it is coming in...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
FIEGER: ... that he had anything to do with it. We have her word against him and we have her blood on his shirt. We have—now, Lin Wood says there‘s not a scintilla of evidence that she had sex with anybody after Kobe Bryant allegedly raped her. If—now, we know they have an expert who is going to claim otherwise. Big deal, you are in the mountains...
FIEGER: ... of Colorado...
ABRAMS: But see...
FIEGER: ... an all white jury, God help Kobe Bryant. I‘d be scared if I was Kobe Bryant.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. Jeralyn, I mean we can go through the evidence in this case, you know, point by point, and look, I agree actually with Geoffrey on the point that I don‘t think that they probably in the end will be able to show she had sex with someone after Kobe Bryant, but I do think that there are weaknesses in the case. The woman said that she hadn‘t had sex with anyone for two to three days before Bryant. That will likely be disapproved. Jeralyn, do you think that they‘re going to drop this case?
JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it‘s all up to Lin Wood, which if you think about it, is amazing that a lawyer for an accuser who is not even a participate the case is going to end up making the final call as to whether a trial that has been in the court for the past year is going to go forward. If Lin Woods decides that the accuser should withdraw the criminal charges and ask the prosecution not to proceed and the prosecution grants her request then this case is going forward in the civil arena. But on the...
ABRAMS: But why would she file the civil case?
MERRITT: Because Lin Wood wants to get discovery. He cannot put Kobe Bryant on the stand in a criminal case. In a civil case he can take his deposition and he can also...
ABRAMS: But he can wait until after the criminal case to do it.
MERRITT: He doesn‘t need to. This—you know Lin Wood is a brilliant attorney. He has got a reason for everything he‘s doing...
ABRAMS: Oh I know. That‘s my point.
ABRAMS: But that‘s my point...
MERRITT: Let me just say one other thing.
MERRITT: I do not think...
MERRITT: ... the ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court today really made any difference or is going to be a factor.
MERRITT: They knew they weren‘t going to win that case. They were just using it...
MERRITT: ... as a ploy to get a continuance.
ABRAMS: Go ahead Norm...
MERRITT: This is all up to Lin Wood...
ABRAMS: Go ahead Norm...
EARLY: ... I think that Judge Ruckriegel made the right decision on the Colorado rape shield statutes by allowing testimony 72 hours prior to the rape exam. So I thought that was a good ruling. I think it‘s appropriate that the Colorado Supreme Court denied the prosecution‘s request. I think the prosecution, just like Jeralyn said, knew that the Supreme Court was going to deny that.
And I don‘t think that that deters them one single bit. What you have to understand, Dan, is prosecutors throughout this country tried many a sexual assault case without any rape shield statutes whatsoever before the advent of rape shield statutes and women‘s entire sexual histories were gone into by defense attorneys...
EARLY: ... and prosecutors still won those cases. I don‘t think this case is as we can weak as you think it is, Dan, because we‘ve never heard the prosecution‘s case. All we‘ve heard...
ABRAMS: Yes we did Norm...
EARLY: ... is the defense case through leaks...
ABRAMS: ... we heard it at the preliminary hearing.
EARLY: ... preliminary hearing...
ABRAMS: Wait, wait. Norm...
ABRAMS: Norm, wait a sec...
ABRAMS: Wait a sec. Wait a sec. Wait a sec...
ABRAMS: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
ABRAMS: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait...
ABRAMS: Stop. Everybody stop.
EARLY: ... I know exactly what you‘re saying...
ABRAMS: Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. We were all at the preliminary hearing, Norm. You and me and I believe Jeralyn were all there.
ABRAMS: That‘s where I heard the case.
EARLY: What you heard...
EARLY: ... was a capsule summary of the case, Dan.
EARLY: Wait. Wait. Hold it Dan.
EARLY: Dan, Dan. Wait. Wait. What you heard was a capsule summary.
Enough evidence to get past probable cause...
EARLY: ... to get through a preliminary hearing.
ABRAMS: Yes, I know...
EARLY: You did not hear the case...
ABRAMS: I know.
EARLY: ... and the detective made errors in that case when he...
ABRAMS: Yes he did. That was...
EARLY: ... errors that were later used...
ABRAMS: All right.
EARLY: ... against him that were clearly wrong that the victim would never have made.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to wrap this up, but I‘ll tell you one thing. I agree with Jeralyn on one thing and that‘s for sure that Lin Wood is a smart attorney and he knows what he‘s doing. I don‘t believe he would have filed a civil lawsuit two weeks before the criminal trial or three weeks before the criminal trial if he knew that the criminal trial was going to go forward and now it‘s just going to provide ammunition to the defense attorneys to cross-examine him on, but we will continue this conversation, I am certain.
EARLY: Steak dinner Dan, steak dinner.
ABRAMS: Norm, Jeralyn, Geoffrey...
MERRITT: I want in on that.
ABRAMS: All right. All right, Norm. You want in—both of you want to take me on. All right. Fine...
ABRAMS: Steak dinner with both of you...
ABRAMS: ... and you‘re going to—all right, take a break.
Coming up, team Jackson and family all dressed in white in court today. He didn‘t have to show up but he did maybe to stare down the D.A. who filed the case as that man was—not that man—but the D.A. was forced to take the stand.
ABRAMS: That‘s a Michael Jackson song presumably about the bad man out to get him, D.A. Tom Sneddon, but today Jackson had a chance to get him back, sort of. Jackson and four of his brothers and sisters leaving Santa Barbara courtroom just minutes ago, all dressed in white. They were there to show support for Jackson as his attorneys faced off against Tom Sneddon. Remember, Michael Jackson wasn‘t required to attend today‘s hearing but he was there to watch Sneddon answer questions about his role in a raid on the office of a private investigator.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was inside the courtroom. So, Mike, what was the issue that was supposed to be resolved and exactly what happened today in court?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey Dan. Well, it‘s not resolved quite yet. It all revolves around the premise that as a prosecutor you cannot invade the defense camp by raiding the office of a private investigator you know or should know is in the employee of one of the suspect‘s attorneys, in this case former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos. This question has been hoping around for a while and now it‘s in open court.
Very testy session today on a couple of occasions. The judge admonishing Mr. Sneddon to start acting like a witness, step back and act like a witness, not like an advocate, and I‘m going to stop this before it starts, et cetera, et cetera. But the exchanges went on all morning long. Sneddon denied that he or anybody on his team, his investigators, co-prosecutors really knew that in this case Bradley Miller worked for Mark Geragos.
This afternoon there was the big finish. Tom Mesereau, the lead Jackson attorney, having the following exchange with Sneddon. This about a conference call on July 8 between Sneddon and all his co-prosecutors and all the members of the Jackson defense team.
Question, did you know—this question on July 8 -- did you know that Bradley Miller worked for Mark Geragos before you executed the search warrant?
Nobody—none of the other four men involved in that conference call on Mr. Sneddon‘s team raised any objection, interjected, contradicted or qualified that statement. Sneddon then said that the next morning he woke up realized he was very upset the afternoon before for another reason and it was all a mistake and he retracted that statement and did not sign an affidavit to that effect that he said he would.
And the consequence of all this could be huge. Some evidence, some key evidence, maybe a lot of it obtained in that search could be tossed from this case. It‘s important to the conspiracy count on this case and that‘s central to it. So a big day today but no decision yet by Judge Melville. It is all in his hands, everything is on the table—Dan.
ABRAMS: Mike Taibbi, thanks a lot.
TAIBBI: All right.
ABRAMS: Question, did Tom Sneddon go too far in his raid? Did he know about it? Did he jeopardize his own case?
“My Take”—it‘s weird that Sneddon was involved with a raid on the private investigator‘s office in the first place. But more than being odd, it was just asking for trouble. As to whether he knew or didn‘t know that Miller was a private eye, I don‘t know.
We‘re joined again by criminal defense attorneys Geoffrey Fieger and Mickey Sherman, but also by the former Santa Barbara sheriff, Jim Thomas, who has a long relationship with Tom Sneddon.
All right, Jim, let me start with you. Bottom line is this looks bad for Tom Sneddon. The question and answer that Mike Taibbi just read that they knew that Brad Miller worked for Mark Geragos and yet there is Tom Sneddon himself, the D.A. of Santa Barbara helping in a raid on his office.
JIM THOMAS, FMR. SANTA BARBARA SHERIFF: Sure, but when you think about why he was doing it, and he explained it during the session, is that he was on his way to L.A. for another event and what they needed is—they needed a photograph and a confirmation of where the office was for the face of the warrant. He said I‘ll do it since I‘m going down there. At that time no more than six people knew about the case anyway and he did that task.
So he wasn‘t down there doing an investigation or any questioning or any other thing of that matter and he did meet with the mother of the alleged victim and had her identify Brad Miller by photographs. So as he explains it it‘s not quite as you would think that he‘s out there actually doing the investigation himself.
ABRAMS: But he knows that Brad Miller works for Mark Geragos and yet, he‘s still going forward with raids on his office.
THOMAS: No, Dan, that‘s not true. In fact, he said I am 100 percent confident that we did not know Brad Miller was working for Mark Geragos prior to the execution of the warrant. What Mike was referring to was a conference call between the D.A.‘s office and the defense team. However, the D.A. said I made a mistake; it was after I was angry about something. We corrected it and we did not know. And in order for the judge to find that he did, in essence, he is going to have to find that the D.A. of Santa Barbara County lied under oath.
ABRAMS: All right. Geoffrey Fieger, is that going to be tough to prove?
FIEGER: Well, it‘s tough for another reason. Sneddon has an agenda and he shouldn‘t be out there. We had a prosecutor here in Oakland County who went overboard with the Kevorkian case because he used to go out on drug raids. He thought he was a cop and he liked doing that sort of thing and he would regularly get spanked for doing it. Sneddon shouldn‘t have been out there.
The problem is, is the Fourth Amendment, the unreasonable search and seizure, the protections against evidence taken wrongly have basically been so diluted or eliminated by the higher courts that the protections now are meaningless. It would take a very, very brave judge to preclude that evidence and then it would go through appeals. And I don‘t know if it would be successful.
ABRAMS: Yes. Mickey Sherman.
SHERMAN: I think Jim Thomas is you know trying to be very loyal but you know that excuse is one notch lower than the dog ate my homework. You know the problem with this case is that Michael Jackson and his team have been saying along that Sneddon has a motive here. That he is out on a mission from God. That he has been heavy handed and that he‘s just gone too far over the line.
And this certainly seems to prove it. You don‘t break into somebody‘s place and look at the lawyer‘s briefcase. And essentially that‘s what happened here. The man put 54 search warrants together. He‘s on the search warrants himself. It makes no sense. He crossed way over the line. I think he‘s got some serious problems, personally.
ABRAMS: All right, Sheriff Thomas, you get the final word on this.
THOMAS: Well with all due respect to Mickey, that‘s not case and he does put his name on the warrants because it‘s required in California that they be looked at by somebody from the D.A.‘s office before they‘re given to the magistrate, at least that‘s the way it is in this county. The D.A. has not involved himself any more than what Tom Sneddon has done for the past 21 years as a very effective D.A. for Santa Barbara County.
Yes, I am prejudiced. I know the man. I‘ve worked for him for many years. I know he‘s an honest hardworking prosecutor. And I don‘t think that this case is in jeopardy. Time will tell, I guess, Dan.
ABRAMS: This is why D.A.s don‘t get involved in the nitty gritty ladies and gentlemen, because when they do, every one of their actions get scrutinized.
Jim Thomas, Geoffrey Fieger, and Mickey Sherman, good stuff. Thanks guys. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Coming up, what I don‘t care about in the cross-examination of Amber Frey here at the Scott Peterson case and yet, what I fear we may hear in the cross-examination. It‘s my “Closing Argument”, coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, what I don‘t care about in the cross-examination of Amber Frey and yet, what I fear we may hear. It is my “Closing Argument”. Plus your e-mails, coming up.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—as we prepare for the cross-examination of Amber Frey by Scott Peterson‘s attorney as early as tomorrow. Let me tell you what I don‘t care about. I don‘t care about Amber Frey‘s motive for making the tapes. I don‘t care if she‘s vindictive. I don‘t care if she‘s scorned. I don‘t care about her sexual past, nor do I care what people think about her maternal choices for her child.
Now, none of that goes to the only relevant question, which is—is what we heard on the tapes authentic? Was it what it seemed, an almost pathologically dishonest Scott Peterson attempting to keep his relationship with Amber Frey afloat even after Laci disappeared. The fact that she didn‘t tell him she was working with the police is irrelevant. Peterson‘s refusal to answer any specific, possibly incriminating questions has to make you wonder whether he even suspected the police were already listening in.
Regardless, all that really matters is what he said. If Mark Geragos can somehow demonstrate that Scott Peterson did not ever mean to say his wife was dead two weeks before she—quote—“went missing,” then he should do it. Or if he can try to show that Peterson‘s predictions about spending more time with Amber in January were just coincidence, then I look forward to it—to that as well. Or if the defense has some evidence to show that Amber Frey was somehow involved in the murder as they‘ve implied, then that is certainly legitimate cross-examination that could undermine the sanctity of what we hear on the tape as well.
What I fear is just some old-fashioned smearing. We see it in high profile trials all the time from Martha Stewart to O.J. Witnesses who dared to take on the well-funded defense leave bloodied and ashamed. Amber Frey made some bad choices both for herself and for her daughter. But this is not a morality tribunal. It‘s a criminal trial.
Scott Peterson, not Amber Frey, is the defendant. So when listening to the cross-examination, I will be sure to keep asking myself, how does this change what he said? I‘ll be surprised if something does but I promise, if it happens, you will hear me discuss it on the program.
All right, I‘ve had my say. Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. A lot of you writing in about the Scott Peterson case, particularly saying that his favorite movie is “The Shining” and Amber‘s attorney Gloria Allred says this was a bombshell because of the movie‘s plot. Many of you not buying it.
Ruben explains, “Being that he fails to kill his wife in the movie, I‘m surprised that so many people have had this shocked response to him admitting that this is one of his favorite movies.”
And Julie Hopkins in Minnesota. “Jack Nicholson dies and his wife and son live. So where‘s the dastardly connection?” Oh come on, you know it‘s still coincidental. Whether his wife dies in the end or not is not the point. But as I said, it doesn‘t prove anything.
Also in those tapes, Scott tells Amber about a dog that keeps barking.
He says he wants to kill it. That‘s the way he said it.
Lisa Grouette is one of many who wrote in about that. “On the show you had a guest that said Scott Peterson‘s comment about wanting to kill a barking dog was ominous. I couldn‘t help but roll my eyes at his assessment. I used to live next door to an incessantly barking dog and can‘t tell you how many times I‘ve griped to my friends about wanting to kill the dog. Come on. It‘s a figure of speech.”
Remember, also he was pretending that he was listening to this dog in France.
Lauren Garcia from Florida. “A few of the guests on your show insist on pointing out that Scott consistently denied any involvement in Laci‘s disappearance even before he suspected that Amber was working with the police. Why is this so surprising? Does anyone think Amber would welcome a man into her and her child‘s life that was involved in the disappearance of his own wife and unborn child? No.”
Your e-mails email@example.com. We go through them at the end of every show. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I ignore the ones where you don‘t. I‘m sorry. I‘d like to...
Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Chris‘ guest tonight General Wesley Clark.
Thanks for watching. I‘ll see you again live from Redwood City.
Cross-examination could start tomorrow. I‘ll be here.
Thanks for watching.
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