Guest: Daniel Horowitz, Dean Johnson, Lisa Fox, Mike Cox, Ronald Kaplovitz, Harvey Kushner, Sajjan Gohel
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, I‘m live in Redwood City, California, where the jurors are taking the day off. But we‘re still waiting for a verdict in the Scott Peterson case.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Two jurors dismissed this week. The foreman allegedly asked to be dismissed. But you can‘t get off a jury just for asking. And should the sequestered jury be taking the day off for Veterans Day? They are.
And this man confessed to killing 13 women. He was set to be released from prison until a witness saw the story on this program. Now Coral Eugene Watts is on trial for another murder. We talk to his lawyer and the attorney general prosecuting him.
As Yasser Arafat is being remembered as a hero on the streets of Ramallah, to many others he was the father of terrorism as we know it. How does the war on terror change now that he‘s gone?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket, it is Veterans Day and many of us still had to go to work today, but not the jurors in the Scott Peterson‘s trial. Now they are watching movies or sports at a local hotel, sequestered with nothing to do, observing Veterans Day without really being able to observe anything surrounding it. That doesn‘t mean there hasn‘t been any action here at the courthouse today.
First, a boat with anchors and what seemed like a weighted dummy that appeared to be a model of the boat Scott Peterson owned has been towed from defense attorney Mark Geragos‘ parking lot. Furious supporters of Laci‘s family turned it into a floral shrine last night. We‘ll talk about that later in the program.
But first, a second juror kicked off of the case this week. We already know that the first ousted juror is number seven, apparently did independent research, which is prohibited. The jury foreman kicked off yesterday apparently asked to speak to the judge rather than being summoned before he was booted.
But some of my friends on other networks seem to think that when a juror asked to be dismissed, that is all you need for the judge to dismiss him. “My Take”—it doesn‘t work that way. You don‘t just get excused from a case because you ask to get excused. It doesn‘t matter if a juror is unhappy or doesn‘t get along with the other jurors or is crying or is being cursed at.
It doesn‘t happen that way. It is a severe measure to dismiss a deliberating juror, particularly after a five-month trial. Joined now in Redwood City by a lawyer who has tried a lot of cases in front of Judge Delucchi, criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz and our old friend, former San Mateo County prosecutor Dean Johnson.
All right, we‘re going to be joined in a minute by Judge Lisa Fox as
well. Daniel look, the headline of the local Redwood City paper says jury
· “Peterson Jury Foreman Quits”. There it is—“Peterson Jury Foreman Quits”. You can‘t quit a jury. I am just getting tired of hearing people saying as if he walked in and said, you know, judge I have had it. Why don‘t you just put in an alternate?
DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Dan, let me tell you what happened based upon information from sources around the courthouse and my knowledge of Judge Delucchi for about 24 years. This foreperson was the fly in the ointment. With his 20 books and his attention to detail, he was driving the other jurors crazy, slowing everything up. There was a revolution basically in that jury room where juror number six, the guy who wanted the trial over months ago, deposed this nitpicking man and took over.
The doctor-lawyer, the former leader of the group then essentially went on strike and said I just can‘t work with this group. I have to do it my way. He is a lawyer. He knew what to say. There were complaints to Judge Delucchi whether by him or the other jurors, we don‘t know, and Judge Delucchi then put him through a litany, question and answer, while this man is under oath. And under oath, he knew what the right words were to say to take himself off the jury. So it was, in a sense, bailing out, but it was under the legal process of the laws of California.
HOROWITZ: But you know what? Judge Delucchi wanted him out anyway...
ABRAMS: Hang on. Dean, let‘s be clear here. When Daniel Horowitz says he knew what to say, that means he said things, which would indicate that he had violated the judge‘s order. You simply cannot get off the jury just because you are not getting along or because the other jurors want you off. I mean then we would never have hung juries with 11-1 or 10-2. The other 10 would say get rid of that other juror.
DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. You know, Dan, it sounds like people are losing track of what‘s going on here. This is not a reality show. This is reality. These people are under a duty not to go and form alliances and vote off people that they don‘t like or that they‘re uncomfortable with. They are under a duty to come to one thing—a verdict.
Verdict means speak the truth. You find out what your individual opinion is. If your state of mind is you believe the truth is this man is guilty and he‘s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you say that no matter what. If your state of mind is any different...
JOHNSON: ... you stay on the jury and your vote is not guilty. The decision procedure...
JOHNSON: ... is very, very simple.
ABRAMS: Judge Lisa Fox from Dallas Criminal Court joins us now. Judge, if someone comes to you, a juror, and a big case, all right, and they say, look, we‘re having problems back there. I want off this jury. You heard—I think you heard Daniel Horowitz lay out basically what he thinks the scenario is as to how this juror got off the case, thus in essence that he was driving the rest of the jurors crazy, and he knew what to say to get off the jury. After a five-month trial with a sequestered jury, I would assume as a judge you‘re going to have the bar up here before you dismiss a deliberating sequestered juror.
HON. LISA FOX, CRIMINAL COURT JUDGE: Well, first of all, I would just tell the juror after interviewing the juror and find out what the problem is just to go back and continue deliberating. They don‘t have to get along. They don‘t have to like each other, unless, of course, someone sits in the corner and crosses their arms and says I‘m not talking, I‘m not deliberating, I‘m not doing anything. There‘s really not much that a judge can do. It would have to be a very, very strong, ethical violation or moral violation back in the jury room before I would ever dismiss a juror in this type of case.
ABRAMS: Exactly. And that‘s why Daniel Horowitz, I don‘t understand. Look, you know Judge Delucchi well. You seem to know exactly what happened. Can you give us any more insight into how this happened based on what myself, Dean and the judge are saying.
HOROWITZ: Yes, Dan, Judge Delucchi must have made an assessment that this juror was dysfunctional. That he was a cause, if not the cause, of this jury being so slow to deliberate...
ABRAMS: But that‘s not enough.
HOROWITZ: It so slow...
ABRAMS: That is not enough.
HOROWITZ: I know that.
ABRAMS: That is not enough.
HOROWITZ: I know that. But when this guy—Dan, I agree. But when this man is then presenting Judge Delucchi with the chance, the opportunity to take him off, I think Judge Delucchi made a cost benefit analysis. By putting this guy back on, you are guaranteeing a hung jury.
ABRAMS: Well, I‘ll tell you something...
HOROWITZ: The man...
HOROWITZ: Wait a minute Dean...
ABRAMS: This was—let me tell you something. This was over the objection of the defense. And if what Daniel Horowitz said is true and look, again, I don‘t know what happened. Judge Delucchi is a well-respected judge here. I‘m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, but if he did what Daniel seems to be saying and this guy was just dysfunctional, Mark Geragos is going to have a great issue on appeal, Dean.
JOHNSON: Oh absolutely...
FOX: I totally agree also.
JOHNSON: Yes. Judge Delucchi...
FOX: I mean...
JOHNSON: Go ahead Judge.
FOX: As a defense attorney, I mean this is perfect for the defense. I mean number one, you have already lost one juror during the trial, which will be possibly grounds that they can use on an appeal if the defendant in this case is actually convicted. And then they lose a second juror by juror misconduct and then now they‘ve lost their third. I mean right now you‘re looking at three possible points of error. It can‘t go any better for the defense at this point.
ABRAMS: Let me let Dean in. Go ahead...
ABRAMS: Dean Johnson, go ahead.
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes. Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Geragos and everybody else on the defense side was saying this was a very pro defense juror, number five. They liked him. The only reason that Mark Geragos would object to the release of this juror would be if he thought that there was an appellate issue. He needed to raise that objection to preserve that appellate issue.
ABRAMS: All right.
JOHNSON: And from what Daniel is telling us, it sounds like he is right.
ABRAMS: Daniel, final thought real quick...
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to move on.
HOROWITZ: All you have to do is talk about an emotional breakdown. He‘s a doctor. He‘s a physician. He knows how to say I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I‘m not sleeping at night. Emotionally I‘m breaking down. I can‘t go forward. And the judge has to let him off.
ABRAMS: Wow. I completely disagree if that‘s all he said...
FOX: I completely disagree as well.
ABRAMS: If all he said is...
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes.
ABRAMS: Yes. Judge, you agree with me, right?
FOX: I completely agree with you. Just because he‘s had a nervous breakdown or a slight nervous breakdown or can‘t sleep or can‘t eat, I‘m sure they are all under a great amount of stress, but you just continue to deliberate.
JOHNSON: Yes, if this...
ABRAMS: Yes. All right.
JOHNSON: If this guy were huddled in the fetal position in the corner of the jury room, that‘s one thing. But if he is just insisting...
JOHNSON: ... that everybody go with him over his notes, that‘s not a problem...
JOHNSON: ... to take him off the jury.
ABRAMS: ... I‘m going to give the judge the benefit of the doubt here and assume that there is some aspect to this we don‘t know. This—as Daniel said earlier, this lawyer knew what to say and he said in a way that he had engaged in some sort of misconduct in order to get dismissed from this case.
Legal team is going to stick around. Coming up, we‘re going to sort of effectively try and put you in the jury box. We‘re going to lay out exactly how prosecutors say Scott Peterson killed his wife.
We‘re also going to talk about Veterans Day. Should they be not deliberating today? And the boat Mark Geragos parked outside of his Redwood City offices caused quite a stir in and around the courthouse. Local residents turned it into a makeshift memorial to Laci and Conner. It is gone.
Plus, an admitted serial killer on trial because one of our viewers saw his mug shot on the program about justice. Called into the authorities the number we put up. Coral Eugene Watts was set to go free, but now is on trial facing life behind bars. We‘ll talk to the prosecutor and his attorney.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Remember please include your name and where you‘re writing from. You guys have been sending in great e-mails lately. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, it is Veterans Day. The sequestered jury is sitting at their hotel watching movies or sports. We ask should they be deliberating today and what about weekends? Coming up.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. I‘m in front of the courthouse of the Scott Peterson case where it is Veterans Day and the jurors are in a hotel sequestered. Not deliberating today, observing the holiday even though they can‘t really observe a whole lot outside of their hotel rooms. The question I want to get from my panel is should they—Harland Braun, a friend of ours who called in today said, Dan, why don‘t you guys talk about the fact that there is no deliberation on weekends and on Veterans Day with a sequestered jury.
Judge Lisa Fox, it seems to me that at least they should be deliberating today. I mean maybe they could, you know, give a little time to observe, recognize Veterans Day for, you know, an hour in the morning or something, but leaving them in a hotel the whole day to watch sports and television. They can‘t even watch observances of Veterans Day.
FOX: Oh, I totally agree. I think they are wasting precious time and energy by not deliberating. I would have them deliberate today and through the weekend and until they come back with a decision.
ABRAMS: Daniel Horowitz, why is your friend Judge Delucchi doing it this way?
HOROWITZ: All right. First of all, under California law, under the government code, it is illegal to have any court proceedings from Saturday 12:00 noon until Sunday midnight. In terms of Veterans Day, all I can tell you is that Judge Delucchi is a Navy veteran. His son is in the military presently. It would be a tremendous staffing issue to get this courthouse sufficiently staffed to have this jury deliberating. I don‘t know if that‘s a complete answer, but those are considerations.
JOHNSON: No. Actually, under the case of People v. Napolitano (ph) the jury can deliberate pretty much any time it wants, including evenings, even in the hotel room if they want to get together and do that after dinner. They very well could and probably should be deliberating longer hours. I think they want to. This is a jury that was very eager to get to work. They have always shown up early. It is really a matter of what makes them the most efficient and the most comfortable. I think they should be putting in some longer hours, certainly debating today.
HOROWITZ: Well statute will supersede a case, Dean, so I think you should...
HOROWITZ: ... compare the statute that is the law that the legislature made to a case that might have interpreted the law in the past.
JOHNSON: Well you know what, Daniel? You‘re talking about the weekends. What about the holidays? What about the evenings? What about the other hours that all these jurors obviously want to deliberate?
ABRAMS: All right.
ABRAMS: I love the fact that you guys are sitting next to each other, and you know you can‘t really look at each other when you are debating. It‘s great. All right. Let me move on here for a second. I want to move on. All right.
This is really important stuff. This is the theory of the case. What I want to talk about is why the prosecutors got so detailed and whether this could be hanging up the jury. Prosecutor Rick Distaso said that this is what they proved—quote—“based on the evidence.”
While Laci Peterson is changing her clothes on the night of December 23 or the morning of December 24, Scott Peterson strangles her or smothers her until she dies, wraps her body in a tarp, and backs his pickup truck up to the gate of the house where no one can see what he‘s doing. They say he loads Laci‘s body on to the truck, covers it with the patio umbrellas we have heard a lot about.
He—they say he puts the leash on their dog McKenzie, leaves the gate open, and drives off. Peterson‘s neighbor finds the dog wondering around minutes later. Peterson drives his truck into his warehouse, closes the door behind him. Again, no one can see what he‘s doing according to prosecutors.
While he is attaching concrete anchors to Laci‘s body, her hair gets caught in the pliers that you see here. Peterson puts Laci‘s body into his boat, straps on the boat cover, drives to the Berkley Marina, puts the boat in the water with the cover still secured, still hiding Laci‘s body. Parks the car, goes back to the boat, takes off the cover, stuffs it around Laci‘s body according to the state.
No one can see any of this. Peterson sets out for the area near Brooks Island, dumps Laci‘s body into the water, heads home. On the way back, leaves this message for Laci.
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: Hey, beautiful, I just left you a message at home. It‘s 2:15. I‘m leaving Berkeley. I won‘t be able to get to Vella Farms to get that basket for papa. I was hoping you would get this message and go on out there. I‘ll see you in a bit sweetie. Love you. Bye.
ABRAMS: So that‘s the prosecutor‘s theory. “My Take”—I fear that they got too specific, too many details that are speculative. I would be worried that jurors might be back there saying well they didn‘t prove this part about putting it over—the tarp over it or where the body was loaded, et cetera, rather than just telling jurors what they definitely know. Dean, do you disagree with me on this?
JOHNSON: No, I agree with you completely on this. If you are a prosecutor laying out a circumstantial case like this, you want to say to the jury, look, we‘ll never know exactly what happened, but it must be something like this. There are too many details there. The tarp, they never discussed the tarp and how that fits in. There are real issues about the clothing, which is the basis for their saying that she was killed in the bedroom while she was undressing.
And the problems with that message where he leaves a message saying that I‘m leaving the marina, their theory is that because of the brouhaha that occurred after Scott reported Laci missing, he had to change his alibi and admit that he was at the marina. If that‘s true, why would he leave a message saying I‘m leaving the marina on his own phone to his dead wife before...
JOHNSON: ... he ever reported Laci missing?
ABRAMS: It was actually...
JOHNSON: There are a number of inconsistencies and problems there.
ABRAMS: Yes, it was actually her cell phone, but regardless...
ABRAMS: ... Daniel, do you think that the prosecutors got too specific here?
HOROWITZ: Yes, Dan. It is unfortunate. Rick Distaso is not experienced as a trial attorney. I believe he‘s only done two murder trials in the last six years and he made a classic mistake of a new attorney. He was afraid to trust the jury. And he went for a beautiful picture. What you just related is a movie. And if that‘s the only facts, I‘m going to accept that version. But like you said, it left open the fact that jurors would take apart each and every fact...
HOROWITZ: ... really has an alternate...
HOROWITZ: ... explanation. If he just said to the jury...
HOROWITZ: ... I‘ve got a problem in this case and here is my problem and then gave them the truth, they might have been more amenable to voting guilty quickly.
ABRAMS: See, I agree. Judge, what do you think?
FOX: Well actually, great minds think alike. I—if you are that specific, I think you are opening up yourself for a lot of criticism and objection and the juror is going to be back there trying to find the specific answers that you laid out in your closing argument. If they can‘t find them...
FOX: ... that‘s going to raise reasonable doubt.
ABRAMS: Where—yes, where is the evidence about each and every...
ABRAMS: ... even though those aren‘t elements of the crime, the jurors could mistake it for elements of the crime. All right. Everyone is going to stick around because coming up—remember we talked last night about that boat that mysteriously appeared in the parking lot of Scott Peterson‘s attorney‘s office? It is gone after it sparked outrage. It was an exact replica of Peterson‘s boat complete with what looked like a dummy body.
And a serial killer was almost released. On trial now in Michigan only after one of our viewers called in the crucial tip.
ABRAMS: Last night we told you about a mysterious boat that showed up outside Mark Geragos‘ office building here at the Scott Peterson trial, looked eerily similar to Scott Peterson‘s boat. Inside there were anchors and even a dummy that seemed to be about the same weight that Laci Peterson might have been when she disappeared. Well, that boat outraged a lot of people and it quickly turned into a makeshift memorial for Laci and Conner.
Now, it was not there for long. At about 7:30 last night that boat was towed from the parking lot. The tow truck driver told a local reporter that he was called by Mark Geragos. Now there are some reports out there that this was based on a court order to remove it, but then seems unclear. Regardless, I want to ask whether there can be a court order to remove something like that from Mark Geragos‘ own private property.
Dean Johnson, can the court order Mark Geragos to remove that kind of item from his own parking lot?
JOHNSON: Oh, I think it is a stretch, but Judge Delucchi has been very solicitous, particularly of the privacy of the families in this case. There was some concern that the Rocha family or even the Peterson family might happen by there and see this, frankly, very creepy exhibit. So I think Judge Delucchi may have seen that as an extension of his gag order or of his inherent power...
JOHNSON: ... to control the integrity of these proceedings and may very well have ordered it or maybe Geragos suddenly had an attack of good taste and decided...
JOHNSON: ... just to take it away.
ABRAMS: You know, Daniel, my guess is that the judge might have maybe asked Mark Geragos. I‘d be really surprised if the judge ordered him to remove it.
HOROWITZ: Right. I‘d be surprised also and Judge Delucchi has a very sweet, kind face until he‘s angry. And he has a certain way of just looking at you and making a suggestion. And I think Mark Geragos probably got such a suggestion. And Dan, my understanding is that Sharon Rocha did see the boat, so it did cause some emotional harm, I‘m sure.
ABRAMS: I wonder if she saw this, some of Scott Peterson supporters took all the flowers everyone had bought to support Laci‘s family, and made it say not guilty with all the flowers these people had bought. I‘ll tell you that—all these people from around the country, they spend their hard earned money to call these flower shops to support Laci‘s family and then somebody put it into the form of a not guilty.
Judge, can a judge order a block and a half away from the courthouse if it‘s on Mark Geragos‘ property this boat to be removed?
FOX: Well, I think it‘s a stretch as well. But on the other hand, if it can have an impact on the trial itself and the integrity of the trial, I think...
ABRAMS: But the jurors—Judge, the jurors are deliberating. It‘s sequestered and they do not pass by this in their route on the bus.
FOX: But they still, even though they are sequestered and everything is supposed to be—you can‘t watch TV, somehow it can always get back to them. I mean they are always not supposed to do things. They‘re not supposed to watch TV. They‘re not supposed to get on the Internet and do research. But somehow they always end up doing that. So there is a possibility that it could get back to some of the jurors. So I think that was a wise decision if the judge did, in fact, order that...
FOX: ... boat to be removed.
ABRAMS: I‘d be surprised if he ordered it. I think at most he just sort of gave that look maybe Daniel Horowitz is talking about. At the very least, though, this was tasteless and if Geragos decided to remove it himself, it was a good move.
Daniel Horowitz, Dean Johnson, as always, great to have you. Judge Fox hey, thanks a lot. It was great having you on the program.
JOHNSON: Thanks Dan.
FOX: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the time that he was walking, he was walking directly closer to me, so I had a view of his left side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: This man says he saw Coral Eugene Watts, a confessed serial killer, viciously murder a young woman 25 years ago. He only came forward after watching the program about justice and said that he had seen something that was very relevant. Coral Eugene Watts was expected to be released from prison, now he‘s on trial again. We talk to attorneys from both sides.
And Yasser Arafat is being mourned by Palestinians tonight, but many around the world are saying he‘s just a terrorist who started it all. The question—how does the war on terror change now?
ABRAMS: Coming up, a confessed serial killer set to be freed until someone saw him on our program. Now he is on trial and could be put away for life. We talk to his lawyer and the attorney general prosecuting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE COX ®, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today‘s charge is the result in part of an eyewitness who reemerged to provide essential evidence against Mr. Watts after I appeared on THE DAN ABRAMS REPORT on MSNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That was Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox back in March announcing charges in a case that went to trial this week. He mentions the program because this show is partly responsible for bringing this defendant to court. Back in January, we aired a segment highlighting a serial killer who may be the most prolific serial killer ever named Coral Eugene Watts.
In the 1960‘s he was known as the “Sunday Slasher”, confessed to killing a dozen people in Texas, one in Michigan, suspected of killing many more. At the time, though, police didn‘t have the evidence to connect Watts to the murder, so they prosecuted him for burglary. A judge gave him the maximum prison sentence, 60 years, but because of overcrowding in Texas prisons during the ‘80‘s, he earned credit for good behavior, virtually guaranteeing his release from prison in 2006.
Now, that was the case until one of our viewers recognized Watts‘ face and called the Michigan A.G.‘s office after we put up the phone number. The viewer, Joseph Foy, claims that the man he saw in the video on our show was the same man he watched kill a woman in suburban Detroit 25 years ago. The first-degree murder trial began on Monday and Joseph Foy took the stand as a witness. He was asked if he could identify the defendant as the murderer he saw 25 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your Honor, I‘d ask that Mr. Watts take off his glasses at this time if the court would allow it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Foy, do you see the person that you saw that night in this courtroom today?
JOSEPH FOY, WITNESS TO ALLEGED WATTS MURDER: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK and would you please point to him and describe what he‘s wearing?
FOY: Be the gentleman over there, blue vest, blue shirt, glasses in his hand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he look the same today as he did then?
FOY: Eyes do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Michigan‘s Attorney General, Mike Cox, who is responsible for charging Coral Eugene Watts with the murder of Helen Dutcher. Mr. Attorney General, thank you very much for coming back on the program...
COX: Well thank you Dan.
ABRAMS: Just for our viewers who didn‘t see the original segment, explain how it is that a serial killer, a confessed serial killer, was set to be freed in 2006.
COX: Well, Dan, it is not easy to explain, as you know, but essentially he was caught in the act of trying to victimize two young women, charged with aggravated burglary. While he was dealing with the authorities, he said he—if he got immunity that he would give them information on murders he did. In Texas they immunized him on 12 cases. He ended up being immunized on one in Michigan.
He talked about many others in vague terms. In fact, at one point, told an investigating officer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, that he did over 80 murders. And it—but it just ended up everyone thought he was going to do 60 hard years in prison. You know, a Texas appeal court gave him good time credit, which no one expected him to get, and here we are now in two years in May of ‘06, he will be out unless we are able to convict him on this case or another case.
ABRAMS: What‘s the most important evidence you have against him in this case?
COX: Well, Dan, you know how it is. It is the totality. We have I.D. from Mr. Foy, as you pointed out, and Mr. Foy gave a very good description of Mr. Watts back then. That did a composite, which the jurors have had an opportunity to see. But we also have evidence of his common plans, the scheme that he used in attacking so many women, which includes evidence from the 12 murders in Texas as well as one in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, which has gone before the jurors so they can compare his common plan and scheme.
And essentially, what the other evidence shows is that he always used a Pontiac Grand Prix-style vehicle that he stalked petite young women on regular side streets. That he would use stealth to come upon them, that he‘d always use his hands and/or a knife, and that he would never sexually assault these women. And there‘s a few other sort of telltale marks that he left in a number of these cases, which also factor in this murder, which happened back on December 1 of 1979.
ABRAMS: And this was one of the ones that hadn‘t been part of the deal, right?
ABRAMS: And that‘s why you can prosecute him for this one.
COX: That‘s absolutely right. But when you are given immunity, you are given immunity on the particular murder in the particular jurisdiction. However, we‘re allowed to use the information from the Houston cases in order to make out this case. So it‘s really the totality.
ABRAMS: Got it.
COX: It‘s the I.D. as well as the other acts of evidence from the other cases.
ABRAMS: Attorney General Cox, thanks a lot for coming back on the program. We appreciate it. We‘re going to stay on top of this story.
COX: Well Dan, thank you for what you did and what your program did in helping to bring this case to justice.
ABRAMS: With me now is Coral Watts‘ attorney, Ronald Kaplovitz. Mr. Kaplovitz, thank you very much for coming on the program as well. Before we talk about the details of this case specifically, let me just ask you broadly, tough guy to defend when you have got someone who has confessed to so many murders, shown the authorities where the bodies are, the possibility that if you win this case, he‘s going to go free. As an attorney, does that disturb you?
RONALD KAPLOVITZ, ATTORNEY FOR CORAL EUGENE WATTS: Well, certainly he is a tough guy to defend. There is no doubt about that and there is no convincing the jury that he‘s sympathetic or in any way, shape likable. It‘s obvious that everybody hates Coral Watts.
As far as defending him, yes, it‘s a challenge, but you know, I have to keep my eye on the ball and I have to focus on what‘s really responsible. And I have said this before, in order to defend Coral Watts, I have to defend the system, and in order to defend the system, I have to defend Coral Watts. And it‘s important that Coral Watts get a fair trial.
ABRAMS: But you know what? I‘ve got to tell you Mr. Kaplovitz, that‘s one of the most honest answers I have heard from a defense attorney when confronted with a despicable client. Most of the time I hear them sort of spout off about, you know, this and that. That was a very honest answer. I appreciate that. All right.
So let‘s get to the facts of this case. It sounds like there‘s a lot of evidence against your client. I mean not just the fact that it‘s consistent with prior murders, but an eyewitness as well.
KAPLOVITZ: Well, obviously there is a lot of evidence about the other murders that he committed. The court has ruled that that evidence is going to be admitted under prior bad act rulings. The issue in this case, and what the focus of my attention and the jury‘s attention has to be is on what happened on December 1, 1979, and whether or not Coral Watts is the person who killed Helen Dutcher. And when you really look at the evidence in regards to that situation, the evidence, it really—it doesn‘t really exist. You‘re talking about...
ABRAMS: What about our viewer, Mr. Foy, who saw him on the program and called in and said that‘s the guy. I witnessed it.
KAPLOVITZ: He claims that he‘s able to make an identification in a darkish alley—it wasn‘t pitch black—there was some light there, from 80 feet, from seeing the guy for a glance or a few seconds. He doesn‘t see him again for several years and then he sees him on a television show two and a half years later and says he can make an identification. I don‘t think people really realize how far 80 feet away is. And I think that it‘s very hard to believe that it‘s an accurate identification.
ABRAMS: Ronald Kaplovitz, thank you very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it. Let me just say something to my viewers before we go to a tease here. If he is found not guilty in this case, I will again do whatever is necessary to help keep this man behind bars. This is not a question of whether he did these things. He admits that he is a serial killer, possibly the worst serial killer in American history. And the idea that he could go free if he is found not guilty in this case, well look, I‘ll let the court system deal with this case. If he is found not guilty, I assure you we will be doing a lot of segments on this back on the program about justice.
Yasser Arafat arriving back on Arab soil where he‘s viewed by many there as a hero, but to many others he‘s just a terrorist. So, what does his death mean to the war on terror?
And say what you want about the judge in the Peterson case, you can‘t blame him for the complicated instructions he‘s giving the jury. They come from state law. But California is about to make them a lot simpler, and I say it is about time. I take on those who are criticizing...
ABRAMS: Yasser Arafat died Thursday morning in Paris. Just a few hours ago the Palestinian leader‘s body arrived in Cairo for his funeral tomorrow before he‘s buried in Ramallah this weekend. We‘re going to talk about how his death affects the war on terror. First, NBC‘s Bruce Hall (ph) takes a look at his life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): To much of the world he was a terrorist, but to the Palestinian people, he was a hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With his olive drab fatigues and a checkered popnia (ph) on his head, the chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization made a commitment to fight to the death with the Israelis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then Arafat launched a political campaign in 1974 when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly and called for the recognition of a Palestinian state. In ‘88, another turning point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are committed to peace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The freedom fighter put down his guns and publicly abandoned terrorism and accepted Israel‘s right to exist. However, many in the Arab world, especially Islamic fundamentalists groups, refused to accept the change and branded him a traitor. In ‘93, another breakthrough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ended with a handshake with his former enemy as the world looked on. A year later, Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres received the Nobel Peace Prize for their commitment to peace. But the Mideast peace process was fragile. The new wave of Islamic terrorist acts and the delay in the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank tore Palestinians and Israelis apart again.
In response, the Israeli army demolished Arafat‘s West Bank headquarters, leaving him a virtual prisoner in the rubble but still a hero to his people. One step forward, two steps back. The story of the Mideast peace process and Yasser Arafat‘s dream of establishing a Palestinian state.
Bruce Hall (ph), NBC News.
ABRAMS: A new interim leader has already replaced Arafat, former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Joining me for now to discuss how Arafat‘s death impacts the broader war on terror, Sajjan Gohel, terrorism expert and director of International Security for the Asia Pacific Foundation and Harvey Kushner, a terrorism expert and author of “Holy War on the Home Front”.
All right, Mr. Kushner, look, bottom line how important is this now? I mean was Arafat still behind, do most people believe, terrorism even as he was holed up in his compound?
HARVEY KUSHNER, TERRORISM EXPERT: Absolutely, Dan. By removing him in as much as the Palestinian-Israeli issue is an irritant to the world and to the war on terrorism. Him being out of the picture is a significant move in the right direction. Quite frankly, it‘s amazing all these years that what he‘s done with all the money that‘s poured into that region and he‘s put in his own coffers and not given building an infrastructure for his own Palestinian people, this is the best news for moving the process forward. As long as Arafat was alive, there couldn‘t have been peace in—between Israel and the Palestinians. No way.
ABRAMS: Mr. Gohel, do you agree that this is—could be a very productive step in the war on terror?
SAJJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, regarding relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, this could well be a turning point. Yasser Arafat has dominated proceedings with the Palestinians for decades. He has not allowed anyone to come in, to try and replace him, to try and give a new type of viewpoint as it were.
Now that he‘s gone, if it‘s possible for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, if it can come together and if it can work out a meaningful strategy, a peaceful strategy to resolve its differences with the Israelis, then possibly we could step ahead, but that‘s a big if. The PLO is very corrupt, is very bureaucratic, and is very disorganized and fragmented. And I think the situation still is very precarious before we can really ascertain what could happen next.
ABRAMS: Mr. Kushner, no evidence, though, that Arafat was connected to al Qaeda, is there?
KUSHNER: Oh, I think that you‘re wrong, Dan. I think there was. I think in so much...
KUSHNER: ... that they went to the same well and they had the same interest together and al Qaeda in recent days and months have been using the Palestinian issue as a reason for targeting the United States...
ABRAMS: But using the Palestinian issue is different - wait—but using them—look, I completely agree with you that this nonsense where they‘re revising history and suggesting that somehow they care about the Palestinians who they never cared about before is nonsense, but I totally agreed with you there. But is there a direct connection between Yasser Arafat and al Qaeda as far as you know?
KUSHNER: No, I can‘t say that. But, you know, it‘s the same connections that we have between al Qaeda and Iraq. When you‘re fighting a war on terrorism, there are many fronts and there are many people who go to the same well and train and have the same ideals. And removing Yasser Arafat out of the area is indeed significant. As your other guest said, it‘s a big if, but with him there...
KUSHNER: ... it wasn‘t even an if.
ABRAMS: And Mr. Gohel, any—from a purely American perspective, how does this impact, do you think the United States‘ war on terror? Does it have a big impact?
GOHEL: Well, what‘s been the big issue—the big problem has been that a lot of people have tried to use the Palestinian issue as if it was a stumbling block in pursuing good relations in the Middle East as if it was a stumbling block in increasing the ranks of al Qaeda. I think one thing we have got to really point out is that Osama bin Laden did not care about the Palestinian issue prior to...
GOHEL: ... his own agenda. Let‘s not forget that bin Laden killed his own mentor, a Palestinian...
GOHEL: ... mentioned or not. Now, I think the fact that Yasser...
ABRAMS: Mr. Gohel, I apologize. We are losing your satellite or something is wrong with our connection. I apologize. I‘ve got to wrap it up. Mr. Gohel, Harvey Kushner, thank you both very much. And Mr. Gohel, I apologize to you.
Coming up, I said it was a tasteless stunt for Mark Geragos to put a boat like the one prosecutors say Scott Peterson used to dump his wife in the bay in front of his office. Many of you agree, but some of you take me to task. I‘ll take you back. Read your e-mails after this.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a lot of letters from all of you about that boat that appear - apparently Mark Geragos left outside his office. Some of you saying how do we know it was Mark Geragos. I‘ll respond.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—why I wonder whether the jurors in the Peterson case are having trouble in part because they don‘t know exactly what rules to apply because the jury instructions are so confusing. I‘m not blaming the judge. He is reading from the standard state jury instructions, but the definitions of everything from circumstantial evidence to proof beyond a reasonable doubt are often incomprehensible. Here‘s Judge Delucchi before the jurors began deliberating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALFRED DELUCCHI, PETERSON TRIAL JUDGE: No lack of testimony on the defendant‘s part will make up for a failure of proof by the people so as to support a finding against him on any essential element.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: What? So you mean jurors can‘t use against the defendant the fact that he didn‘t testify? All right. Double negatives, semicolons, incomprehensible words make it effectively useless. Jurors need a research assistant. Well that‘s hopefully about to change.
Finally some are coming to their senses, trying to put the instructions into plain English. California is spearheading the effort, the only state to rewrite both its civil and criminal jury instructions to make them easier to understand. New civil jury instructions are already in the courts. The criminal instructions will be rolled out sometime next year.
The commission leading the charge deserves a lot of credit for tackling the not so simple task of translation into language that‘s both understandable and yet still legally correct. I know how difficult it can be. I have to try to translate complex legal concepts every day. And the plain English crusaders are fighting off some dinosaur lawyers who are still complaining that new instructions are too simple, too dumb down.
Well if the world was filled with litigators and they and only they served on juries, that sort of intellectual snobbery would be applicable if not encouraged. But now back here in the real world where jurors are looking for guidance they can actually use, these changes are more than welcome.
I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Yesterday we told you about a 14-foot aluminum fishing boat matching Scott Peterson‘s with anchors and a weighed dummy appearing about a block and a half from the Redwood City Courthouse in a parking lot used by defense attorney Mark Geragos. Lots of e-mails.
Lee Leonard in Madison, Mississippi. “You and the other media representatives are playing directly into Geragos‘ hands. He wants that boat publicized, wants everyone outraged, and wants everyone talking about it. All in all he wants a hung jury.”
So you think Geragos is going to get a hung jury because we‘re talking about how horrible it was? This jury is sequestered and I don‘t see how this issue is ever going to help Geragos with anything.
A lot of people saying they think Geragos should be sanctioned by the Bar, held in contempt for putting the boat out there. I thought that was a little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stretch.
Joel Ballon in Pittsburgh. “Before you talk about sanctions for Geragos, consider Gloria Allred and how much of an advocate she‘s been for the prosecution.”
Joel, we‘re not talking about advocacy. We‘re talking about being disrespectful to the family of the victim.
From North Richland Hills, Texas, Melanie Walden Roberts. “I really believe it is unfair of you to be filmed in front of the boat, talking about it, and then state that Laci‘s parents might see it. Well, if they didn‘t walk by it, they saw it on your show.”
Melanie, I assure you they saw it already. They will not be mad at me about this, but about - at Mark Geragos.
That‘s it. We‘re out of time. Thanks for watching.
Remember, jury deliberations resume tomorrow and guess where I‘ll be?
Yes, right here.
“HARDBALL” up next.
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