Guest: Graham Allison, Ruth Wedgwood, Donald Schweitzer, Daniel Horowitz, Mercedes Colwin, Steve Hill, Don Conwell
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up—Iran ramps up its production of material to make nuclear weapons. They signed a document saying they would not. How do you enforce that contract short of war?
ABRAMS (voice-over): Western diplomats say Iran is racing to make weapons-grade material. This as a U.S. official raises concerns that North Korea is willing to sell weapons grade plutonium to the highest bidder. How can this nuclear madness be stopped?
And the lawyers in the Scott Peterson case prepare to make their case as to why he should live or die. We preview the arguments. We‘ll let you hear what the witnesses may say.
Plus, Hooters is famous for waitresses clad in hot pants and tank tops serving up beer and wings. They say the Hooters girl is their Ronald McDonald. Now they are taking another restaurant to court to prevent it from stealing their girl.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, this could become remembered as a watershed day when it comes to the possibility that rogue states and terrorist groups could eventually get their hands on nuclear weapons. Despite a nuclear nonproliferation treaty, we‘re going to talk about whether that contract could help keep the nuclear threat from spreading or whether it‘s just not worth the paper it‘s written on, but first the news.
Diplomatic sources say the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, will report next week that Iran is working overtime to produce a gas called UF-6 that can be used to make nuclear weapons. An anonymous diplomat with that group told the “Reuters” News Agency—quote—“The Iranians are producing UF-6 like hell. The machines are running.”
The Iranians deny it, but State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli says...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We believe we are on very, very solid ground in pointing to clandestine efforts by Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: This after outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters earlier this week he has seen—quote—“information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems. They have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, not something that just sits there.”
Terrorists like Osama bin Laden have long been interested in buying or stealing a nuclear weapon. The U.S. commander in South Korea, General Leon LaPorte says there‘s concern now that North Korea in its desire for hard currency would sell weapons-grade plutonium to some terrorist organizations. That would be disastrous for the world—to say the least.
“My Take”—I have to tell you, I am concerned with what I am hearing today. Concerned that Iran, a nation whose leadership hates the United States, may be getting too close to getting nuclear weapons and that North Korea, a country run by a certified madman has gone beyond making nuclear weapons, believed to have several bombs and now may be preparing to sell plutonium for nuclear warheads to a rogue group or whoever has the cash to pay for it. Remember, these are countries that had once signed international contracts promising not to do what they‘re doing. I want to know how those can be enforced without war.
Joining me now Graham Allison is a professor at Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government and a former assistant secretary of defense for policy and plans with the Clinton administration and Ruth Wedgwood is a professor of international law at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Thank you both very much for coming on.
All right, Professor Allison, bottom line is you know you hear about these agreements, as a practical matter, let‘s take Iran first. What can be done to force them to abide by this agreement that they signed?
GRAHAM ALLISON, PROFESSOR, HARVARD‘S KENNEDY SCHOOL: Well, one of the things about these international agreements is that they are not self-enforcing and there‘s no international institution that performs enforcement. So what the U.S. government has to do is focus clearly on the objective, which I believe should be that Iran not complete its facility that will allow it to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium, which will therefore be the stuff of bombs and focusing on it then to assemble all the carrots that are available in the international community and...
ABRAMS: What are they, though...
ALLISON: ... all the sticks and bring them together.
ABRAMS: What are those carrots and sticks?
ALLISON: The carrots ought to include in the first instance an agreement that Iran can buy and get fuel for its nuclear power reactors at half the price that would cost them to make it and that the fuel would then be removed after so they wouldn‘t have to worry about the waste and we wouldn‘t have to worry about the plutonium. They should get an agreement from us that we wouldn‘t attack them to change their regime by force as long as they live to this agreement and thirdly, they should get trade and investments from the Europeans who are eager do to that. But the stick in this proposition has got to be a credible military threat to destroy those facilities before they come to operate.
ABRAMS: You know...
ALLISON: ... and that can either be posed by Israel, which is a pretty credible threat there...
ALLISON: ... because whatever else you say about Sharon you could imagine he would pull the trigger or by the U.S. or jointly.
ABRAMS: Well Professor Wedgwood...
ABRAMS: That‘s what kind of makes these agreements, these international contracts feel pretty worthless because in the end what we‘re saying is there is no way to enforce it and the bottom line is, look, if they keep going, they may be attacked not because they signed this agreement, but because they are producing nuclear weapons.
RUTH WEDGWOOD, JOHNS HOPKINS LAW PROFESSOR: Well there are ways to enforce treaties and also ways simply to respond to threats to international peace and security and the Security Council has the right to impose economic sanctions. Those are slow burning and also not all that effective in short term. In principal, the Security Council can use force and authorize countries to use force. And if it‘s a real bona fide case of self-defense, countries can use force on their own.
ABRAMS: United Nations Charter Article 41: The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force to be employed to give effect to its decisions and it may call upon the members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication and the severance of diplomatic relations.
Professor Allison, bottom line though, it sounds like the U.N. route may not be “A”, the only route for the United States and “B”, may not even be the likely route.
ALLISON: Well I think the problem with the U.N. route—the U.S. has been pursuing, attempting to try to get the matter of Iran referred to the Security Council is that at the Security Council, there‘s unlikely to be an agreement among the great powers...
ALLISON: ... to impose any serious sanctions, particularly with the price of oil the way it is today. The likelihood that there will be many economic sanctions applied to Iran don‘t seem very plausible. So I think that‘s why the U.S. has got to orchestrate this whole hand all together—all the carrots, all the sticks, one deal to be done.
ABRAMS: Professor Wedgwood, am I overstating this in being concerned this much? I mean it really struck me today and I‘m not suggesting I have ignored it up to this point, but there was something about today this combination of hearing this comment about North Korea in conjunction with Iran that just made me feel like this is an important day.
WEDGWOOD: Well certainly North Korea has been a great concern for quite a while, not simply because of the threat that bombs might pose to South Korea or the effect on the nuclearization of northeast Asia, but because of what you said before, the distribution of fissile material. And that proves I think that great power politics isn‘t dead and that we still need it.
Our greatest friend in attempting to control this has to be China. If China works with us, Mr.—who will think about intercepting air shipments and having a form of air interception that‘s equivalent to what we can do at sea, then you could begin to have some credible surveillance and interruption of what North Korea might otherwise do.
ABRAMS: This is what Undersecretary of State John Bolton had to say about all this.
WEDGWOOD: It‘s called the proliferation security...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: But I can assure you we‘re not going to allow America‘s national security to be dependent on the good faith of a group of fanatic mullahs seeking nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Professor Wedgwood. I‘m sorry. I think you were making a comment right before I went to that.
WEDGWOOD: Oh, simply that—actually John Bolton has been quite productive, I think, in championing something called the proliferation security initiative, which is the—a cooperative regime of states that are going to pass laws that allow cargo seizures and stopping ships, searching ships to make sure that at least bulky cargo doesn‘t go anywhere.
ABRAMS: Professor Allison, very quickly, have—has this nonproliferation treaty worked? I mean has it really had the impact necessary?
ALLISON: Well, I would say that we don‘t want to throw the baby out with the bath water here. It‘s worked in significant extent in that there‘s 184 countries who would voluntarily foresworn nuclear weapons...
ABRAMS: Does that mean anything?
ABRAMS: Does that mean anything...
ABRAMS: ... when they say they foreswear it? So what...
ALLISON: Many of those countries, which could have nuclear weapons have decided not to...
ALLISON: ... and the world is safer because of it. It doesn‘t mean that there‘s not some cheaters out there and those need to be dealt with, as I say, by a serious strategy of U.S. leadership that takes all the carrots and all the sticks and puts them together.
ABRAMS: Fair point. Professor Allison and Professor Wedgwood, you know, look, we‘re not going to be talking about anything more important than this on this program. Thanks a lot for coming on. Appreciate it.
ALLISON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a woman in critical condition tonight as police say a car full of teens tossed a 20-pound frozen turkey out of their car and at her car while speeding down a highway. Six teens arrested. One charged with first-degree assault. We get a live report from the courthouse.
And beginning Monday in the Scott Peterson case, jurors decide whether he lives or dies. We look at the emotional statements friends and family have made in the past to get a sense of what‘s to come.
Plus, the Hooters restaurant chain says the Hooters girl is their Ronald McDonald. And to keep it that way, they are going to court to protect their hot commodity.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, six New York teens under arrest tonight after police say they threw a turkey into traffic from their speeding car, smashing through the windshield of another motorist. We‘re going to get the latest from the courthouse.
ABRAMS: Last weekend in Long Island, New York, a group of teens allegedly hurled a 20-pound turkey at a woman‘s car, smashing the windshield, critically injuring her, breaking her nose, cheekbones, her jaw. She is still in a coma at a local hospital.
WNBC‘s TV Greg Cergol has been following this story. He joins me now from outside the courthouse where the teens were arraigned. Greg, thanks for coming on the program. What happened in court today?
GREG CERGOL, WNBC TV CORRESPONDENT: Well Dan, at the arraignment of the teens the prosecutor said the facts of this case shocked the conscience. As you said, six teens facing criminal charges tonight and all of them or most of them pointing the finger of blame at 18-year-old Ryan Cushing. He‘s the teen who allegedly threw the turkey out of a window of the moving car for no apparent reason.
CERGOL (voice-over): Ryan Cushing‘s mother said nothing as she left court, his father shielding his face from cameras. Their 18-year-old son held under a suicide watch. The Farmingdale University freshman called the ringleader by prosecutors, the only teen charged with throwing a 20-pound turkey through the windshield of this car, critically injuring a 44-year-old Lake Ronkonkoma woman who was heading home.
VINCENT TRIMARCO, CUSHING‘S ATTORNEY: Their feelings are with the injured woman. Their thoughts and prayers go out to her and that‘s it.
DEPUTY CHIEF DENNIS CAINE, SUFFOLK COUNTY NY POLICE: I can‘t understand in my wildest imagination why anybody would want to throw any kind of an object at a moving car. We never got a reason for it and we still don‘t know. That could come out later on. At this time we still don‘t know.
CERGOL: According to one defense attorney, eight teens were traveling in three separate cars that night. Cushing alone in the backseat of the last car when without warning he allegedly tossed the turkey out of the window. Some if not all the other teens arrested have implicated Cushing in written statements to police, saying they never intended to use the turkey as a weapon.
MICHAEL BROWN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I would assume they were going to eat the turkey. I mean it is Thanksgiving coming up, but there was no knowledge that they were—that they were about to do what ensued.
In addition to the five arrests Thursday night, a sixth teen, 18-year-old Michael Hasbrouck of Selden, was arrested Friday. All but Cushing now facing charges only for stealing the credit card used to buy the turkey and some other items from the supermarket and some nearby Blockbusters.
PATRICK O‘CONNELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They went on a misadventure and it just took tragic consequences and proportions and they did a stupid thing.
CERGOL: By late Friday afternoon, at least three of the teens left Suffolk County Criminal Court free on bail—the mother of one among the many expressing remorse for the victim.
LINDA MANZOLINA, SUSPECT‘S MOTHER: We just pray for the victim‘s wellness and we pray for her and her family and wish her well.
CERGOL: We have some encouraging news about the victim, an unidentified 44-year-old woman. She remains hospitalized in critical condition tonight, but hospital officials now say she is out of her coma, breathing on her own, and showing signs of improvement, actually responding to some of the medical staff at the hospital where she‘s staying. Her family saying they‘re extremely happy with the arrests today and very grateful for the prayers of the community for the 44-year-old woman. As for Ryan Cushing, he remains behind bars held on $250,000 bail—Dan.
ABRAMS: Wow. Greg, let‘s be clear. So the other teens here are not being charged with the assault, correct, meaning Cushing apparently, according to the authorities, just sort of did this on his own, right?
CERGOL: That is exactly what all the other defense attorneys are alleging, that their clients were along for this wild ride, so to speak, but it was Cushing who had the turkey in the back seat of the third car and for no reason or no apparent reason just threw it out the window and it went crashing into the other vehicle.
ABRAMS: But are the prosecutors suggesting that they were all responsible for that or are the prosecutors just charging the rest of them with a credit card fraud, et cetera.
CERGOL: Yes, the prosecutors are just charging them with the credit card theft and then forgery for using the credit card illegally, but not with the throwing of the turkey. They said the throwing of the turkey was a random act and there was no premeditation beforehand.
ABRAMS: Wow. All right. Well we wish her well. Greg Cergol thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
CERGOL: My pleasure.
ABRAMS: Coming up...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENT ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S BROTHER: As your older brother, I only wish that I had the opportunity to be there to defend you from the person that decided to take you away from me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Are prosecutors planning to put Laci Peterson‘s brother on the stand? We‘ll take a look back at some of his statements right after Laci‘s disappearance and what others might say on the stand in the penalty phase.
And Hooters says a small Florida restaurant chain is copying their image. They‘re taking them to court. The question—was Hooters really the first to figure out that sex in a sort of frat-like atmosphere sells?
ABRAMS: It is just three days before convicted murderer Scott Peterson will be back in court to listen to more testimony, testimony in part from Laci‘s family and likely from friends who will explain the impact his crime has had on their lives. Testimony prosecutors hope will convince the jury that Peterson should be sentenced to die. We take a look back to see the kinds of things that we‘re likely to hear on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S MOTHER: I love my daughter so much. I miss her every minute of every day. My heart aches for her and Conner. Without them, there‘s a huge void in my life.
B. ROCHA: I miss your beautiful smile and your fun-loving personality. Every time we were together, I could feel the unconditional love between the both of us. As your older brother, I only wish that I had the opportunity to be there to defend you from the person that decided to take you away from me.
RENEE TOMLINSON, LACI PETERSON‘S FRIEND: We will never truly have closure because each day there will always be one phone call that we can‘t make, one funny story untold, one conversation unspoken with our best friend.
S. ROCHA: Laci meant the world to me. She was my only daughter. She was my best friend. We miss her beautiful smile, her laughter, her love, and her kind and loving ways. I miss seeing her, talking to her, and hugging her. We have been deprived of meeting and knowing Laci‘s son, our grandson, and nephew.
TOMLINSON: Now we will never know his face, never see his smile, and never hear his cry.
HEATHER & MIKE RICHARDSON, FRIENDS OF LACI AND SCOTT PETERSON: I just remember her as such a bright light. And she really, really lit up a room when she walked in. You knew that she was there and she was just such a fun person to be around. Everyone loved Laci.
TOMLINSON: Laci not only taught us proper etiquette, but how to laugh and not just giggle, but to laugh loud and often.
B. ROCHA: We talked about our children growing up together and spending summers at each other‘s house. Now that you and Conner have been taken away from me, I realize that my children will not have cousins to grow up with and family events will feel very lonely without you and Conner.
S. ROCHA: I can only hope that the sound of Laci‘s voice begging for her life and begging for the life of her unborn child is heard over and over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: “My Take”—this testimony will be persuasive and powerful. Jurors will be in tears thinking about Laci. But I still don‘t know if it will be enough to get 12 jurors to agree to sentence Peterson to death. Joining me now criminal defense attorneys Daniel Horowitz and Mercedes Colwin and former prosecutor Donald Schweitzer. He‘s also a former police officer, gang homicide detective.
All right, hard stuff to listen to, but Mr. Schweitzer, do you think -
· we‘re going to hear that. We‘re going to hear very similar accounts to what we just heard from the prosecutors, but are they going to go to this jury and ask them to impose the death penalty? Or are they going to say, do you think, in this case here are the aggravating factors, here are the mitigating factors. We leave it up to you.
DONALD SCHWEITZER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think that they‘re going to definitely ask for an execution in this case. This was a case where Scott Peterson lied to the family, deceived everybody, showed no remorse at the investigative stages, and so this family is angry. Besides being hurt, they are very angry at him and they‘re going to ask that he be executed.
ABRAMS: Daniel, under California law, though, they can‘t specifically say, right, we want you to impose the—witnesses can‘t say we want you to impose the death penalty, right?
DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Exactly, Dan, but the ferocity of the Rocha family‘s statements when they are on the witness stand, the way that Sharon Rocha will look at Scott‘s face and try to get him to show some remorse and what I expect to be a failure on his part to acknowledge her in any way will be a clear message to those on the jury already predisposed to give death that Sharon Rocha wants this.
ABRAMS: Mercedes, when they call these people to the stand and they will and again, there will be a motion in that courtroom, but do you think that they will necessarily ask for the death penalty? Because I have seen prosecutors in a death penalty phase say here are the aggravating factors. Here are the mitigating factors. Death, we believe, that you could impose the death penalty, but in some cases prosecutors don‘t say we think you should impose the death penalty.
MERCEDES COLWIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. I think there‘s going to be some advocating by the prosecutor in this case, but frankly, I‘m going to go out on a limb on this. I don‘t think Sharon is going to ask for the death penalty or even—I think what she wants him to do is spend 23 hours a day for the rest of his life in lockdown, especially after I heard that little—in the beginning where she was talking to the press and saying I want you to hear that—Laci‘s voice every single day for the rest of your life.
COLWIN: I think it‘s merciful to end his life...
ABRAMS: But Daniel, they couldn‘t request now, could they, to pull the—could the prosecutors come forward now—could they—theoretically—of course, they could, but is it at all possible as a sort of realistic matter that the prosecutors will come forward here and say, you know what, we have decided life in prison is fine.
HOROWITZ: They could do it, Dan, and I think there would be wisdom to it. They would have to get the full support of Sharon Rocha. In fact, it would probably have to be a statement by Sharon Rocha that she wants it, that it comes from their family as a gift to the Peterson parents.
ABRAMS: The reason they‘re not going to do it because it would create another appellate issue because then the defense would say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see, there never should be a death-qualified jury in this case. They just did it to get jurors who would be unfair. I don‘t think as a result there‘s any chance it can happen.
HOROWITZ: That is why Sharon Rocha would have to back it...
HOROWITZ: ... but you‘re right. You‘re right.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. My legal team is going to stick around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
If you knew my son and you knew his background and what a wonderful boy he is and has been all through his life, he‘s never had—you know, I mean the kid is—he‘s a perfect kid all the way through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Scott Peterson‘s father called as both a prosecution and defense witness so far. He will likely take the stand as his son faces the possibility of the death penalty. We‘ll show you what the other side in this may say.
And Hooters—it isn‘t exactly Disneyland, but they do have their version of Mickey Mouse—the Hooters girl. Now they‘re taking a Florida restaurant chain to court for stealing their girl and their image.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. Back in a moment.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Scott Peterson goes back to court on Monday. Both his family and Laci‘s testified in the first part of this case. This time, though, their testimony could make the difference between life or death, but first the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF COURT CLERK, CA SUPERIOR COURT, SAN MATEO COUNTY: We, the jury, in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, guilty of the crime of murder of Laci Denise Peterson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That same jury will be back at work on Monday. Scott Peterson‘s attorney, Mark Geragos, spent much of the trial telling the jury that his client may be a liar, but he‘s not a killer. Now in the penalty phase, he will have to convince them that this liar and according to the jury, killer‘s life is worth sparing. His family and friends will play an important role. We took a look back to see what they may say next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re a good family. We don‘t have any record of anything...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn‘t either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn‘t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no domestic violence...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, nothing in his past.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No financial problems. He worked three jobs to put himself through college and helped his wife through college. They both worked hard to get everything they had and they were enjoying it to the hilt and they adored each other.
JACKIE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON‘S MOTHER: Laci called me mom. She was like a daughter to me. We miss her and we love her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was wonderful. They‘re very much in love with each other. They dote on each other. They were very excited about their pregnancy. They were looking forward to this child. And they just treat each other with so much respect and love and care. In his whole 30 years, there‘s never been a temper. It‘s, you know, it‘s just not even in his nature.
LEE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FATHER: If you knew his background and what a wonderful boy he is and has been all through his life. He‘s never had—you know, I mean the kid is—he‘s a perfect kid all the way through.
J. PETERSON: We tease him about it. We always teased him about how after they had children, wait until you have kids, you won‘t be able to do all these wonderful things for each other. But I think they would have. She was just a person that could make time for that and Scott made time for her. And she came first in his life and he really adored her.
L. PETERSON: What was done here is just a terrible injustice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: “My Take”—I think that at least one of these witnesses, family members will strike a chord with at least one of the jurors and the question remains about exactly how Peterson committed the crime. I say they will not impose death.
All right, let me go back to my guests. Donald Schweitzer, the defense has to be concerned here, do they not? Both the parents testified in the guilt phase of this case and it seems that the jurors just may not have believed them. Is that a concern when you call the family in the penalty phase?
SCHWEITZER: Absolutely because that‘s all he has right now is the fact that he doesn‘t have much of a criminal background.
ABRAMS: So, but...
ABRAMS: But how much does it matter that these jurors may not have believed the parents in the guilt phase?
SCHWEITZER: Because that‘s all he has to support the fact that, you know, he shouldn‘t be executed. That he‘s this great person. If they don‘t like the parents or they don‘t believe him, everything the defense says is gone then.
COLWIN: One thing, Dan, which is really dangerous for Jackie Peterson when she takes the stand is that quote that you put up on the screen a couple of weeks ago where she said, deny, deny, deny everything when you speak to law enforcement. And then almost what it does it sort of insinuates to the jury she knew something. She must have known something. Why would she be telling her son to deny everything?
ABRAMS: Well a lawyer would tell her—tell him the same thing, right?
COLWIN: Well, I mean certainly when you‘re dealing with law enforcement you have to be careful, but it‘s just if you pull a statement like that out of context...
COLWIN: ... as it would be in impeachment, it‘s very powerful...
ABRAMS: Daniel, how much of a cross-examination are we going to see of these witnesses, both sides, both, the prosecutors cross-examining the Peterson family. Defense attorneys cross-examining Laci‘s family.
HOROWITZ: Well Dan I can tell you how it should be done. There should be no questions of the Rocha family, not a one. Geragos should sit there and just basically hide his head almost in shame for his client or at least in recognition of their pain as parents. One thing we know whether Scott killed Laci or not, the real victims in that courtroom now are the Rocha family. I spoke to one of the top death penalty prosecutors in this state, a man with 10 death verdicts. He says that to get death in this case, the prosecution has to go after the Peterson parents and do sort of what Mercedes said. Use that deny, deny, deny tape and other things to show them complicit in the cover-up.
ABRAMS: And they have to make sure, Mr. Schweitzer, the Peterson family, they do not try and proclaim Scott‘s innocence on that witness stand and I‘ve got to believe that‘s going to be hard for them.
SCHWEITZER: It will be very difficult. They are talking about him being this wonderful person, but the jury has seen all these statements he‘s made on TV about being innocent and lying and all this other stuff. So, it‘s going to be a hard sell for them.
COLWIN: Dan, but looking at the jury...
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to wrap it up Mercedes.
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry.
COLWIN: No, that‘s OK.
ABRAMS: I always love to hear from Mercedes...
COLWIN: Always a pleasure.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to—Mercedes, I have a Hooters segment coming up that I have to get to, all right...
COLWIN: OK. That‘s far more important than this.
ABRAMS: So I‘ve got to go. Daniel Horowitz, Mercedes Colwin...
COLWIN: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: ... Donald Schweitzer, thanks a lot.
COLWIN: Take care. Bye.
SCHWEITZER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we all know what Hooters is famous for. Now it says it was the first restaurant to offer up hot pants and tank tops along with wings and beer. Now they are going to court to stop a competitor from doing the same. We‘ll have the lawyers from both sides coming up.
And I took plaintiffs‘ lawyers to task for the way they have gone after drug maker Merck over the arthritis drug Vioxx. Now many of you taking me to task over what I said. Your e-mails coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. The battle of the “breastaurants” is on. A term used in testimony on the first day of a trial pitting restaurant giant Hooters known for its big—owl—against a smaller chain Ker‘s WingHouse. Hooters claims Ker stole everything from the design of its parchment menus to staff calendars to the style of the table and chairs. On yes and one other detail, yes the attractive women in those slinky, little skintight nylon shorts.
Hooters lawyers call “her”—quote—“our Ronald McDonald”. And while Ker‘s WingHouse founder doesn‘t deny copying certain practices, he says he took them from Knockers, a restaurant he took over after retiring from pro football. I mean why wouldn‘t someone think a company based on an owl, Hooters, could be anything like once based on boxing—Knockers?
Seriously “My Take”—I have read the complaint. I‘ve looked at the pictures, et cetera. There are no questions there are similarities between the two, but I think it‘s going to be tough for Hooters to prove that they own the right to attractive, well endowed women serving wings in what looks like a fraternity house atmosphere.
Joining us now is Steve Hill, the attorney representing Hooters, who brought the lawsuit and Don Conwell, the lawyer representing Ker‘s WingHouse.
All right, Mr. Hill, let me start with you. What am I getting wrong here?
STEVE HILL, LAWYER FOR HOOTERS: Well I think what you are underestimating is that this is not a case that‘s about a sex-based concept. Instead, it is about a combination of distinctive elements of a restaurant‘s interior decor, some of which you showed your viewers in the video footage—the distinctive plate ware, the funny signs hanging on the wall, the hula hoops, the specific contour of the weight staff uniform.
Those are all in combination and given how famous the Hooters restaurant has become in the minds of many consumers—we‘re now serving about a million customers a week and on up, so we believe that we‘ve developed an intellectual property right in the appearance of the insides of our restaurants.
ABRAMS: And Mr. Conwell, you have to concede there is similarity, right? You wouldn‘t challenge the fact that there‘s similarities between the two, right?
DON CONWELL, LAWYER FOR KER‘S WINGHOUSE: There are similarities, but you would expect there to be similarities. They‘re both sports bars. You‘re going to find televisions in both. You‘re going to find sports memorabilia. You‘re going to find a lot more sports memorabilia in Ker‘s WingHouse because he, in fact, is an NFL alumni and his whole life has been involved with sporting.
But you‘re going to find some similarities because they‘re both sports bars and because they are both in the same market segment. And that‘s really what Hooters is trying to do in this case is control a market segment. You use the term breastaurants. They want to be the only restaurant in the “breastaurant” business. They want to exclude people like Crawford Ker and Ker‘s WingHouse from competing with them. And that‘s really what led to this lawsuit was Ker‘s WingHouse is doing a very good job at competing.
ABRAMS: Yes, Mr. Hill, why didn‘t you go after other restaurants like Melons, Show-Me‘s, Bazookas and Mugs ‘n Jugs.
HILL: Well the reasons are twofold. And you alluded to the fact that Mr. Ker claims he imitated Knockers. Our position on that is that a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy is still a copy. Of course, most of the restaurants that you just mentioned over time have gone out of business. Of the ones that remain by the information that we possess have not gone to the lengths of imitation that Mr. Ker‘s restaurant chain has. As a professional football alum, we would expect that Mr. Ker could effectively compete even if he wanted to use a sex-based restaurant concept with cheerleader uniforms that were just as revealing and pom-poms instead of Hooters girl uniforms and hula hoops.
ABRAMS: And Mr. Conwell, it was to the point, was it not, where your client actually changed the colors of his uniform because it was so similar to that of the Hooters girls, right?
CONWELL: Yes. In 1997, there was a claim made by the original Hooters owners here in Clearwater, Florida, that there were a lot of similarities in the trade dress. So they brought Mr. Ker in for a meeting. They were suggesting that they were going to file a lawsuit against him unless he made some changes. So he said he did not want the lawsuit.
He is a businessman and so he reached an agreement with them and the agreement was that he would change the color of his uniforms from red shorts and a white top to an all black uniform. That agreement was reached. He made changes at substantial expense to his company to change the uniforms and what at that time was only three restaurants.
ABRAMS: All right. That‘s Hooters. All right, that‘s the Hooters outfit now. I think most people know. There we go. There‘s the comparison. Ok. So, now Mr. Hill, you have to concede that they don‘t look—I mean look, the women have similar attributes, but the clothing is pretty different.
HILL: Well, I agree in that picture that there are differences as to the color. Of course, the style and the cut of both the tops and the bottoms remain the same...
ABRAMS: You mean...
ABRAMS: ... low cut.
HILL: Yes and the tank top, of course, in combination with the retro 1980‘s nylon shiny running short. Of course, on formal Fridays for over 20 years, our Hooters girls have worn black tops and black bottoms. And you know, when the Hooters Inc. founders of the company told Mr. Ker years ago that he needed to put some distance between what he was doing and the appearance of a Hooters restaurant, I think what they had in mind was that he would reduce the level of copying and stay confined to the Tampa area and not move to Orlando and copy more, and there‘s been a gradual escalation.
ABRAMS: Mr. Hill, look, I‘ve got to wrap this up. I know this is a lot of money here, so it‘s serious business, but you know, do you ever just laugh when you are in court or think to yourself, come on, we are sitting here talking about you know, the cut of how tight their shorts are, the fact that both are using well endowed women. Do you ever sort of smile to yourself in court?
HILL: Well, you have to because Hooters‘ entire atmosphere is based on having fun. And it‘s impossible not to look at all of these items and not feel the same kind of sensory overload...
ABRAMS: Yes. Mr. Conwell...
HILL: ... that you feel when you walk through the front door.
ABRAMS: ... I was cracking up when I—I mean I know it‘s serious, but I think that this is kind of—I don‘t get to cover these kind of lighter stories that often and I thought this was funny stuff.
Anyway Steve Conwell—sorry—Don Conwell, Steve Hill—gentlemen, we‘ll follow this case...
CONWELL: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... and we appreciate you both taking the time to come on the program.
HILL: Well thank you very much, Dan.
CONWELL: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, fact—the latest Osama bin Laden tape came out just days before the presidential election. Not a fact—it actually swayed voters to re-elect President Bush. Some Democratic leaders saying it did just that. I say those are dangerous statements. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Senator Kerry reportedly said Osama bin Laden‘s last-minute tape may have cost him the election. The Democratic leader of the House agreed. I say that‘s a dangerous signal to send to terrorists. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—please tell me that John Kerry did not say that the Osama bin Laden tape released days before the election was the cause of his defeat. Another network reporting that Kerry said just that. True or not, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said today that—quote—“I think it favored the president. It made a couple of points difference.”
Apart from the fact there‘s no evidence to support that, it is just downright dangerous. The al Qaeda experts with whom I spoke after that tape was released said they thought bin Laden was less concerned about who won the election than about ensuring he had some impact. Kerry or his supporters hypothesizing that bin Laden swayed the election just provides the affirmation bin Laden is seeking, emboldening these killers to try to influence us in other ways. Even if John Kerry or the leaders of his party believe it, they should never say it. It‘s bad for them and it‘s bad for the country.
I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for your rebuttal. Last night on the program, lawyers lining up to sue Merck over its painkilling arthritis drug Vioxx after it was pulled from the market because it was linked to fatal heart problems. Yesterday the Senate held hearings questioning Merck and the FDA. Top scientist evening warning of possible problems with five other drugs on the market.
I said while these lawsuits are important and if Merck knew or should have known of the problems, they should be held accountable. They should have to compensate families for damages, future earnings, et cetera, but that pain and suffering damages could decimate the pharmaceutical companies for a whole host of drugs, making all of us worse off while lining the pockets of a handful of lawyers and some of the victims. Some of you none too happy with me.
From Canada, Terry Baran. “I found your extreme bias in favor of Merck on your show November 18 very troubling. Please try and stay in the middle of debates between conflicting attorneys and not start the report already aligned with one side.”
I will not. I will tell my viewers where I stand on the opinion-based segment so there‘s no allegation of bias. Instead of pretending to be objective as others do, I lay it out for you to see. With that said, I‘m not favoring Merck in these lawsuits. I have a serious problem with what all of these types of lawsuits can do. Go back and look at what I said.
Rell Rice in Austin, Texas. “I can‘t name one major corporation that‘s ever gone out of business because of a major lawsuit. These companies are behemoths.”
What about Dell Corning (ph)? Attorney Anthony E. Palmer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Like so many people I meet, you rail against awards for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. But when those same people or their loved ones are injured, maimed or killed in an accident or by a product such as Vioxx, they are the first to show up at my office seeking compensation not only for their lost wages and medical bills, but also the lost emotional support, pain and agony.”
Agreed Mr. Palmer. The people who come in are hurt and angry and often rightly so, but my problem is with many of the lawyers like you. I don‘t know you or your practice, but I do know that lawyers are preying on the victims and on the system. Within minutes of the announcement that Vioxx was being pulled, plaintiffs‘ attorneys were out soliciting business. You claim to be the righteous ones, but soon enough the system will be changed so that you will not be able to milk the system at the expense of everyone else.
In my “Closing Argument” last night, I asked whether it‘s time for the U.S. to admit that the Geneva Conventions cannot and should not apply in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That we‘re fighting sex tribes and terrorists, not a nation as envisioned by the framers of Geneva. I said these enemies will never treat prisoners humanely because of any agreements nor will they be held accountable for violations of it.
Craig in Thornton, Colorado. “By bending the laws put in place by the Geneva Convention, we set a precedent for the rest of the world to follow. It doesn‘t matter if our enemy is a sovereign state or a terrorist group.”
I‘m not talking about bending any rules. I‘m saying we should be honest and say that, you know, the Iraqi government is gone. We‘re not fighting an accountable nation and we say it doesn‘t apply to this kind of battle.
Arthur (ph) Lawrence C. Ross, Jr. “It is easy for me to understand your logic for denying the Geneva Conventions to insurgents. They are our enemies. When giving and taking rights, I think that we should fight to keep rights even for those we abhor.”
No Mr. Ross, if you listened, I said of course it did apply in the war with Iraq when they were still a government and they were our enemy but not now.
Finally Joe Foy, the key witness in putting admitted serial killer Coral Eugene Watts behind wars for the rest of his life. He had been watching this program in January. When I asked for anyone with information to contact the Michigan attorney general, he had been a witness to another murder. He called the A.G. as a result of seeing it on our program.
He writes, “I would first like to thank Mr. Abrams on his choice to first air Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox asking for help in any of the Watts‘ crimes back in January 2004. It was just by the grace of God that I was flipping through the channels and saw the clip of Watts. Let Mr. Abrams know he has a lifelong fan.”
Mr. Foy, the feeling is mutual. You were brave and courageous in coming forward. You‘re the one who deserves the credit.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
Coming up, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend. I think I‘m going to be at the Scott Peterson trial next week for the penalty phase, but you‘ll probably learn it around the same time I do—not quite.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.