Guest: Joe Tacopina, Jeanine Pirro, Daniel Horowitz, Dean Johnson, Pat Brown
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Scott Peterson‘s father takes the stand, trying to spare his son‘s life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would ask everybody...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to consider Scott‘s family. We‘re a good family. We don‘t have any record of anything.
ABRAMS (voice-over): That‘s what he said before the trial. Now he‘s walking jurors through Scott Peterson‘s life, saying he was the perfect son growing up in a not so perfect family. But how will that save Scott Peterson‘s life?
And when the trial began, Peterson attorney Mark Geragos promised he would prove Peterson was not only not guilty, but that he was stone cold innocent. Today Geragos was stone cold silent leaving the job of saving his client‘s life to another attorney. Is the defense that concerned that Geragos‘ credibility is shot?
Plus he terrorized the people of Wichita for years, now the serial killer known as “BTK” is apparently telling police when he was born, how he grew up, even providing clues as to where he‘s living now. So why are they still having trouble catching him?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket: The Scott Peterson penalty phase. Question: Can a convicted murderer be generous, selfless, responsible, misunderstood, quiet, a hard worker and a remarkable person? That‘s what Scott Peterson‘s attorney, Pat Harris, told jurors they would hear from no less than a dozen witnesses set to testify on behalf of Scott Peterson—his life hanging in the balance. Lee Peterson, the first witness to take the stand in his son‘s defense today. Here‘s what he said just days after Peterson was arrested more than 18 months ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FATHER: If you knew my son—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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: MSNBC‘s Jennifer London is at the courthouse. She‘s been inside. Jennifer, what was it like inside the courtroom?
JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, what you just saw in that sound bite from Lee Peterson is very similar to what the jurors saw from Lee Peterson today inside the courtroom. Lee Peterson was very stoic, if you will. His voice was steady and strong. He didn‘t show any emotion. He spent a lot of time talking about Scott—describing Scott as a small child and that Scott was a dream to them, to him and Jackie.
He talked about teaching Scott to play golf and how Scott had dreams of becoming a professional golfer. He talked about taking Scott on fishing trips. Now Scott appeared to get emotional at one point during Lee‘s testimony. I did see Scott sort of lower his head. He had a tissue. He was wiping his eyes and his face. This was when Lee was talking about Jackie, who is Lee‘s second wife and Scott Peterson‘s mother.
Lee Peterson was describing what a wonderful person Jackie is. And Lee said I‘m the boring one and Jackie is the fun one. She always has a smile on her face. Harris—Pat Harris set it up in his opening statement that the jury was going to hear a lot about Scott‘s family, who these people were, Harris saying, look, to understand who Scott is, you need to understand where he came from. And we did hear a lot of that from Lee Peterson.
Lee Peterson was the first witness to take the stand. The second person called to the stand is a woman named Joanne Farmer (ph). She identified herself as a lifelong friend of Jackie‘s. She said she met Jackie when they were both young girls. She said there was an immediate bond between the two girls because both of them had lost their fathers. Jackie‘s father was actually murdered when Jackie was a small child and Jackie spent a great deal of time in an orphanage.
Joanne described how excited Jackie was when she was pregnant and what it was like when Scott was born. We also heard from Joanne‘s son, Craig, who was there when Scott was born as well. And interestingly enough, Dan, Craig was brought in as a witness to beg for Scott Peterson‘s life. It was revealed that he lives here in Redwood City and yet, I don‘t think I‘ve seen him in court once today...
LONDON: ... Dan—or once the entire trial, I should clarify, Dan.
ABRAMS: Fair enough. Very quickly, Scott Peterson‘s sister is on the stand now as we speak?
LONDON: Yes. Susan Caudillo—she took the stand right before the break. She will be on the stand right after the break. I believe court is reconvening right now. And interestingly enough, we have heard from Mark Geragos for the first time today. He is asking the questions of Susan.
Susan is describing what it was like to have baby brother Scott around. She spends a lot of time looking at Scott when she‘s describing stories. She‘s sharing anecdotes about when she would give him a bath and she would give him a bottle, and she loved playing mom to Scott. And she‘s really describing what their family was like and what a wonderful person she thinks Scott was and is today .
ABRAMS: All right, Jennifer London, if you could stick around—she‘s going to get updates from the courtroom and we‘ll keep bringing her back in as that testimony continues inside in the penalty phase.
“My Take”—I don‘t know that talking about how difficult Lee and Jackie Peterson‘s lives have been is going to really change the outcome. In fact, since it seems jurors didn‘t believe them in the guilt phase, I wonder whether it even might even backfire. Joining me now, Westchester County New York district attorney and former Westchester County judge, Jeanine Pirro, criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina and in court today criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz and former San Mateo County prosecutor Dean Johnson.
All right. Joe, let me start with you. On—sort of you heard generally the types of witnesses that they‘re calling. You know a lot of this is oh as a baby, he was great. On at 11 years old, he was so cute. He came up to the table. And then a lot of testimony about the family of Scott Peterson. Any of that going to make a difference?
JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I—you know Dan I don‘t think it‘s going make a huge difference in this case. I mean I think there‘s two sorts of evidence they‘re going to try and present in the penalty phase. One is evidence like that, which I quite frankly think is geared towards gaining sympathy, not for Scott Peterson or even humanizing Scott Peterson, but humanizing the other people who are going to be hurt by his death, if he‘s put to death in the penalty phase.
I mean his mother—Lee Peterson spent more time talking about his growing up and his background than Scott‘s. And I think that was done for a very pointed reason. The way he‘s not going to die here, Dan, the only way this guy‘s life is saved if Harris or Geragos or whoever does it makes an argument and makes a point of this jury of lingering doubt, because that‘s a legally permissible argument in California law. And if this jury is convinced that hey, we convicted him, but I‘m not certain, 100 percent certain, and they don‘t have to be to convict him, but they sort of have to be certain to put someone to death. And I think that‘s their best argument. That‘s their only chance to save his life.
ABRAMS: Jeanine, does it show though on the other hand that if you have to talk about how difficult Lee Peterson‘s life was, does it sort of highlight the fact that maybe Scott Peterson didn‘t have such a tough life? That he had it good...
JEANINE PIRRO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY D.A.: And—Dan, that‘s exactly the point. For a kid who had everything handed to him, who had a good life, who played golf, who went to college, what is his excuse for killing a woman, killing his own child, a woman he said he would love and protect, a child that he‘s supposed to take care of. I mean even animals take care of their young.
So all of this is one generation removed, Dan. I think the jury finds it interesting that Laci—that Scott Peterson‘s father and mother had X kind of childhood, but that‘s not relevant to what they‘re ultimately going to do to Scott. He is the personification of evil in this jury‘s mind.
ABRAMS: Let me read you some of the testimony today. I remember Jackie, bathing him in the kitchen sink and she would get him all dried off. He was all shiny and she would take him and dance him around the kitchen and the living room to entertain us. Scott would have a big smile on his face.
Go to number two—what did his teachers say about him? All unanimously they liked Scott, said he was a good influence, got good grades, never got—gave them a problem, never heard a word from the teachers except he was a good kid, never got a phone call from the principal.
Daniel Horowitz, you‘ve been there. How—you know, it doesn‘t seem like it‘s going so well for the defense. And on the other hand, you‘ve got to say, you know, there‘s not a whole lot they can do.
DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Dan, I go back and forth and I think they‘re doing the best they can. What they‘re doing is portraying a Scott Peterson who does not exist. He‘s the Scott Peterson who his parents see, who his parents raise, and now the parents are being put on the stand in great detail so that the jury knows this is not about the real Scott, it‘s about the parents. Do you take dream of the parents and the next 50 years of their life and throw it in the garbage because of what Scott did to Laci and they‘re hoping that the answer is no. Spare him...
ABRAMS: Here is Jackie and Lee Peterson, again, speaking just days after Scott‘s arrest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. PETERSON: We‘re a good family. We don‘t have any record of anything...
JACKIE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON‘S MOTHER: He doesn‘t either.
L. PETERSON: ... he doesn‘t. There was...
J. PETERSON: You can look...
L. PETERSON: ... no domestic violence...
J. PETERSON: No drugs.
L. PETERSON: ... No, nothing in his past.
J. PETERSON: No financial problems.
J. PETERSON: 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 enjoyed it to the hilt and they adored each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Now that is when the Peterson‘s were still maintaining that Scott is innocent. They probably still do. But that‘s not what they want to do in front of this jury. Dean Johnson, look, you have been critical of both sides at times in this case as to strategies, et cetera. How do you think the defense is doing in terms of humanizing Scott Peterson and ultimately in terms of saving his life?
DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR: This is an absolute failure. The defense is slowly talking Scott Peterson on to the condemned wing at San Quentin. Remember, this is a very blue-collar jury. What we‘ve heard from Lee Peterson thus far is the story of a privileged life, a kid who lived in a shi-shi (ph) neighborhood of San Diego with a swimming pool, had the best education, all of the opportunities—a stable family.
That‘s not what mitigation is about. Mitigation is about somebody who commits a murder and we hear about his abusive childhood, how he was sold as Charles Manson was for a pitcher of beer by his alcoholic mother. This jury is looking at that testimony and resenting it. They‘re saying Scott Peterson had a better life than I did. There‘s no excuse here for this crime...
JOHNSON: The other thing they‘re doing...
JOHNSON: ... the other thing they‘re doing is they‘re blaming the jury. They‘ve talked about the impact that this prosecution and this verdict has had on this family and two witnesses on behalf of the defense have turned and said, well, after the verdict, we were upset. And the jury is looking at one another like saying so it‘s our fault...
ABRAMS: But Jeanine...
JOHNSON: We only convicted him because of the crime that was committed.
ABRAMS: But Jeanine, very quickly, they kind of have to do that I mean right. I mean they have to say this is the impact that this verdict had on it...
PIRRO: Of course they do. They don‘t have anything else that they can say.
PIRRO: The bottom line is that this jury is looking at Scott Peterson. They hate him for what he did. The defense is trying to counterbalance those pictures of Laci that we saw with pictures of Scott when he was younger...
PIRRO: This is not going work. This is all interesting but not relevant.
ABRAMS: You know—everyone is going to stick around because coming up here listen to this...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON‘S ATTORNEY: We‘ve set the bar extremely high. And that‘s to prove that Scott is not only factually innocent but to figure out exactly who it is that did this horrible thing to Scott‘s wife and to Scott‘s son and to their grandson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You remember that, Mark Geragos—the very public face of Peterson‘s defense team. But today, he‘s not saying much. His co-counsel doing most of the talking for him. Are they that worried that his credibility is shot that Geragos has taken a back seat. And should he have gotten up and apologized to the jurors?
And Laci‘s mother delivered powerful gut wrenching testimony when she took the stand yesterday. You know, some are going to say how can the defense even compete with that?
Plus, bind, torture, kill—that‘s what police say a serial killer has done to eight Wichita area people. Now it appears the so-called “BTK” killer is giving police clues to his identity. Why is the killer providing these Riddler-like clues and why have been they caught him yet?
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Why hasn‘t lead defense attorney Mark Geragos been saying much in this penalty phase of Scott Peterson‘s trial? Coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) walking the dog through there like she would do. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like a way to experience her right now for me. A lot of times I can‘t make it very far. I get part of the way—I certainly can‘t make it to the part of the park where currently there‘s a big poster of her up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The jurors just didn‘t buy it. They just didn‘t buy it. And now I don‘t think you‘re going to see Scott Peterson testifying in this case. He could say to these jurors please forgive me. It‘s not going to happen. He‘s got his appeal and you know, I just don‘t think that he‘s willing to accept responsibility here.
Now, it was Pat Harris, the defense attorney, who addressed the jurors this morning—not Mark Geragos—explaining why they should spare Peterson‘s life. He said Peterson put other people first. He‘s far from someone who cared only cared about himself. Harris closed his opening statement by saying we‘re not going to try to portray him as a saint.
You‘re going hear a lot of good things and in the end, we‘re going to come back and ask you is this a life worth saving? Now before we talk about why Mark Geragos didn‘t get up there and say, look, I know you don‘t believe me. I‘m sorry, et cetera. Jennifer London is at the courthouse with a quick update. Scott Peterson‘s sister is still on the stand, right Jennifer?
LONDON: Dan, that‘s correct. We‘re getting this from inside the courtroom. Keep in mind Mark Geragos for the first time asking questions of this witness, Susan Caudillo. She is Scott sister. The defense put up a picture from Scott and Laci‘s wedding.
Susan talked very fondly about this wedding. She said it was a great event for the family. She said a lot of the nieces were in Laci‘s wedding party. Then she talked about the last Thanksgiving that she ever spent with Scott and Laci. She also described it as a wonderful time and she said that Scott and Laci were always a highlight at family events—Dan.
ABRAMS: Jennifer, just so I‘m clear—that‘s Laci and Scott‘s wedding or Susan Caudillo‘s wedding?
LONDON: No, the picture that the defense put up was a photo of Scott and Laci‘s wedding...
ABRAMS: OK. All right.
LONDON: ... of which Susan was describing.
ABRAMS: Come on. I mean what are they doing? I mean all right—
“My Take” on this—I just learned this a second ago—it‘s nuts to be putting up the wedding as if this was some glorious day in their history. Joe Tacopina, I mean as a defense attorney, when your client has just been convicted of killing your wife, you put up wedding photos?
TACOPINA: No, no. You know, listen Dan, it‘s easy for me to Monday morning quarterback, but I‘ve got to tell you...
ABRAMS: It‘s easier for me. You do this stuff...
TACOPINA: Yes, I know. That‘s why I restrain myself. But I‘ve got to tell you, it goes all the way back to the opening statement. One thing a trial lawyer never does—both as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer, you don‘t make promises in the opening that you can‘t fulfill. This is not a politician‘s election where you make your promises, they vote, and then you fulfill them or not.
TACOPINA: You have to fulfill the promises before they vote in this situation, so I don‘t know why this is happening now. It‘s another one of these great mysteries. I don‘t know why a boat was brought into the yard with a body of, you know, a stuffed mannequin body. But I‘ve got to tell you, I mean the reason that Mark Geragos is not standing up for most of this proceeding and I guarantee you will not probably make the summation here in this phase is because of those broken promises...
TACOPINA: I mean he has zero credibility with this jury.
ABRAMS: I completely agree with Joe, Jeanine, but why not recognize that and embrace it and say, look, I get it ladies and gentlemen. I heard you. I heard you loud and clear. I‘m not going to sit here and argue to you that Scott Peterson is innocent. I don‘t agree with your verdict, but I accept it. And in a way say, look, let‘s move on from there. Instead, you just have the sort of, you know, the man that they didn‘t believe sitting there lurking at the defense table.
PIRRO: What has happened in this case, Dan is that the defense lost all of its energy once Amber Frey took the stand. She took the stand and the whole courtroom—the karma changed. And it‘s been the same every since. Everything went downhill. Geragos never brought in what he promised he would bring in, that the baby was born alive, that Scott was stone cold innocent...
ABRAMS: But with that in mind...
PIRRO: ... he‘s lost credibility.
ABRAMS: But with that in mind, should he have said look, I get it. I hear you...
ABRAMS: ... and made him the one...
PIRRO: No question he should have said it. He should be on his knees in front of this jury saying I got it wrong. You got it right. Here we are. What are we going do now with this human being?
ABRAMS: And yet Daniel Horowitz in many of these cases, a specialist, outsiders are called in, in the penalty phase to come and say yes, I know. All right, so you didn‘t believe the other lawyer, let‘s get a fresh start here.
HOROWITZ: Right. What happened is that Pat Harris said to the jury we disagree with your verdict. But let‘s move on. And the jury seemed to acknowledge that. That was OK. But I‘m very disturbed about what‘s happening right now with Mark Geragos. When he got up and started to question this witness, I got a queasy feeling and I like Mark Geragos personally. And I think the jury must have felt uncomfortable with him.
You know, he‘s like the proxy, the stand-in for Scott. They sit next to each other. They whisper in each other‘s ears. And now to talk about this wedding is very disturbing. It‘s almost like Scott is saying I loved her.
ABRAMS: He also...
PIRRO: ... but it‘s bizarre.
ABRAMS: You can‘t have him play a minor role.
PIRRO: It‘s like saying here‘s the woman that I killed. Here she is in her most vulnerable moment when I said I would love and protect her for life. This is the woman that I killed. Now save my life when I took hers.
ABRAMS: Look, Jennifer is going to join us in a minute. We‘re going to keep—we‘re keeping going with this. The legal team is going to stick around. Jennifer, Dean, I‘m coming to you in a minute—everyone‘s here. We‘re going to talk more about what are they doing—pictures of Laci and Scott‘s wedding?
And when Laci‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, took the stand, she looked her son-in-law in the eye and literally screamed at him for putting her daughter in the bay—testimony of a grieving mother bringing jurors hardly surprising to tears. Even with more than a dozen witnesses, they may have more, is there anything the defense can do to counter that?
ABRAMS: Does this beautiful little face look familiar? How about that one? Starts to look like Laci there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- little Laci Peterson as a little baby girl—photos that were played at the memorial service. But photos the jury did not see—could not see. The judge ruled that only pictures of Laci as an adult could be shown to this jury in this penalty phase of the case and so all of these pictures are seen by you, seen at the memorial, but not seen by these jurors who are deciding whether Scott Peterson lives or dies.
But, on the other hand, pictures of Scott Peterson as a child—as a little boy are fair game. The defense is allowed to show pictures of Scott Peterson. Dean Johnson, you know, it makes—I guess it makes sense. Scott Peterson is the one on trial here, et cetera. But why not let the prosecutors also show pictures of Laci as a young girl?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, those are so many discretionary calls by the judge. And because Scott Peterson is on trial the judges give the defense every deference. But I‘ve got—you know, I‘ve got to say here that the defense is really shooting itself in the foot so far with what it‘s presented...
JOHNSON: ... about Scott Peterson. We really have two pictures of Scott Peterson here—the lying philanderer presented by the prosecution, and now the spoiled rich kid. They need to talk about just one or two acts of simple empathy or sympathy that this man is capable of...
ABRAMS: All right...
JOHNSON: ... so we can get a human picture of him...
JOHNSON: ... like we did of Laci.
ABRAMS: Sorry to interrupt you Dean. Jennifer London has got an update—Jennifer.
LONDON: Dan, we are just learning that court is over for the day. It
appears to have ended rather abruptly. The last question Mark Geragos
asked the witness, Susan Caudillo, Scott Peterson‘s brother, was what
effect would it have on your family if this jury gave Scott Peterson the
death sentence. Her answer—she started to get emotional—she said it
would kill her parents. She said she didn‘t think that they would make it
ABRAMS: All right. Jeanine Pirro, that‘s the sort of thing you hear very often in these penalty phases, right?
PIRRO: Right. Right. You hear about the impact of the death of Scott Peterson and what it would be on his family. But I think when you get down to it this jury is going to say what has Scott Peterson done in his life that counterbalances the evil that he has committed that this jury has found him guilty of beyond a reasonable doubt. I haven‘t heard anything yet. They may feel badly for his parents, but they also feel badly for Laci‘s...
ABRAMS: Joe Tacopina, you represent a lot of shi-shi (ph) upper class clients and stuff and I‘m sure in a lot of cases you have to try and humanize them. How do you do it?
TACOPINA: Yes, it‘s actually one of the bigger challenges, especially when you go to trial before a jury. You don‘t want them to appear to be these, you know, well-to-do sort of folks who look condescending down on others. And it‘s sometimes the most difficult task, even if they don‘t testify, just the way they conduct themselves.
I mean the way Scott Peterson conducted himself in this case—smug and laughing. Even if he‘s—was stone cold innocent—is that the word?
TACOPINA: Even if he‘s stone cold innocent, he shouldn‘t be laughing at this trial, not even for a second. And what you really need to do is just make sure you let them know that this is—the people who generally comprise a jury are 12 people from different walks of life who are not going to appreciate someone who is privileged and more privileged than them and are not going to be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt Dan.
ABRAMS: All right. I‘ve got to take a quick break here. The court is done for the day. The defense has now called five witnesses in this penalty phase, but that‘s the defense. Remember, the prosecution put on a short, powerful case, testimony ending—Laci‘s mother keeps looking over at Scott, talking directly to him, telling him that murder was—shouldn‘t have been the option. That divorce is always an option. But, you know, the question is going to be, can the defense do anything, anything to counter that? So far, it sure doesn‘t sound like they‘re doing a very good job.
And a serial killer suspected of killing least eight people since the 1970‘s on the loose. Now police are coming forward releasing information from letters the killer has supposedly sent it seems in hopes that they‘ll track him down. What is the killer doing? And why haven‘t they nabbed him? It‘s coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Scott Peterson‘s father didn‘t lead many jurors to overtly cry, but Laci‘s mother sure did. We‘ll look back at Sharon Rocha‘s emotional testimony. We‘ve got a live report coming up, plus some news to report as well, but first, the headlines.
ABRAMS: Testimony is over for the day in the penalty phase of Scott Peterson‘s murder trial. Jennifer London is there and she has got some news to report—Jennifer.
LONDON: Dan, Judge Delucchi telling the jury just before he sent them home today that there will be a short witness list tomorrow and they can expect the defense‘s case to go through Monday. Judge Delucchi did not elaborate as to who will testify today. Earlier during opening statements, Pat Harris alluded to a number of witnesses that will testify over the course of the defense‘s case. He mentioned roommates of Scott Peterson‘s from college, his golf instructor, a professor of Scott‘s. So we‘ll have to wait and see who takes the stand tomorrow.
ABRAMS: Yes. We‘re going to hear that Scott Peterson was a very attentive waiter apparently as well. Jennifer London, thanks very much for your great reporting. Appreciate it.
All right. It was really yesterday was the really powerful testimony. It was the family of Laci Peterson getting up on the witness stand and talking about their loss, et cetera. It—Sharon Rocha, the mother‘s testimony probably sounded something like this...
(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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: God, you‘ve got to imagine how difficult that was. Yesterday she was the chief witness for the prosecution, confronted Peterson in court, sort of yelling at him apparently directly at one point. She wanted to be a mother—divorce is always an option—not murder is the quote. Other members of the family took the stand—Laci‘s brother, Brent Rocha, sister, Amy, Ron Grantski, stepfather and sort of father figure for Laci.
The question is, you know, is that going be impossible to overcome when you‘re talking about is Scott Peterson going get the death penalty? Daniel Horowitz, you‘ve been involved in a lot of these cases. You‘ve been involved in a lot of the cases in California. You tell us that none of your clients have ever been sentenced to death. In the cases that you‘ve been involved in, have you had, I assume you probably have had prosecution cases where you had very emotional families saying, look, this is killing us, it‘s tearing us apart.
HOROWITZ: Yes, Dan, I‘ve had families that are just as deeply wounded and expressed it with such horror that I couldn‘t stand to be in the courtroom.
ABRAMS: How do you overcome it...
HOROWITZ: I‘ve had much worse—I—what I do and what my partner Jim Gila (ph) does, we go right in front of the jury and we spend five, 10 minutes saying we feel this too. It hurts us also. And we recognize how outraged you are and unforgivable this crime is. But please listen to the other side. You promised that death is not automatic here. Let us give you something to hang on to, to spare our client‘s life. We don‘t say save a life—we say spare his life.
ABRAMS: You know, Dean, it‘s got to be real tough for the defense sometimes to completely shift gears from going—from saying my client didn‘t do it. Those people over there are basically telling lies about my client. Don‘t believe the witnesses—to suddenly having to take this huge dose of humility where you have to say, OK, I get it.
JOHNSON: Oh, yes, this is probably the most difficult position a defense attorney can be in. And even in the case of some of the most heinous killers, you can talk about abuse as a child, about a culture of violence. Sometimes somebody like Scott Peterson who‘s lived almost a perfect life is the most difficult person to defend. But they can do it just by bringing out the simple acts of kindness, the ability to have some empathy, some sympathy. Things like helping Karen Servos (ph) with her Christmas decorations—that sort of thing is the sort of thing that will impress this jury. You can do it.
ABRAMS: Before I go to Laci‘s mother I want to read a little more of the testimony. Joe, if you‘re the defense attorney preparing for this stage of the case, do you basically go through with your client and say, look, tell me every single good thing that you can remember that you‘ve ever done in your life.
TACOPINA: Well, you know, I think brevity here is going to be a badge of wiseness Dan. I don‘t think putting on 12 witnesses or 15 witnesses to say, you know, he came into my candy store and he never stole anything, or you know, I saw him and Laci and I never saw him hit her. That is not going to carry the day here. I think you take a few highlights—you do what—what is clearly happening here, Dan, which is they are trying to make this the sympathy of the parents. This will kill my parents the sister said right before she got off of the stand. That‘s what the defense here wants...
ABRAMS: Why are you shaking your head?
PIRRO: I‘m shaking my head Dan because...
TACOPINA: Because I‘m right Jeanine...
PIRRO: ... this jury—no, Joe, I do like you but you‘re not right on this one. This jury has chosen not to believe the parents of Scott Peterson...
PIRRO: And so as a result of that, they‘re not going say oh let‘s spare him for his parents.
TACOPINA: No, that‘s different...
TACOPINA: Jeanine, that‘s different. They have a motive to hedge the truth on behalf of their son. They have a motive to believe...
PIRRO: You know what...
TACOPINA: That don‘t—doesn‘t mean that they want them to suffer.
They didn‘t do anything wrong in this case...
PIRRO: They don‘t want to be lied to...
TACOPINA: They didn‘t...
PIRRO: The jury doesn‘t want to be lied to...
TACOPINA: Oh, they didn‘t...
PIRRO: The jury doesn‘t want to be lied to. The jury...
TACOPINA: The parents didn‘t lie...
PIRRO: ... based on their verdict, Joe, decided that it was a lie and that it wasn‘t the truth. Bottom line, is there any evidence that they counterbalances the evil that he‘s done? I haven‘t heard...
TACOPINA: Well, you‘re going to get human emotion and you‘re also going to get some lingering doubt.
ABRAMS: Speaking of human emotion—and we‘ll put up the definition of lingering doubt...
TACOPINA: And North California also Dan...
ABRAMS: Laci‘s mother‘s testimony, all right? I knew in my soul, I knew they had been found. And then later when I was told it would be several days before they were identified, and I asked why. I was told she didn‘t have a head and I didn‘t believe it. I just dropped to the floor and I laid on the floor. It never occurred to me what condition she might be in.
Number 11 -- Laci always got motion sickness and you knew that and that—looking at Scott Peterson—and you knew that and that‘s the place that you took her, and you put her in the bay, and you knew she‘d be sick for eternity and you did that to her anyway. Daniel, you were in the courtroom when some of this was happening.
Daniel, you were in the courtroom when some of this was happening.
You know, it‘s just tough. I mean it‘s tough for me to read it.
HOROWITZ: Dan, it‘s her private hell. I can imagine that these images of her daughter almost alive but skeletal with no arms trying to reach Conner. It makes no sense and yet it makes such emotional sense. It really turned this into a killing jury if they weren‘t already there. The burden is now on the defense to undo that.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right—put up—can—well, the lingering doubt we‘ll get to later. Basically it just means that if there‘s any—anything in between beyond a reasonable doubt and any doubt at all—there it is—that‘s what the judge told the jurors. And that as Joe Tacopina said earlier—you know, and I agree with him on this—that could be the only reason that this jury decides—look, I think it‘s going to be tough to get...
TACOPINA: That‘s it.
ABRAMS: ... 12 jurors unanimously to vote for death...
ABRAMS: ... but and if they don‘t, that‘s going to be the reason. Because they say, you know what, I‘m not sure how this happened and that in their minds might be lingering doubt.
All right. Jeanine Pirro, Joe Tacopina, Daniel Horowitz and Dean Johnson, thanks a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up—a serial killer who terrorized Kansas for years back in the spotlight after vanishing for 20 years. He‘s now sending bizarre clues to police apparently about himself and the murders he committed and they believe all the clues are real.
And last night, I said universities that accept federal funding shouldn‘t get away with keeping military recruiters off of their campus. One of you thinks my logic means the KKK would be able to recruit there as well. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I‘ll have a little response...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What‘s the point big boy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anybody ever told you, you have a serious impulse control problem?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: It‘s something straight out of the movie “Batman Forever”. Who can forget “The Riddler” with his obtuse clues? Now one of America‘s most wanted serial killers, “BTK” as he calls himself for bind, torture, and kill, is at it again but this time leaving specific clues about his background. Here‘s Ken Landwehr, Wichita, Kansas police chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF KEN LANDWEHR, WICHITA, KANSAS POLICE DEPT.: He was born in 1939, which would make his current age 64 or 65. He has participated in outdoor hobbies including hunting, fishing, and camping. And he has had a lifetime fascination with railroads and trains.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And that‘s not all. The killer says he had a cousin named Susan who moved to Missouri, that his first job was as an electro mechanic. After more tech school, he says he worked repairing copiers and business equipment and often had to travel. 1966, moved back with his mother. Admits to soliciting prostitutes.
The police chief seems to believe it‘s valid information. The killer is thought to be responsible for eight murders in all. Resurfaced back in March after 25 years of silence, sending a local Wichita paper a Xerox copy of a driver‘s license and pictures of one of his alleged victims.
Joining us now to figure all this out is Pat Brown, a well-known criminal profiler who is independently working on the “BTK” case and author of “Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers”. Pat, what‘s this guy up to?
PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: I think he‘s playing games just like he‘s always been playing games. It‘s interesting when he started out in 1974 with the Otero murders, he sent a letter after that and he said what happened at the murder and then he said all kinds of strange things about oh, I have this monster inside me and I can‘t stop myself and all kinds of things, kind of like if you read any serial killer book, you might just pull it right out of there.
And then he sent poetry to people. You know, all of the things he‘s done has been some kind of game and teasing. And now he‘s supposedly has given all the information about his life to the point where you can just point over there and say it‘s got be that guy. No...
ABRAMS: I mean well look, let‘s show some more of the stuff...
ABRAMS: ... about the clues. His grandfather played the fiddle and died of lung disease. In the early 1950‘s he says he built and operated a ham radio, had a female Hispanic acquaintance named Petra, who had a younger sister named Tina. Around 1960, he went to tech military school, then joined the military for active duty. Discharged in 1966. I mean look, Pat, it seems to me that you don‘t buy that this is valid information, but it sure sounds like the police do.
BROWN: Well that‘s really hard to understand. A serial killer is a psychopath and a psychopath is usually a pathological liar. So you can‘t believe anything he says anyway. And the type of things he‘s saying, if they were all true, as I said before, we would be able to identify him very, very quickly.
But what I‘m guessing he‘s doing is if you know anything about message boards, when this case came out, there‘s a number of message boards out there, tons of people on them and they‘re discussing this case night and day and all of these subjects have come up. Some people thought maybe the guy played the fiddle or knew somebody who played the fiddle because of the “Oh, Death” song that was played by fiddlers. And people surmised he was in the military. I myself surmised that. So there‘s all kinds of things we‘ve been talking about and my guess is this guy is just going out and building a history for himself.
ABRAMS: But is it possible he just wants to get caught?
ABRAMS: Why not?
BROWN: Why would he want to get caught? If he wants to—he doesn‘t need to get caught. He can just walk in the police station and say hey, guys, it‘s me...
ABRAMS: Yes, but you know—but I read about these serial killers who view it as a game to a certain degree, at least some of them. Why couldn‘t this be part of the game?
BROWN: It‘s a game but serial killers like to win their games. He doesn‘t want to set up himself to lose; he‘ll look like an idiot. He‘s not that stupid.
ABRAMS: But maybe he‘s—I don‘t know. I mean this is a long time ago. I‘m just speculating maybe he‘s too told go out there and not fit enough to continue his murderous ways...
ABRAMS: ... and instead is looking for—I‘m just guessing because...
ABRAMS: ... and I only say this stuff because the police seem to be viewing it as so credible.
BROWN: Right. Well I agree that he might not want to kill anymore, but that he doesn‘t want to continue playing his games, I don‘t believe. I think he‘s having a great time playing his games and watching the police run all over the place and sending them on wild goose chases.
Why the police would say these are facts about the “BTK” make no sense
because you can only say they‘re facts if you actually know who the “BTK”
strangler is, so they‘re misleading the public if they‘re going to claim
this is fact. They should say to the public—if you know anything that -
· know anybody has any of these characteristics...
BROWN: ... fine, give us information, but we‘re not sure this is true...
BROWN: ... so please keep those other tips coming in.
ABRAMS: And if you have any information on this case, please call CrimeStoppers...
ABRAMS: ... 316-267-2111 or toll-free at 1-866-SOLVBTK or you can e-mail them at email@example.com. This is a program that has helped solve crimes as all of my viewers know in the past.
Pat Brown, good so see you. Thanks again for coming on.
BROWN: My pleasure Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up—you know I hear a lot of legal analysts talking about how ridiculous it is, how much the judge is letting the defense do as part of Scott Peterson‘s penalty phase—I say let them do everything they want—I don‘t know if it‘s good strategy, but why are people yelling and screaming as if he‘s going to be walking out the door based on defense rulings? It‘s my “Closing Argument” and some of your e-mails—boy a lot of you very upset with me about a couple of stories we‘ve been covering lately.
ABRAMS: Coming up, one of you asks do I butt in and interrupt our guests regularly or was last night‘s show just an isolated incident. Your e-mails coming up next with limited interruption.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—the trivialization of the death penalty in the Scott Peterson case. I‘m hearing some bloodthirsty hysteria from certain legal analysts. You would think that Peterson might walk free if he‘s not executed. He is not going anywhere, ever, as long as his appeals fail. The choices are life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Yet some are hollering why is the defense being allowed to discuss Scott Peterson‘s childhood. Why is Peterson‘s father testifying about this or that? Chill out. The reason—because if all a defendant was judged on was his act in that particular case almost every murderer eligible for the death penalty would get executed. All murderers have committed horrible acts and have brought great pain to other families.
Now my regular viewers know I support the death penalty, but I believe it should be reserved for the worst of the worst and not just a sentencing option. So what‘s wrong with letting jurors hear a lot about who Scott Peterson is? The question here is not is he guilty. It is not does he deserve a severe penalty. Those questions have been answered.
Yes and yes. The evidence was overwhelming. Now the question is does he deserve to die. And the facts and circumstances of the crime are just one element. These jurors are allowed to consider Peterson‘s past and judging whether he should lose his life. There is no such thing as a mandatory death sentence. That doesn‘t mean that deviling into every cranny of Scott Peterson‘s past is a good strategy, but there‘s no reason for some who call themselves victims‘ rights advocates to be so outraged.
Give the jurors more credit. They‘ve earned it. They‘ll be able to sort the legal wheat from the chaff. You know, I recognize that sometimes coverage of trials can seem too similar to coverage of sporting events, the highs, the lows, the good calls, the bad ones. There maybe should be something different a little bit when we‘re talking about life and death.
I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night we told you a federal appeals court ruled that university law schools can bar military recruiters because of the don‘t ask/don‘t tell policy from their campus and yet expect to continue to receive federal aid. I said that all the recruiters are asking for is a level playing field with other recruiters. I don‘t see it as a First Amendment issue if they want the federal funds to allow the federal government to recruit like everyone else. Lots of e-mails.
Keith Brock, “You said this is not a matter of free speech. Well it speaks loud and clear to me that the military does not want me or any other gay law school students. You said I think the law schools took it a step too far. I really hope you‘re smarter than you pretend to be on television. I am almost positive that you would not be making such a ridiculous statement if you were applying for a job and the recruiters interviewing you had a policy against hiring you based upon your race or religion.”
Look, I said I don‘t support the don‘t ask/don‘t tell policy, but this is not about race or religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the military‘s policy. They would not if it was based on race or religion.
Steve Scott, “By your analogy, a university, no matter its philosophical belief, should allow the KKK a room to recruit as well.”
No, they can bar the KKK and they can bar the U.S. military, but then they shouldn‘t expect to get federal funds or donations from races. And to compare allowing our military on campus with the KKK, you know, obviously just insulting.
Rapid City, South Dakota, retired Air Force Master Sergeant Tim
Sanders. “The fact that these colleges or universities receive federal
funds should in no way to obligate—blackmail might be more appropriate -
· them to allow or provide whatever assistance to the military recruitment program unless those federal funds provided are explicitly for military recruitment.”
They‘re not assisting. I said let them protest. Just give them the same right to recruit.
First year law student Kyle Faget in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “So if a recruiter openly discriminates, so does the law school by extension. Any school that does not want to endorse discrimination should be allowed to opt out of JAG recruiting.”
The law school can do what they want, but they can‘t expect that there won‘t be repercussions when you keep the U.S. military out. Remember, it is the U.S. military.
Wayne Poling in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia writes “No one is forcing the Ivy League schools to accept the military recruiting on campus. The schools have every right to prohibit the recruiters if they want and the government has every right to withhold federal funding if the schools don‘t allow recruiters on campus. Life is all about choices and consequences.”
One of my guests, a law professor at Georgetown University, said that she was gay and the don‘t ask/don‘t tell is an affront to her and other gay students as well. Cindy Simon in New York City, “Because she is gay and there are gay persons on campus who may be offended or even uncomfortable, her position is that everybody else should have to forgo convenient access to military recruiters and military recruiters should be denied access to students looking at career opportunities because the military‘s policy offends her?”
Finally, Meghan C. writes about me. “In the course of 20 minutes the host has repeatedly interrupted and cut off his guests. Subsequent rebuttals by the host sound more as if he is on a soapbox allowing himself the opportunity to rave. I‘m curious to know if this is common practice or perhaps I just caught the show on a not-so-good day.”
No, Meghan, it was actually a very good show and a great day. We have limited time to keep the conversation on point. Guests try filibusters. You will see me interrupting and cutting off at times.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of every show.
Coming up next “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. See you back here tomorrow.
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