Guest: Daniel Horowitz, William Fallon, Anne Bremner, Stacey Honowitz, Davidson Goldin
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Scott Peterson is a convicted murder, but listening to his friends and family on the stand, you might never believe it.
ABRAMS (voice-over): From a friend who says Peterson‘s mother won‘t survive if he‘s put to death to another who remembered how Scott invited him to eat lunch with him when he was the new kid at school. Jurors hear a very different side of the man convicted of killing his wife.
BOY: Now that we‘ve had sex about three times, if I should use like a condom or something.
LAFAVE: Oh, you‘re being weird.
ABRAMS: The Florida teacher accused of having sex with her 14-year-old student now says she was insane. We‘ve got tapes of their phone calls. We ask would a court react differently if a man tried to explain away a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl? Is there a double standard?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi every one. First up on the docket: If you‘d been in
court today and didn‘t know that Scott Peterson was convicted of killing
has wife and unborn son, you‘d probably be convinced that he was—quote -
· “conscientious and caring, genuine and generous, even-keeled and gentle, polite and respectful.”
The defense team called witness after witness to tell jurors the other side of Scott Peterson—one talking of Peterson‘s visits to orphanages in Tijuana and his involvement with students against drunk driving in high school. Another noting Peterson was voted friendliest by his eighth grade class. In a moment we‘ll talk about whether any of this is actually going to help spare Peterson‘s life.
But first, MSNBC‘s Jennifer London has been inside the courtroom. So Jennifer what is going on now?
JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well Dan court is adjourned for the day. We heard from six witnesses total today—perhaps some of the most powerful testimony coming from Scott Peterson‘s sister-in-law Janey Peterson. She has been a very outspoken supporter of Scott‘s throughout this entire trial, often speaking publicly maintaining that Scott is innocent. She did break down several times on the stand today as she recalled memories of Scott.
She said some of his nicknames included “the kid”, “Scooter”, and “Spalding”. Scott Peterson for his part also became emotional during her testimony. He bowed his head. I saw him wipe his face and eyes with a tissue. Janey said that since Scott Peterson has been in prison, he‘s taught her a lot. He‘s taught her the value of writing a letter.
He‘s given her a desire to read books. The defense trying to focus on what positive things could come out of Scott‘s life if the jury should decide not to sentence Scott to death. When Janey Peterson was asked what effect the death penalty would have on the family, she got very quiet.
She started to sob, and she said that she thinks everyone that has been following this case that is in this courtroom has been taught the value of life. She says we would give up everything, all our money, our house, every stitch of clothing just to have life. She said it is so valuable—Dan.
ABRAMS: All right. So Jennifer, we heard today from Janey. We also heard from Peterson‘s friend of 17 years, his friend from sixth to eighth grade, a friend of his mother‘s, his brother-in-law, his half-brother, and the wife of one of his brothers. How far along are we in terms of the defense case?
LONDON: Well, Judge Delucchi told the jury today before he sent them home that tomorrow would be a half-day. They can expect to hear from three witnesses. He did say that the defense‘s case could go through Tuesday. And we know from Pat Harris‘ opening statements that we have yet to hear from Scott‘s mother Jackie. She will be the final witness, so Dan this could go on through this coming Tuesday.
ABRAMS: Jennifer London thanks very much. Appreciate it.
“My Take”—the defense has to be really careful here that they do not have too many people telling jurors he is not the man you seem to believe he is. Yes, they should be talking about the positive side of Peterson‘s life and the effect his execution would have on his family, but hearing about flips on the trampoline, pheasant hunting, how good a golfer he was, that he was a designated driver in high school, that he called his father “chief”. I don‘t know that any of this is particularly helpful.
My legal team is here—former prosecutor Bill Fallon, criminal defense attorneys Daniel Horowitz, who was in court today, and prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner, who is also at the courthouse. All right, look, Daniel, you have done a lot of these cases where you have won them all. Every time you have been able to figure out a way to get these jurors not to vote for death.
Is this the way to do it? Talking about his nickname as “Scooter” and used to call dad “chief”. I mean this just seems to me that you are running the risk of overkill here in too many people coming in and saying he was so great, he was so great. Well if he was so great and he had such a nice upbringing, a lot of these jurors may say you know, what happened?
DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Dan, it‘s almost an example of too much but not enough. What I‘m lacking, when I sit there, it is like being in a movie. You want a real tearjerker. You want your gut to be wretched just one time or twice and all you get is fluff. I am hearing all these nice things, but I am not feeling enough. Still, I think that the idea that these are regular, normal people going on the stand saying, I value Scott, if you kill him, it will hurt me, it might turn the tide so they don‘t execute Scott Peterson.
ABRAMS: One of those people, Aaron Fritz, a friend of Scott Peterson‘s for 17 years said from the day I met him throughout our friendship, the Scott Peterson I know is the kind of person you respect and admire. And if I find myself in a situation wondering, gosh, what to do, he was the kind of person that I would try to emulate.
You know, I don‘t know. Bill Fallon, it seems to me that maybe the defense would be better off talking about the difficulties Scott Peterson had in his life rather than have all these people coming up and saying he was so great. Oh I want to emulate him. So you know, next time I‘m having some problems, I‘m going to think about what would Scott do.
WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Dan, you know, I think what‘s missing here, as I said, the balance. We have Sharon Rocha discussing how horrified, how the hole that she has in her heart and soul because of this. We have these other people talking about oh Scott called daddy “chief” and he was a member of like Students Against Drunk Driving. It just doesn‘t seem to have any kind of sense of balance or proportionally for what he is facing.
I would hope they got up there and said there was this little kid—I don‘t want to hear about his croupier (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Monte Carlo and those pictures—I am shocked by that. But all of a sudden, you might say and guess what, because something went wrong, because he took a left turn or right turn that we didn‘t see, let‘s not kill another person. I‘d like them to say the devastating loss of Laci, the devastating loss to all of us of Conner...
FALLON: ... the potential, and I just don‘t think they are concentrating enough. Maybe they have nothing to do. Maybe Geragos and the crew have nothing good to say about him. And contrary to what Jennifer said, my understanding is he has never really showed emotion. He showed no emotion when his parents were on the stand kind of for their loss. I think he is a cold, narcissistic murderer who I‘m going to say before this I thought was going to be clearly—not clearly, you never know, not a death penalty case. I think they‘re going down a path that makes it closer even though the jury came back second degree on the child to say, you know what, maybe this guy deserves to die because no one knows this man and he is a monster.
ABRAMS: Yes. You know, let me read you another—this is another friend of the family—Peterson‘s friend from sixth to eighth grade who testified and he said—Britton Scheibe—I don‘t know if that‘s the correct pronunciation, but...
There‘s no way this can be the same Scott Peterson I knew. Of all the people I grew up with and knew he‘s the last person that could ever do this based on the person I knew back in those days.
Anne Bremner, I‘m we‘re hearing it again and again and again. This was not the guy I knew. This is not the guy I knew. This is not the guy I knew...
ANNE BREMNER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Right.
ABRAMS: Help or hurt? Do they need more of the difficulties Scott Peterson had throughout his life?
BREMNER: You are absolutely right, Dan. Because the answer to the question is he‘s really two people so—and the jury knows him. Pat Harris said in his opening statement, you don‘t know Scott Peterson. The jury does. They know that he‘s been two people. So I think it‘s more important to show something like difficulties like you said because right now I think it‘s a death case. I think it‘s a death penalty verdict.
ABRAMS: Yes. You know, the bottom line is there are two Scott Petersons it sounds like. And you know, you‘re not allowed to separate them out when it comes to the punishment, but that‘s the sort of thing that could help is to sort of talk about that. You know, I don‘t know, talk about split personality. Talk about something.
ABRAMS: All right...
ABRAMS: Everyone is going to stick around for a moment because when we come back, we‘re going to compare, you know, what Scott Peterson said in some of the evidence that came in, in court versus what some of the friends, et cetera, are saying about him now.
And a Florida teacher now says she was legally insane when she had sex with her 14-year-old male student. Insane. Well, what if the tables were turned and it was a male teacher being accused? We would call him a pervert, right?
Plus, New York City‘s former top cop, Bernard Kerik, is President Bush‘s choice to take over as homeland security secretary.
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, more of our coverage of the penalty phase in the Scott Peterson case in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, CO-ANCHOR, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”: Did you ever hit her? Did you ever injure her?
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: No, no, my God no. Violence towards women is unapproachable. It is the most disgusting act to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Well, that‘s the evidence that came out during the trial. Remember, the jury doesn‘t believe that. They don‘t believe that he actually feels that way. Today one of the defense witnesses in the penalty phase, a friend of Peterson‘s from grade school, said this.
Quote—“From what I recall of Scott, he‘s not a fake person. What you see is what you get. He doesn‘t do things for personal accolades or try to get any benefit for himself. He‘s a genuinely friendly person. Polite to other people, never had a bad thing to say. I would consider someone like that to be genuine.”
OK. Genuine. Remember, the Amber Frey tapes? The jurors have heard this stuff. Quickly just as a reminder here, and I am just doing this because this is what the jurors have heard. This is when Scott Peterson is in Modesto talking to Amber Frey saying this...
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: How was your New Year‘s Eve?
S. PETERSON: It‘s good. I‘m just—everyone is in the bar now so I came out in an alley, a quiet alley. Isn‘t that nice?
FREY: Yes it is. I can hear you...
FREY: Very good.
S. PETERSON: It‘s pretty awesome. Fireworks there at the Eiffel Tower. A mass of people playing American pop songs.
ABRAMS: I don‘t—I mean Bill Fallon, it just seems to me to try to convince these jurors that Scott Peterson is genuine, and I understand—look this is that—the perception of this particular witness and that‘s fine, but it seems to me that the lawyers maybe should have said to some of these witnesses, look, there are certain issues we should stay away from here. Let‘s stay away from talking about Scott Peterson‘s you know, honesty and his ability to be genuine, et cetera, because on that issue, I mean you know, even the defense was conceding in the guilt phase that he was a liar.
FALLON: Dan, that‘s what I don‘t understand. My favorite term is they seem mental in this case. I do not know why the defense attorneys put these people on to give these statements. Remember Geragos‘ one move that was unsuccessful was trying to get a new jury here because this jury knows better than anybody just what—not only that he was a liar, but that he was a murdering liar.
I think it‘s interesting, though. What you just showed really probably spoke to this jury. They said you know we don‘t mind that he‘s singing and dancing to Amber Frey. We mind that he has just murdered his wife and his child-to-be and he can be so happy and upbeat. He smiled during some of the testimony that went on today.
This is just—he has inappropriate reactions. I think somebody should get up there and hopefully says in the closing from the defense perspective anyway you know what, this is a person who has a problem. Not only does he have a problem because you found him to be the murderer that he is, but he has a problem grasping reality. Please do not send him away. Do not do that to him—I mean and his family. Don‘t end his life. Send him away for life.
ABRAMS: Daniel, are we just...
HOROWITZ: That‘s not what‘s going on.
ABRAMS: Are we being too tough on the defense here?
HOROWITZ: Are we seeing what, Dan?
ABRAMS: Are we being too tough on the defense here?
HOROWITZ: Yes, much too tough. Look, Scott is showing emotion in that courtroom. He is reacting to his family members. He‘s reacting to the little cute things like, OK, Dan, we heard he that called his father “chief”. Scott reacted and Lee Peterson reacted.
The jury is seeing that this is a family. Their waters don‘t seem to run that deep. You don‘t see the kind of warmth that I‘m used to in a family, but there is warmth. There is family, and that‘s about as real as you can be.
ABRAMS: ... one of the chief reasons that they might decide not to execute would be the impact it would have on the family. I mean again and again, they are asked, what impact do you think it would have on family members? Let‘s go to number nine if we can.
This is John Peterson talking here. You know, this is Scott‘s half-brother. He says I can‘t even—what affect the death would have—I can‘t even imagine it. I‘d be devastated. I can‘t even imagine. I‘d be wrecked. My little brother, I love him.
How about the effect it would have on your parents?
I don‘t even want to go there.
I mean that‘s the good—when I say the good stuff, meaning as a strategic matter, Anne Bremner that‘s what this defense team...
ABRAMS: ... needs to be doing in part.
BREMNER: It is, except that it can be turned around because look at the loss with Laci. Look what...
ABRAMS: ... look, you can never get over that though. I mean...
ABRAMS: ... we‘re at a point where these jurors believe he killed Laci.
ABRAMS: OK. Now you‘ve got to do something.
ABRAMS: You can‘t just throw your arms up and say...
BREMNER: And Dan—right. And Dan, what they are doing is the best that they can do. It‘s the best that they can do, but you know, they‘ve got to have something more I think at this phase of the case because the jury has been so adamant. You heard them when they were polled. You know, is this your verdict? Yes. I mean...
BREMNER: ... they won‘t look at him. And you‘ve got a very angry jury right now...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dan...
BREMNER: ... and they‘ve got to turn that around.
ABRAMS: All right, let me just go to Daniel for one second. Daniel, you‘re there. You‘re looking at these jurors. Are they going to vote unanimously to execute, do you think? I mean I know you‘re predicting...
HOROWITZ: I don‘t think so.
ABRAMS: You don‘t think so?
HOROWITZ: I don‘t think so. Dan, juror number two, who is a Catholic who had to consult his priest before he could sit on this jury looked at Geragos as they walked in this morning and during this testimony that we have been hearing the jurors are reacting emotionally. Janey, when she left the stand, she—the jurors‘ eyes followed her.
HOROWITZ: Every single juror looked at her as she walked off the stand and sat in her seat.
ABRAMS: I‘ll be surprised...
HOROWITZ: They are making headway. And Dan...
HOROWITZ: ... I cried during two of these witnesses‘ testimony. It‘s working even though it‘s not the best I have ever seen.
ABRAMS: All right. Well look, I agree with you, Daniel. I think it‘s going to be very hard for these prosecutors to get a unanimous jury to find the death penalty...
FALLON: But Dan, they are not going to feel bad for the Rochas. This jury has found the Rochas were as lying as their son...
ABRAMS: No, you mean the Petersons. You mean the Petersons...
FALLON: Excuse me, the Petersons.
FALLON: They love the Rochas and they don‘t care for the Petersons.
ABRAMS: Bill Fallon, I‘ve got to wrap it up—Bill Fallon and Daniel Horowitz, thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Anne is going to join us for a different segment.
Coming up, she made her 14-year-old boyfriend pinky promise when asked if his mom was out of the house so they could have a romantic rendezvous. The problem? She is—was—his 24-year-old teacher. Now she‘s hoping an insanity defense could keep her out of prison. But is this a case where a woman is insane and a man would be considered just evil? We‘ve got taped phone calls between teacher and student.
And after Tom Ridge announces he‘s stepping down as the nation‘s first homeland security secretary, President Bush chooses a successor, Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was in charge on 9/11. We‘re going to talk to a reporter who has covered the former top cop.
ABRAMS: We now know at least some of the pillow talk one-time middle schoolteacher Debra Lafave shared with a 14-year-old former student who police say was also her lover. Tampa police put out parts of taped phone conversations between the two today two days after the 24-year-old pleaded not guilty. Her attorney said he‘d file notice that she would plead insanity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FITZGIBBONS, LAFAVE ATTORNEY: We have had some doctors evaluate Debbie and also review a number of medical records going back a number of years. Debbie has some profound emotional issues that are not her fault. I think once anyone reads what the doctors have to say, they will understand a lot more about what happened here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Lafave is facing four-felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition. Each could bring a 15-year prison term. As for the sordid details, Tampa police say Lafave, then 23, had sex with a 14-year-old in her classroom, her home, and several times in the back of her silver Isuzu SUV while the boy‘s 15-year-old cousin drove them around. As for why she had the affair, here‘s what the alleged victim told police.
Quote—“Debra Lafave told him that she was having sexual inadequacy problems with her husband and she was turned on by the fact that having sexual relations with him was not allowed.”
If you need more proof that she apparently liked to live dangerously, listen to this excerpt from the tapes.
BOY: I‘m a little worried though.
BOY: Like I don‘t want you to like get pregnant or anything. I was just thinking about it and I was just thinking if next time, now that we‘ve had sex about three times, if I should have like a condom or something.
LAFAVE: Oh, you‘re being weird.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we‘re going to play more of those tapes. Her defense, insanity, but I wonder whether she‘s trying to use the double standard to her advantage. Imagine a man saying that about the alleged rape of a young girl. More of those phone calls between Lafave and her student coming up.
And a senior White House official telling NBC News that President Bush will nominate former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to succeed Tom Ridge as homeland security secretary. Kerik best known for leading New York‘s finest on 9/11. But what else do we know about this man? We‘ll talk to a reporter who has been covering him for year.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we‘ve got the tapes of the teacher accused of having sex with her 14-year-old student. Now she says she was insane at the time. How would a court, though, react if man tried to explain a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl the same way, but first the headlines.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Before the break, we played the first of several excerpts from tapes Tampa police released today of conversations between suspended middle schoolteacher Debra Lafave and the 14-year-old former student police say was her lover.
BOY: So what time are you planning on heading over?
LAFAVE: Are you sure? Like I just feel—I mean I don‘t want you lying to your mom. I mean it‘s like...
BOY: No, it‘s all right. She‘s gone in a sales meeting like all day.
LAFAVE: You‘re sure?
ABRAMS: Lafave facing four counts of lewd and lascivious battery, one of lewd and lascivious exhibition. She could serve 15 years on each. Lafave pled not guilty Tuesday. Her attorney says he will file papers to plead insanity. It‘s expected to claim Lafave has been depressed since August 2001 when a drunken Army captain killed her older sister in an auto accident. Lafave‘s mother says Debra has been—quote—“pretty much a basket case ever since.”
As for her husband of less than a year, Owen Lafave, he says the case, not surprisingly, is like living a nightmare. He plans to file for a divorce. In at least one conversation with the boy, Lafave claims she was having sexual inadequacy problems with Owen.
“My Take”—there‘s no question that men and women in positions of authority who are of age need to be punished for having sex with underage children. If Lafave is guilty, her actions must be condemned both morally and criminally. However, it would be dishonest for me to say that it doesn‘t just feel different when a man is accused of having sex with an underage girl compared to a woman with an underage boy.
On a larger scale, men molesting girls is a far more widespread problem than the few older women who are accused of raping boys. I‘m inclined to believe that a man is a pervert. The woman is disturbed. I know that this kind of event can ruin a boy‘s life, but I don‘t know. I‘m still more willing to consider an insanity defense from a woman. It doesn‘t mean that I‘d accept in it a case like this. I‘m sure I wouldn‘t, but still, there‘s something about it that feels different.
Joining me now, Anne Bremner again, criminal defense attorney, and Stacey Honowitz, Broward County Florida Assistant State Attorney and second in command of the Sex Crimes Unit there. All right, Stacey, look, I know I‘m not supposed to feel this way. I know...
STACEY HONOWITZ, BROWARD COUNTY ASST. STATE ATTORNEY: You are like everybody else...
ABRAMS: I know that the law has to be equal.
ABRAMS: But the bottom line is why is it that so many people look at this—and I‘m not saying she shouldn‘t be punished. Let‘s be clear.
HONOWITZ: Right. Right.
ABRAMS: But it does feel different when you are talking about a woman who asked a 14-year-old boy if he wanted to have sex versus a 23-year-old male teacher asking a 14-year-old girl.
HONOWITZ: I don‘t know if it feels different amongst everybody.
ABRAMS: It doesn‘t.
HONOWITZ: I think it feels different amongst men than it does women because we have been saturated in our lives with this idea that it‘s fabulous to have sex with an older women. “Mrs. Robinson”, the movie, you even hear about celebrities, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, the older woman. I mean we‘re going a little extreme there because...
ABRAMS: Right, but aren‘t these just a high—I mean...
ABRAMS: ... isn‘t it the big problem that you have older men and men in general being sexual predators and if you want to have the law send a message...
ABRAMS: ... it‘s much more important to send these message to men than it is to women.
HONOWITZ: Why? Why would you even say that?
ABRAMS: Because it‘s a bigger problem.
HONOWITZ: You don‘t know if it‘s a bigger problem...
ABRAMS: Oh you‘re going to tell me...
ABRAMS: Wait. Wait. You‘re going to tell me...
ABRAMS: You know this stuff better than I do...
ABRAMS: ... so I‘m going to turn to you as the expert. You‘re going to tell me you have as many cases of older women who are molesting or raping younger boys than you do with men with regard to girls?
HONOWITZ: No, absolutely not. You are right about that. I don‘t have as many cases, but the fact of the matter is they are becoming more prevalent. You know that. I mean I tried probably one of the few cases that went to trial where it was an older woman and a young guy, 14 years old.
And you are right about another thing. When I was trying to pick a jury in that case, it was very obvious that most of the men that were brought in for that jury pool said, listen, this was my biggest dream to have sex with my teacher.
ABRAMS: But let‘s take them out of the equation for a moment.
ABRAMS: We‘ve done this segment before and I have a lot of women writing in—forget about the men who are saying yes, that‘s what I always wanted.
ABRAMS: That‘s now what I‘m talking about. I am not talking about this sort of like oh I wish I was that boy syndrome. I am talking about just as a criminal law matter—let me play one more piece of this tape, though...
ABRAMS: ... for a moment and then I‘m going to go to Anne on this.
Let‘s listen to the conversation between the boy and the woman.
LAFAVE: I called her when I got home last night.
BOY: How did that go?
LAFAVE: It was - I mean - I just told her I was like you know, I‘m sorry. Bad judgment and I should have double-checked with you, blah, blah, blah.
BOY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Well I guess I don‘t think we should be going to Ocala anymore.
LAFAVE: No. No.
BOY: But everything went smoothly in the portable.
BOY: So, whatever, if we decide to do anything again then that should be our place for now.
ABRAMS: The portable is a classroom. All right. Anne Bremner, what do you make of my conversation with Stacey about this?
BREMNER: Well, you know, Dan, I agree with your take on this. And I think, you know, these cases have made such worldwide headlines. I mean the Mary Kay Letourneau case in Seattle was d’j… vu all over again with the Lafave case. It—they are so unusual. It‘s such an anomaly...
ABRAMS: But should women be treated differently? Should they be...
BREMNER: Yes, I think...
ABRAMS: Tell me why.
BREMNER: Yes. Absolutely, especially in sentencing. Because number one, women aren‘t predators. You don‘t have women with multiple victims. There is zero statistical evidence to say that women are predators. That‘s why we don‘t have them involuntarily committed in some of our institutions whereas state laws like in my state...
ABRAMS: Let her finish. Let her finish.
ABRAMS: Go ahead Anne.
ABRAMS: ... let Anne finish. Yes.
BREMNER: You have to have that kind of statistical evidence and it doesn‘t exist. That‘s number one. When you look at how you treat people in the system...
BREMNER: ... women are not as dangerous. And the second thing is when you look at the studies and we have this in the Letourneau civil case that I handled back home in Seattle, boys are not as affected as girls. It‘s just a reality. Maybe it‘s because they say this is every schoolboy‘s dream. Maybe it‘s because they say the boys, it‘s a fantasy of the older woman, but the reality, severity is, is that indeed they are not as affected...
ABRAMS: Go ahead Stacey.
HONOWITZ: Dan, I just want to tell you one thing...
ABRAMS: Let me let Stacey...
ABRAMS: Stacey, go ahead.
BREMNER: But I‘m not...
HONOWITZ: I‘m going to let Anne finish, but I‘m...
HONOWITZ: ... Anne and I have had this discussion on several programs...
BREMNER: We have.
HONOWITZ: And the fact of the matter is...
HONOWITZ: ... when I classify someone down here as a sexual predator, it‘s not because they‘ve had sex with four or five people. It‘s a one-time incident and they are the predator. But I can understand how you are trying to project that, but Dan I want to tell you something.
I had a very interesting case about 12 years ago. It was an older teacher. It was a young kid. She broke up with him and the 13-year-old kid tried to commit suicide. So to say...
ABRAMS: But see...
HONOWITZ: ... that they‘re not as affected is a blanket statement.
ABRAMS: No, no, but look—but you can‘t just use one—that‘s like saying...
HONOWITZ: I‘m not...
ABRAMS: ... that‘s like saying I never wear a seat belt in my car and yet I have never gotten hurt, therefore you don‘t need to wear seat belts...
HONOWITZ: But how can you say...
ABRAMS: It doesn‘t work.
HONOWITZ: ... to treat them—all I am saying to you is you have the same exact crime. How do you say that under the law they should be treated differently? You just can‘t say that. It is gender neutral.
ABRAMS: All right.
HONOWITZ: You will never hear the judge say go easier on her because she is a woman.
ABRAMS: Very quickly Anne, I‘m going to let you get the final word, but let me just read this one more from the taped transcripts here.
The boy says all right, well you enjoyed yourself yesterday...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
ABRAMS: ... right?
Lafave: I did. Did you?
Lafave: So it‘s not over, over?
Nope not yet.
God (BLANK) why couldn‘t you just have said no, not yet?
That kind of sucked. Oh Lord, what am I going to do with you?
OK, go ahead Anne.
BREMNER: Well it‘s just the law absolutely treats men and women the same because it‘s like statutory rape, we used to call it, by statute, by virtue of age. The question is how are they treated down the line on sentencing, treatment, et cetera. Women—men are completely different in this area...
BREMNER: ... and there is no evidence that women are predators, I mean none, and that‘s why they are not committed voluntarily. I think it‘s a very interesting issue. It‘s only been raised very recently in these cases.
ABRAMS: And she won‘t—look, she‘s going to have to show a lot more...
ABRAMS: ... than just that her sister died a few years back...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh absolutely.
HONOWITZ: She won‘t win on this...
ABRAMS: All right. Anne Bremner and Stacey Honowitz, thanks a lot.
HONOWITZ: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: You can hear more on this case on “DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT” at 9:00 p.m. Deborah interview Lafave‘s husband. Should be interesting.
Coming up, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik spent a lifetime fighting crime. Now he‘s been picked to be the next homeland security secretary. What is he actually going to do? What were his policies in New York? Did they work? How is he going to be different than Ridge? We‘ll talk to a reporter who has covered him since his days on the street in New York.
Plus, many of you will miss Tom Brokaw anchoring the nightly news for NBC. I‘ll tell you why I‘m going to miss the most valuable player of the NBC News team. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is known for helping the “Big Apple” get through the attacks of September 11. Now President Bush has tapped him as his new homeland security secretary replacing Tom Ridge, who announced he‘s stepping down Tuesday.
MSNBC‘s Alex Witt has more.
ALEX WITT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the aftermath of 9/11, Bernard Kerik, New York City‘s police commissioner, shared credit for leading the city out of the ashes. It‘s that image that the White House is banking on as Bernard Kerik is named to replace Homeland Secretary Chief Tom Ridge. The 48-year-old Kerik brings years of law enforcement and gritty street experience to the job.
But his story began in an unlikely place far from such an illustrious career. In his autobiography, Kerik writes of being abandoned by his mother who was a prostitute and surviving the tough streets of Patterson, New Jersey. He entered the Army as a military police officer in Korea, joined the New York City Police as an undercover detective in narcotics and rose through the ranks of New York City‘s Corrections Department, eventually becoming commissioner in 1997.
When 9/11 hit, Kerik had only been police commissioner just over a year, but his performance won national recognition. And though he left that post on New Year‘s Day 2002 to join former Mayor Giuliani‘s consulting firm, it was not long before the White House came calling. Last spring Kerik was tapped as a special advisor on Iraq‘s reconstruction. His task? To help build from scratch a 40,000 member Iraqi police force. An outspoken Bush supporter, Kerik stepped into the national spotlight again at the Republican National Convention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George W. Bush has my vote...
WITT: And proved to be a strategic help in the president‘s re-election bid this fall.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m proud to have been standing on the stage with Bernie Kerik.
WITT: As only the nation‘s second homeland security chief, Bernard Kerik now inherits the largest security detail he‘s ever managed.
ABRAMS: MSNBC‘s Alex Witt reporting. “My Take”—Kerik is a sensible choice. There are few people better qualified for this sometimes thankless job.
Joining me now, Davidson Goldin from New York City‘s 24-hour news channel, New York 1. He‘s the station‘s political reporter and co-host of “Inside City Hall”. He‘s covered Bernard Kerik for years. David, good to see you.
DAVIDSON GOLDIN, POLITICAL REPORTER FOR NY-1: Good to see you...
ABRAMS: All right. So what was his reputation in New York?
GOLDIN: He had a very good reputation. As Alex Witt just said, he was only police commissioner for a year before September 11, and I remember very well right after Rudy Giuliani tapped him to be police commissioner, he spent his second day on the job touring black churches all across New York City because Rudy Giuliani had a pretty bad relationship with the black and Hispanic communities.
And one of Bernie Kerik‘s first jobs was to help the mayor restore his relationship with the black and Hispanic communities. And he did a pretty good job of that. Then of course September 11 happened and he was a key aid to Giuliani in the minutes, hours, and days after the attacks.
ABRAMS: Did he have the authority at the time to make major changes in the police department or was Giuliani the one who ultimately had the final word when it came to the major issues in the police department?
GOLDIN: There is no question that Giuliani absolutely had the final word on if not just the major decisions, any significant decision at all in the police department. But Kerik‘s job to a large extent was to help Giuliani continue to see crime go down. Crime had already gone down in the first six or seven years of the Giuliani administration.
And Kerik‘s first task was to make sure that Giuliani‘s legacy could continue to be seeing crime go down. As far as on September 11, Kerik was with Giuliani when the towers were hit and when they fell and it was Kerik who made the decision where the city‘s emergency command bunker would be when the original one was destroyed at the World Trade Center and made a lot of the tactical decisions in the hours after the attacks that Giuliani still gets credit for.
ABRAMS: So why did he leave? You know, it sounds like he left with Giuliani, but it also sounds like he was doing a pretty good job as the police chief.
GOLDIN: Well I think one of the reasons he left is because mayors in New York like to pick their own police commissioners and Giuliani‘s term ended at the end of 2001. Mike Bloomberg came in. He brought back Ray Kelly who had already been police commissioner before for David Dinkins and to some extent it was just a new mayor wanted his own new police commissioner, but there was talk at the time, Dan, whether or not Kerik would stay because he was very, very popular.
ABRAMS: Kerik‘s known for tough talk as well, right? I mean this guy is a straight shooter.
GOLDIN: He is absolutely a straight shooter. He came—before he was police commissioner, he was the correction commissioner here in the city and one of the things he accomplished was he reduced crime in jails, like the famous, the infamous Rikers Island here by 93 percent in just a few years on the job.
He was tough. He brought in not just his street smarts and his street toughness, but he also used technology and management tools to really try to keep the people who worked for him in line. And so President Bush is certainly going to get somebody who likes the spotlight as much as he likes trying to see results.
ABRAMS: Davidson Goldin, the star of New York 1. Thanks very much.
GOLDIN: OK. Good to be here.
ABRAMS: Coming up, last night I asked what‘s wrong with the jury hearing about who Scott Peterson is before deciding if he deserves to die? Some of you think it‘s time to curtail the defense. Your e-mails coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, why Tom Brokaw leaving “Nightly News” is like the professional equivalent of me moving away from home. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—why for me Tom Brokaw‘s departure from the anchor chair means a lot more than just another great newsman taking over the high-profile perch. Sure, he‘ll still be around working on various projects, but it still feels like the professional equivalent of moving away from home for the first time. When you live at home, you always know that if anything go awry that your parent or parents will be there to help handle it, someone who you know can always count on.
I feel the same way about Tom Brokaw. Look, in the past couple of years I haven‘t been able to do much work for “Nightly News.” After all, my show‘s on at the same time. But even so, it was always reassuring to know that when a major story broke, we had Tom, the Shaq, the Bonds, the Gretzky of network news on our team.
Working with him, hearing that voice on the phone telling you what he wants from you can be both a little intimidating and a lot inspiring, even when he called me Danny both off and on the air. My biggest choke on live TV came early in my career at NBC, doing a live introduction to a “Nightly News” piece and hearing that voice saying now Danny or Dan Abrams joins us live. Just hearing him got me so nervous that I completely flubbed the intro. But more importantly there‘s a confidence that comes with working with Tom.
I remember on 9/11 I was a mess, reporting from the scene of the carnage at the Trade Center, an area I visited regularly throughout my life. My dad worked nearby there. I knew friends of mine would be dead, while also knowing that this would change the world as we knew it.
Tom‘s voice was in my ear anchoring our coverage, authoritative, serious and yet calm. He did for me what I know he did for so many millions of others, provided a sense of comfort that we would make it through. What more can you ask of a network news anchor? Not only did he get it right, he just got it. He has that innate sense of what people need to know and what they want to hear.
I‘m confident “Nightly News” will remain on top with Brian Williams at the helm. Anyone who‘s worked with him will tell you why. But some people get hype, others deserve it. Tom falls into the latter category.
I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Scott Peterson‘s family and friends on the stand trying to convince the jury that Scott is a kind and generous person and deserves to live. Last night in my “Closing Argument” I said certain legal analysts are trivializing the death penalty, as if Scott doesn‘t get the death penalty, he‘s going to walk.
I asked what‘s wrong with the jury hearing about who Scott Peterson is when they are deciding he deserves to die? It may not be a good strategy, but the hysterical so-called victims‘ right advocates just need to chill out.
Dorian Quillen in Oklahoma City writes, “Why criticize people who are upset at having to hear all about Scott Peterson‘s childhood? Sorry, but some acts are so awful they redefine a person in a way that overwhelmingly cancels out any good they may have done before.”
Well Dorian, that may be the jury‘s decision. But is spending an extra day listening to testimony about Scott‘s life such a travesty? A number of you making death penalty comparisons that just don‘t work.
Park City, Utah, Keith Aran. “What about Illinois‘ death row? After nearly 10 percent of death row inmates were found innocent using modern DNA techniques, the governor commuted all death sentences to life in prison. All of those innocent death row inmates had to have been found guilty by circumstantial evidence.”
Mary Smith in Virginia. “Over 1,000 people on death row have been released after DNA evidence. This case has no DNA evidence. He has no chance if he‘s innocent.”
All right. Look, to compare Scott Peterson to people who had little or no defense does all of those people a disservice. I wouldn‘t hold your breath waiting for DNA from one of the transients to appear. And Keith, by the way, some of the falsely convicted were convicted on faulty direct evidence. Eyewitnesses who either got it wrong or lied, not circumstantial.
Many of you asking about Peterson‘s defense team, Vickie Whiteaker in Sardinia, Ohio. “Can Scott Peterson‘s parents get a refund? He‘s been convicted, but he had a poor excuse of a defense.”
From Ashville, North Carolina, Carol Redding. “Although I would suppose it is unlikely and highly risky, is it possible that the defense team is intentionally muddling their presentation during the penalty phase in order to create grounds for an appeal should the jury find for the death penalty?”
Finally Sally Ludi asks, “Everyone is saying Geragos isn‘t doing such a good job defending Scott. Is this a plan so that Scott can appeal because of a bad defense?”
OK. Come on, people, look, you can criticize Mark Geragos. You can criticize his choices. You can criticize his strategy, but the guy‘s a good lawyer. Scott Peterson got a good defense. And they are not going to try to blow it in the penalty phase to win some sort of appeal. I promise you the chances of winning any appeal are a long shot.
Now, you know, they believe that they have some good grounds here with this jury, et cetera. But, remember, anyone who would do something intentionally to hurt their client just so they‘d have an appeal would be out of their minds. So, give this defense team a little more credit than that.
I know. I‘m going to get e-mails from everyone saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE). All right, but I appreciate—I read all of them. I read all of the e-mails.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show. A reminder, we have our blawg, the blawg about justice—l-a-w in the middle there. You can get it through our Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com. Click on “Sidebar”.
You‘ll hear some of our favorite lawyers and some of my great staff and occasionally, of course, from me. You can sign up for our daily newsletter so you can be the first to know what‘s coming up.
“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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