'Deborah Norville Tonight' for Dec. 9

Guest: Lyndon Wilson, Regina Wilson, Robert Hirschhorn, Vinnie Politan, Gloria Allred, Brenda Joy Bernstein, Jeff Lichtman, Charles Best


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Military confrontation.


SPEC. THOMAS WILSON, TENNESSEE NATIONAL GUARD:  Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?


NORVILLE:  The secretary of defense on the defensive.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  You go to war with the Army you have, but not the Army you might want.


NORVILLE:  Was Army specialist Tom Wilson‘s complaint planted by a journalist or a plea from the heart on behalf of thousands of American troops?  Tonight, the family of the soldier who dared to put his commander and himself under fire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They should be able to ask those questions. 

That‘s what America is about.


NORVILLE:  In the hands of the jury.  He‘s been portrayed as the perfect son and as a monster.  Now the judge has turned the case over to jurors.


JUDGE ALFRED DELUCCHI, SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT:  It is now your duty to determine which of the two penalties, death or imprisonment in the state prison for life without possibility of parole, shall be imposed on the defendant.


NORVILLE:  Tonight, a jury faces the ultimate decision.  Who is the real Scott Peterson?  And does he deserve to die?

ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  Welcome.  A National Guardsman took his concerns straight to the top yesterday when he confronted secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld about a dangerous lack of armor and equipment for troops serving in Iraq.  Here‘s what he said.


SPEC. THOMAS WILSON, TENNESSEE NATIONAL GUARD:  Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?  And why don‘t we have those resource readily available to us?


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  It isn‘t a matter of money.  It isn‘t a matter, on the part of the Army, of desire.  It‘s a matter of production and capability of doing it.  As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have.


NORVILLE:  Secretary Rumsfeld had more to say about that exchange and about the troops‘ concerns today.  We‘ll share that with you in a few moments.

And there were also questions today about exactly where Thomas Wilson‘s complaint came from.  Did the Tennessee newspaper reporter embedded with the reserves supply Specialist Wilson with the question for Rumsfeld?

Joining me tonight are Lyndon Wilson—he‘s the father of specialist Thomas Jerry (ph) Wilson—and Regina Wilson, who is Specialist Wilson‘s ex-wife.  I thank you both for being with us.

Mr. Wilson, I‘ll start with you first.  Were you surprised your son got up there and had a chance to ask the secretary of defense a question?

LYNDON WILSON, FATHER OF SPC. WILSON:  Yes, I actually was.  It was quite a surprise.  The question he asked wasn‘t surprising, it was just surprising that I got to see him, basically.  I‘m sure that he had—well, his line of questioning was in line, I guess that‘s what I‘m trying to say.

NORVILLE:  You and he, I know, can‘t talk all the time.  But there are ways to communicate now that he‘s over there in Kuwait, waiting to go up north into Iraq.  Had he expressed concern to you, Mr. Wilson, at some point about the type of supplies, the level of security that the troops, including his unit, were being given?

LYNDON WILSON:  Well, actually, I haven‘t had time to talk to him.  He‘s only been there for about four weeks.  There was a concern about the level of armor that the vehicles had that we had read and heard about in previous newscasts, and things of that nature.  This, on the 278s, is the first I‘ve really heard—heard anything on this—this unit, which is going north.  Like I say, we had heard reports before that they needed more armor and it wasn‘t available.  The Marine Corps, all of them, are in short supply of those things.

NORVILLE:  Yes, we‘ve heard that.  And you may not know, but “Newsweek” magazine coming up on Monday‘s issue is going to be reporting that as many as 20 percent of the American troop casualties, deaths of American servicemen and women over there, are attributable to the fact that vehicles haven‘t been adequately armored.  How concerned are you, as a father, to hear that?

LYNDON WILSON:  Well, I‘m really concerned.  I mean, you know, it‘s my son.  But not only him, everyone else over there.  These guys, you know, they need this armor.  I was wounded with shrapnel in the Vietnam war.  And you know, it‘s kind of ironic.  Here, what, 36, 37 years later, my son‘s in the same situation, trying to find, you know, something to get behind.

NORVILLE:  Ms. Wilson, I know...


NORVILLE:  Let me switch over to you.  I know that you and your husband, your ex-husband, have kept good relations, even though the marriage has ended.  You‘ve had a chance to communicate with him since he‘s been over there.  What exactly has he told you?

REGINA WILSON, EX-WIFE OF SPC. WILSON:  Well, when he did call that Saturday morning, it was very, very, very early and the call woke us up.  And he spent quite a bit of time.  I put the phone to our children‘s ears, so that his voice would wake them up that morning...


REGINA WILSON:  ... which really made their day.  And they fell right back asleep, and I spoke to him for—oh, it was about 10 minutes.  And he just wanted to know how we were.  How am I?  How are the kids?  How is his father?  How‘s his mom?  And he didn‘t really want to spend a lot of time talking about him and what was going on over there with him.  He told me it was cold.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  What are your concerns, now that you‘ve seen him stand up and ask a pretty direct question to his commander-in-chief, as the defense secretary, and see the reaction of those other soldiers, who applauded when he finished asking his question?

REGINA WILSON:  I am and was proud.  Instantaneously, I was so proud of him.  And he‘s always been one, when he has something to say, he will say it.  And you know, I thought he presented the question very respectfully.  And I am very, very proud, and I support him completely.

NORVILLE:  Was this something that he was concerned about?

REGINA WILSON:  You know, several months ago, probably even—or possibly even before he reenlisted over a year ago, he and I were watching a program on another station, and it was regarding—it was actually showing the Marines welding metal, scrap metal, to the floorboards and the doors to protect the drivers‘ feet and legs.

NORVILLE:  What did he say about that?

REGINA WILSON:  And we got into this—well, he and I actually got into a little dispute, I guess, because he had mentioned—or the show had mentioned that they were protecting the most important part in the vehicle, the driver.  And I said, Well, wouldn‘t the gunner be more important?  And he made a very good point and he said the gunner‘s not going to get anywhere without the driver.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Do you think that this question...


NORVILLE:  I mean, you‘ve heard the controversy, if you will, that the question was sort of planted because reporters weren‘t allowed to question the secretary of defense and that an enterprising reporter with the Chattanooga newspaper spoke to your ex-husband and one other gentleman and helped them formulate a question.  Do you believe that this was a question that your husband was already wondering, or was it a question given to him by this reporter?

REGINA WILSON:  Oh, I know it was a question he was already wondering.  It was an issue that was already there.  I think if the reporter had any bearing whatsoever, he may have helped him use the right words to get his point across and to ask the question appropriately.  But the question was already there in Jerry‘s mind and the concern was there.  So I don‘t think that the reporter just planted this idea and used him as a scapegoat to ask the question.  That‘s not—I don‘t believe that‘s the case at all.

NORVILLE:  And in fact, we saw the soldiers applauding today when President Bush was asked about it.  It sounded as though he was kind of in agreement with the question that Jerry asked.  Here‘s what the president said earlier.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The concerns expressed are being addressed.  And that is, we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment.  And if I were a soldier overseas, wanting to defend my country, I‘d want to ask the secretary of defense the same question, and that is, Are we getting the best we can get us?  And they deserve the best.  And I‘ve told many families I‘ve met with we‘re doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important.


NORVILLE:  Mr. Wilson, I know you would never want to dispute president, being a former military man.  But do you believe that the troops over there have been given the best equipment, the best America has to offer?

LYNDON WILSON:  I think they‘ve been given the best equipment, but you know, there‘s always room for improvement.  You know, that‘s something that you can just—you never get enough of, support, you know.  I can‘t say that they have everything.  They don‘t.

NORVILLE:  Well, if...

LYNDON WILSON:  And they probably never will, but—I‘m sorry.  Go ahead.

NORVILLE:  No, I was just going to say, if we understood the president pretty clearly in responding to the question that your son asked, I wonder if you understood what the secretary of defense said today when he was asked again about it.  He was asked about the exchange that was raised with Jerry over there and—when he was in India.  And this is what the secretary of defense had to say today.


RUMSFELD:  Somebody‘s certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know.  And that‘s a good thing.  So I think it‘s a very constructive exchange.


NORVILLE:  That make sense to you?


LYNDON WILSON:  Well, I—it‘s hard to say.


LYNDON WILSON:  It‘s hard to say.

NORVILLE:  Let me play it again.  I want to play it again...


NORVILLE:  ... because it comes at you so fast, because, frankly, I had to listen to it a few times myself.  This is what the secretary of defense had to say.


RUMSFELD:  Somebody‘s certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know.  And that‘s a good thing.  So I think it‘s a very constructive exchange.



NORVILLE:  I listened to this, and to me, this explains a lot.  If we don‘t understand what the guy at the top of the Defense Department is saying, it‘s understandable that down the ranks, there may be some confusion, too.  Regina?

REGINA WILSON:  Well, quite frankly, listening to his—I actually read it on the news, on the Internet.  And I reread it and reread it and reread it, and I thought, you know, My 5-year-old son could have made his point better.  Actually, it was humorous to me.

NORVILLE:  Humorous to hear what he said, but it‘s a deadly serious issue.  Are you concerned at all, Mrs. Wilson, about any repercussions against your husband for having spoken as boldly as he did?

REGINA WILSON:  You know, I‘ll be honest, the thought did cross my mind initially.  But Jerry‘s commander, Commander Bradley (ph) -- I think, Captain Bradley—he supports Jerry.  You know, I know the man.  I‘ve spoken to the man.  I‘ve read a comment from the man.  I don‘t believe there are going to be any repercussions.  Again, it was a concern at first.  I thought, Oh, my goodness!

NORVILLE:  Yes, well, if there are any repercussions...

REGINA WILSON:  What have you gotten yourself into?

NORVILLE:  ... we hope it is that they put a little more armor and they don‘t have to scrounge around in the dump to find it.

REGINA WILSON:  That‘s right!

NORVILLE:  Lyndon Wilson, Regina Wilson, we thank you for being with us.  And keep us posted on the progress with your husband.  Take care.

ANNOUNCER:  Still to come: a judge‘s final instructions.


JUDGE ALFRED DELUCCHI, SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT:  Do you not decide any issue in this case by the flip of a coin or by any other chance determination.


ANNOUNCER:  Now, Scott Peterson‘s ultimate fate rests in the hands of jurors.  Will they choose life or death?  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.


NORVILLE:  Scott Peterson‘s fate tonight is in the hands of a jury that has already convicted him of double murder.  The jury is done deliberating for the night.  They will resume in the morning.  But earlier today, Scott Peterson sat quietly.  And this is the first time we‘ve seen footage of the defendant in court since November 3.  Earlier in the day, the court heard closing arguments.  Prosecutor Dave Harris called Peterson, quote, “the worst kind of monster,” saying his life was not word sparing.  Peterson‘s attorney, Mark Geragos, however, appealed to the jury to spare his client‘s life, saying, quote, “There doesn‘t need to be any more death in this case.”

And then Judge Alfred Delucchi instructed the jury before sending it off to deliberate.


JUDGE ALFRED DELUCCHI, SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT:  To return a judgment of death, each of you must be persuaded that the aggravating circumstances are so substantial in comparison with the mitigating circumstances that it warrants death instead of life without parole.


NORVILLE:  Joining me now, the host of “Both Sides” on Court TV, Vinnie Politan.  Also attorney Gloria Allred.  She is the lawyer for Amber Frey, Peterson‘s former mistress, who, of course, was a key witness during the trial.  Also with us tonight again, jury consultant and attorney Robert Hirschhorn, defense attorney and former prosecutor Brenda Joy Bernstein and defense attorney Jeff Lichtman, who has worked on a number of death penalty cases.

Folks, I first want to thank you all for being with us.  It‘s been a long haul, and it looks like we‘re finally at the end of it.  And it all began today with 40 minutes of what some say was the most eloquent death penalty plea they‘ve heard in a long time.

Vinnie, you were sitting in the courtroom.  Before we get into the specifics, give a sense of the emotion as prosecutor Dave Harris was making his final remarks to the jury.

VINNIE POLITAN, HOST, “BOTH SIDES,” COURT TV:  Well, he‘s not a very theatrical prosecutor, but what he was—it was just such a well thought out closing argument and great use of contrasts.  One moment that I‘ll forget is when they put up a big picture of Scott and Laci in front of a Christmas tree.  Then he started talking about the Scott that the 39 witnesses were talking about.  Then he said they didn‘t know the real Scott.  And then all of a sudden, a picture of Amber Frey and Scott Peterson covers up the picture of Laci, so you‘ve got Scott and Amber and another picture of Scott blown up on a big screen inside that courtroom.

That‘s what it was like.  You know, he wasn‘t theatrical, but it was well thought out, well planned and showed the contrast between the Scott Peterson, that 39 witnesses for the defense talked about, and then the real Scott Peterson that the prosecution said the jury heard about during the trial.

NORVILLE:  Gloria, you were also in the courtroom today for much of the proceedings.  What was your sense of how the jury was receiving all this?  Again, before we get into some of the detailed comments of the two sets of attorneys, just the way they were intaking all of this last batch of information and emotion.

GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY:  Well, Deborah, I think they listened very, very carefully to the prosecution, and I think they were listening to the defense, as well, although during the defense, I saw at least one person, I think it was the teamster, with his arms folded like this.  And he often sits like that when the defense is presenting their evidence or argument.

But in any event, they were paying attention.  I had to believe that they had very strong feelings, when suddenly, the prosecutor put the autopsy photos of Laci and Conner just inches away from their face, didn‘t even flash it on the screen.  But when they flashed on the screen the sonogram of Conner and said that this is the only...


ALLRED:  ... photograph that Sharon Rocha will ever have of her grandson, I had to believe that that had to have an impact on at least some jurors.

NORVILLE:  Let look at some of the specifics of what Dave Harris said.  He—as I said, it was a 40-minute presentation to the jury.  And he said of Scott Peterson, quote, “He played the part of a grieving husband.  The great manipulator, the great fraud turned on tears and played the part of a grieving husband.”

He, it seemed to me, Jeff, was trying to get right back to that point from the very beginning of the trial.  The man that Laci thought she knew, the man the Rochas thought they knew, the man, frankly, the Petersons thought they knew was a fraud.

JEFF LICHTMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I think, also, it basically effectively gutted the defendant‘s whole penalty phase presentation because as he said, everyone of these witnesses that have come in for the defense are simply saying, Well, this is not the Scott Peterson I know.  He‘s a loving husband, a caring guy.  And obviously, they didn‘t know Scott.  And it was very powerful.  In fact, it was so powerful, it convinced me.

NORVILLE:  It convinced you, just hearing those kinds of remarks.

LICHTMAN:  Yes.  I mean, you know, the bottom line is this.  You know, we can say that the death penalty is a horrible thing to impose.  And I believe the reason why it shouldn‘t happen here is because there‘s no witness, there‘s no weapon, there‘s no confession.  Nevertheless, I just can‘t even imagine a more significant and disgusting crime than occurred here.

NORVILLE:  Well, yes.  I mean, he killed his wife.  He killed his unborn baby and left them to rot at the bottom of the ocean.  But what was interesting today is he played directly against Jackie Peterson‘s incredibly heartfelt remarks, the last thing the jury had seen before they left yesterday, by playing an audiotape, a voicemail that was retrieved by Scott Peterson in which he mocks his own mother.  Listen to this.


AUTOMATED VOICE:  Your call has been forwarded to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 

You have one unheard message.  First message.

JACKIE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON‘S MOTHER:  Hi, Scott.  Good morning.  It‘s your mother.  How are you this morning?  Are you wanting to hop on a plane and go to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?  I am.  Rachel‘s up there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Washington, and definitely, you‘d have a place to stay.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but she also was putting up posters, so...



NORVILLE:  That was Scott Peterson laughing when his mother talked about posters for his missing wife and his yet-to-be-born child.

Robert Hirschhorn, that goes right back to what they were trying to say all along in this trial.  He knew all along where Laci was, and he let everyone, including the people who spoke on his behalf, suffer.

ROBERT HIRSCHHORN, ATTORNEY AND JURY CONSULTANT:  Deborah, every single intentional murder is a horrific, monstrous, horrible act.  The question is whether or not this individual is a monster that has no redeeming value, and that‘s the struggle the jury‘s going to have.  And I think when you weigh all the evidence, when you look at—you don‘t just look at the act itself, but you look at the person for 30 years, I think you get a much different picture other than the death penalty.

NORVILLE:  Well, let‘s look at one more thing that Dave Harris said.  He said, “Leaving his wife to rot in the bottom of the ocean, the son to be found as trash, is not something to be regarded by sparing his life.  That is not something to be forgiven.”

B.J., the jury has got to weigh all the nice things the 39 people said about Scott and the fact that, Gee, maybe he could help other people in prison, as we heard his defenders say in their closing statements, versus the fact that Laci will never be able to help anybody ever again.


And truly, they—the prosecution did exactly what it needed to do here.  By putting that contrast, by showing—by showing the pictures and the way that pictorial presentation was done, along with his words, it really, I think—and I‘m going to agree that—I‘m changing my mind from the other night, after having listened to the arguments, as to which...

NORVILLE:  You‘re kidding!

BERNSTEIN:  I know!  You know, but this is what happens with a trial. 

This is why closing arguments are a powerful part of the trial, where—

I‘m sitting here saying, My goodness.  I think this jury will give the death penalty, that they‘re not going to go through the circumstances in terms of looking at it from a legal sense or potentially the moral sense that they‘re not in favor of the death penalty because this presentation was just that effective.

NORVILLE:  All right.  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, more on the jury, which is at present deciding Scott Peterson‘s fate.  They‘ve stopped for the day.  They‘ll resume tomorrow morning.  So stay with us.


DELUCCHI:  ... hesitate to change an opinion if you are convinced it is wrong.  However, do not decide any question in a particular way because the majority of the jurors, or any of them, favor that decision.





JACKIE PETERSON:  Laci called me mom.  She was like a daughter to me. 

We miss her and we love her.


NORVILLE:  That was Scott Peterson‘s mother, Jackie, speaking in April of last year, talking about her daughter-in-law, Laci.  In her emotional testimony yesterday, she begged the jury to spare her son‘s life.  Now, of course, the jury is deciding whether to do just that.  It will go back into its discussions tomorrow morning.  Jurors deliberated for about two hours today before they called it quits.  They‘ll be back at it tomorrow morning.

We are rejoined by Court TV‘s Vinnie Politan, attorney Gloria Allred, who represented Amber Frey in the case, attorney and jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn, defense attorney and former president B.J. Bernstein and defense attorney Jeff Lichtman.

Folks, before we open it up for discussion, I want to play two separate pieces of evidence which were entered in today.  The first comes from a “Primetime” interview that Scott did with ABC in which—it was played in court to show just how easily he can put on the act.


SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER:  ... knowing that she‘s missing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) walking the dog through there, like she would do.  Most mornings, it‘s, 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.


NORVILLE:  Gloria, how did the jury react when they saw that replayed, remembering the first time they might have seen it on TV, their heart was breaking, just as they thought Scott Peterson‘s heart was breaking?

ALLRED:  Yes.  Well, very different today.  I mean, obviously, they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott Peterson committed this double murder.  That‘s what they so found in—when they convicted him.  Now the only hope the defense has, I think, is to appeal to lingering doubt, which is somewhere between no doubt at all and reasonable doubt.

Do they have enough lingering doubt about their decision such that they will decide that it is a mitigating factor and that it would outweigh the aggravating factors?  I don‘t know.  But they have a lot to think about. 

Let me just say, too, that it is interesting that the prosecution said

·         and I thought this was very strong, Deborah—said to the jury that Laci was an anchor around his neck and so he put one around hers. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

ALLRED:  I think that sums up the prosecution‘s argument for why there should be a death penalty. 

NORVILLE:  And because the defense knows how strongly many on the jury obviously feel about Scott Peterson, they were appealing for mercy.  And the way they did it was to paint a picture of how horrible jail would be if they voted for life in prison. 

And this is what Mark Geragos said in his closing argument.  He said:

“Prison is an awful, awful place.  Scott Peterson, if you spare his life, will be placed in a small cell for the rest of his life.  Scott Peterson in that cell will have a bed, a cold metal toilet, and he will share that cell with a cell mate and he will stay in that cell every single day until he dies.  And while he‘s in that cell, every single day until he dies, he knows that any time he tries to leave to go out for a half-an-hour, 15 minutes to go exercise or take a shower, he‘ll have to look over his shoulder at all times, that he‘s going to be in danger at any moment from some prison administering the death penalty on him.”

I‘ve got to tell you, Jeff, when I hear him saying that, I‘m thinking, some people are going to go, you‘re right.  That‘s too good for him.  Get rid of him.


LICHTMAN:  Well, you know, I was waiting for this piece of evidence, so to speak, although Geragos didn‘t get it in through an expert.  He just basically testified to the jury about it.  All he needs is one juror to think, you know what?  This guy is so bad.  Let‘s torture him more than the death penalty by making him live the rest of his life. 

Now, look, it‘s a very cynical argument that Geragos brings out, because he‘s obviously not doing it trying to convince someone that this is worse than the death penalty.  But it may have the effect of convincing one especially sadistic, and I hate to use that term, because certainly the jurors should not be deemed sadistic if they want to put him to sleep, but it may convince at least one of them to say, you know what?  This is what he really deserves.  Let him get killed in prison and abused.  And it may work.

NORVILLE:  Robert.

HIRSCHHORN:  And that‘s a legitimate argument, because a lot of jurors, they don‘t want the death on their hands.  What they want to do is resolve this case in a way that they can sleep at night, because this death penalty, if they give it, which I don‘t believe for one minute they will, but if they did, they‘re going to be affected by it the rest of their life. 

I think Jeff‘s argument is exactly right.  I‘ve seen it work in many, many cases.  And the other thing is, he‘s not Osama bin Laden.  He‘s not Charles Manson.  He‘s not Tim McVeigh.  These are real evil people that committed evil acts that ought to get the death penalty, not Scott. 

NORVILLE:  I think the jury might argue that with you, Robert.  I think the jury might say, what you‘re talking about here is numbers.  Tim McVeigh killed people.  They died quickly.  They were killed by someone they did not even know.  They never saw it coming. 

Laci Peterson, if she died, as they propose that she did, strangled in her own bed, probably woke up, probably realized, oh, my gosh, that‘s my husband.  We don‘t know.  And that‘s one of the questions the jury can‘t answer either.  But there‘s just as much a heinousness about that.

HIRSCHHORN:  But, Deborah, just hear what you said.  It was filled with ifs and probably‘s.  We don‘t execute someone based on ifs and probably‘s.  That‘s what Gloria was saying.  That is that that doubt that still lingers. 

And they don‘t want blood on their hands.  As Geragos said, enough blood has been shed already.

NORVILLE:  And yet, Vinnie, there was one point in the courtroom today when Mark Geragos—oh, sorry, when the prosecutor, Dave Harris, was talking about the 39 people that Scott had also misled, those 39 people who testified on his behalf.  And he got right up into Peterson‘s face.  And you said that you saw him squirm.  He looked really uncomfortable. 

He did.  I saw him literally squirm in his seat.  And to make someone that uncomfortable in a courtroom, it is so obvious to everyone that‘s in there.  And you can tell that Scott just wasn‘t comfortable as he was being approached by this prosecutor.  So it was a great moment for the prosecution. 

And I just wanted to comment quickly on that last point about, what was the jury thinking about this argument concerning life in prison, what life would be like?  That was a moment during Mark Geragos‘ closing argument where I saw the jury kind of perk up a little bit and pay a little more attention to what he was saying.  He lost them with the lingering doubt.  But they came back to him when he talked about what life in prison would be like. 

I don‘t know necessarily what that means, but they were paying closer attention to that part. 


NORVILLE:  Gloria.

ALLRED:  Yes.  He also rapped on the jury box, basically saying there would be a knock on the door if Scott were in prison, a knock on the door saying, maybe 10 years later, your mother is dead.  Another knock on the door, your father is dead.  Another knock on the door, your brother is dead, which I understand, by the way, is kind of a standard package that death penalty defense lawyers give in closing arguments. 

It may have kind of awakened the jury or gotten their attention even more and they were paying attention.  It was kind of starting.  But I don‘t know if it would have enough of an effect to say that he should get life. 

NORVILLE:  We got death penalty guy here. 

Is that part of the standard rap? 

LICHTMAN:  I‘m not giving out any secrets. 


LICHTMAN:  No.  Lawyers do it all the time, Deborah. 

And, by the way, this idea of squirming in a seat, listen, if the guy is standing next to you—he‘s close to you and he wants to kill you, don‘t you think you would be squirming in your seat?  I mean, please. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, but you know what?  Robert, the thing is, he didn‘t squirm so much when pictures of his bride were up on the screen.  He did not squirm when the sonogram was up there.  He squirmed when the attorney is in his face?  The jury has got to notice that. 

We have got to take a short break.  More on the Peterson case when we come right back. 


JUDGE ALFRED DELUCCHI:  The attitude and conduct of jurors at all times are very important.  It is rarely helpful for a juror at the beginning of deliberations to express an emphatic opinion on a case or to announce a determination to stand for a certain verdict.



NORVILLE:  Scott Peterson‘s fate is now in the hands of the jury deciding will he live or die.  What have they heard that might spare his life?

Stay with us.


NORVILLE:  Testimony and final arguments in the penalty phase of the Peterson trial are over.  The jury is now left to decide Scott Peterson‘s fate, death or life in prison.  The jury reconvenes tomorrow morning.

I‘m back with our panel, who has been talking with us all along talking about this, Vinnie Politan, Gloria Allred, Robert Hirschhorn, B.J.

Bernstein, and Jeff Lichtman,

We thank you all for being with us. 

B.J., you said that you heard enough in these closing arguments, final argument to the jury, to change your mind.  Is there anything the jury might have heard that would allow them to spare Scott‘s life? 

BERNSTEIN:  Well, again, I think, near the end, Geragos did make the argument, trying to appeal to this lingering doubt, to appeal to what you have talked about now, which is trying to say how jail is bad. 

And, again, he is now going for just—even just one person.  So, I mean, the one thing that could prove me wrong here is that it sways 11 people and there‘s that just one person who doesn‘t go along with it.  And then, of course, we don‘t have a verdict of death. 

NORVILLE:  And one thing, Jeff, that Mark Geragos actually admitted to the jury was, I was not prepared for this, which is interesting.  You said last night on this program you didn‘t think he was prepared. 

LICHTMAN:  It‘s absolutely unbelievable, inexcusable that in a case as important as this, that he just felt, well, it‘s just not important. 

I had mentioned the other night that he has got to have a death penalty expert who can deal with all of these issues, so that it is not on your backs, that you can focus on winning or losing the case.  And his comment about the fact that he just didn‘t expect to lose the case so he did not bother with the penalty phase? 


NORVILLE:  He almost admitted that, I did a bad job with my 39 people. 

LICHTMAN:  He admitted that he was incompetent. 

And the time that you hire a death penalty expert is as soon as you get hired in the case, so they can start working.  Now, how could Geragos have known at the very moment that he was hired that this was a case that he was going to win when he didn‘t know what the witnesses were going to say or what the evidence was going to show?  This was either like hubris...

NORVILLE:  You just think it was bad lawyering. 

LICHTMAN:  It was hubris, stupidity or incompetence.  Whatever it is, he mentioned that he has not slept six hours since the verdict.  If Scott Peterson gets the death penalty, he is going to have many nights where he is not going to sleep. 

ALLRED:  Yes. 

And it is interesting, because, really, and even he, Mark Geragos, alluded to this.  In a way, he is setting himself up on appeal.  There will be different lawyers.  And they may argue as one of their ground for appeals, ineffective assistance of counsel, namely Mark Geragos.  Whether or not they would be successful is another case.  But that is an interesting argument. 

I think that, really, the main argument he was making, in addition to lingering doubt, was just basically a bald-faced plea to the jury, don‘t kill him. 


NORVILLE:  Because I might have screwed up here.  Don‘t kill him because I might have screwed up here.  That‘s what I was hearing. 

HIRSCHHORN:  No, not at all.  He wasn‘t ineffective. 


HIRSCHHORN:  And, by the way, B.J., I‘m sorry you flipped over.  You shouldn‘t have flipped.  I‘m disappointed.  Listen, he did the best he could with what he had to work with. 


BERNSTEIN:  That‘s not the best.   


NORVILLE:  Vinnie, let me ask you something, because it really gets back to the whole level of dedication of Mark Geragos.  He wasn‘t there when the verdict was returned. 

And I understand the jury says we want to come back at 8:00 in the morning and start doing what we got to do.  And Mark Geragos has said, I can‘t get there until 10:00.  It might be inconvenient.  What‘s going on? 

POLITAN:  Yes, it was really bizarre the way he opened his closing argument by saying I was infective and I didn‘t do anything. 

I didn‘t start working until after verdict getting prepared for this penalty phase.  I thought it was outrageous and it was the first thing that he told this jury.  Perhaps he‘s looking for sympathy for Jackie Peterson, for Lee Peterson, and now maybe some sympathy for Mark Geragos, because he didn‘t do the job that he was supposed to do, the job that he was hired to do, the job that every other lawyer would have done. 

NORVILLE:  We have just a few seconds left.  We know the jury comes back tomorrow morning and starts at it again. 

Vinnie, do you think there is going to be a decision come Friday? 

POLITAN:  It‘s Friday.  And at Court TV, we know Friday is verdict day.  So we expect it.


NORVILLE:  We know that here at MSNBC, too. 

Gloria, do you think there will be a verdict and you want to hazard a guess as to what it might be? 

ALLRED:  Well, a favorite time for juries to come back is on a Friday after lunch. 

This jury may do it, but I don‘t know, because it is a very weighty decision, life or death.  They probably don‘t want to be sequestered for the weekend, when they can‘t deliberate, but would be stuck at the hotel.  But I have no way of knowing if they will come back tomorrow.  I hope they do.

NORVILLE:  B.J., real quick, yes or no, verdict tomorrow? 

BERNSTEIN:  Verdict tomorrow.  Verdict tomorrow, most likely.  I think it will be guilty—it will be death penalty. 

NORVILLE:  Robert, verdict? 

HIRSCHHORN:  Verdict tomorrow, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

NORVILLE:  All right.

And, Jeff? 

LICHTMAN:  One hundred percent verdict tomorrow.  And I agree with Robert, even though I‘m starting to waffle a bit.  I think that it will be life without parole. 

NORVILLE:  This time tomorrow tonight, we may know the answer. 

I thank you all very much for being with us.  Vinnie Politan, Gloria Allred, Robert Hirschhorn, Brenda Joy Bernstein, and Jeff Lichtman, thanks to you to you all.  You‘ve been great. 


NORVILLE:  When we come back, do the struggles of public school systems, never enough money, outdated materials, seem overwhelming?  Well, coming up, you‘re going to meet a young teacher who had a simple, but absolutely brilliant way to deal with it, to get kids the stuff they need to learn, from pencils to books to science supplies.  And guess what?  You can take part.  We‘ll tell you how right after this.


NORVILLE:  A New York City high school teacher is this week‘s “American Moment.”

As an idealistic young social studies teacher at a Bronx high school, Yale graduate Charles Best learned quickly that public school were terribly underfunded and that teachers really want to do more for their students.  So he decided to do something about it.  He formed DonorsChoose.org.  That‘s where teachers list what they need and donors send money for specific supplies and programs. 

Well, so far, Mr. Best has raised more than $2 million, funding all kind of things, art supplies, furniture for the physically handicapped, field trips, science projects, even a school newspaper. 

And joining me now is Charles Best.

You graduated out of Yale and you went straight into a high school in the Bronx.  How different were the supplies at Yale and this high school? 

CHARLES BEST, FOUNDER, DONORSCHOOSE.ORG:  It was hugely different to remember the resources that I had at Yale and to compare that with the scarcity of books and supplies and paper and technology that my students suffered from. 

NORVILLE:  And so you go to the principal and you say, hey, we need this, we need that, we need the other, and the principal says?

BEST:  Well, we would talk about that in the teacher‘s lunch room.  My colleagues and I would talk about the books we wanted our students to read, the field trip we wanted to take with them, the art supplies we needed to do a certain project.  But there was not funding for our ideas to become reality. 

NORVILLE:  So, how did you get this idea of putting what basically is a wish list on the Internet?  And, lo and behold, it turns out Santa Claus surfs the Net.  He actually goes on and he finds this in the form of real people who write checks and fund these programs. 

BEST:  That‘s right, real people who themselves become Santa Clauses. 


BEST:  Well, it was really while my colleagues and I were talking about our students going out the resources that they needed to learn that I realized that people giving money to charity were becoming more and more uneasy about writing a $100 check, a $1,000 check and not really knowing exactly where their donation was going and if it was going to be to the intended recipients. 

So, we figured why not create a Web site where teachers like us can describe and individuals can fund specific student needs?

NORVILLE:  And it doesn‘t go on the Web site.  You get the e-mail from the teacher.  But it doesn‘t go on the Web site until your organization, which is only 13 people, verifies the need, makes sure the price is right, gets the best price, and then puts it up. 

BEST:  That‘s exactly right. 

A teacher goes to Donors Choose.  They write a one-page essay about an experience they want to make possible for their students.  And we do, just as you said, Deborah, authenticate that proposal.  And if a donor decides to fund that project, we don‘t give the cash to the teacher.  We buy the materials, be they books, microscopes or the field trip, and deliver that to the teacher, so that the teacher can lead the class in writing thank-you notes to the donor. 

NORVILLE:  And you give them a little disposable camera, so that they can take pictures of the project or the field trip or whatever.

One of the things that I think is kind of interesting about this is, you run the risk of becoming what caused you in the first place.  That‘s a bureaucracy.  A lot of funding doesn‘t get to the teacher level because there‘s these monolithic bureaucracies, certainly in a place like New York City.  What are you doing to make sure that you don‘t turn into the big bureaucracy, too? 

BEST:  We make sure that Donors Choose remains an open marketplace of teachers‘ best ideas for helping their students learn and individuals‘ choices about the project that speaks to them, the project that they want to choose to fund and the project where they want to see their impact. 

NORVILLE:  I went on the Web site just before we started talking.  And I was interested to see how many different kinds of things—and here we‘re looking at some video of looks like some music boards or something that a class was able to use because of someone‘s generosity. 

There‘s soup to nuts on there.  There was a Latin and ballroom dancing program that somehow could finance.  No one had contributed anything to it yet.  But there were also things that were so small, $374 for an overhead projector for a special-ed student whose kids couldn‘t see necessarily.

BEST:  Yes. 

That‘s right.  The projects range even further, from a $60 proposal called “Where Did All the Pencils Go?” to a $400 set of butterfly cocoons for a science experiment. 

NORVILLE:  But the idea being you guys don‘t decide this is a worthy project.  People decide, if they want to donate to ballroom dancing, more power to you. 

BEST:  Exactly.  And if they prefer to fund a more essential need, like a class set of books or a rug, that‘s the choice that they can make. 

NORVILLE:  When you first put this up there, did you really think that anybody was going to find you or donate to you? 

BEST:  We had no idea.  It was really just 10 colleagues of mine at the high school where I‘ve taught, thinking, well, we have got to go public with the needs of our students. 

And we hoped that people would come to the site.  So it has just been a blessing that people in 49 states of the Union go to Donors Choose, select a student project that they want to provide. 

NORVILLE:  And right now, the projects are not all over the country, but they will be, I know, if you have your way. 

And I want to close with a note that a fourth-grader sent to a couple who bought dictionaries.  They said: “I appreciate how you think about people, also, how you didn‘t think about yourself.  I will always remember the nice people who gave us new dictionaries.”

It‘s a very small thing to them, but it‘s a really big thing to those kids. 

BEST:  Thank you, Deborah, for letting me tell people about Donors Choose. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re happy to.  It‘s DonorsChoose.org.  And it‘s a really nice project.

Charles Best, thanks so much. 

BEST:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll be back.


NORVILLE:  You folks are quick. 

A lot of you have already written in about the soldier questioning Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about that adequate armor for their vehicles.  It has caused an uproar on both sides of the issue. 

Russ Prothero from Branson, Missouri, writes: “You can only manufacture so much equipment in so much time.  I have to believe that our leaders are doing their utmost to provide for our troops, because the thought of them not is unthinkable.”

Well, Sherry from Charleston writes and says: “I‘m really glad this issue is now public.  I hope that soldier who asks the question is not penalized for doing so.  It is a very important issue.  And I am glad that someone is asking the tough questions.”  She goes on to say, “My son lost his father in Iraq, so I know what it feels like to lose a loved one.”          

We are also getting a lot of mail about the Scott Peterson case, as you can well imagine. 

Shelby writes and says: “I must say that the bottom line is, he killed two human beings.  Having 37”—it was actually 39 -- “people testify to his character does not change the fact that two human beings are gone from this Earth.”

But Karen writes and says: “The media convicted this man before there ever was a trial.  I am sure there must be a lot of cases out there like this.  In this case, it was aided by massive publicity for a year and a half.  And the Peterson side, including his own parents, couldn‘t tell their own friends why they knew he was innocent.  Scott Peterson,” she says, “has less to fear from God than that judge, jury and prosecutors.”

We love to hear from you.  So send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  And you can find out more about the program by going NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is also where we‘ve got a number of your e-mails posted. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Thanks a lot for watching. 

Do stay tuned to MSNBC for complete coverage of the Scott Peterson trial.  The jury deliberates.  And when the sentence comes in, we will be reporting it right here. 

For now, though, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.  We‘ll see you later.



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.