Guests: Stephen Cardosi, Greg Beratlis, Richelle Nice, Daniel Horowitz, Michael Cardoza, Gloria Allred, Lynne Coffin
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up live from Redwood City, the jurors have spoken, recommending death for Scott Peterson, and now they‘re talking with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That just seemed to be the appropriate justice for the crime, given the nature and how personal it really was against his wife and his child.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Jurors join us live here at the courthouse to take us inside the jury room where they poured over Scott‘s inconsistent statements, his affair with Amber Frey, and testimony from both Scott and Laci‘s family. What was really behind the unanimous verdicts?
And during his opening statement, defense attorney Mark Geragos told jurors he would prove his client was stone cold innocent. A promise he didn‘t deliver. What could he have done better and will this case hurt his career?
Plus, the defense is already plotting its appeal, and they do have some serious arguments. What are the chances we‘ll see the Peterson case sequel?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket, the death verdict in the penalty phase of Scott Peterson‘s trial, the day after. For six months we‘ve been trying to figure out what jurors were thinking, what they were feeling. We followed eye movements and hand motions and tear ducts and stares to try to figure out what are they thinking. Well, finally now rather than having to guess, we can ask them. Before we talk to three of the jurors in the case, a quick look at what they said last night immediately after the death verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG BERATLIS, PETERSON TRIAL JUROR: Those bodies were found in the one place he went prior to her being missing by any—or knowing when she was missing, that was the one place.
RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON TRIAL JUROR: Scott Peterson was Laci‘s husband, Conner‘s daddy. Someone should have—the one person that should have protected them and for him to have done that—that‘s it.
STEPHEN CARDOSI, PETERSON TRIAL JUROR: You can really see that, you know, that is a baby, or was a baby. And that is a person lying there, and that there is an individual out there who made that outcome happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now are three of the Peterson jurors that those of us in the courtroom have been analyzing for months—Jury foreman, Steve Cardosi, Greg Beratlis and Richelle Nice. Thanks to all of you for taking the time, really appreciate it.
All right, let me start with what I‘ve been saying on this program for months, and that is the most important piece of evidence to me—and I know each of you are going to say that it‘s a compilation of evidence, and I get that. But Steve, was the fact that the bodies were found in the exact location Scott Peterson said he went fishing, 90 miles away from his home, do you think it‘s fair to say it‘s the most important piece of evidence in this case?
CARDOSI: That‘s a very fair statement in my mind. I‘ve made the statement in the past that if they were found somewhere else, we wouldn‘t be here, as Greg has as well.
ABRAMS: Greg, you agree with it, right?
ABRAMS: And Richelle, apart from that, all right, so you‘ve got the fact that the bodies are found in the worst place possible. And I have to tell you, I remember during this case, Jackie Peterson, or before the case saying to me, before Scott was arrested, that there was no way that the bodies were going to wash up where they were found in the San Francisco Bay because she was so convinced that her son didn‘t do it. But apart from that, it was his own words, was it not? It was his lies and lies and inconsistent statements that got him into big trouble.
NICE: I think it was a combination of a lot of things. It—Scott convicted himself. It was his lies. It was where the bodies washed up. It was evidence that we took in the deliberation room and looked over, and things that you see in the courtroom that aren‘t up close and personal, and when you‘re in that deliberation room you get to really look at things that you didn‘t get to really look at in the trial, and that made a big difference.
ABRAMS: Richelle, what about the appearance of Scott Peterson when he was arrested, the fact that his hair was dyed; he had $15,000 cash with him, that he bought the car in somebody else‘s name. Did that convince you that he was trying to flee?
NICE: Yes. I mean, I think it spoke for itself. Either flee or try to look like somebody else—maybe his brother.
ABRAMS: ... Mark Geragos kept saying well, he was just trying to avoid the media.
ABRAMS: Did you buy that?
CARDOSI: ... not at all. He knew he was being followed. He was switching cars. I believe there was something where he was writing down the license plate numbers of the people who were following him. He faxed that, I believe, to his attorney. He thought on that piece of paper, if I‘m recalling correctly, there were private investigators. He was writing down P.I.s...
CARDOSI: ... or whatever following me. So no, I don‘t think he thought those were the media.
ABRAMS: Greg, let me take a step back. We‘ve had on this program many times someone—we get more letters when we have Justin Falconer on this program, angry demanding we never have him on the program again. The former juror number five, he has come on again and again and said essentially that Scott Peterson is innocent, that there‘s not enough evidence to convict. But you just made a very interesting point to me and that is you said that when Justin Falconer was dismissed from the case in June, your thinking at that time wasn‘t that far off from his. Tell me about that.
BERATLIS: At that point, and taking the thought, in my mind, innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution hadn‘t put forth the evidence to prove that he had done this. There was no guilt, what I‘ve seen. As far as I was concerned, he was innocent. I was sitting there waiting—when am I going to start getting some information that I can decipher that shows any possibility that this is him because I didn‘t see that...
ABRAMS: What about the opening statements, though? When prosecutors laid out their case in the opening statement they told you what was coming. It sounds like you weren‘t too convinced by the opening statement of the prosecutors.
BERATLIS: Opening did not solidify anything for me. There were contradictions in the opening by the evidence that was being brought forth in the cross-examinations, and I was sitting there saying this isn‘t jibing, the Martha Stewart comment...
BERATLIS: ... you know, you look, and they‘re saying it‘s not there.
ABRAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the bottom line is that the prosecutors promised that they were going to be able to show that Scott Peterson was lying about having been at home watching Martha Stewart with Laci. It turns out the prosecutors didn‘t have what they thought they had.
Richelle, did you feel that way as well, early in the case, that basically, you know, as the case was moving back in June that this was not a particularly strong case for prosecutors?
NICE: Yes, I do. It was—the defense definitely had a stronger case, if you will.
ABRAMS: So when did the tide start to turn, Richelle? I mean I know it‘s so hard to answer that question, because it‘s like asking someone what did you eat for breakfast on July 2. But generally...
ABRAMS: ... in terms of the evidence presented in this case, when did the tides turn for you?
NICE: I just think over time the compiling of a lot of evidence, a lot of witnesses, a lot of testimony, a lot of inconsistent statements. It was just time for me.
ABRAMS: Steve, how about you?
NICE: And I tried to go into that...
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry, Richelle, go ahead. Finish up.
NICE: I‘m sorry. And I tried, and I think all of us, you know, did go into that deliberation room with an open mind.
ABRAMS: Steve, how about you? What—it sounds like all of you, back in June, this was not a slam-dunk case. I mean that the defense team had a real shot here. What happened?
CARDOSI: I think in the beginning the prosecution, in my opinion, started off very, very slow. I mean they had a slow start, and they kind of wound up towards the end to where they got everything together. By the time we went into the deliberating room for the guilt phase, I was ready to start discussing the case. I figured, you know, I‘ve heard a lot from both sides now. And after sitting in the deliberating room for probably three or four days, when we started actually making a little bit of headway, I started to firm up that I was positive that we were going to come back at that point with an actual guilty verdict of some kind. I didn‘t know what the premeditation factors would be, but I knew that guilty was going to be in the word. So...
ABRAMS: Let me take a quick break here—if you can all just stand
by with me for a moment. Because coming up...
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: When you said you lost your wife, what—I mean what sense do you think people think when you say that in loss? I mean I took it and she took it as...
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) she was dead.
Yes, I know you did.
ABRAMS: Jurors for days and days of phone calls between Scott Peterson and his girlfriend, Amber Frey. But the question is how much did it really matter? And Mark Geragos made a name for himself with celebrity clients like Winona Ryder, Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson. But it‘s been a mixed record, so will this case soil his reputation? I say if it does, that‘s not fair.
Plus, his attorneys keep talking about the appeal. But what are his chances really?
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Scott Peterson‘s girlfriend, Amber Frey, spent two weeks on the witness stand. Jurors heard days and days of her phone calls with Peterson. I‘m going to ask the jurors how important was that testimony. Coming up.
PETERSON: And the fact that you want another child.
PETERSON: And the small things that we have to discuss.
FREY: Which you don‘t—do you still feel that you‘re very adamant about not having another child?
PETERSON: Oh, I wouldn‘t say adamant, but it‘s not in my thoughts currently.
ABRAMS: Remember that Amber Frey tape? This is New Year‘s. Back with me are three of the jurors on the jury that convicted and sentenced Scott Peterson, Steve Cardosi, Greg Beratlis, and Richelle Nice.
Richelle, how important were the two—I think the two most important points from Amber Frey were that particular point where Scott Peterson says, sort of seemingly admits that he had said to her that he didn‘t want another child and the fact that he told Amber he‘d lost his wife two weeks before she disappeared. How important was that for you in terms of finding Scott Peterson guilty?
NICE: It was an important factor to me. That was one factor in the premeditation part for me. It was a big key.
ABRAMS: And, you know, that‘s a good point about premeditation. A lot of people—Greg, let me start with you—don‘t really know that there‘s this sort of December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9 build-up, when it comes to premeditation. This is two weeks before Scott Peterson‘s wife goes missing. He‘s looking for boats. He‘s telling her he lost his wife. He‘s looking at the tides in the San Francisco Bay. I mean I assume that was the key to the premeditation, was it not?
BERATLIS: That was one part of it.
ABRAMS: But you think the premeditation occurred even before Amber Frey, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
BERATLIS: I do. I do.
BERATLIS: The comment made when he met Shawn Sibley back at the convention...
BERATLIS: ... down in southern California.
ABRAMS: What did he say?
BERATLIS: He told her that he had lost his soul mate and he was—you know, he was looking for somebody, you know, to get back with, and that she knew somebody who was also looking for somebody. But she wanted him to be legitimate and up front because her friend had been hurt in the past. That‘s—I felt that that statement made right there was saying that he had already kind of let go.
ABRAMS: Steve, do you agree with that?
CARDOSI: Yes. I—at the very least, I wouldn‘t say necessarily that his mind was made up, but he was, at the very least, obviously searching for an affair. And I think once he kind of tightened those things up with Shawn Sibley that he was going to be set up, I think somewhere in there his mind clicked and he made a decision.
ABRAMS: What about the defense about—a lot of talk about homeless people, transients and while the defense didn‘t specifically say which one of these homeless or transient might have done it, they certainly threw out the possibility that maybe someone else, who we don‘t know, who lived in the neighborhood or who was, you know, one of these transients, could have done it. Did it ever—did that ever ring true with you?
CARDOSI: No. We got into the deliberating room and we—I mean we tried to find a way out, including the two ‘90‘s (ph), the transients, that somebody else could have done this. And we weighed—we made basically a timeline. We weighed the facts that, you know, if he was there and he heard Martha Stewart, that that would have been, I believe, at 9:48 or so and then, you know, his cell phone call that he made leaving the house I believe was at 10:08 when he was leaving the house or in the vicinity of his house, anyways.
And then I believe he got to his warehouse somewhere at 10:18 or 10:30, somewhere in there. And we had it all laid out on a timeline and we weighed it in the timeline and it just didn‘t seem reasonable. It came down to basically about a 10-minute window that she could have finished getting dressed, doing her hair, mopping the floor, gone outside to walk the dog...
ABRAMS: Changing her clothes.
CARDOSI: ... changing her clothes...
CARDOSI: ... get abducted, and then Karen Servas finding the dog at 10:18. That‘s where the 10:18...
ABRAMS: Yes. Go ahead Greg.
BERATLIS: I think one important thing was when he got home that night, where did he find the dog? It was in the backyard. He didn‘t—that would have told me that she hadn‘t left the house yet. She was still somewhere either in the house or in the backyard. The dog didn‘t miraculously open that gate and walk in there with a leash on. The dog was going for a walk. He didn‘t know that Karen Servas had walked over there and put the dog in the background...
BERATLIS: ... in the backyard. But the first place they went, he said, was to the park. You know, why would you assume that if the dog—how did the dog get there?
ABRAMS: Real quick. You were about—you were leaning towards life in prison on Friday.
ABRAMS: Over the weekend, you were sequestered in a hotel. Did you change your mind over the weekend, or did the deliberation process, talking with the other jurors, deliberating, change your mind?
BERATLIS: The deliberation process—I mulled over this over the weekend in my mind. Because we were just trying to get an idea where we were going. You know, were we already—were there people believing in one way or another, and if they were heart-set that way, why did we—how far did we want to go with this? If they were steadfast in their beliefs, you know, what are those reasons behind that?
I needed the weekend to process everything. I looked at the board. I‘d wrote down life on my sheet, yes. That was where I started from. That was the beginning of my process, life, and then death. Not death, and then life. It was—I started off with life.
But then I went back into that room on Monday and I think Steve can attest, I sat there and I looked at every sheet, and I just kept going down the process. And I did that for a good, you know, almost, two hours in my mind, you know, mitigation, aggravation...
ABRAMS: But it wasn‘t emotion. It wasn‘t Sharon Rocha, Jackie Peterson. It was aggravating factors, mitigating factors?
BERATLIS: Correct. It had to be. I believe that that spoke highly.
BERATLIS: I can‘t—I‘m not going to say that Sharon Rocha with, you know, the analogy of you know, divorce, death, how do you come up with that?
BERATLIS: ... an option. That was important. That was important. That was not something in that family that had not been heard of. Both sides had divorces, so it wasn‘t looked down upon. So why not divorce if you weren‘t happy?
ABRAMS: Let me take a quick break. If you could all just stay with us for another moment, we will be back with the jurors in the Peterson case in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON GRANTSKI, LACI PETERSON‘S STEPFATHER: It‘s still a nightmare. It should never have happened. It‘s hurt too many people for no reason. But justice was served. Our police department did their job. Our friends, family, country, searched for Laci everywhere. There wasn‘t one place that wasn‘t searched. They had no reason to doubt that it was Scott who did what he did, and he got what he deserved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The family deserves a lot of credit. They had to sit through months and months of testimony, not being able to talk about anything related to the case. Ron Grantski there, Laci‘s stepfather.
I‘m joined once again by three of the jurors in the case, Steve Cardosi, Greg Beratlis and Richelle Nice. Thank you all for sticking around.
Richelle, there was this issue that came up in the penalty phase of this case called lingering doubt. The judge basically said to you, as you know, that you can consider—even though you convicted him beyond a reasonable doubt, if you have any questions, any lingering questions about how or where or when, for example, that could come into play. Was there any lingering doubt in your mind about Scott Peterson‘s guilt that came into play in the penalty phase?
NICE: I would have to say I didn‘t have a lot of lingering doubt. Of course, there‘s always going to be a tiny bit, but for me, no, I didn‘t have much lingering doubt.
ABRAMS: Either of you have any lingering doubt? Did that become an issue in the jury deliberation room in the penalty phase?
BERATLIS: I don‘t think I could have come up with a death penalty if I thought there was lingering doubt in my mind. I weighed everything and in my mind I gave a just decision.
ABRAMS: Let me bring in my legal team here and let them ask a couple of questions as well. The three of the jurors are going to stick around, and I‘m joined now by Michael Cardoza, who was an advisor to the defense team in this case, Daniel Horowitz, who is a well known defense attorney here in town, and Gloria Allred, who was the attorney for Amber Frey in this case. Good to see all of you.
Daniel, you‘ve been on this program regularly. Any burning questions that you had for any of the jurors?
DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. Actually, let me ask this of Greg, Steve and Richelle, whoever wants to answer. Judge Delucchi instructed you that you cannot consider sympathy for Scott Peterson‘s family in making your life or death decision, and I know each of you have said that you followed that scrupulously. What if the instruction was just the opposite, you could consider sympathy for Jackie, Lee and the rest of the family, would that have changed your verdict?
ABRAMS: All right. Steve, do you want to take that?
CARDOSI: For me, you know, it definitely would have made it more difficult to come up with the death penalty for me. Not that—I‘m not saying that it was easy to come up with that verdict. But it would—it could have made a difference.
ABRAMS: Michael Cardoza, questions?
MICHAEL CARDOZA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Sure. For all three, once you decided that Scott Peterson committed this homicide, what facts did you use to bring him into that first-degree range that it was willful, deliberate, and premeditated?
ABRAMS: Richelle, do you want to talk about premeditation?
NICE: I think there were a number of things. The—Shawn Sibley, the research of the bay, the tides, the boat, the lies. Just—there was a number of things. There wasn‘t just one. There was a number of things.
ABRAMS: Let me—I‘ve got to take a quick break here. When we come back, more with the jurors in the Peterson case. Gloria, we‘ll bring you in as well—back in a moment.
ABRAMS: Coming up, more with three of the jurors from the Scott Peterson trial. First, the headlines.
ABRAMS: We are back with three of the jurors from the Scott Peterson case. Steve Cardosi, Greg Beratlis and Richelle Nice. Before I go back to my legal team asking some questions, Richelle, we kept talking here about the fact that there was very little to no physical evidence for the prosecution, that there was no evidence in the home that necessarily tied Scott Peterson to the crime. Did that ever trouble you?
NICE: It did. But, you know, looking at when you get in the deliberation room and you get a look at the evidence up close, there‘s little things that you didn‘t see that—out in the courtroom that, for me, put it together. There was a picture of Laci‘s bedroom and her bed, you can tell was clearly not made by Laci. And if she had made the bed that morning, it would not have just been thrown over the top of the bed. You can tell she was very meticulous, and she was—she liked her things nice, and she liked her things neat. And that spread was thrown over the top. That was one of the small things.
ABRAMS: You feel like you know Laci Peterson at this point, don‘t you? Because I feel like I do, and I‘ve never met her.
NICE: I do.
ABRAMS: I‘ve just been covering this case, yes.
NICE: I do. I do. I feel like I have a bond with her. I think everybody does...
ABRAMS: Gloria Allred, questions for the jurors.
GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY: Yes, well, first of all, thank you very much for your service to our community. Let me say also that I thank you for the kind words you‘ve said about my client, Amber Frey. And my question is Amber, on the tapes, asked Scott Peterson what did you mean when you said you lost your wife and these would be the first holidays without her. And she had not yet gone missing, essentially. How could she be lost before she was lost? What role did that acknowledgment of Scott Peterson that he had said that to Amber before Laci ever went missing, play, if any, in your jury deliberations or in your thoughts?
CARDOSI: Well, the fact that he said that prior to her going missing, to me, kind of led me to believe that he did have a plan. That he had a plan for her not to be around for very long, which definitely played a role towards reaching a verdict of—with first degree premeditation on the part of Laci Peterson, so...
ABRAMS: I‘ve just got to ask one more question, Greg. The parents of Scott Peterson testified in the guilt phase of this case to try and explain away all of the cash that he had and why he had given a fake name to buy his car, for example, et cetera. Did you think that the Petersons were lying?
BERATLIS: I thought they were protecting their son. I thought they were going to do whatever they could in there. I had hoped—I mean they were under oath, that they were valid mistakes. I mean they went to one bank account and took out $10,000, but it was the wrong bank account, but then they went to another bank and took $10,000. Well why not go back to the same bank and take those monies out of the right account?
Why is it that you‘re changing vehicles? The I‘m—you know the analogy is I‘m a boy named Sue with now I‘m Jacqueline. Why do you need to do that at all, if indeed you are innocent? Because you don‘t have to do that. Why do you have to? I mean we were told that cars were being taken and he was being hounded. I think they kept him in check.
They watched him, yes. But I don‘t know if it was—you know if it‘s the press, it‘s one thing I can understand, I guess. And he explained that off. But these were police officers and he played a cat and mouse game with them...
ABRAMS: Yes. All right, look, I‘ve got to—I could talk to you guys for hours. But let me just say to both of you and to Richelle, I said this on the program when you‘re not here, I‘ll say it to you now again. You all deserve a lot of credit. Not just—people keep saying oh, you served, and that‘s great. And I think that deserves a lot of credit. You both have been telling me how you‘ve been working on weekends, your regular jobs.
You‘re a firefighter, Steve, working on the weekends as a firefighter and then going to serve on jury service. That is an unbelievable commitment. And I have to say watching the three of you and I said this last night, I‘m going to say it again, you were impressive, you are well thought out, and I see compassion there. And I think that—we‘re going to talk about this in the next block, about the appeals. But I think they‘re going to have a real tough time finding problems with the way this jury did its job.
So congratulations for all of your work. I know this is tough. You‘re going to have to live with this for the rest of your lives. This isn‘t something that makes anyone happy, but thank you all for taking the time.
ABRAMS: Richelle, to you as well. I appreciate it.
NICE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: And we‘re going to take a quick break here. When we come back, we‘re going to talk about the possible appeals. Does Scott Peterson have any real chance of getting a new trial? His team—defense team seems to think so.
And Peterson‘s supporters love to blame me and the rest of the media for his fate. I‘ve got news for them. It wasn‘t us. It was the facts. It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON‘S ATTORNEY: Obviously, we‘re very disappointed. Obviously, we plan on pursuing every and all appeals, motions for a new trial and everything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, let‘s get right to it. What are the chances on appeal? Michael Cardoza, you‘ve been advising the defense team during this trial. What do you think the chances are on appeal and what do you think the best argument for the defense is?
CARDOZA: Dan, let‘s get this straight. I didn‘t advise them through this trial. What I did was I did a mock cross-examination of Scott. Now to your question. I think the biggest appeal issue will be in this case is Greg Jackson, that former foreman of this case, his leaving right during jury deliberations. Why did he do that? What went on? What precipitated that? There‘s going to be a lot of investigation that goes on with that. Big, big appeal in this case, I think.
ABRAMS: Lynne Coffin joins us as well. She‘s the president of California‘s Attorneys for Criminal Justice and a former California state public defender. She‘s worked on hundreds of capital appeals. There‘s a little noise going on above me.
Ms. Coffin, you‘ve done a lot of these appeals. You‘ve followed this case. Do you think that that‘s a real issue for the defense, the one mentioned by Mr. Cardoza and are there any other issues you think that could be trouble for the record in this case?
LYNNE COFFIN, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEYS FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I agree. I think that‘s one of the major issues in this case. I think there are other jury issues that will be important. For example, when Judge Delucchi let the jurors out of sequestration between the guilt phase and the penalty phase out into the jurors celebrating the guilty verdict, I think that was quite problematic. And I think that it‘s correct that there‘s going to be a lot of investigation that‘s going to go into the jury issues in this case.
None of us are privy to what went on in the courtroom or behind the scenes, and we don‘t know exactly what the issues will be. There will be a direct appeal, and there will also be a habeas corpus petition filed. And so we‘re just going to have to wait and see exactly what‘s going to happen.
ABRAMS: Daniel Horowitz, you say that you think that there‘s a pretty clean record here. That the defense is going to have an uphill battle.
HOROWITZ: I think so, Dan. And on your show yesterday you explored the whole issue with juror number five. And what you found out is that this man really wasn‘t leaning one way or the other. It‘s not like he was the defense holdout. So I don‘t think that‘s an issue. Dan, the question I asked the jurors a few minutes ago I think is a very good issue on the death penalty appeal.
Mark Geragos did not properly ask questions that would have put the impact of Scott‘s death on the family before the jury. You could have asked the question what aspect of Scott‘s personality would you be missing if he were executed. That would have been admissible and the jury could have considered it. He asked the wrong question. The jury did not consider it, and you could see by the response of Steve, your juror, that it might have influenced their verdict.
ABRAMS: Gloria, you‘d be concerned at all if you were the prosecutor in this case about—I mean, it is unusual to have two jurors dismissed during the deliberation process.
ALLRED: Yes, Dan. Absolutely, you‘re right. It is unusual. And that may be, at least, an argument on appeal. Not to say it will be a successful argument. Not to say, even if it is that it will be reversible (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But another argument that will be very interesting is whether or not there is ineffective assistance of counsel. It‘s interesting that in the death penalty final argument of Mr. Geragos, in a sense, he fell on his sword.
He said I wasn‘t prepared for the death penalty phase. Now, was he serious? Was he trying to save Scott Peterson from the death penalty? Was he just trying to testify, which he can‘t do through the back door by saying OK, I wasn‘t really prepared, because I thought he was innocent. I would say that I wouldn‘t be surprised if appellate counsel, and that won‘t be Mr. Geragos, would raise that on appeal and argue ineffective...
ALLRED: ... assistance of counsel.
ABRAMS: Lynne Coffin, they‘re going to say that there—I mean ineffective assistance of counsel is a very high standard. To basically say your lawyer was sleeping, your lawyer really couldn‘t defend you in a way, it‘s not based on poor strategic choices, et cetera, right?
COFFIN: Well that‘s not really correct. The fact of the matter is...
ABRAMS: So if you had just bad strategy, if the lawyer just made some bad choices, that‘s ineffective assistance of counsel and you can get a new trial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
COFFIN: ... the standard was set by the Supreme Court in a case called Wiggins. And in fact, if it is true that Mr. Geragos never prepared for the penalty phase that would be reversible error. The fact of the matter is under Supreme Court law you must be prepared for the penalty phase. Now if Mr. Geragos...
ABRAMS: But wait—no, no, wait, he wasn‘t saying he wasn‘t prepared. He was saying he hadn‘t prepared in the past, and that‘s why it took him a while and that‘s why he needed more time. He was saying that he hadn‘t prepared. That‘s not the same thing as saying he showed up unprepared.
COFFIN: If he did not have enough time to prepare for the penalty phase and even if he—if he had not started preparing when he prepared for the guilt phase, that is ineffective assistance of counsel. Because in fact, in a capital trial you must be prepared for a penalty phase from the beginning, because you need to structure the case as a whole.
Now, you know, I‘m not saying that that alone will necessarily reverse
this case. What I‘m saying is that just because Mr. Geragos is a well-
known attorney doesn‘t mean that he gave effective assistance of counsel in
this case and you have to look at the case as a whole. You don‘t just look
· let me tell you...
COFFIN: ... you don‘t get one little mistake and a capital case is reversed. But it is in fact...
COFFIN: ... correct that that needs to be looked at. But it won‘t be looked at on direct appeal...
ABRAMS: Right. No...
COFFIN: It will be looked at in a habeas...
ABRAMS: Right. No one‘s talking about not looking at it. But I‘m correct that he‘s not going to win, Daniel Horowitz. There is no way—I mean there is no way that this case is going to get reversed on ineffective assistance of counsel. If they make that argument, fine. But I am willing to bet anything—I mean “A”, it‘s so insulting to Mark Geragos, which is fine. But the bottom line is that it‘s just not going to happen, Daniel.
HOROWITZ: Well, Dan, let‘s separate the guilt phase, where Geragos was competent. He was an excellent cross-examiner. He gave an excellent closing. That‘s not going to be reversed. I think that‘s written in stone. But the penalty phase, the late preparation, not voir diring the jurors at the very beginning of the case on their death attitudes, that might very well be...
ABRAMS: Michael Cardoza, are you going to stick up for your boy here?
CARDOZA: Well, listen, Geragos is not locked at the hip with me, Dan.
I mean, what I think they have to look at here is and what I would question
· any attorney in a death penalty phase could get up and say, look, I‘m not prepared. It took me a while. We needed a recess. So basically set up a reversal.
They really are going to have to investigate this and look at was he really that unprepared for this portion of the case. Like Lynne said, he really should, and he may well have started preparing right from the beginning of this case.
CARDOZA: And he may well have done that at a certainly level and been caught off guard and because of that needed to regroup. Those are things they‘re going to have to look into.
ABRAMS: Yes. There‘s no question that he should have. There‘s no
question that it was a mistake not to prepare more—I don‘t even believe
· by the way, I think he was using that as a sort of technique in talking to the jurors. But regardless, I think everyone‘s right, that it will come up. But listen to me, you heard me say it.
There‘s no way that this case will get reversed on ineffective assistance of counsel. If it does, I will have everyone on to tell me why I was wrong. All right, Lynne Coffin, we got to have you on more often. I apologize we didn‘t have more time for you. I appreciate it.
Michael Cardoza, it‘s great to have you un-gagged and back on the program...
CARDOZA: Dan, good to be back.
ABRAMS: Daniel Horowitz and Gloria Allred, as always, thanks a lot.
ALLRED: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, so now that a jury‘s convicted Peterson, recommend that he get the death penalty, it‘s time his supporters stop blaming the media for his fate. It is my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: They blame the media every time. Every time a criminal defendant in a high profile trial gets arrested, gets charged, sometimes gets convicted, they blame the media. My “Closing Argument” about why that‘s just not fair.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—supporters of Scott Peterson blaming the perennial scapegoat, the media, for all of his troubles. In just about every case where there‘s media attention, the defendant tries to shift attention away from the fact that he or she was indicted by prosecutors or a grand jury, not by the media, and then often convicted by a jury. Last week, Scott Peterson‘s father, Lee, talked about a media lynching. O.J. Simpson and his defenders regularly attribute all of Simpson‘s problems to the media. Michael Jackson‘s team has often suggested that the media is at the root of Jackson‘s problems. In every case, we do challenge the prosecution‘s evidence, but defendants often don‘t like the results of the investigation.
Before the Peterson trial began, I was regularly breaking stories about evidence in the case. Some of it seemingly helpful to the defense. But at trial the defense did little to support that evidence and didn‘t rebut the strongest parts of the prosecution‘s case. It would be dishonest and a disservice to you if I didn‘t put the defense case in context. The context is they never explained why the bodies were found where they were, why Peterson told Amber Frey he lost his wife right before she died, why he lied about what he was doing the day Laci disappeared. That‘s just part of it.
We did our job by putting into context unsubstantiated defense theories. That still allows to you make up your own mind but with context. The same applies to the Simpson case. It‘s true, by the end the vast majority of people covering, watching the case, and particularly after the civil case, were convinced Simpson was guilty or responsible, but not based on bias or a desire for a better story. In fact, not guilty is probably a better story. But because of the evidence, it was overwhelming.
A good reporter will provide context. It doesn‘t necessarily equate DNA and other physical evidence with farfetched theories about flying blood and impossible frame-ups. In fact, I think the media was probably too even handed in its coverage of the Simpson case, always equating prosecution and defense arguments, keeping a straight face through sometimes laughable defense arguments. I think we owe you the context.
And in the Michael Jackson case, his supporters say they are troubled by the media coverage. Well, then why are his lawyers opposing the release of more of the information in the indictment? I‘d love to do a story about how prosecutors in a vendetta to get Jackson built a case on nothing, if that‘s true. But so far we can‘t substantiate it.
The real problems occur in the cases where no one is watching. Those are the ones where DNA later clears the defendant. So next time you hear a defendant blame the media, ask yourself was the coverage really unfair or is the coverage of the evidence just frustrating to the defendant because the evidence is so, well, overwhelming.
“Your Rebuttal” coming up in 60 seconds, along with a word on how not to discipline your dog. Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night, some members of the jury in the Peterson case gave a press conference to explain why they chose to recommend the death penalty. I said the jurors were thoughtful and impressive.
But Jessie Sweeney, Karen and Pat in Maine disagree. They write, “We saw a different press conference from the three Peterson jurors than you did. We were surprised at the simple-minded responses of these jurors. The two men seemed to be free of anger, but seemed to be saying we convicted Scott Peterson because we did not like his stoic demeanor.”
No, they never even suggested that they convicted because of his demeanor. But some of them said that his lack of emotion further convinced them that they had no regrets about the death penalty.
And at the end of the 9:00 p.m. program, I said we have been focused on the jurors, Scott Peterson and the lawyers, but I want to make sure we don‘t forget what this case is really about. A beautiful, loving vibrant woman who did not deserve to die. And we remembered Laci Peterson in a video created by her friends and family for her vigil.
From Denton, Texas, Nina Baiocco. “The video at the end of the show was great and actually made me cry. That was very respectful of you to show what the case was really about. Thanks for the great work.” Thank you Nina.
With the Peterson verdict in, we return to our new ABRAMS REPORT feature, our “Legal Lites”. We‘ve been holding a contest to pick a better name than “Legal Lite”, so will announce the new name and the contest winner next week.
Meantime, here‘s our “Legal Lite”. It comes from Gainesville, Florida, and it really does fall into the category of man bites dog stories. Twenty-one-year-old named Mount Lee Lacy in trouble with the law. Gainesville police say they got a call from the mother of the girlfriend of a 21-year-old named Mount Lee Lacy. Mom heard him arguing with her daughter about disciplining his dog.
When police got to his apartment, they heard an argument and barking. They kicked down the door and found a hidden little Jack Russell terrier with a bloody front left paw. The man holding a 200-pound bull mastiff on a leash. Lacy was arrested for resisting arrest, threatening the officers with the mastiff and felony animal cruelty for biting his terrier.
Police Sergeant Keith Kameg told Lacy—quote—“Biting the dog was good punishment and that‘s how you train them. That dog bites so that‘s what they understand.” That‘s what he told them. They did not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Lacy would understand his own actions better if in prison someone does something to him that involves his first name.
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