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'The Abrams Report' for Dec. 20

Read the transcript to the 6 p.m. ET show

Guest: Jeff Lanza, Dr. Zvi Lothane, Elizabeth Reed, Ronald Richards, Paul Pfingst, Issam Ghazzawi

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up: A woman accused of killing a mother-to-be for her baby is in court today.  Authorities say Lisa Montgomery ripped the baby from its mother‘s womb, then tried to pass the little girl off as her own.  The authorities tracked her down on the Internet.  We‘ll talk to the FBI and a lawyer who represented a woman accused of a similar crime.  What could the defense possibly be?  And...


SHELLIE SAMUELS, PROSECUTING ROBERT BLAKE:  He didn‘t go back to the restaurant to get his gun.  He couldn‘t.  He was too freaked out because he‘d already shot somebody in the head.


ABRAMS:  Opening statements in “Baretta” star Robert Blake‘s murder trial, prosecutors telling jurors after two stuntmen refused to kill Blake‘s wife, he took matters into his own hands.  His defense: that he was back in the restaurant, retrieving his gun.  Plus, Saddam Hussein meets his lawyer for the first time.  We talked to one of the attorneys with one of the hardest legal jobs around: defending the dictator.

The program about justice starts now.

Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, that stolen baby case, a pregnant mom-to-be strangled to death, her fetus ripped from her womb, now the allegedly confessed killer, Lisa Montgomery, in court just a little while ago for the first time.  NBC‘s Alex Fees has the story.


ALEX FEES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Thirty-six-year-old Lisa Montgomery appeared in a Kansas federal court Monday.  Prosecutors have said Montgomery will eventually be charged with kidnapping resulting in death.  Meanwhile, baby Victoria Jo is with her father and other family members in a Topeka hospital.  Montgomery allegedly cut the baby out of her mother‘s womb Thursday after allegedly strangling 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett of Skidmore, Missouri.  Stinnett‘s mother found her daughter‘s body in a pool of blood inside the couple‘s small home.  Stinnett was eight months pregnant with her first child.

Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center officials said the baby is in remarkably good condition, considering what she has been through.  Investigators said Montgomery has confessed to the crime.  Investigators tracked down Montgomery through e-mails they said she exchanged with Stinnett after they met on a Web site regarding rat terrier dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, this is a good example of how the Internet has changed our lives.  Skidmore is a very small town in a rural area, and the Internet reached into this home and impacted this young woman‘s life.

FEES:  Investigators said Montgomery, married with two children, took the baby back to Kansas and tried to pass her off as her own to family and friends.  Investigators doubt she was even pregnant.  Alex Fees, NBC News, St. Louis.


ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘ll get to the details of what Lisa Montgomery may be facing legally in a moment and what the defense might argue here.  But first, how she was caught.  At first, authorities had a tough time issuing an Amber Alert because the premature baby had no physical characteristics.  But perhaps the biggest reason the baby was reunited with her father—the Internet.  A dog breeder in North Carolina tipped off the FBI after noticing a message board exchange between Bobbie Jo Stinnett, also a dog breeder, and her alleged killer.  She thought the timing was odd.


DYANNE SIKTAR, DOG BREEDER:  What really I thought was weird was the

fact that she was going to see her on the day that she was killed and knew

·         had directions to her home.


ABRAMS:  Thanks to the police, who were able to trace an alleged—an 11-digit IP address to a computer at Lisa Montgomery‘s home, they found the child.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Give credit where it‘s due, quick police work responsible here for cracking this case so quickly.

Joining us now, Jeff Lanza, FBI special agent in Kansas City, Missouri, in charge of helping track down Lisa Montgomery.  First of all, sir, congratulations on—it‘s bittersweet, I know, but Congress, work well done, in terms of police work.

JEFF LANZA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  Well, thank you.  It was a lot of good police work by the sheriff‘s department, the Missouri Highway Patrol, the FBI...

ABRAMS:  Let me...

LANZA:  ... and the local agencies, as well.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.  It‘s clear, is it not—she‘s now confessed, right?

LANZA:  Well, you know, the charges have been filed, and I‘m not going to talk about any type of statement she made to investigators.

ABRAMS:  All right, but the DA—I mean, the U.S. attorney has, at the very least, suggested, if not basically said, that there was a confession in this case.  Was that—did you need that?  Meaning, before she said anything—let‘s just put it that way.  Before she said anything, was it clear that you had the right person?

LANZA:  Well, you know, when we tracked the—when we tracked this child down—and the most important thing in this case was to get that child back to its family.  And we tracked that child down and found the suspect with the baby.  Of course, that‘s very, very good—a very good development.  And we got the baby back to its family.  That was the most important thing.  I can‘t comment on the investigative aspect...

ABRAMS:  Oh, fair enough.

LANZA:  ... and the evidence in the case...

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  Fair enough.  I‘ll...

LANZA:  ... at this point.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll try not to ask you about that specifically.  How did you know it was the baby?

LANZA:  Well...

ABRAMS:  When you found the baby.

LANZA:  Based on—on—you know, every—all the surrounding information that went with the case.  It was the—basically, the Internet that led us to the suspect, as well as a call that came from the—based on the Amber Alert system.  That led us to Kansas to the suspect.  Agents arrived.  Police officers arrived at that house.  They didn‘t know what they were going to find.  Are we going to find a baby?  Are we going to find the right baby?  Is the baby alive?  Is the baby healthy?  All those things were true, and we got that baby back to its family.

And basically, all the other information that went along with that, and the IP address and other indications were that we had the right person and—the right baby and the right suspect.

ABRAMS:  Now, can you talk to me a little bit about the Amber Alert system here?

LANZA:  Right.

ABRAMS:  There was no real way to describe a premature baby that no one had seen up to that point, right?

LANZA:  Yes, I don‘t believe that contingency was built into the system.  It‘s a very new system, and that‘s understandable.  And the sheriff tried to get that information out, and the Amber Alert system would not allow an Amber Alert to be issued unless we had descriptive information.  Obviously, in this case, we‘re not going to have any type of descriptors when you have a baby who no one has ever seen before.

ABRAMS:  Let me just read this affidavit from the case, just so we can be clear and you don‘t have to put yourself out on the line on this at all.  “Lisa Montgomery thereafter confessed to having strangled Stinnett and removing the fetus.  Lisa Montgomery further admitted the baby she had was Stinnett‘s baby and that she had lied to her husband about giving birth to a child.”

Is the investigation still continuing with regard to her husband?

LANZA:  We have an ongoing investigation.  I can tell you that we‘ve developed a lot of information, and that has led us to charge one person in this case.  We can never predict, you know, what will happen in the future of investigation, but one person has been charged right now.

ABRAMS:  And so at this point, you know, we have to presume that this husband, as it says right here in the affidavit, didn‘t know what his wife was up to.

LANZA:  Yes, I will again state that the suspect has been charged in this particular case, and I‘ll let the affidavit speak for itself.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jeff Lanza, sorry for putting you on the spot there.  I know you‘re in a tough position.  You got to be real careful what you say and don‘t say.  You don‘t want to hurt the case.  Thanks a lot.  Good work on this case.  Appreciate you coming on the program.

LANZA:  OK.  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, how to defend someone like Lisa Montgomery.  We speak with an attorney who represented a woman accused of a similar murder.  And the trial of actor Robert Blake began today.  In the opening statement, prosecutors say Blake killed his wife because he hated her and didn‘t want her anywhere near their young daughter.  We got to the courthouse.  Plus:

Saddam Hussein‘s lawyers meet with him for the first time since he was captured.  One of his lead attorneys joins me.  I‘ll ask him whether Saddam understands how serious the situation really is for him.

Your e-mail,  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  You know, I respond.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  We‘re talking about that horrible story.  She killed an expectant mother, allegedly, and stole her baby girl.  Oh!  We were just talking about how police tracked Lisa Montgomery down with the help of the Internet and the Amber Alert system.  But what‘s next, now that the authorities say she‘s confessed?  What kind of defense might they use?

In 1995 in Illinois, Jacqueline Williams (ph) and two male companions killed a pregnant mother, viciously killing her and two of her kids, but her youngest child and newborn baby survived.  Since there were several people involved in that crime, the lawyers argued, it was impossible to prove who did the killing.  A jury didn‘t buy it.  Jacqueline Williams and one of her accomplices were sentenced to death, only to later have their sentences commuted to life.  A third is also serving a life sentence.

Joining us now is Elizabeth Reed, the attorney who defended Jacqueline Williams, and to help us understand what drives someone to commit such a crime, Dr. Zvi Lothane, a professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.  Thank you both for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.

All right, let me start with the Jacqueline Williams case, Ms. Reed.  Was there any kind of mental competency defense used, or was the defense purely, Look, you can‘t prove who actually did it?

ELIZABETH REED, DUPAGE COUNTY, IL, PUBLIC DEFENDER:  Well, the defense was basically looking to see who did what because, in our case, different from your case today, there were three co-defendants, and there were also three victims.  But in any case of this type, you always immediately look into the mental status of the defendants and investigate to see what kind of issues they have, whether they‘re in the past or present, and to see whether they may lead to any type of insanity defense, even if temporary.

ABRAMS:  Let me read some of the other cases that we just found a few of them.  December, 2003 a 21-year-old Oklahoma woman, 25 weeks pregnant, shot in the head, her abdomen sliced open, her fetus taken.  In 2000, an Ohio woman lured a 23-year-old expectant mother into her home, shot her.  In ‘97, fetus cut out of a pregnant Alabama teen‘s stomach and claimed by the man and his girlfriend as their own.  In 1995, a woman and two male companions killed a pregnant woman—that‘s the one we‘re talking about—cutting open her uterus to steal her unborn child.

You know, I‘ve got to believe, Ms. Reed, that these are tough cases to get involved in as part of the defense team, is it not?  I mean, it‘s so gruesome, it‘s so horrible.  It touches at such a nerve with so many people, particularly women.

REED:  It‘s horribly tragic.  And to compound the tragedy in my case, the other two victims were children.  But unfortunately, you have to try to look past that—or fortunately, I guess, for the defense and the defendants—and to see and look to see why these things happen.  And I‘m sure the psychiatrist will be able to answer better as to what kind of a syndrome or what kind of underlying...


REED:  ... common denominators these women have.  And if you—it looks to me in all the cases that I‘ve seen that they‘re women that had issues conceiving.  Either they can‘t conceive or have had their tubes tied and can‘t have any more children, and they have a new husband and they want to have a child.

ABRAMS:  Dr. Lothane, why is this any different than any other sort of brutal criminal who provides some sort of explanation—and let‘s not—let‘s put insanity sort of—let‘s put it aside for a minute, someone who doesn‘t understand right from wrong, for example.  Let‘s just assume it‘s someone with serious psychological problems.  Do you think we should view this kind of case any different than other cases where people do awful things for awful reasons?

DR. ZVI LOTHANE, PROF. OF PSYCHIATRY, MOUNT SINAI:  It‘s very difficult to classify it.  It really defies classification.  But as you suggested, there is a particular poignancy to murdering a mother.  And you can speculate about the motives that a person has, which was also touched upon, the envy of the other woman who has a child, the inability to have one, and the overwhelming desire to get it at all costs.

ABRAMS:  What would it take to get you to testify on behalf of the defense in a case like this?

LOTHANE:  I would dwell on understanding the person, her special and personal motivations, which would then become exonerating or alleviating circumstances...

ABRAMS:  Would you have a problem...

LOTHANE:  ... or mitigating circumstances.

ABRAMS:  Would you have a problem testifying—I mean, testifying for the defense in a case—let‘s even assume for a moment that she had psychological infirmities, that she—you know, keep in mind she had other kids, too—that she wanted—that she wanted a child.  How do you—how do you sort of—I mean, my concern is that the—that the study of psychology becomes impugned, in a way, with these—with psychiatrists coming and offering explanations for why.  I mean, look, if she was insane and she didn‘t understand what she was doing, effectively, that‘s one thing.  That‘s a defense.  But absent that, it just seems to me this is one of these cases that maybe the psychologists, psychiatrists should stay away from?

LOTHANE:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think the law provides for it. 

There is a category that says “irresistible impulse due to mental illness.”  And that is considered by law.  I mean, the fact is that a crime was committed here, and we can say in general that criminal acts are sometimes done by people who are insane...


LOTHANE:  ... and insane people sometimes commit criminal acts.  So I think we cannot lose the sight of the law.


LOTHANE:  A crime has been committed.

ABRAMS:  But Ms. Reed, the juries tend to reject that, right?

REED:  The fact that?

ABRAMS:  Just the tend to reject...

REED:  Sometimes people are insane?

ABRAMS:  ... these types of psychological defenses.

REED:  They do.  They‘re resistant.  But I think as time goes on and -

·         for instance, the “baby blues” syndrome, where you had the mother in the south that drowned her children when she was just so totally overwhelmed and hormonal after having all those kids with no rest.  As you hear case after case like that, the public starts to understand that there is a common denominator of people who do certain types of crimes at certain points in their life.

And as they‘re being educated...


REED:  ... through programs like yours...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I—well...

REED:  ... they do, I think, tend to begin to understand.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  I...

REED:  But they do reject them initially.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know if they‘re going to be educated by programs like mine because, I got to tell you, I think that the public, as they see more of these cases and hear about them, are going to become more frustrated and more resistant to hearing the psychological defense.  I mean, in the case of Andrea Yates, the woman who killed her children down in Texas, look, I had a level of sympathy for her.  There‘s no question in my mind that she was psychologically ill.  The jurors agreed.  It was just that the law was, Did she understand right from wrong?  And she‘d called the police.  And so the law is very tough, and the law is generally, and I think rightly, unwilling to consider too many psychological defenses.  Ms. Reed, final point on this.

LOTHANE:  But here the point...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  I‘m going to let you give the final point, Doctor.

LOTHANE:  Yes.  Perhaps—what you‘re saying is so important that it‘s the human dimension.  It‘s trying to empathize and understand the criminal that makes us soften our stance in terms of the dire (ph) law.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I guess I don‘t—I‘m not as interested in learning that much about the criminal.  I‘m willing to learn about them if it impacted the ability to function, in essence, to understand what they were doing  But absent that, I‘m not as interested in hearing it, unless it‘s the sentencing phase.  In the sentencing phase, then I am interested.

But we will continue to highlight this issue.  Important case. 

Elizabeth Reed and Dr. Zvi Lothane, thanks a lot for coming on the program.

LOTHANE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Prosecutors make the case before the jury in former “Baretta” star Robert Blake‘s murder trial today, explaining just how badly he wanted his wife dead.  His defense?  You know, I was with her.  You know, I just had to run back to my restaurant to get my gun.

And I go one on one with one of Saddam Hussein‘s lead attorneys days after Saddam gets the first chance to talk to his legal team.  Does he get it?  Does he accept the reality that he may not be able to dig himself out of this legal hole?


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Even if you weren‘t a fan of the TV show “Baretta,” you probably know who Robert Blake is, at least by now, the actor accused of plotting to kill and then murder his wife outside a Los Angeles restaurant more than three years ago.  The trial has been postponed a number of times for a number of reasons, but opening statements finally began today.  Prosecutors allege that after trying unsuccessfully to hire other people to kill his wife, Blake murdered Bonnie Lee Bakley himself.

Testimony during the preliminary hearing revealed Blake was, according to prosecutors, planning to get rid of his wife as far back as two years before the murder.  Witnesses testified about Blake‘s play to, quote, “whack her” if she didn‘t have an abortion or to, quote, “pop her” while she slept.

Prosecution star witness will likely be stuntman Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton, who initially denied knowing anything about the murder but later told place what he said was Blake‘s plan.


RONALD “DUFFY” HAMBLETON, SAYS BLAKE HIRED HIM TO KILL HIS WIFE:  He was unable to even think about or do anything until his wife was taken care of.  And he used the words—“snuff” is one of the words that he used.


ABRAMS:  “Snuff” and “pop” and “whack.”

NBC‘s Michael Okwu was in the courtroom today for the start of the trial.  He joins me now.

So Michael, what did we see today?  Opening statements, right?

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Opening statements.  They went for quite some time in completely distinct styles on both.  On one side, the prosecution, on the other side, the defense.  But we understand that this should probably wrap up today, and we‘ll possibly see witnesses tomorrow morning.

But the assistant district attorney, Shellie Samuels‘s, style was very clear and matter of fact.  She said it‘s very simple.  One, Robert Blake shot his wife on May 4, 2001, simply because he hated her.  Two, he was obsessed with his daughter.  And three, he did not want Bakley, who had something of a checkered past, to have anything to do with custody of his child.

Now, the prosecution said that their marriage was not one made in heaven, as a matter of fact, that Blake for quite some time relentlessly tried to get his wife arrested and went so far as to hire two stuntmen to kill her.


SHELLIE SAMUELS, PROSECUTING ROBERT BLAKE:  The defendant told one of them, Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton, that if he, Duffy, wouldn‘t do it, the defendant would have to do it himself.  And the evidence will show you that that is exactly what he did.


OKWU:  Now, Samuels showed visuals in the courtroom today, pictures of Bakley after she was shot and murdered, as well as the murder weapon, a 9-millimeter World War II-era handgun.  But as the defense attorney, Gerald Schwartzbach, pointed out, there was absolutely no physical connection that investigators could find between the murder weapon and Robert Blake.  And in fact, there were no eyewitnesses.


GERRY SCHWARTZBACH, ROBERT BLAKE‘S DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  There‘s no evidence, direct or circumstantial, that he shot Ms. Bakley.  Without evidence to support their charge, the prosecution has built its case on the backs of two men who were addicted to illegal drugs at the time they met with Mr. Blake.


OKWU:  The defense aggressively attacked the credibility of these key two prosecution witnesses, essentially saying they are long-term drug users who literally have had—have heard voices, and in one case, even claimed a connection to aliens.  In fact, one of those key witnesses for seven months denied that any conversations about a plot to kill Ms. Bakley were happening with the defense in this case, and it was only after it became clear that authorities were coming after him for drug trafficking that he changed his story—Dan.

ABRAMS:  They‘ve got a tape, don‘t they, of Blake on tape, talking about wanting to get rid of his wife?

OKWU:  They do have a tape, they say, of Blake wanting to get rid of his wife.  As a matter of fact, the prosecution put up all kinds of quotes today in court from various witnesses, who we expect to hear in the coming weeks, of all kinds of things, very damaging things that Blake said about his wife, the fact that she was, quote, “the scum of the earth,” that he doesn‘t want to have anything to do with her family, that he doesn‘t want her daughter to be anywhere near that family, that he wants to get rid of her—in fact, using those words, “I‘ve got to get rid of her” in expletives—Dan.

ABRAMS:  Michael Okwu, thanks a lot.  Good to see you again.

Coming up: We have more of the opening statements, as Robert Blake‘s defense attorney takes the first punch at the prosecution‘s witnesses.  And coming up: Saddam Hussein meets with his lawyer for the first time.  I‘ll talk with one of the lead attorneys, who seems to think Saddam doesn‘t have too much to worry about legally?


ABRAMS:  Coming up, prosecutors say actor Robert Blake killed his wife after he couldn‘t find anyone else to do it for him.  The defense that he was back in the restaurant retrieving his gun.  More from today‘s opening statements coming up first this hour.



WILLIAM WELCH:  I have thought about this and I have figured it out and this is what we‘re going to do.  He said we‘re going to hire a doctor, we‘re going to abort her and if that doesn‘t work, we‘re going to wack her. 


ABRAMS:  One of the witnesses for the prosecution in the Robert Blake trial.  A private investigator testified at the preliminary hearing that Blake had several ideas about how to get rid of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.  Prosecutors believe Blake first wanted to sever ties with her by aborting their child.  Later he tried to plant drugs, they say, on her and came up with other schemes to try to get her arrested.  When those plans didn‘t work, they say Blake went through with plans to have her killed.  And when even that failed, he ultimately, they say, took care of the matter himself. 


SHELLIE SAMUELS, PROSECUTING ROBERT BLAKE:  Plan to have Bonny get an abortion, failed.  Plan to have Bonny arrested, failed.  Plan to solicit a number of people to kill Bonny, failed.  As the defendant said to Ronald Hambleton shortly before the murder, if you don‘t do it, I‘m going to have to.


ABRAMS:  My take.  If Robert Blake did not kill his wife, it seems someone beat him to it.  She was not the ideal human being but Blake sure was talking a lot about wacking her or snuffing her. If he didn‘t do it, he got very unlucky that he‘d been talking about it and that the real killer, it seems, go away.

Joining me snow is former San Diego D.A. and MSNBC Analyst Paul Pfingst, and Criminal Defense Attorney Ronald Richards. 

Mr. Richards, let me start with you.

Is this - I mean, yes, this is one of these cases where they say they don‘t have any evidence, et cetera, but I would still think this is an uphill battle for the defense. 

RONALD RICHARDS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, no, I think it‘s a very good case for the defense, that the lack of gunshot residue.  In this type of weapon, there‘s a wide wave of gunshot residue that flies from firing and there was none on Mr. Blake.  And then you also had a situation where there‘s no percipient witnesses.  And if anybody that I know would be married to Bonny Lee Bakley, they would want to kill that person too if they were married.  So the fact that he vented about it is really no big deal due. 

ABRAMS:  Well, but, see, but that seems, to me, to be incriminating. 

I mean, I think the defense seems to be using that to say, oh, no big deal. 

On the other hand, it seems to be a clear motive, right?

RICHARDS:  Well, you take your victims as you find them.  And this is a very good victim for the defense.  She tried to hawk that child to every b-list celebrity in Los Angeles, saying that was they‘re baby.  So she has created a mountain of suspects that may have killed her, including all the people she ripped off on the Internet.

ABRAMS:  But you‘d have to admit, right, it would have been very bad luck for Robert Blake that someone beat him to it. 

RICHARDS:  It‘s bad luck that someone obviously did. 


All right, this is what the defense said today as to what the evidence won‘t show. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not only won‘t anybody say, oh, I saw him shoot her.  Not only won‘t anybody say, oh, I saw him - I heard a sound and I saw him throw something into this dumpster.  Not only won‘t anybody say, oh, I heard a sound and I saw him running away from the car.  No.  There‘s no direct evidence.  But there‘s also no circumstantial evidence. 


ABRAMS:  No.  I mean, Paul Pfingst, that‘s a huge overstatement, isn‘t it?

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER SAN DIEGO D.A.:  Yes, that‘s going a bit far.  Certainly with respect to motive, as you pointed out, Dan, there is, on a scale of one to 10, the motive here is 10.  The prior attempts for him to solicit other people to kill his wife is obviously damning.  And they‘ll be able to prove that.  They have these other witnesses coming in and they have telephone records going back and forth between them and they‘ll be able to prove that.  So we know he was soliciting.  I think.  We don‘t know.  But I think the prosecutors will prove that there were prior solicitations, they‘ll prove there was a motive, they will prove his level of anger and they will prove he was within a certain number of feet of her at the time she was killed.  And that gets you a long way towards a conviction.

ABRAMS:  Yes, and his account is really, you know, again, he‘s a real unlucky guy if this happened as the defense says.  Again, here‘s the prosecution talking about what they say happened in Blake‘s story about what he was doing. 


SAMUELS:  At the scene, the defendant told the officers that he had left her in the car to return to the restaurant to get his gun that he had left in the restaurant.  And that‘s what he told the officers at the scene.  However, he would have had to pass these people to get back to the restaurant to get his gun.  Nobody, nobody saw him go back to the restaurant to get his gun.  Not one person.  He didn‘t go back to the restaurant to get his gun.  He couldn‘t.  He was too freaked out because he‘d already shot somebody in the head. 


ABRAMS:  Ron, this business about going back to the restaurant to get his gun is one of the, I think, the biggest problems for the defense.  That your alibi is that you forgot your gun in the restaurant and you went back to get it and, in the mean time, lo and behold your wife got shot.

RICHARDS:  I know.  But respectfully, Dan, if you see your wife just got shot, it could shock you.  I mean, if you want to talk about inconsistent statements, the two stunt men are all over the place as to what they saw . . .

ABRAMS:  So Blake‘s not going to say - his lawyer won‘t argue at trial that he went back to get his gun?  They‘re going to back off that statement?

RICHARDS:  Well, they‘re going to, first, I think, listen to what the prosecution witnesses say.  As the defense, you really need to let their case develop rather than lock yourself into a position.  Remember, Blake hasn‘t testified yet, so he does have more flexibility than the prosecution. 

ABRAMS:  He hasn‘t testified but he did an interview that his lawyer told him not to do.  He‘s what the prosecution said about it, followed by a little piece of sound from that interview.


SAMUELS:  You will see that the defendant hates Bonny‘s family.  He cannot stand them.  But when he goes on TV in February 2003, he lies to Barbara Walters about it. 



BARBARA WALTERS, ANCHOR, “20/20”:  And that night, the night of her death, your relationship was a good relationship?


WALTERS:  A friendly relationship?

BLAKE:  Yes.  We had a lot to talk about because it was a time when her entire family was going to move to Los Angeles and everybody was going to have to get situated some place.  So there was a lot to talk about.  There certainly wasn‘t any downside for me.


ABRAMS:  Well, see, Paul, that‘s clearly a lie.  I mean, no downside for him.  They have him on tape talking about how much he hated the family. 

PFINGST:  Yes and this hurts him in a lot of different ways, Dan.  First of all, it takes away any type of personal celebrity weight he comes into the court room.  When you start lying, that detracts from the celebrity power that defendants often get in these types of cases.  But, more than that, it makes it tougher for him to take the witness stand in his own defense. 


PFINGST:  Because if the jury looks at that and says look how he fooled Barbara Walters.  Look how he fooled the United States of America.

ABRAMS:  I‘m out of time.  But very quickly, tough case here or not for the prosecutors?

PFINGST:  It‘s a tricky case but it‘s one I think the prosecutors can win. 

ABRAMS:  And, Ron Richards, yes or no, will Blake testify?

RICHARDS:  I think he‘s going to have to in this case. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I think so too.

All right.  Paul, thanks a lot.

Ronald Richard, thanks a lot.

We‘re going to stay on this story.  It‘s the program to watch for coverage of this story, so please come on back.  It‘s a fascinating story, I‘ve got to tell you.  And, as Ron Richards points out, there are a lot of people who might have had a motive to kill Bonny Lee Bakley. 

More than five months after he appeared in court, Saddam Hussein meets with one of his lawyers for the first time.  We talked with a member of his legal team and I‘ll ask him if Saddam has come back to reality and accepted the fact that he‘s in big trouble, coming up.



SADDAM HUSSEIN, (through translator):  And I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historical rights of Iraqis against these dogs. 


ABRAMS:  The world hasn‘t seen Saddam Hussein since July.  But last week, for the first time, he met with his lawyer.  After the prison meeting, his team said Hussein was in good health, good spirits but that he was surprised to hear about the upcoming Iraqi election because he intends to remain the leader of Iraq.  Hussein also used his lawyer to get out a message, calling on the Iraqi people to “remain united and not fall in the trap of Americas slogans.  All Iraqis ... have to stand united against the American plot” he said. 

Earlier today I spoke with one of his attorneys, whose partner met with Saddam last week.  Issam Ghazzawi told me what Saddam is going through as he waits for trial. 


ISSAM GHAZZAWI, SADDAM HUSSEIN‘S LAWYER:  He doesn‘t know exactly what are the charges or what is his status.  Is he a prisoner, a prisoner of war, a kidnapped person?  He doesn‘t know. 

ABRAMS:  But have his lawyers warned him?  I mean, I would assume one of the jobs of his lawyers would be to say, this is very serious.  The country is taking this seriously.  The world is taking this seriously.  Are his lawyers informing him of that?

GHAZZAWI:  Well, he met his lawyer, Khalid Almenhi (ph).  He‘s a committee member of the defense of the prisoner Saddam Hussein.  He told him about what they said to him about the charges.  And the magnitude of the charges.  And he seemed very relaxed because he knows that he can‘t be convicted in any court of law which is legal court of law because it would be either the United States, that compelling power in Iraq, it doesn‘t have the right to constitute any court or any government and even not to appoint a judge. 

ABRAMS:  It sounds to me like, though, what you, as his attorneys are hoping and what Saddam is hoping is that in essence this is never going to go to trial, that this court will never be recognized and, as a result, Saddam Hussein won‘t have any problems.  But you, as an attorney, as experienced as you are, and aware of world affairs as you are, must know that the chances that that defense is going to succeed can‘t be great at this point. 

GHAZZAWI:  The occupying power does not have the power to hire any judge or to change any laws of the land until there‘s a constitutional government elected and having a new constitution.  But that point, when they have a new constitution, it‘s not reversible.  You can‘t judge the president under new laws and constitutions but you have to try to charge him within the prevailing laws and constitution.  And both ways, he‘s not guilty of anything. 

ABRAMS:  Saddam Hussein, many believe, never accepted the reality that the United States would invade Iraq the way it did.  And some described him as delusional.  And I wonder whether that same mentality is at play here, where he simply refuses to accept the reality of the trial, the consequences, et cetera, that he is facing. 

GHAZZAWI:  Mr. President Saddam Hussein knows every consequence of whatever action he does.  Every legal member of the society in the world knows that the invasion of Iraq is illegal.  Whatever is built on illegal is illegal.  Then we don‘t believe at any moment that Mr.  Hussein was delusioned (ph) or thinking away from reality.  He knows that he would be conquered from the beginning.  He was fighting for the principle of standing against the enemy with threats against his country.

ABRAMS:  Even as I speak to you today, you seem, in a way, to be defending him even more than as a lawyer, but both politically and legally.  And some of the statements from his lawyers are basically repeating statements that Saddam Hussein has made.  Basically, “our representative in Iraq told us that the president warned the people of Iraq and the Arabs to beware of the American scheme aimed at splitting Iraq into sectarian and religious divisions and weakening the (Arab) nations.”  The lawyers are talking about the upcoming election.  Is that the job, do you think, of the lawyers to be restating the political messages of Saddam Hussein?

GHAZZAWI:  No, it was a message conveyed by the president to the people.  We are just transferring the ideas from the president, who is incommunicado, and we can talk to people.  The president does not recognize anybody has the power to have him in court but he is willing and able to defend himself with his team‘s lawyers.  And when he speaks to his people, saying that the election is a trap, don‘t go into it, it‘s his right.  And my job now is just conveying that to the people. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Ghazzawi, thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.

GHAZZAWI:  You‘re welcome. 

ABRAMS:  We really appreciate it. 

GHAZZAWI:  Thank you, too.  It‘s a pleasure to me.  Thank you. 


ABRAMS:  Oh, boy.  Coming up, defense lawyers did it when Nicole Brown Simpson‘s sister took the stand to testify against O.J. Simpson.  They‘re doing it now in the Robert Blake case.  Attacking the prosecution‘s witnesses.  I say it‘s time to start defending the witnesses, my closing argument.


ABRAMS:  My closing argument.  Did you ever notice that there‘s only one place you can truly insult someone to his or her face with impunity?  One place where someone can be accused of being a racist, a druggy, unqualified and under informed, even of being a murder?  The place is a courtroom.  The subject of ridicule, not just the defendants, although they can be accused of many things that relate to the crime.  No, I‘m talking about the witnesses.  Often people who are either being forced to testify or just doing it because it‘s the right thing to do.  And, in almost every case, they get smeared, attacked and ridiculed by attorneys.  And, most often, unfairly, I think, by defense attorneys. 

The worst case that I‘ve seen was the trial of David Westerfield, accused of killing nine year old Danielle van Dam.  It seems clear his attorney knew Westerfield could have brought the authorities to the bodies.  That didn‘t stop him from going after her parents, suggesting their occasional drug use and lifestyle might have been the real reason their daughter was abducted and killed.  Many in the legal community just attribute it to a vigorous defense but I think these witnesses are often the unrecognized heroes of these stories. 

In the Robert Blake case started today, the defense already assaulting the key witnesses against Blake, talking about their past drug use and psychological history.  In the O.J. Simpson case, any prosecution witness from the limo driver to the police to Nicole‘s sister were attacked for having the temerity to tell the truth about what they saw and did.  Well intentioned, ordinary people around this country, who reluctantly agreed to help make the justice system work, being subjected to insulting and mean spirited cross-examination, very often from defense attorneys looking for someone else to blame.  Anyone but their client. 

Sure, there are some witnesses who lie and that is what cross-examination is for, to root out the liars.  But the rarely discussed cost of that questioning is the dignity and reputation of the many more well intentioned witnesses who deserve better.  The victims of crime are increasingly getting our attention and rightly so but these trials also leave the emotional carcasses of many others in its wake.  Today I recognize and appreciate what all of them have done and continue to do. 

Your rebuttals coming up in 60 seconds, along with a lesson from a bank robber on what not to do if you don‘t want to get caught. 


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for your rebuttal. 

On Friday we took a closer look at airport pat downs and complaints from some women that new search procedures can be too invasive.  I said, I don‘t understand why this is a gender issue, it‘s part of the price we all pay for enhanced security.  Many of our female viewers agreed with me.

Ann Gillespie in New York City, “If some airport screener making $10 an hour is going to get his or her hollies by touching my D-cups with the outside of his or her hand for half a second, I think it is a small price to pay for our security.  Until we have better technology, these women need to get over it and grow up.”

From Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lisa Gianardi.  “Grope me.  I would rather go through that then end up on the ocean floor.”

One of our guests, the president of the National Association of Women, made the comment that big breasted women are being singled out inappropriately. 

Cecillia Train in California, “as a big breasted woman and recently disabled, I understand the need of patting down very closely.  My last flight I was required to get off the wheelchair, walk through the machine and patted.  All done with courtesy, understanding and explanation.  Yes, it‘s uncomfortable but either you accept the discomfort or forget traveling for a while, so the less sensitive people can fly safely.”

Douglas Shaw in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania on some of the bigger issues.  “Commercial cargo loaded into the holds of airlines is not screened for explosives or biologicals or chemicals or anything else.  So until that situation is remedied, there is no reason for passenger pat downs at airports.”

Oh, so, Doug, until every problem is addressed, we shouldn‘t deal with any problems?  Come on!

Judi Andersen.  “For women such as myself who are sexual assault survivors, being touched by strangers is not only traumatic, it can lead to relapses after years of hard work to be functional.  That it is another woman does not prevent the trauma.”

From Colorado Springs, Brenda Burkholder.  “Next thing you know, the authorities will discover that some nut has put a concentrated form of explosives into their rectum or vagina.  I will NOT bend over for that exam!”

Judy Bennett.  “Mr. Abrams, you‘re so insensitive to women‘s issues.  It‘s like a virgin talking about sex or a white person talking about racial discrimination.  There is a reason you‘re still single and childless.  It‘s not like you‘re unattractive or not making any money.”

Judy.  I guess according to your logic, though, you have to have done cocaine to discuss drug policy and I just can‘t discuss or have an opinion about any issues that relate to, what, foreigners, professional athletes or any other group that I‘m not a member of?  That argument will not stop me. 

Also on Friday, new evidence that could possibly lead to a new suspect in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey.  DNA evidence found at the crime scene and an attack on another Boulder, girl could help exonerate her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. 

Some of our viewers still skeptical.  David in Vermont writes, “a true analyst journalist would not accept another round of finger pointing without question the way MSNBC and almost every other news organization in the country has.”  JonBenet had been and very likely was being abused sexually for a matter of weeks. 

Talk about finger pointing with question, David.

And Deborah Storch.  “You have been covering this case for years and you should know better.  I am sorry to see that you have no backbone and have no regard as to reporting the whole truth.”

Let me be clear.  The Ramseys have not been eliminated as possible suspects but the D.A. is looking elsewhere.  “The weight of the evidence is more consistent with the theory that an intruder murdered JonBenet.”  The D.A.‘s words, not mine.  If you don‘t like the direction of the investigation, take it up with the D.A. but I will not refuse to cover evidence that points away from the Ramseys. 

Now to our “Legal Light.”  We‘ll have a new name very soon.  We‘ll announce the winner of our contest, rename the segment on Wednesday but, for now, it‘s the “Legal Light.”  Today it comes to us from Milwaukee, home of the brewers, some of the best beer.  Too much of that beer might help explain why I can‘t speak or the stupidity behind one of the dumber bank robbers of the year.

Police say a 60-year-old man walked into a bank, claiming he had a gun, handed over a note, demanded money.  The frightened teller gave him what he wanted.  The robber made one big mistake.  A clue.  It turns out he wrote his demand note on the back of a piece of paper with his name on it.  The piece of paper was sent to him by his parole officer.  Yes, you guessed it.  What he was on parole for, robbing a bank.  That‘s got to be a tough story to tell your cell mates when they ask, hey, how did you get caught buddy?

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.



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