Guest: Daniel Borochoff, Thomas Tighe, Kris Wampler, Jayne Weintraub, Robert Dunn
LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST: Coming up, more than 52,000 now dead from the tsunami in 11 nations, and the death toll still rising.
DANIELS (voice-over): The U.S. doubling its aid to the hardest hit areas, and promising at least $35 million. But where does that money really go, and where should you send money if you want to make a difference?
Plus, one student said he was seeking academic freedom when he took on his university for making parts of the Qur‘an required reading. He filed a lawsuit, lost in court, but won in the classroom. He joins us.
And a little girl goes missing and is feared dead. The one person who might know what happened to her won‘t talk even after being threatened with jail time. Will this lawyer break attorney-client privilege to give the girl‘s family some answers?
The program about justice starts right now.
DANIELS: Hi everyone. I‘m Lisa Daniels. Dan‘s off today.
First up on the docket, the terrible tragedy and devastation from Sunday‘s deadly earthquake and powerful tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The rising death toll now more than 52,000 in 11 countries as crews continue to recover more and more bodies. And as the numbers keep climbing, the World Health Organization announced we may see that tally double as disease takes a toll on the survivors. Already, relief officials are warning cholera and malaria epidemics could break out.
Much of the world is responding with millions of dollars in relief aid, and in a moment, we look at whether that aid will really get where it‘s needed most. But first, John Irvine of our British broadcasting partner ITN has a look at one of the hardest hit places, an island right off the coast of Thailand.
JOHN IRVINE, ITN (voice-over): For many holiday-makers who go looking for a piece of heaven on earth, the search ends here on Ko Phi Phi, but just look at the island today. The developed part has been obliterated. The view one of destruction, and the smell is one of death. The hotels, bars, and shops are on a narrow strip of sand, a mile long, but only a hundred yards wide. The sea is on both sides. This became meat in a sandwich.
(on camera): This island, and in particular this part of the island was absolutely crammed with holidaymakers. There were so many, some were actually sleeping on the beach. You can imagine they would have partied pretty late into the night, and on the morning of Boxing Day, when the tsunami smacked in from both sides much of Phi Phi was still asleep.
(voice-over): Most of the tourists who survived have now been taken off the island by the Thai authorities who are here in force at last. Their primary task is to retrieve the bodies of the perished. How many died here, they simply don‘t know yet. They have recovered 400 bodies already, but in our brief tour of the island, we find several more of the unlucky ones.
In recent years, Ko Phi Phi has been a magnet for pleasure seekers, where Mother Nature has bestowed so much bounty. She turned violent for just an instant. What a terrible thing has happened to this beautiful and gentle place.
John Irvine, ITV News, Ko Phi Phi.
DANIELS: Now, all of the nations hit desperately need food and supplies, and they are asking the world for some help. Some nations reporting looting in their countries, where they say aid isn‘t coming fast enough. Today the U.S. said it‘s more than doubling the amount of relief it plans to send to the devastated areas, with the Pentagon also helping out by sending numerous aircraft and the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier group to the region. As for the dollar figure, the White House says 35 million in aid is already being spent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRENT DUFFY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: There has been an initial commitment of 15 million to support the relief effort. USAID has just recently added 20 million to that for the earthquake relief. Included in that is two million for Sri Lanka, one million for Indonesia, $100,000 each for India, the Maldives, and Thailand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: So the question is, where exactly does that money go, and what about donations that you want to make? How can you make sure that the money that you give gets where it‘s needed? “My Take” on the whole thing, be generous in your donations, but do your research when it comes to charities. Like all good things, there are some bad apples.
And it‘s those bad apples that can cause a person to become very cynical and give up on the whole idea of giving to charity. I think that‘s just plain wrong. Joining me now to talk about this Daniel Borochoff, president of the nonprofit charity watchdog group called American Institute of Philanthropy. Thanks for joining me tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
DANIELS: So, one quick question about the U.S. government‘s money. Do you think that the taxpayer‘s money is well spent, and is it going to the right places in terms of food, shelter, clothing?
DANIEL BOROCHOFF, PRESIDENT, “AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHILANTHROPY”:
Well the situation is shaking out right now. It‘s really far early to tell. Fortunately, there are many very well run highly efficient nonprofit organizations that offer international relief and development services. At our Web site, at the American Institute of Philanthropy at charitywatchdog.org, we‘ve identified a number of very highly efficient groups that people can help here with the crisis.
DANIELS: And we‘re going to get to some of the private donations in just a moment, but joining me on the phone right now is Thomas Tighe. He is the CEO and president of Direct Relief International, and also former chief of staff and COO of the Peace Corps. Tom, I want to ask you, since you were COO of the Peace Corps, what is your take on this whole thing? Do you think that the U.S. government is giving enough?
THOMAS TIGHE, CEO, DIRECT RELIEF INTERNATIONAL (via phone): Well, I think as Mr. Borochoff said it‘s a bit premature to make a judgment. I am not aware of any circumstance where things have not been done for lack of funding yet, so I would kind of take the secretary of state and the president at their word and made a strong commitment to assist, and I know that the way it works is they do deploy experts to make sure that a thorough needs assessment is done before activity starts, so it can be targeted. And these dart teams that go out are highly skilled, and we‘ve been in touch from Direct Relief International with the U.S. government folks who are staffing a 24-hour day around the clock task force, they are working very hard, so I am confident that the money that has been allocated will be well spent, and if there‘s more that‘s needed, that the administration will come forward.
DANIELS: Before I get to Daniel and the private relief that‘s being sent over there, one more question for you, Tom. Indonesia, for example, is one of those Muslim countries. Do you sense any resistance that they are getting U.S. aid and aid from other Western countries?
TIGHE: No, I wouldn‘t think that would come up. I think one of the nice things, if there is such a thing in these emergencies, is how the underlying humanity does show through and cuts through political, religious, and cultural barriers. I think we have seen it just on the phones today where people really just want to help, here in the United States, people of all different faiths and all different races throughout Asia have been hit by this tragedy.
DANIELS: OK, Daniel, for the average Joe, who sees these devastating pictures on TV and hears these harrowing tales of escape, what can the average Joe do? A lot of charities saying send us your money. How do we know which ones to trust?
BOROCHOFF: Yes, people need to be really careful here. People will be coming out of the woodwork asking for money because everybody wants to help. This is humongous tragedy with massive suffering, millions of people being displaced, tens of thousands of people dying, and so people here need to be really careful who they give to. Look for groups that have a track record of in the past of being efficient and effective at being able to help. You don‘t want to just give to a group that has a good-sounding name. We have identified at charitywatchdog.org a number of nonprofits that have done really well and I understand you‘re going to be showing some...
DANIELS: Let‘s do it right now. Let‘s put up—let‘s do it right now. Let‘s put up on the screen the ones that you say are the top rated charitable groups. There are the letter grades. Why did the American Red Cross, for example, get an A+? What is it about that organization?
BOROCHOFF: Well, they are able to get 90 percent or more of their money towards actual program services. Also, their cost to raise money is very small. It‘s only like $8 to raise $100, so—and then they work with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies throughout the world. There‘s over 100 of them, so they can, you know, have people over there that know what they are doing and can help out in this crisis.
DANIELS: There is a theory out there that says the more you give to these huge organizations like the American Red Cross, though I am not naming that in particular, the more it‘s going to the bureaucracy. There‘s just so much red tape involved. Maybe my money isn‘t going to the children. Maybe it‘s going to the American Red Cross.
BOROCHOFF: The Red Cross is a $4 billion organization. The international relief section of that is a very small portion of what they do, so a lot of the overhead can go for, for instance, they control half of our blood supply, so there‘s many things they do beyond disaster. But if you give it to them for their disaster—their fund, they will spend it on the disaster relief efforts.
DANIELS: Now let‘s look at the charities that you say we should watch out for. Let‘s look at those letter grades. I mean look at that, Feed The Children, an F, World Emergency Relief an F. Why are they getting these flunking grades?
BOROCHOFF: Well Feed The Children gets an F because 60 percent of the dollars that they spend go for direct mail fundraising and infomercials, so if you look at—what‘s really important here is you look at the cash, if they are asking you for dollars, you want to track those dollars and see how they are spending those dollars. World Emergency is only getting 31 percent of their budget towards program services.
You got to be careful that a charity can call their solicitation a program service. For instance, if a charity asks you to pray for this disaster, for the victims of this disaster that can be considered a program service, so what‘s really important, that people ask how much money is going towards program services that are not a part of your solicitation activities.
DANIELS: The scary thing is you‘ve got to do your homework, even when it comes to donating money. Thomas Tighe, CEO and president of Direct Relief International and also former chief of staff and CEO of the Peace Corps, thanks for joining us on the phone.
TIGHE: My pleasure.
DANIELS: And Daniel Borochoff, president of the nonprofit charity watchdog group called American Institute of Philanthropy, we appreciate all those letter grades and also you getting to the bottom of all this. Thank you.
BOROCHOFF: Glad to help out.
DANIELS: And if you want more on where you can donate to the relief effort, just log on to our Web site, abramsreport—one word—
Coming up, a college student fights back when he is given parts of the Qur‘an as required reading. He didn‘t settle his case in the classroom. He took it to the courts.
And this little girl disappeared from a small Ohio town almost six years ago, but one person who may know what happened to her won‘t talk, citing attorney-client privilege. What could finally compel her to break her silence?
Plus, your kids may have spent their Christmas money on some of the latest video games and come next year, they may not legally be able to. That‘s right, the governor of Illinois trying to pass a law to make buying certain video games illegal.
And your emails make sure you send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your name and where you are writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
DANIELS: Coming up, some say the nation‘s colleges are way too liberal and they‘re coming under fire both in the classroom and in the courtroom by our next guest. We‘ll explain coming up.
DANIELS: Many consider the nation‘s colleges to be among the most liberal institutions in the country, but lately that liberal reputation has been coming under fire in the classroom and also in the courtrooms—in some cases by the very students who attend the schools. Take my next guest, for example.
Two years ago, Kris Wampler filed a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as an incoming freshman. Along with two other students, and a conservative Christian organization, Kris went to the courts when he disagreed with the school‘s policy requiring that all students read a book about Islam.
The suit claimed the assignment was unconstitutional. At the time Kris filed the lawsuit anonymously, but now he‘s coming forward to reveal his identity. A judge ultimately ruled against the move to block the reading program, but Kris considered it a victory that the school took the word required off the assignment.
Here‘s “My Take”. There are much more important things that our court system needs to take care of than college reading assignments. This is something that should be addressed on campus, not in the courtroom. Joining me now, Kris Wampler who is now a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Well, Kris, I just gave away what my viewpoint is. I‘d like to hear what your reaction was when you got this assignment.
KRIS WAMPLER, SUED COLLEGE OVER READING ASSIGNMENT: Sure and thank you for having me, Lisa.
WAMPLER: The problem that I had with the assignment was that when we first got information about the assignment it was portrayed as something that would help students maybe understand a little bit about Islam in light of September 11. And at first, I didn‘t really think too much of it, but the problem was, when we actually got the book, it did not mention anything about Jihad, holy war, things like that.
It didn‘t go into detail about things I thought the university should be exploring. In essence, it sugarcoated Islam and gave a very pro-Islamic view. And I didn‘t like the fact that students were required to read it and also attend discussion sessions, in which they‘re required to convey information about their personal religious beliefs. I just feel like that‘s not the government‘s business.
DANIELS: Was it the connection to 9/11 that baffled you with the connection? Is that what you objected to? I‘m trying to get to the core of your objection.
WAMPLER: The objection that I had was that the book itself gave a very slanted view of Islam. It did not give—it gave information about the good stuff of Islam that many of its religious inheritance would probably advocate. But it didn‘t talk about holy war. It didn‘t talk about oppression of women and religious minorities. It didn‘t go into these things that you would think a university would be telling students about after September 11.
DANIELS: Well it‘s funny that you should say that because I could hear a lot of people saying in fact that is what Islam is about. It‘s a peaceful religion. It‘s good for people, especially you, Kris, to read about the peaceful religion of Islam.
WAMPLER: Actually, I did, in fact, read about Islam outside of “Approaching the Qur‘an.” I read a book called “Unveiling Islam”. It was written by two former Muslims, and it gave me a lot more information than I found from this book. I have no problem with having a reading requirement or anything else, but it needs to be balanced, and I would certainly say there needs to be at least more than one book, if one book is going to give a slanted view of it.
DANIELS: But I remember there were books in college and law school that I didn‘t like. I thought they were boring. I thought they were offensive, but part of the college experience, one could argue, is not to pick and choose what you read, but to open your whole perspective on life.
WAMPLER: Sure. That‘s—I mean that‘s certainly something that the liberal arts education, that‘s what the goal of it is. I just don‘t feel like that‘s what this book did. I feel like the book actually hindered any kind of real knowledge about Islam because it just—it simply did not go into things like jihad and holy war. I mean the book it—the book needs to at least address things like that. An honest—intellectually honest program needs to at least go into the good as well as the bad.
DANIELS: But here‘s what I can‘t get over. Why go to the courts?
The courts are overtaxed. They‘re overburdened. The staff is minimal.
Why bother them?
WAMPLER: Well the University of North Carolina has—since the
lawsuit that I filed—has a history of kind of digging its heels. We‘ve
had lawyers contact the university before the actual suit went to trial and
tried to get them to drop the requirement, and they simply refused to. If
you look at what‘s happened ever since, UNC has gone after Christian
groups. They‘ve gone after that on at least two occasions. There‘s been -
· a professor has gone after a Christian student in our class. The university has a bad reputation of doing these things and then digging its heels whenever people question their motives. And this was a way to get them to respond and to force them to do what they should be legally doing.
DANIELS: I just think there are other avenues, but Kris I respect what you did. Kris Wampler, a big thanks for coming on the show.
WAMPLER: Thank you Lisa.
DANIELS: Coming up, chances are you bought your kids some video games this holiday season. Well some of them may soon be a thing of Christmas past. That is if the governor of Illinois has his way. He is looking to pass a law that would ban the sale of many games to kids under 18.
And last night we brought you the first part of a very emotional story out of Ohio, a family pleading for answers after their daughter disappears. Should the one person who may know the truth talk? That story coming up.
DANIELS: There are 362 shopping days left until Christmas. Sounds like a lot, right? But if your kid is already bugging you for a video game for his Xbox, you better hurry up. Pretty soon, if the governor of Illinois has his way, it might be illegal.
NBC‘s Kevin Tibbles has that story.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On screen, the gunslinger blows away aliens with a bandit (ph) in one of the hottest video games this season. Off screen, the triggerman is 11 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some a lot better. They‘re too gory and stuff like that, those might be too like violent for me.
TIBBLES: So when Andy (ph) Martinez fires up his Xbox, his father is often riding shotgun on the sofa, ensuring the games his son plays aren‘t what he considers too violent.
FREDERICO MARTINEZ, PARENT: What they are watching, what they are doing, you know, it‘s going to reflect on the way they develop.
TIBBLES (on camera): Now, there‘s someone who says he wants to assist parents, by standing between violent video games and children.
(voice-over): He is first term Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a 48-year-old father of two, who plans to introduce legislation next month that would ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit games to kids under 18.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: The whole object of these games are teaching kids to practice things that we put people in jail for.
TIBBLES: Beyond games with bad language and nudity, some in the governor‘s sights even reward players for stealing cars and shooting police officers. He says he is crusading for everyone‘s kids, including his own daughter.
BLAGOJEVICH: She doesn‘t have a constitutionally protected right to play a video game where she cuts somebody‘s head off and blood spurts from somebody‘s neck.
TIBBLES: And the governor has publicly criticized Chicago transit for allowing advertisements for some games on city buses, but merchants argue that games are already labeled with ratings recommending who should and shouldn‘t play.
DAVID VITE, ILLINOIS RETAIL MERCHANTS ASSN.: It‘s not the job of the retailer to be the violence or sexual police of the country, and it‘s certainly not the job of government to step in the role of parents every time a problem is perceived.
TIBBLES: Others also think the governor is going too far.
ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: We are starting to call now culture and communication products a public health issue like we may do with tobacco or drugs. I think that is potentially a very, very dangerous road to go down...
TIBBLES: Still in the $7 billion fantasy world of video games, one real-world governor wants to zap the sex and violence before it becomes child‘s play.
Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
DANIELS: And coming up, did a jailed woman confide in her lawyer just before her death, and if so, what did she tell her? Those are the questions one Ohio family has been asking for almost six years after their daughter went missing and is feared dead. The lawyer refuses to talk, saying attorney-client privilege prevents it, even though the woman‘s husband waived the privilege. Is she going too far of protecting her deceased client? We‘ll debate it.
And your e-mails send them to email@example.com. Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from. I‘ll be sure to respond at the end of the show.
DANIELS: Coming up, she may be the only person alive who knows the whereabouts of a little girl, but she won‘t talk because of the one of the principles of the American legal system. But is she taking the principle a little bit too far? Her story next, but first the headlines.
DANIELS: Welcome back. Last night, we brought you the story of a struggle between the family of 9-year-old Erica Baker and an attorney who could hold the key to the young girl‘s disappearance. You will remember that Erica took her dog for a walk almost six years ago and never returned. Tips poured in giving her parents some hope, many of them leading to one woman who may have known something, but that woman, Jan Franks, died in 2001 before police got any conclusive information from her.
She did have a lawyer, though, and both police and Erica‘s family want that lawyer, Beth Lewis, to tell them what she might know about Erica, but the lawyer refuses to talk. She cites attorney-client privilege, even though her client is dead and her client‘s husband waived the attorney-client privilege. So, should Beth Lewis break her silence?
Here‘s “Dateline NBC‘s” Edie Magnus.
EDIE MAGNUS, “DATELINE NBC” (voice-over): Erica Baker‘s family hoped they might learn something, how the 9-year-old disappeared, where she was, whether dead or alive. While their most promising lead, Jan Franks, had died, they now believe they had found a way to compel Franks‘ attorney to answer their questions. But to the family‘s astonishment the attorney, Beth Goldstein Lewis, went before a grand jury and refused to say what, if anything, her dead client had told her about Erica, citing attorney-client privilege.
GREG BAKER, FATHER OF MISSING GIRL: You are talking about a life, and it‘s not just a life, it‘s a child‘s life.
MAGNUS: But Lewis stuck to her vow of confidentiality, even though
her client‘s husband had signed a waiver releasing her to talk. And she
has maintained that position through court appeals for more than two years
· her silence agonizing to Erica‘s family.
G. BAKER: How many times it goes through your mind, does Beth Lewis really know something, or is Beth Lewis playing with us, because, you know, that‘s toying with people, I see that as a form of terrorism, as far as upon my family.
MAGNUS: Just who is this woman that Greg Baker believes is terrorizing his family?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am human. Don‘t think that I am not because of the position that I am taking.
MAGNUS: Beth Lewis is 36, married, and the mother of her own little girl. She loves her family, and she loves the law.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly don‘t think that I don‘t think about the family every day. And have feelings for them just like everybody else and it‘s not willful. And it‘s not just digging your heels in.
MAGNUS: As a federal public defender, Lewis represented Jan Franks on a matter unrelated to the Erica Baker case. She had no idea how sharply the focus would shift to her once Franks died or how her belief in attorney-client privilege would be challenged.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I looked Jan Franks in the eye, and I told her that I would keep any communication that we had confidential. That‘s my obligation. That‘s what I promised to do.
MAGNUS (on camera): When her husband signed a waiver saying, you don‘t have that duty anymore, to take you off the hook, effectively, why didn‘t you think that took you off the hook?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I think is that the law is being used inappropriately.
MAGNUS (voice-over): Beth Lewis argues the law allowing waivers of confidentiality was meant for limited use, not as a tool in a criminal investigation, and she says attorney-client privilege extends beyond the grave, that there‘s precedent in federal law to back her up. Still, in Ohio, she has lost at every turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s just incredible.
MAGNUS: And a frustrated Montgomery County prosecutor, Matt Heck, says times up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three courts, 11 judges, unanimous, all ruled this law applies to you. You are not above the law. Especially as a lawyer you are not above the law. Testify.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have told me I can talk. But they have never told me why I should betray such a core belief in our system.
MAGNUS (on camera): Aren‘t you effectively saying well, all right, you ordered me to talk, but I don‘t think the law applies to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that‘s not what I am saying at all. In fact, I think that what I am doing is exactly what our system allows and calls for us to do, and that is challenge the way a law is written, challenge the way a law is being applied.
MAGNUS: Who is hurt by this if you talk?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole system is hurt by this if I talk.
MAGNUS: What would you say to someone who said, screw the system. A little girl went missing. Her family is in unbelievable pain, and you might be in a position to help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can‘t imagine what they feel, but if this were just about one family or one lawyer or a client or just a little girl, it would be a whole lot easier as opposed to what it has become, which is taking away the attorney-client privilege.
MAGNUS (voice-over): She is not entirely alone in this fight. Organizations representing the nation‘s criminal defense attorneys have filed briefs on her behalf.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you represent a client and they died, the government could then ask you, what they told you. We could be used as informants.
MAGNUS (on camera): Isn‘t that a little conspiracy minded?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s not conspiracy minded. It‘s saying that the doors can open wide.
MAGNUS (voice-over): Beth Lewis has taken a lot of public heat for her stand. She has been found in contempt of court and threatened with being sent to jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe in my heart that this woman knows something. What...
MAGNUS: And there‘s a personal cost too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have lost friends. We have neighbors that won‘t talk to us. Threats.
MAGNUS (on camera): Death threats?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Death threats.
MAGNUS: If you could say something to Beth Lewis, what would you say?
MISTY BAKER, MOTHER OF MISSING GIRL: I would say, you know, please from one mother to another, if you know something, just tell us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it something I think about every single day? Absolutely. I wouldn‘t be human if I didn‘t. Do I think about that family constantly? Yes, but this is what I believe in. It‘s very hard.
MAGNUS (voice-over): Harder still because Beth Lewis herself knows more than most of us about the pain of an unsolved crime. Her own father was murdered when Beth was 10 years old.
(on camera): Nobody ever knew who killed him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, still unsolved.
MAGNUS: What if you found out there was someone out there who had information on your dad‘s murder?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would want them to come forward. I would absolutely want them to come forward.
MAGNUS: No matter what, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No matter what. I am not telling you I don‘t understand the Bakers‘ position. I understand it completely.
MAGNUS: Do you know anything about Erica Nicole Baker?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can‘t tell you if I know anything. That would have been passed to me by a client...
MAGNUS (voice-over): She did, however, tell us this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I knew that there was an ongoing crime, I could report it without violating the attorney-client privilege.
MAGNUS (on camera): So presumably if you knew that Erica Baker was alive and being placed in harm‘s way...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could give that information and I would give that information. I can tell you I know nothing about any ongoing crime.
MAGNUS: Meaning she could be dead?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can‘t answer that question.
DANIELS: That was “Dateline NBC‘s” Edie Magnus reporting. This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and Beth Lewis was ready to fight on, but on the very day that the story first aired on “Dateline NBC”, Jan Franks‘ husband suddenly withdrew the waiver of confidentiality, which prosecutors were relying on to compel Lewis to testify.
Shortly after, though, Franks changed his mind once again. He revoked the withdrawal, and once again waived his wife‘s attorney-client privilege. Now so far, there‘s no indication that Lewis will reveal any information she might have about Erica Baker‘s disappearance.
So should Beth Lewis be applauded for sticking up for a foundation of the American legal system, or should she go to jail for not talking? We‘re going to debate with two defense attorneys after this.
And why is this man suing his dentist? Here‘s a hint. It has nothing to do with those nice pearly whites. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANE FRANKS, WAIVED WIFE‘S ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE: She should go ahead and tell I feel. I think she‘s just protecting lawyers. I mean we‘re talking about a 9-year-old little girl here. I couldn‘t imagine what Erica Baker‘s family is going through. You know, I‘ve got two little girls. So I‘m like I want to make the right decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: The right decision in this case is being disputed. What do you make of it? Nine-year-old Erika Baker vanishes. Two women might have information about the case. One of them, Jan Franks, has died. The other, her attorney, Beth Lewis, is refusing to talk, saying conversations with her client are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
But under Ohio law, there seems to be ways around this privilege. Concerning a communication made to the attorney by a client, the attorney may testify by expressed consent of the client or if the client is deceased by the expressed consent of the surviving spouse. So in this case, Jan Franks‘ husband has waived the attorney-client privilege on behalf of his dead wife, which you would think would open the door for Beth Lewis to tell authorities, and Erica‘s family to say what she knows, if anything, about Erica‘s disappearance. So why is she not talking?
“My Take” on this—I am a lawyer. I‘ve seen how valuable protecting the attorney-client privilege really is. After all, the attorney-client privilege allows clients to be completely truthful with one person, their attorneys. And since lawyers are bound to keep those conversations confidential, they are bound, without that, our clients won‘t trust us, and who could blame them.
But in this one case, the client in question is dead. Her husband has given his consent for the lawyer to talk. The lawyer, I think, is overstepping her bounds, and in the process, making the victim‘s family suffer a second time without any cause.
Joining me now, criminal defense attorney Robert Dunn, who stands by Beth Lewis‘ decision to keep quiet, and criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub who thinks it‘s time for Lewis to start talking. Thank you both for joining me today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening.
DANIELS: So Jayne, I can‘t figure out, is this woman with the highest ethical standards I have ever heard of, or is this woman with the worst ethics I have ever heard of?
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don‘t think that‘s the question, no offense, Lisa. I think that the real issue here is whether or not we agree that the attorney-client privilege is only qualified with the deceased client. I think the issue here is there‘s a court order, and she is refusing to obey the court order. She‘s a lawyer and not above the law.
She has taken her position. She has taken the case through the appeal system, and the appellate courts have ruled. That‘s the issue to me, and the focus now should be she doesn‘t have the right to refuse. It‘s really, you know, like a reporter having to reveal a source. There are times when you don‘t want to reveal a source and you shouldn‘t have to because of the First Amendment.
On the other hand, there are balancing issues, and here the balance was the need to know the information, because the client is deceased, versus is there any other way to get that information. There is no other way to give this information and to get closure for this family.
DANIELS: Robert, do you buy Beth Lewis‘s argument that she‘s following the law?
ROBERT DUNN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I do, and the issue is, is that she is challenging whether or not the law is being accurately applied, or whether or not it was properly constructed. Her understanding of her oath is the same as mine. That she makes the promise to the client that she will...
WEINTRAUB: But the client is dead, Robert.
DUNN: Excuse me?
WEINTRAUB: The client is deceased.
DUNN: Even if the client is deceased that doesn‘t...
WEINTRAUB: It‘s not going to hurt the client or the client‘s family in any way, shape, or form.
DUNN: It will hurt our system of justice because if people feel that after—if they are to die that information that they don‘t want to come out for whatever reasons that they may be, maybe they don‘t want to embarrass other family members...
WEINTRAUB: Robert, if she wants to change...
DUNN: ... they don‘t want to damage, you know, their legacy or how they are perceived by other people. I mean the permutations as to what interest a person may have after they die, we still have interests in our reputation or how we are perceived after we die.
DANIELS: Jayne, let me ask you this...
DUNN: ... even though we don‘t...
DANIELS: Let me just cut in here for a second...
DUNN: ... experience the embarrassment any longer once we‘re dead.
DANIELS: I‘ll get back to you in just a second, Robert. But Jayne, what does Beth Lewis have to gain by talking? Why would she?
WEINTRAUB: Why would she? First of all, there‘s a court order, so she is supposed to follow a court order. That‘s number one. Number two is, because she is compelled to under the law.
WEINTRAUB: You know, if she wants to change the law, she can go to the legislature and lobby the legislators the same as anyone else can.
DUNN: The real question...
WEINTRAUB: She has been ordered by a court...
DUNN: Excuse me...
WEINTRAUB: ... to do something, and she has to observe the court order.
DANIELS: Go ahead Robert...
DUNN: The real question is not—what does she have to gain in not disclosing this information? She says she has received death threats. She says that she‘s being ostracized within her neighborhood. She is suffering professionally.
WEINTRAUB: She‘s becoming a martyr for her own cause...
WEINTRAUB: ... and a soapbox that doesn‘t exist.
DUNN: No, it‘s not a soapbox. It‘s a matter of the principle. And the principle is particularly important when you are talking about federal defenders or people who represent indigent clients, which she is, because it‘s hard enough to win their confidence when you haven‘t been brought to them by a family member, you haven‘t been referred to them by some confidant. It appears to the client in many instances that the same system that is trying to put them away is the same system that is providing you with their lawyer...
DANIELS: Robert, I just want to quickly ask you this question...
DUNN: It‘s even more important that you keep—that you honor that...
DANIELS: Robert, I am going to let you talk, but I want to ask you a question. It would be a cheap shot if I asked you if your little girl was killed or missing whether you would you feel the same way. Instead...
DUNN: Well, of course, I mean it is a cheap shot, because policy decisions aren‘t made on what I might want to do as an individual...
DANIELS: So let me ask you this...
DUNN: Just like with the death penalty, I mean if someone killed one of my family members, I would want to kill them myself, of course I would want...
DANIELS: I‘ve got 20 seconds...
DUNN: ... but that doesn‘t mean that it‘s an appropriate policy.
DANIELS: Robert, 20 seconds to answer this one. What I was going to ask you is as an attorney in this case, if you were in Beth‘s position, would you stick to your guns.
DANIELS: All right. Thank you both for coming on the show...
WEINTRAUB: The family deserves closure.
DANIELS: It‘s a really controversial case...
DUNN: They deserve closure, but that doesn‘t mean that the confidentiality should be abandoned.
DANIELS: Both sides feel very strongly about it. It‘s a really interesting case and it‘s real life. Thank you both for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
WEINTRAUB: Thank you Lisa.
DANIELS: All right. And coming up, last night in my “Closing Argument” I called two of the country‘s major airlines incompetent for Christmas Day cancellations and lost luggage, and I told you I like accountability and I invited you to write in and tell me how I am doing. Some of you did. I will read those e-mails coming up.
DANIELS: Coming up, almost every state has a safe haven law for mothers of unwanted babies, but most people don‘t know they exist and as a result there are terrible consequences. It‘s my “Closing Argument” and it‘s coming up next.
DANIELS: Now my “Closing Argument”. Yesterday morning a newborn baby boy was found in a shopping bag in Long Island, New York by workers at a recycling plant. The baby was dead. Workers made the grim discovery as they were unloading a truck filled with donated clothes. Among them in a plain white shopping bag the dead baby no more than a day or two old, wrapped in a white cloth. It‘s umbilical cord still attached. That baby could have been saved. Since 2001, New York has had a safe haven law. That means the parents of a newborn are allowed to leave their babies at places like firehouses, police precincts, hospitals or even churches. In many states no questions will be asked, no information is even needed. In fact, 46 states now have safe haven laws but did you know that? Maybe, but too people many don‘t.
My first point, the remaining four states, Nebraska, Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii should pass a safe haven law immediately. They should do it with little discussion. It‘s not going to encourage parents to dump their babies as some fear. We are talking about a tiny group of overwhelmed parents who are so desperate in such a confused state of mind that they have convinced themselves that they have no choice but to kill their babies. This law isn‘t to help those parents. It‘s to save their babies, little innocent people who have no say in the decision and could have a happy normal life. That‘s point number one.
Point number two, those 46 states that do have a safe haven law here‘s a news flash. Most people don‘t realize that you have those laws. So, what is the point? Unless you publicize the law, unless you reach those down and out would-be parents who would even consider doing something like kill their babies, unless you do outreach it doesn‘t matter much. Lives are still being lost. So I have a message for that little baby left to die in Long Island.
Your short life was not in vain, not if people hear your story, not if we spread the word that your mother could have saved you, not if the story of your 2-day old life is told in those four states without a safe haven law because it doesn‘t have to be this way. My message is your little life was worth saving.
Coming up in 60 seconds, one male model smiled for the camera but now he says he wants his dentist to pay up. Wait until you hear why.
DANIELS: Welcome back. OK, I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night in my “Closing Argument” I brought up the holiday problems that U.S. Airways and Delta subsidiary Comair experienced and I straight out faulted them for their incompetence and their what I thought were lame excuses. I argued they should have instead taken responsibility for their lack of planning. I said we all have a job to do and people rely on us to do it with confidence.
Many of you agreed including Robert Jarrett in Tempe, Arizona. Quote
· “I totally agree with your views on their callous disregard for the flying public and the degree to which they Rube Goldberg their operating systems and operational redundancy policies. Weather is understandable, however, the depth of their operational systems and the lack of robustness is highly questionable. You were right on target here.”
Ted Mapile—I hope I pronounced that right. “Thumbs up to your blasting of Comair and U.S. Airways. It was good to hear someone who would not buy into their excuses.”
And I asked what type of corporations are these airlines running. Well, 19-year flight attendant Lyrical, as she calls herself, shares her insight and she defended U.S. Airways employees. She wrote, “Since 9/11, when many of the other industries affected have recovered, ours has not. We have taken concession after concession to regenerate our companies and keep our careers. We are asked to give up more and more while management is still able to maintain their lifestyle.”
Now also in my “Closing Argument” I said if you think I was totally incompetent by all means write to MSNBC and you definitely did.
From Glen Ellyn, Illinois, David Hill—quote—“Watching your routine over the airline delays made me think I was at the airport listening to an upset customer and not a professional newscaster. I expect someone in your position to be a little more professional by using facts to get their point across and not childish foot stomping.”
OK, Holly Price writes, “The guest host was all right, but there is no substitute for Dan. I never miss a show and I wish Dan didn‘t either.”
Holly, I agree. Dan is great. I know I have big shoes to fill here, but I do have some fans out there. I promise.
From Snow Mass, Colorado, Steve Parmelee writes, “Tonight‘s host was wonderful. She was refreshingly fair, accurate and welcoming. I will look for her in the future.” Thank you.
And Don Miller in Rockledge, Florida writes, “No argument from me on Lisa Daniels sitting in for Dan Abrams. She was knowledgeable, upbeat, very personable and much easier on the eyes than Dan.”
I think he‘s a cutey. Finally, an e-mail that‘s sure to put a smile on the face of the people who compose our show‘s music. Frank and Joan from Nevada write, “My husband and I enjoy watching your show every day. Your opening song is hilarious—there it is—we wait for that every day. Don‘t ever change that tune.” Well, you will have to tune in tomorrow to hear the rest of it.
OK, send your e-mails to the abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. As I showed you, we‘ll go through them and we will read them at the end of the show.
Now to a story that made us all say “OH PLEAs!” when we heard it. In Milwaukee one male model isn‘t smiling about posing for an ad. Kevin Kavanaugh is suing his cosmetic dentist over the use of his pearly whites. In an ad for—quote—“oral beautification” a smiling Kavanaugh is pictured in before and after shots, advertising a dental practice. But Kavanaugh charges the crooked yellow and blackened before choppers aren‘t his and get this—he wants at least 75,000 bucks from the dentist who he says caused him some mental anguish and lost income because of the allegedly doctored photo.
As for the dentist, he claims he paid the model for the photos and he has the right to use the pictures any way he wants. No court date has been set, but I bet the only two people left smiling after the matter is settled is, of course, the trial attorneys.
That does it for us. Have a great night. I‘m Lisa Daniels.
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