Guest: Richard Walden, Cathy Kaus, Joe Episcopo, Jeffrey Addicott, Michele Lavigne, Gerry Boyle, Harvey Levin
RIKKI KLIEMAN, GUEST HOST: Coming up, as the death toll climbs above 75,000, relief aid pours into areas devastated by Sunday‘s tsunami.
KLIEMAN (voice-over): But the problem is not just getting food and supplies on the ground. Authorities and aid workers also have to maintain law and order so aid gets to those who need it most.
And this Army reservist was jailed for making sure her unit had all the supplies it needed to serve in Iraq. She‘s out after six months and wants the chance to go back, but the Army won‘t let her. She‘ll tell us why.
Plus, Martha Stewart is spending Christmas in prison. Kobe Bryant is preparing for a second trial that may never happen. And even Rip Torn had his day in court in 2004. We wrap up the year in celebrity legal news.
The program about justice starts right now.
KLIEMAN: Hi everyone. I‘m Rikki Klieman. Dan is off tonight.
First up on the docket, the tsunami disaster and the latest on the devastation that expands across five time zones, affecting 12 nations. Right now nearly 77,000 are reportedly dead, including 12 Americans, but hundreds of others are still missing. Public health officials fear outbreaks of malaria and cholera and the International Red Cross warns that the death toll could actually top 100,000. Earlier today President Bush spoke publicly for the first time about the disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘re committed to helping the affected countries in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead. We pledge an initial $35 million in relief assistance. We have deployed disaster experts to the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLIEMAN: President Bush went on to say that the United States has also deployed disaster experts as well as a Marine expeditionary unit and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to the region. There are already reports of thieves disguised as police and rescue workers in southern Thailand and some officials worry that the looting could get worse all over.
In a moment we‘re going to discuss security and how to stabilize that disaster area. But first ITN‘s Dan Rivers has more on the hardest hit nation, Indonesia.
DAN RIVERS, ITN (voice-over): This was the moment of impact in Banda Aceh. This staggering footage taken by a family on a second-floor apartment as the sea swallowed their town.
RIVERS: Terrified, the family think they will surely die. Somehow they escaped. Four days on, this is the scene in the port area, perhaps one of the most devastated sectors of this crippled town. We picked our way through with our guide, missing persons posters pinned to upturned trollers. It was surreal, obscene, stranded boats, the twisted wreckage of a once thriving fishing community. In the town center corpses are being pulled by the hundreds from the ruins of Banda Aceh. There is a nauseating stench everywhere. Death and decay at every turn. The Army is ferrying in troops but they‘re facing a procolitic (ph) destruction (UNINTELLIGIBLE) neighborhoods razed to the ground. Like many, this man has lost everything, his home, his family.
(on camera): There‘s nothing left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing left.
RIVERS: Nothing at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My house has been destroyed, everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
RIVERS: If you want a graphic illustration of the sheer power of this tsunami, have a look at this. This troller was smashed a mile and a half into the center of Banda Aceh. The locals say the tsunami was 60 feet high.
(voice-over): Those that survived are trying to clear the streets, but so far there is apparently little outside help. Banda Aceh is now an acute crisis. They are desperate for basic supplies. The destruction is relentless. Street after street utterly destroyed. Survivors stupefied by this carnage. In some places only dogs survived, waiting in vain for their owners.
But out of town, the horror of all those deaths is concentrated at one place, lorries streaming in carrying body after body.
(on camera): I‘ve seen some terrible, awful sites today but this is by far the worst. They‘re burying bodies by the lorry loads here in mass graves. They estimate there will be tens of thousands of corpses here by the end of the week.
Dan Rivers, ITN News, in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
KLIEMAN: Dan mentioned the Indonesian Army already being sent in. That securing the disaster is now becoming a major concern, and joining us Richard Walden. He is the president and CEO of Operation USA, which is a Los Angeles-based non-government organization specializing in disaster relief. Thank you so much for joining us this evening.
RICHARD WALDEN, OPERATION USA CEO: Thanks for having me.
KLIEMAN: Mr. Walden, I want to ask you about something that really hasn‘t been dealt with much in the past few days, which is the whole area of security and concern. When you‘re looking at the two hardest hit areas—that‘s really Sri Lanka and Indonesia, there was all kinds of problems with civil unrest before, so how is that affected by this disaster?
WALDEN: It‘s exceedingly difficult at the best of times to work in either Aceh province Indonesia or in the northeast of Sri Lanka given the fact that there are civil wars going on in both places. So the governments in power are loathed to let relief agencies even do development activities like putting up a school or a library, so now you‘ve got on top of this a mass disaster.
And it‘s truly one of the largest disasters in my 25 years, if not the largest in terms of numbers of people affected. Not necessarily killed but the actual number affected, which is many times the number of homeless people. If you put all of that mix together, those affected people are going to be going days and days without enough supplies to live on. And that can prompt looting loaded on top of ethnic hostilities and regional hostilities, which were there before it happened.
KLIEMAN: Do we have any idea how to cope with a problem like this? As you talk about it, you can really see that those, as you say, affected, that those numbers really become astronomical. Can we cope with that?
WALDEN: Well, we‘ll find out soon enough. But tens of millions of people are affected. There are about a million or more homeless just in Sri Lanka on top of about 20,000 dead. And one program we were helping over the last several years lost 2,000 people, half of whom were children in the city of Trincomalee. Now that‘s in Tamil and government contested zone in Sri Lanka. So navigating that is something you have to pay a lot of attention to if you hope to get material aid in quickly.
KLIEMAN: And one of the things I think perhaps people are not thinking about is danger on the ground, perhaps even in the area of land mines. It‘s not like you can just get off, help people and think that you are safe as a relief worker.
WALDEN: This is one of the more recent illustrations of the lingering problem of land mines. There are thousands of mines that were close to the coastline and that were buried and now are not buried. This happened in Nicaragua and Honduras after Hurricane Mitch and it‘s happened elsewhere where there has been storms that sort of bring those mines to the surface. You can step on them. Little kids can play with them. And you‘ve got an additional tragedy.
KLIEMAN: When you look at other tragedies that you have seen, and if I‘m correct, you were at—or your organization was certainly dealing with the earthquake in Iran back a year ago. How much larger is this?
WALDEN: Well, Iran was in a very fixed place. It was a year ago, December 26, about 30 to 40,000 people were killed immediately and about 200,000 people were made homeless. But it was in a 30-mile square area or so where they had the worst effects. This is thousands of miles. I mean there were people who were drowned in Somalia and Ethiopia, which are 3,000 miles away. There were nine countries affected by—not counting those two, nine countries in the Asian region alone affected by this in a significant way.
So the size of it all, the fact you‘ve got nine different governments, you‘ve got more than twice the number of regional and provincial governments to deal with as well. You have to start from scratch in many cases, to collect supplies from corporate donors, bulk supplies like housing materials and medications. Let alone money to buy things in the region, some of which are available.
You need to do all of that between Christmas and New Year‘s essentially. Now, like most companies and corporations, Operation USA had sort of half shut down for the holiday and we had to call everyone back from vacation and we‘ve been working straight through for the last three and a half days.
WALDEN: All the other...
KLIEMAN: ... let me tell you we are really, really thankful, as the world is that you have and that you are. And I could talk to you for a long time about this because I think that the kind of work that your organization does is so admirable. And I really want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us tonight.
WALDEN: You‘re very welcome.
KLIEMAN: Thank you.
WALDEN: Thank you.
KLIEMAN: And for all of you, if you want more on where you can donate to the relief effort, please log on to our Web site. You know what it is. It‘s abramsreport.msnbc.com.
Coming up, one Army reservist was jailed for six months after her troop stripped abandoned Army vehicles for parts. She says that her unit was just trying to move safely from Kuwait to Iraq. Now she is out of jail and wants to go back and serve, but the Army won‘t let her. She tells us why next.
Plus, a Minnesota man pleads not guilty to charges he shot six Wisconsin hunters last month. He claims it was self-defense, but prosecutors say he meant to do it.
And they dominated the headlines not because of their albums, movies or athletic ability. We take a look at the biggest celebrity trials this year and what cases we can look forward to in 2005.
Don‘t forget, please send us your e-mails. You send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And please remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from. We‘ll respond at the end of the show.
KLIEMAN: Coming up, why would the Army court-martial a reservist for theft when she claimed she was just trying to complete her unit‘s mission into Iraq? We‘ve got the story next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLIEMAN: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying the Army has to do its best with what it has. But when one decorated Army reserve officer found herself and her unit lacked what they needed they took matters into their own hands and that landed Major Cathy Kaus in the brig. When Major Kaus found that she didn‘t have enough vehicles to transport her unit supplies into Iraq from Kuwait, two of her warrant officers said they‘d take care of it.
They returned with two vehicles that had been left behind by another unit and the troops moved out. Later on Major Kaus‘ unit stripped another abandoned vehicle for parts that they needed. All of this led to a series of court-martials. Major Kaus‘ ended with a felony conviction, dismissal from the service, a $5,000 fine and six months in a navy brig.
Well, from the brig she has emerged just days ago. She is joining me now live. It is Major Cathy Kaus. Major Kaus, I want to thank you so much for joining us and ask you, first of all, how do you feel today?
MAJOR CATHY KAUS, SPENT SIX MONTHS IN NAVY BRIG: Today I feel great. You know, I‘m finally back in Dayton with my family and friends and Friday I‘m going to head back up to Wisconsin to be with the rest of my family so right now I‘m feeling very good.
KLIEMAN: When all of this took place, you were in charge of a group of people. You were trying to get materials off into Iraq from Kuwait. Did you know what your officers were doing?
KAUS: No, not really. What ended up happening is when you‘re in a situation like this there‘s many things that are going on. So when I was told that we weren‘t going to be able to have the transportation assets to move our necessary equipment that we thought we needed to do our mission north, I came back and I talked to the warrant officers and the warrant officers came back and said, hey, I think I know where we can get some equipment.
I said OK, go ahead, do what you need to do and take care of it, meaning I had a lot of other things to do, you know, so let‘s move on and get going with it because the next day we are going to be moving out. So at the time I did not know what was going on.
KLIEMAN: And at some point later on there is an investigation, eventually you‘re actually facing charges, which led to the results that I already mentioned. When you decided that you were going to plead guilty to some charges and not to others, what made you make that decision?
KAUS: The reason I made that decision because when—I pled guilty to willful neglect, which means that when they were actually stripping the vehicle that was retrieved for—to replace parts on our equipment that was broken and that we could not receive through the supply equipment system, I didn‘t do anything to stop that, so I knew about it and I didn‘t do any thing to stop it, so I was guilty of that, so I did go ahead and plead guilty to that. The other charge of abandonment and conspiracy to abandonment was when it got time to go home we had to do something with those vehicles so we left the vehicles and that‘s where they charge me with abandonment.
And on the conspiracy, if you think about it and you‘re part of the conversation, so to speak and it happens, you‘re now charged with conspiracy. So I knew about it and so therefore I got charged with conspiracy, which, you know, I pled guilty to all three of those charges.
KLIEMAN: Were you surprised at the sentence being so harsh?
KAUS: Yes, I was. At the time I did not know that there was a Web site called “On Point” that talked about lessons learned from third I.D. commanders and fourth I.D. commanders who had moved ahead of us into Iraq. And on this Web site called “On Point”, the commanders actually talked about where if they came across a vehicle that was on the side of the road where they would go ahead and drain the fluids, everything from the anti-freeze, brake fluid, oils because they knew that their vehicles didn‘t have it and they couldn‘t get it through the supply system.
So they went ahead and took these fluids out of these vehicles just to keep their own equipment running. And it also said in the “On Point” that the commanders from the 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions said that if the war had continued on for another two weeks they would have been at a stalemate because they could not get the equipment that they needed in order to continue the fight.
KLIEMAN: Indeed. And Major Kaus, with all that has happened, you‘ve done the six months, here you are being dismissed, you are in a world that you have really loved for some 28 years. Do you want to go back?
KAUS: Oh, yes, ma‘am, in a heartbeat because you know, there is so much more that‘s out there and I think that I have a lot to still show the Army that I am a productive individual and I can be a productive individual for them, and if they would give me the opportunity, yes, ma‘am, I‘d do that in a heartbeat.
KLIEMAN: All right. Major Cathy Kaus, I thank you so much for coming on today.
KAUS: Thank you very much.
KLIEMAN: Thank you. And coming up next, Cathy may be out of jail, but we certainly see her troubles are far from over. Was the Army right to court-martial her? And should she be allowed to go back and serve? We‘re going to debate that next.
Plus, who would have thought back in January at her trial that Martha Stewart would be spending New Year‘s in prison? And will Kobe Bryant ever have his day in court at a trial? We‘ll wrap up the biggest celebrity cases this year and the ones we‘re looking forward to in 2005, coming up.
KLIEMAN: An Army reserve officer leading her unit into Iraq winds up in the Navy brig for six months for what is called scrounging and now faces dismissal after 28 years of service. Major Cathy Kaus just told us how she and her troops used vehicles left behind by other units to get by during their service in Iraq. Major Kaus received a Bronze Star last year before being sent to the brig and now that she‘s served her time she‘s asking for clemency, which could clear the way for her to stay in those reserves where she wants to stay and collect those important benefits and then be sent back to Iraq.
“My Take”—the practice of scrounging might be as old as war itself. These officers certainly thought that they were doing the right thing for the good of the troops in order to complete their mission. Although it was against the rules, isn‘t the punishment way too harsh for this crime?
Joining me now, two former JAG Attorneys, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Addicott, who is now a professor now at St. Mary‘s Law School in Texas who thinks Major Kaus was doing the right thing in the wrong way and retired Lieutenant Colonel Joe Episcopo who finds it hard to believe that the case when this far.
Joe, you and I go back a long way, so I‘m starting with you. And when you say it went this far, how did it get here, well I put it back to you. How did it get this far?
LT. COL. JOE EPISCOPO (RET.), FORMER ARMY JAG ATTORNEY: Well I think one of the first mistakes that was made is that she elected to be tried by a judge alone. She should have picked a military panel. You know, in the civilian system if you‘re guilty you go to trial; the judge generally punishes you for doing that, but not in the military system. If you present your case to a panel of officers they also sentence you. And if they hear all the facts they can cut you a giant break and I think she was punished by a judge who was more concerned with chain of command.
KLIEMAN: It‘s interesting when you say that because I‘m going to take that to Jeffrey Addicott because Jeffrey, if I may call you by that name, I really wonder if it‘s the whole issue of just saying we have to set an example here.
LT. COL. JEFFREY ADDICOTT (RET.), FORMER ARMY JAG ATTORNEY: Well, she had an attorney before she pled guilty and she made a calculated decision, obviously she felt that the judge would give her a lesser punishment. In my opinion, the sentence she received was probably lenient because in a combat zone, officers are expected to lead by example, and she violated that central principle.
What she didn‘t tell us in her interview is that she was also convicted of larceny. Her description was self-serving about scrounging things on the battlefield, which is allowable, but she abandoned property. She misused property and above all she conspired with her subordinates, warrant officers and other soldiers to break the rules. And the signal is sent down to the other soldiers that well, if we break that rule we can break other rules, and that‘s disastrous...
KLIEMAN: But Joe Episcopo, when you look at these other officers who refused to obey an order, who did not want to drive because they thought that their safety would be compromised, it seems to me nothing happened to them, so why is this so much worse?
EPISCOPO: Again, she‘s in a different command, she has different officers, and different—you know, this Abu Ghraib problem has really got people afraid over there. I think that that‘s where it all comes from. And again, just like my colleague here says, he was like the military judge. The military judge followed the law. A panel, I think, would have been a lot more lenient and considerate especially because in mitigation she could have brought in other people who have done this and said this is a part of the thing that we normally do and probably would have gotten a letter of reprimand.
KLIEMAN: Jeffrey Addicott, when we say this is something that we already do, aren‘t I right in saying this is as old as war itself. Isn‘t scrounging just one of the things that not only happens but in many cases it‘s necessary to happen?
ADDICOTT: Well, again, I think she—you probably could analyze this in a way that she did a right thing in a wrong way. I mean if she sees that—as Secretary Rumsfeld indicated, we go to war with the Army that we have. For example, there‘s one company, Hawthorne and York (ph) that‘s developed new body—new armor for our vehicles but that‘s not out in the field yet, so we do what we can. But to tell subordinates to engage in larceny is disastrous because these other units also need those tools and the signal is sent down to the entire chain of command, as we saw at Abu Ghraib, that there is no discipline. And you have to have discipline above all things on the battlefield.
KLIEMAN: Joe Episcopo, this is a woman who with her fellow officers is looking for clemency. She is someone who says she wants to go back and serve. She would go back to Iraq. Isn‘t this the type of case that would be right for clemency?
EPISCOPO: Yes, but I don‘t think she‘ll get it from the convening authority, the officer that had her charged and convened the court. Her best bet is to go before the civilian panel in Washington called the Board for the Correction of Military Records. Their goal is to correct manifest injustice and I think a good case can be presented here that this is manifest injustice.
Now, they can take away all the punishment. They can give her an honorable discharge, but they can never remove the conviction. That would have to come from the president of the United States in a pardon.
KLIEMAN: Any chance, Jeffrey Addicott, in the short time I have, that she‘s going to get anything she wants here?
ADDICOTT: I would doubt it very seriously because that would send a very bad signal to other officers in the field that you can break the rules with impunity.
KLIEMAN: Jeffrey Addicott and Joe Episcopo, I thank you not only for coming on, but I also thank you for being concise. Thanks so much.
And coming up, the man accused of shooting six Wisconsin hunters was in court today pleading not guilty to the murders. Prosecutors don‘t buy his self-defense excuse, but will a jury? We debate that next.
Plus, from TV talk show hosts to rock stars to domestic divas, 2004 was a year when even the most unlikely celebrities faced justice. We‘re going to take a look at some of the biggest cases this year and the stories that we‘re going to be watching in 2005.
And your e-mails—send them to email@example.com. Remember to include your name and where you‘re from, and I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
KLIEMAN: Coming up, he‘s charged with murdering six hunters. He‘s admitted to the crime but today he pleaded not guilty. His lawyers are likely to argue the killing was done in self-defense, but is there any kind of a defense that a jury would really buy in this case? First, the headlines.
KLIEMAN: Just before Thanksgiving we learned about a chilling story in Wisconsin. Six hunters were killed and two were wounded after a confrontation with a man about trespassing. Chai Vang is accused of opening fire on the hunters. Well he was in court today.
He‘s charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, three counts of attempted homicide. Prosecutors say Vang went on a rampage shooting at the hunters after they asked him to leave a piece of private property. But Vang pled not guilty and he says he was only acting in self-defense after he was shot at first.
Vang says that that group confronted him, using racial slurs and profanity before they fired a shot at him as he claims that he was trying to walk away. Wisconsin‘s attorney general, Peg Lautenschlager, has taken such an interest in the case that she decided to prosecute it herself even though she hasn‘t appeared in a courtroom for more than two years and she‘s had a rough era of her own, battling breast cancer and getting a drunk driving conviction. So, will Chai Vang‘s self-defense excuse save him at a trial?
Well joining me now to debate this is Wisconsin criminal defense attorney, my dear friend Gerry Boyle, who represented serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and former Wisconsin public defender and University of Wisconsin law professor Michele Lavigne.
Michele, let me start with you and ask you about this whole idea of the attorney general coming into a case. Why would she do that?
MICHELE LAVIGNE, FORMER WI PUBLIC DEFENDER: Well, we have to start with the idea that the case went to the Department of Justice from the very beginning, and that‘s because Sawyer County is a very small county. It‘s not resource rich in a case like this for the prosecution would deplete their resources. So from the beginning it came down to the Attorney General‘s Office.
That being the case, it is not uncommon for the attorney general to take an interest in a particularly high profile case. Our former attorney general, now our governor, Jim Doyle, argued a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, so I don‘t think it is at all uncommon and I don‘t think it‘s at all surprising.
KLIEMAN: Great. I‘m actually glad that you clarified that because we don‘t hear that very often. And Gerry Boyle, looking at this case you usually are defending but this is a case that you would feel very strongly about prosecuting, right?
GERRY BOYLE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well I think that, you know, if you‘re a good lawyer you can be a prosecutor or a defense lawyer. That‘s what they do in New England. It‘s no religion to me. I do decide if they ask me to do the job. But the fact of the matter is this should be a very easy case to prosecute. Self-defense, God bless those two lawyers, I know them both very well.
They‘re very good lawyers. They‘re very good friends of mine but they‘re going to have an uphill battle with a self-defense argument something as out of the ordinary as these shootings were. Some people were killed. They didn‘t have any weapons. They were shot in the back and I don‘t know how anyone‘s going to be able to suggest that there‘s any real hope for a self-defense issue here.
KLIEMAN: Well let me turn to Michele Lavigne because good lawyers, Michele, can suggest defenses if the elements are there. Is it self-defense alone or is it self-defense plus more in this case?
LAVIGNE: Well, one of the things you have to remember with self-defense is that the jury will be asked to put themselves into Mr. Vang‘s shoes so that what did this scene look like to Mr. Vang. If there was racial overtones, what meaning did that have to Mr. Vang? What meaning did that have in northern Wisconsin? Had he encountered other situations? What in fact happened? We know what the prosecution says happened. We know what the prosecution—some of the prosecution witnesses say happened.
We have bits and pieces of Mr. Vang‘s statement, but honestly he‘s the one that can provide some insight. And from there the defense will start to basically look around, scour the countryside, look under every rock to find out what was—what did this situation look like as Mr. Vang stood out there on that cold day.
KLIEMAN: And Gerry Boyle, that certainly means that we can‘t ignore the fact that this is a man who may have thought that there were some racial overtones, some ethnic prejudice here, even though he is not going to use, we are told, a cultural defense. If you‘re in the role of the prosecutor, you have to anticipate all of this, right?
BOYLE: Well, you do. And I think what Michele was talking about is there‘s a difference between perfect and imperfect self-defense. An imperfect self-defense is really second-degree murder and I just don‘t see how you can kill six people and claim that you were in a role of self-defense when some of them were shot in the back with no weapons. I mean that‘s going to be very difficult—because you cannot separate these murder cases. They‘re all one murder case involving different victims.
And I just think they‘ve got an uphill battle, but I think she‘s right. The jury is going to have to say was there any merit to the self- defense issue and I think it‘s going to be a tough case for Mr. Smith and Mr. Kohn.
KLIEMAN: Well, a tough case indeed, but Michele, as I go back to you for the last word here in the role of the defense lawyer, if I can put you there, one of the things that this jury probably is going to learn about is not only the subjective state of this man, but really his history as well, right?
LAVIGNE: That‘s right. That is part of the story that is part of the case. And I have to say that on the news today they were saying that the defense was exploring the possibility of a not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, what is commonly known as an insanity defense, and if that is gone into, then we will really see this man‘s history.
KLIEMAN: Indeed so. I thank you so much, both of you, Gerry Boyle and Michele Lavigne...
KLIEMAN: Thank you so much for coming on.
LAVIGNE: Bye. Thanks.
KLIEMAN: Coming up, 2004 was the year we learned Bill O‘Reilly prefers his women with a side of loofah. Robert Blake can play the guitar and that Martha Stewart may have lost her touch at decorating since she entered a federal prison. We‘re going to take a look back at this year‘s celebrity trials next.
Plus, serial killer Michael Ross is on death row in Connecticut. He says he‘s ready to die but the state may not be ready to execute him. Who should ultimately decide whether he lives or whether he dies? It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
KLIEMAN: Robert Blake in pretrial days singing to reporters outside the courthouse. He‘s now facing a California judge and a jury for the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley. That‘s where we stand at our legal roundup of the biggest celebrity cases this year and look what‘s on the docket in 2005.
“My Take”—well, it‘s really in the drinking water in California. What else could possibly account for the vast majority of these cases coming from the West Coast? But now, of course, I live there and so does my guest when we‘re not in New York drinking the other water, the same water as those celebrities who are facing problems on the East Coast.
Joining me now, attorney and executive producer of “Celebrity Justice”, Harvey Levin. I got to tell you Harvey I can‘t think of anyone I would rather do this with than you. So...
HARVEY LEVIN, EXEC. PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”: Right back at you, Rikki.
KLIEMAN: I just think it‘s the end of the year and here we are on both coasts talking about these people. We have got to start with Robert Blake. It finally came. Did you think he would ever get to trial?
LEVIN: Yes, I mean I think that eventually the D.A. had to do this. You know, it‘s like—he‘s like a walking “B” movie. I love the case because it‘s all “Baretta”. I mean everything—even at the crime scene, one of the—the man whose door he pounded on after the shooting happens to be a director. What chances are that that would happen in Hollywood?
It‘s a director and he says Blake looked out and says those sons of bitches they‘re going to kill us all. I mean it‘s all bad dialogue and you‘ve just got to love this trial.
KLIEMAN: Well I think we‘re both going to love this trial. Let me ask you one other question on Blake before I move along dealing with the Hollywood aspects of it. You‘ve got to look at the two guys who claim they were solicited by him. You‘ve got two stuntmen and people who have had problems telling the truth in the past. Do you think he has a shot in this defense?
LEVIN: Well, kind of poor choice of words, Rikki.
KLIEMAN: Oh, I‘m sorry.
KLIEMAN: It was just the moment. I couldn‘t help it.
LEVIN: But, you know what? I think he does have a chance because look—I mean the prosecution‘s case is this. He‘s saying that -- they‘re saying Blake solicited one stuntman who said no I‘m not going to do it. Then he solicited another stuntman, but then they say he turned around and he pulled the trigger. But there‘s no gun residue in his hand. There‘s no DNA. They don‘t have the blood evidence, so the theory that he shot seems kind of inconsistent with him trying to hire somebody else. So, yes, I really do think that the jury may find reasonable doubt in this case.
KLIEMAN: All right. Well you and I will be there. Let‘s take a little bit of a look back at that wonderful moment when you think of someone who‘s demanding her own power. Let‘s look at Martha Stewart on the day of her sentencing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I‘ll be back. I will be back. Whatever I have to do in the next few months, I hope the months go by quickly. I‘m used to all kinds of hard work, as you know, and I‘m not afraid. I‘m not afraid whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLIEMAN: I love the moment. Harvey, at this point she still has an appeal pending. But really her life is looking at what‘s going to happen to her with her with her work, right?
LEVIN: Oh, Rikki, Martha Stewart is such a success story. I mean everybody is saying oh poor Martha. Her life is ruined. You‘ve got to be kidding me. This woman is going to come out of prison bigger than ever. She has a reality television show coming next fall with the king of reality TV, Mark Burnett. The show is going to be a huge hit.
Martha Stewart has something that she never had before, which is looking compassionate. She‘s now relatable to people. She‘s overcome adversity. Her life is fascinating. This woman in a crazy way she‘s going to look back and say prison was one of the best career moves she ever made.
KLIEMAN: Well that‘s one way to look at it, indeed. A story that you did very well with on “Celebrity Justice” concerned a stalker or an alleged stalker after Sheryl Crow. I want to ask you about it, but before I do, I want to take a look at this stalker and hear what he had to say because the result might be considered surprising.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Have you ever tried to actually contact her...
AMBROSE KAPPOS, FOUND NOT GUILTY OF STALKING SHERYL CROW: Well I don‘t know. I just say I feel that way. I don‘t know. I could be (EXPLETIVE DELETED) totally crazy and deluded. Maybe they need to lock me up. All I know is I know what I experienced. That‘s it.
KAPPOS: I‘m not saying like we are connected in some way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLIEMAN: OK, Harvey, I know what I experienced. We‘re connected in some way. But look what happened to him.
LEVIN: Well, you know, it‘s a fascinating case, Rikki, because you know, when you look at that tape you think, wow, this guy is menacing, this guy is crazy, but a jury said he‘s not guilty. They don‘t think he‘s a stalker and they don‘t think he‘s a stalker in spite of Sheryl Crow taking the stand and saying that she felt terribly threatened.
The reason I think this case is so important is I think it sends a message that just because a star feels threatened doesn‘t necessarily mean a jury is going to buy it and say that somebody is a stalker. It‘s a really surprising case, but the jury was very clear in this. That he may be obsessed but he‘s not a criminal.
KLIEMAN: Interesting, indeed, about juries. How about another story that “C.J.” was up on and Harvey, you looked at Rip Torn. Here is a guy who certainly looked like he might have been drunk. What happened to him?
LEVIN: Well, you know, in some ways it‘s like the Sheryl Crow case because you look at the video and you think case closed. And the video of Rip Torn is really unbelievable. I mean he is stumbling and staggering and he‘s, you know, mouthing off to the cops and what I love about this is Judge Judy‘s sons, who are lawyers, defended him and won and in about three hours this jury said you know what, we looked at the police tape but we think the police probably acted badly here.
They were kind of abusive to him. They found Rip Torn not guilty and then this flood of job offers came in for Rip Torn. So again, ironically an interesting career move for Rip Torn.
KLIEMAN: Well I‘ll tell you sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Harvey, I‘m going to take a minute with you to have a serious moment in the midst of all this fun and serious it is indeed because my final thought about celebrities is about Jerry Orbach. He is known to many of us as Lennie Briscoe from “Law & Order”.
He died today of prostate cancer. Orbach‘s career span more than four decades from the stage to the big screen, but certainly it was his 12 seasons on the show ripped from the headlines that touched us all here at the show about justice. He was 69. Harvey, I know for me I will miss him for many, many years as being part of the fabric of my life and I‘d like to give you a moment for a thought about one of the more profound actors of our time.
LEVIN: Well, you know, I mean he really is incredible. I mean this is a man with a triple career. I mean the guy did great movies, great on Broadway, amazing television. And what really strikes me is, you know, a show like “Law & Order” really kind of colors the way people view the justice system and it‘s such a good show and he did such good work on it, and it really kind of created an image that wasn‘t tawdry, that was real, and his role in it to me particularly kind of rang true. And I think, you know, with all of his great work, he also did something really interesting for the justice system, which is kind of to help people peer inside and get a realistic look.
KLIEMAN: Indeed so and since there you are commenting on “Celebrity Justice” and wonderful you are. Harvey Levin, thank you so much for joining me tonight.
LEVIN: Rikki, before we leave...
LEVIN: ... can I just say I‘m really looking forward to your role as judge on “NYPD Blue”.
KLIEMAN: Thanks Harvey. I am too.
LEVIN: You‘re welcome, Your Honor.
KLIEMAN: Thank you. I‘ll be right back with my “Closing Argument”.
KLIEMAN: Coming up, serial killer Michael Ross says he‘s ready to die after serving 17 years on death row, but should the decision really be up to him? It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
KLIEMAN: My “Closing Argument”—as we come to the end of 2004, one legal debate continues with bitter division throughout the country, the death penalty. Who should live? Who should die? Who should choose the ultimate penalty in the first place? Who should pronouns the sentence? Whose life is it anyway?
In Connecticut where there has not been an execution in nearly 45 years, serial killer Michael Ross decided that he will take that lethal injection on January 26 and no longer pursue any further appeals of his death sentence. He says he‘s doing this to spare the victims‘ families any more pain. A judge found that Mr. Ross is competent to make that decision and believe that it‘s his right to choose to die at the hands of the state.
But lawyers sees things differently. The state public defender‘s office is going to other courts still looking for stays of execution against the wishes of Ross. They‘re challenging the finding of his competency and he doesn‘t like that one bit. Ross claims that a public defender told him that if he didn‘t pursue a certain appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court then he might be responsible for the execution of others on death row in Connecticut.
Well, that‘s one responsibility Ross might not want to assume, but he has it whether he likes it or not. To compound the problem, Ross‘ father is being represented by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union. They filed suit yesterday attempting to stop his son‘s execution by challenging lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment. So how will it end?
Is Ross allowed to be responsible for his own life and now his own death? Or should society and the criminal justice system itself have a vested interest in the final result? Are we all in some way responsible for the taking of a life by the state? Or can someone just say time‘s up, I‘m done, got to go?
Coming up in 60 seconds, wait until you hear the lengths that one Missouri man went just to get more cops in his neighborhood. It‘s our “OH PLEAs!” segment. It‘s coming up next.
KLIEMAN: Welcome back. I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night we reported on the devastation from Sunday‘s deadly earthquake and powerful tsunami in the Indian Ocean. At least 80,000 are dead. The White House says $35 million in aid is already on its way. But on Monday, Jan Egeland, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, suggested that the world‘s richest nations were being—quote—“stingy” and now he‘s saying he was misquoted and his words were taken out of context.
Now many of you were really upset, including Larry Younger in Wisconsin. “The comment was a slap in the face for our nation. Our country has helped out in many past emergencies. Where were all these other nations when four hurricanes hit Florida? Maybe we should just start helping those who help us out.”
Well, Larry, don‘t you think we should always take the high road? To aid the loss of tens of thousands of lives should not come down to you scratch my back, I‘ll scratch yours.
Also last night, our story about Erica Baker who disappeared almost six years ago. Now investigators were led to one woman who may have known something, but she died before police got information from her and her lawyer, Beth Lewis, is refusing to talk, saying attorney-client privilege prevents it even though her client is dead and her client‘s husband waived that privilege.
Well viewers like you with very different takes on this case. First, from Lakeland, Florida, Joe Kriston. “The lawyer is doing this strictly for publicity, all the free publicity she‘s getting. She should be locked in jail until she tells. There is no reason now for her to keep quiet.”
But others agree with her stance. Attorney Jack Walsh in Mesquite, Nevada. “If I needed a lawyer, I would take Beth Miller in a second. Lawyers are not the most trusted people as is. Trust is the main element in revelations between attorneys and clients and should not be infringed. As she says, to violate that trust will hurt the justice system far more than it would ever help. She is what a lawyer should be.”
“OH PLEAs!” things aren‘t always as they appear. What started as a suspected hate crime in Independence, Missouri, wound up to be something very different. A 22-year-old man reported that he was attacked outside his apartment building by knife wielding assailants who burned a slur into his chest—try saying that twice. Then they tried to etch the same slur into his forehead.
Well, the only problem, police noted that the letter on the man‘s forehead was written backwards, as if he did it himself while looking in a mirror. Well, that was a clue. The man admitting inflicted the wounds on himself because he wanted more police officers to patrol his neighborhood. Police are now charging him with filing a false report.
And let me tell you, my husband and I have been actively campaigning for more police in Los Angeles. We‘re doing it by the ballot box, not by inflicting injuries. Don‘t imitate this guy at home.
That does it for us tonight. I‘m Rikki Klieman here for Dan Abrams.
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