Guest: Diane Dimond, David Vigliano, Mark Mazzarella, Peter Weiss, David Rivkin, George Parnham, Stacey Honowitz, Juan Zarate
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, so many people seem ready to serve as jurors on the Michael Jackson trial. The judge says he‘s already got enough people to pick a jury.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Potential jurors usually try to get out of serving on a long trial. It seems the lure of deciding Michael Jackson‘s fate may be too hard to resist. But what is it really worth? And how do you weed out the so-called stealth jurors?
And Donald Rumsfeld decides not to go to Germany in part because a court there is looking into a complaint accusing him of war crimes. Is this for real? Rumsfeld could get arrested in Germany?
Plus a teen on trial for killing his grandparents and burning down their house says his antidepressant made him do it. Could the Zoloft defense work?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket: An unexpected development in the Michael Jackson case. Phase one of jury selection over already; a task that many expected to last at least through tomorrow. It‘s behind them after more than half of 450 potential jurors said they could serve. That tells you something.
Again, Jackson greeted his fans with a wave and a victory sign. Difference today, Jackson was draped in black rather than the virginal white. Once inside the courtroom Jackson listened as the judge compared jury duty to military service and soldiers sacrifices themselves in Iraq. Boy.
Saying jury service is part of the cost of freedom. Freedom is not free.
So, is this just a lot of people saying they would love to serve on this case? Court TV‘s chief investigative editor and NBC analyst Diane Dimond is at the courthouse. So Diane what‘s going on? We got a lot of jurors who just want to be part of the Michael Jackson case?
DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE EDITOR: Well, you know, if you listen to Judge Rodney Melville, you played a little or showed a little part of what he said there. He said this is not an obligation. This is a duty. Now, you know, think long and hard about it and I‘m going to ask you do you have a hardship?
And some people put their hands up, but you‘re right. More people did not. Now you seem to find that suspect, Dan...
ABRAMS: I do...
DIMOND: Other people would call it...
ABRAMS: I‘ll tell you why.
DIMOND: ... civic duty.
ABRAMS: ... because in other cases where you get a six-month trial you get a lot of jurors saying it‘s a hardship, even though it is a duty and all judges describe it—they don‘t compare it to Iraq, but they all describe it as a duty. And I think the bottom line is that you‘ve got a lot of people here who would just love to get in on the Michael Jackson case. Do you disagree?
DIMOND: Well wouldn‘t you? I mean this is a worldwide superstar.
OK, they want to get in on this trial...
ABRAMS: Six months of it...
DIMOND: ... the question they have to ask—the question that they have to ask themselves and answer is do you have an opinion and can you keep an open mind about him. You know, that‘s—these people who don‘t answer the voir dire questions correctly are going to be out of there faster than you know what. So I‘m not too worried about it.
DIMOND: I have watched a lot of jury trials and a lot of juries being picked and you know what, it usually works out just fine.
ABRAMS: Oh I‘m not really worried that they‘re not going to be fair. I just that, you know, we‘ve just got to call a spade a spade and that‘s is, you know, that‘s what we‘re dealing with. Very quickly Diane, give us an idea of where we are in the process.
DIMOND: OK. Today—well everything is over now. We‘ve got this jury pool of 250. Four hundred and fifty came by. Two hundred said, no, I can‘t do a six-month trial. There were—it‘s mostly Caucasian. There were, let‘s see, five or six blacks yesterday. Three today, nearly all of them asked to get a deferment.
They said we‘ll do another trial, but we don‘t want to do this trial. It‘s going to take too long. There will be 10 preemptory challenges on each side. That means either one of the attorneys can say, you know, I just don‘t like this person. They‘re off. But, there‘s also an unlimited number of challenges for cause and you know what that means, Dan.
That could really slow things up here. I‘m going to make a prediction that I don‘t think it‘s going to take a month. We were all saying yesterday well it could take up to a month.
DIMOND: Even Judge Melville said that, but the way he‘s got this pace going...
ABRAMS: Give us a date.
DIMOND: ... and the way I see him hammer through things...
ABRAMS: Three weeks? Three weeks?
DIMOND: I‘m going to say a couple of weeks.
ABRAMS: All right.
DIMOND: After we come back next week, a couple of weeks.
ABRAMS: Wow. All right, Diane, stick around. With so many jurors volunteering to put aside their lives to serve on a trial that could last up to six months, the question we want to deal with is how do you weed out the stealth jurors who might be looking to make a big buck and is it really big bucks to serve on this type of jury?
“My Take”—anyone who is doing it for money is a fool. You just don‘t make that much as a former juror, even in a high-profile trial. I don‘t think. Joining me now jury consultant Mark Mazzarella and David Vigliano, a literary agent known for negotiating big paying deals for some high-profile clients.
All right, Mr. Vigliano, let me start with you. Bottom line, let‘s say the Michael Jackson case gets you know a lot of attention. No camera in the courtroom. What‘s a juror worth at the end of this case in terms of a book deal?
DAVID VIGLIANO, LITERARY AGENT: Well I‘m with you. I think very little. You know, the bottom line is that there‘s not a lot of money out there for jurors when all is said and done. You know, if you look back, the number of jurors that have actually cashed in is very small. I think there was one that on the O.J. civil trial that did a TV special...
ABRAMS: Yes. Let me put—I‘ll put up a quick list for you that—some of the ones we found. “Private Diary of an O.J. Juror”, “Madam Foreman: A Rush to Judgment?” written by three O.J. Simpson jurors.
“Subway Gunman: A Juror‘s Account of the Bernhard Goetz Trial”, “Hung Jury:
The Diary of a Menendez Juror”.
But you know, again, and you tell me, I mean I think maybe a couple of the O.J. books sold pretty well. But any sense—I mean of how these other books were selling and whether that tells us anything...
VIGLIANO: No, they‘re all small books. They‘re all books that were not done by mainstream publishers for the most part. They‘re not books that hit bestseller list. If you look at the O.J. trial, you know, there were probably 20 books out and probably 15 of them hit the bestseller list. And I don‘t think any of those books that you mentioned were on there.
They‘re just—I don‘t think that jurors bring a lot to the table. By the time that, you know, the trial is done, most of the other principles have weighed in on them. What people are interested in, you know, what readers are interested in are things like Amber Frey. They‘re interested in the principles. They‘re interested in the, you know, the people that are on trial that have been acquitted. They‘re interested in the criminal defense attorneys. They‘re...
VIGLIANO: ... you know, they‘re interested in people that bring something more to the table than...
ABRAMS: So bottom line—I got to move on a second. The bottom line, a juror comes to you by him or herself at the end of the Michael Jackson case, says I‘m willing to write a book for you. You offer them what?
VIGLIANO: I don‘t offer them anything because I‘m not interested in that. You know...
ABRAMS: All right.
VIGLIANO: ... I think it‘s a very hard sell.
ABRAMS: And I guess I should have said to you rather than offer, you would say to them you think we‘ll be able to get X and you‘re saying look, I‘m not going to make any promises.
All right, Mark Mazzarella, you know, let‘s even assume that jurors come into it thinking, hey, you know, I can, you know, at least get famous or do something. How do you keep off the jurors who want to be on the case because it‘s the Michael Jackson case and as a result, try and tailor their answers to say the right thing?
MARK MAZZARELLA, JURY CONSULTANT: Well it‘s important because they won‘t say the honest thing. They say whatever it is that they think you want to hear...
MAZZARELLA: So you have to...
ABRAMS: Can you figure those out?
MAZZARELLA: ... those people out.
ABRAMS: Can you figure those out?
MAZZARELLA: So—well one way you do it is you can first just look at them. The ones that look like they‘re coming for an audition as opposed to coming to jury duty dressed to the nines. Those are probably potential stealth jurors. The ones that come sloppily dressed, they really don‘t care. They‘re not stealth jurors.
But you also listen carefully to their answers to the prosecutor‘s questions and the defense questions. If they basically are saying one thing to the prosecutor and pretty much the opposite to the defense on the same topic, they‘re trying to be all things to all people. They want to be picked and that‘s a dangerous juror. So you‘re looking for those inconsistencies.
You also can ask things as simple as have you ever written anything? Do you have any aspirations for a career in TV or the theater or radio or whatever else or writing? There‘s lots of things you can ask a juror to find out if there‘s even a potential that there might be somebody who would write, but that doesn‘t mean they wouldn‘t have a ghost writer do it for them.
ABRAMS: And how big a concern would this be if you were a jury consultant on one side or the other in this case?
MAZZARELLA: It‘s immense. It‘s huge because, for example, a stealth juror might have had a close relative who was molested. If they don‘t tell you about that because they want to be a juror, they may have very, very strong feelings that are really going to color their decision in the case. They would never be left on a jury if they admitted to that and for good reason they‘d be kicked off. So, you know, people who hide something that significant—and that‘s what stealth jurors do. That‘s the risk. They present a very, very big problem for both sides and so it‘s a huge issue to be able to identify those people and make sure they...
ABRAMS: Diane, if that were to happen, do you think this is the kind of prosecution team that would prosecute someone for lying? Because for example in the Martha Stewart case there were a lot of questions about whether prospective jurors lied before the case started. Do you think if they discovered that someone lied—and there was one allegation of that during Peterson as well—but if there was a clear indication that a juror was lying in the way that Mr. Mazzarella describes, you think these prosecutors would actually go forward with it?
DIMOND: That‘s a really good question, Dan. I know that this District Attorney‘s Office is really law and order. I think the first order of business wouldn‘t be that. I would be—I think it would be to go after whoever leaked the grand jury transcripts...
DIMOND: I don‘t think they‘d go after a juror.
ABRAMS: Yes, I don‘t think—and very quickly, Mr. Mazzarella, have you been involved in any cases where prosecutors have gone after prospective jurors for lying?
MAZZARELLA: I don‘t know of any. I know that there was up in Canada, but it was more than just lying. It was also becoming involved literally with one of the defendants in a criminal—in a murder conspiracy case. I don‘t know of any under these circumstances where there‘s actually been a prosecution.
ABRAMS: All right. Diane Dimond, Mark Mazzarella, David Vigliano, interesting stuff. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
DIMOND: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up: Donald Rumsfeld decides not to go to Germany in part because the Pentagon‘s worried about a German court looking into a complaint accusing him of war crimes. Is Rumsfeld actually afraid of getting arrested? I ask the lawyer who says he should be.
And the FDA warns some antidepressants can drive children to suicide. What about murder? Lawyers for a teen accused of killing his grandparents says his Zoloft made him do it.
Plus those knock-off DVDs, watches, sure they may save you money, you know where some of that money may be going—to terrorists.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up: Donald Rumsfeld cancels a trip to Germany because in part there‘s a court looking into a complaint accusing him of war crimes. Coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: President Bush at the Pentagon in May giving Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a very public vote of confidence even after pictures and reports of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal became public, causing some to call for Rumsfeld to resign. While some of the soldiers who brutalized prisoners at Abu Ghraib have faced military trials, so far, no senior military officers or Pentagon officials have been charged. Well if one legal group has its way that could change.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a criminal complaint in Germany under a German law that gives a specific court what‘s called universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases. The complaint charges Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet and top military officers including Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez with war crimes connected to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The Pentagon seems to be taking this seriously.
Pentagon sources telling NBC News Secretary Rumsfeld will skip a German hosted conference on security this month in part because German courts have refused to knock down or even address the war crimes complaint.
“My Take”—apart from the fact that it seems that it‘s a little self-aggrandizing for the Germans to make themselves the international arbiters of international law, separate issue, this effort is really just a political statement under—hidden under the cloak of a legal document.
Peter Weiss is vice president for the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the attorneys involved in filing the criminal complaint against Secretary Rumsfeld. And David Rivkin is an international law attorney and a former official in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. Gentleman thanks very much for coming on the program.
All right, Mr. Weiss, so what am I getting wrong here? Is this not just a political statement?
PETER WEISS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: No, I think you‘re getting that completely wrong. This is a legal case brought under a German universal jurisdiction law, which was enacted in 2002 so that the international criminal court wouldn‘t be the only tribunal in the world that could try war criminals and people who commit crimes against humanity.
ABRAMS: And let‘s be clear. You think that Donald Rumsfeld and these other people are war criminals who have committed crimes against humanity.
WEISS: Yes, absolutely. And we filed a 171-page brief documenting that fully, which was based entirely on the official reports that have come out like the Taguba report, the Fay/Jones report, the Slazenger report. So we don‘t have a lot of problems with producing the facts supporting the allegation of war crimes.
ABRAMS: All right. David Rivkin, let me just let you take a slap at this first and then we‘ll deal with some other issues in a moment. Go ahead...
DAVID RIVKIN, INTERNATIONAL LAW ATTORNEY: Sure Dan. There are three things here. Substantively, the allegations do not make sense while some abuses have occurred, abuses have occurred in every war. And the Slazenger commission numbers have pretty decisively indicated that they‘re not driven by senior chain of command.
But the thing that bothers me, Dan, even more is the process here. We have Americans who are going to a German court and basically saying we have lack of faith in the judicial system of the most vigorous democracy in the world, that God knows has more than enough litigation, where people are being investigated and prosecuted in the middle of an ongoing war. I think it‘s reprehensible.
It reminds me of a time in revolutionary war where King George had German mercenary (UNINTELLIGIBLE) being brought here. What this outfit is doing is bringing judicial Hessians and I think whatever you think about the merits is just reprehensible.
ABRAMS: But why does it seem that the administration is taking this seriously? I guess that‘s the thing that stunned me, Mr. Rivkin, was the fact that Rumsfeld—and look, they‘re not saying the reason we‘re not going to Germany is because X, but they are telling NBC News at least in part that the German response to this lawsuit is one of the—I mean is Donald Rumsfeld actually concerned he‘s going to get arrested?
RIVKIN: No. I—well, my opinion is very simple. It‘s not that, Dan. It‘s not that there‘s going to be a scuffle between you know, German police and his bodyguards. But whenever Secretary Rumsfeld or any other cabinet official travels overseas, even for a conference that is not a government meeting, he is representing United States. His dignity is not just his personal dignity. It is the dignity of United States.
It is reprehensible for a German government not to be more aggressive in moving to strike this lawsuit, especially since a similar law, universal jurisdiction law was struck down as improper by international court of justice several years ago in the case of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So the Germans are acting reprehensibly here as well and I think it‘s inappropriate for a secretary of defense to dignify visiting Germany while this is going on.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me take a quick break. I‘ll give Mr. Weiss a chance to respond to you because coming up—this is amazing that this is actually serious lawsuit.
And coming up, he admits he killed his grandparents and burned down their house. His lawyers say it wasn‘t his fault. His Zoloft made him do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility. It‘s my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure that those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice and to make changes as needed to see that it doesn‘t happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last May taking personal responsibility, but not really legal responsibility for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. But now a U.S. legal group is trying to use a German court to hold Rumsfeld and other top officials legally responsible and in theory, actually put them on trial for war crimes.
And it seems that this is serious enough that this at least went into the mix in Secretary Rumsfeld‘s decision not to go to Germany recently. Peter Weiss is one of the people who was involved in filing the lawsuit. All right. So in layperson‘s terms Mr. Weiss, what do you think is the strongest legal argument that you have in this German court?
WEISS: Well, there‘s—there are a number of legal arguments. The main legal argument is that Secretary Rumsfeld, who is the man at the top, created the environment that led to this widespread practice of the most horrible kinds of not abuses—that‘s a very weak word to describe what happened at Abu Ghraib and what‘s happened at the other places. It is torture. It is inhumane treatment.
ABRAMS: And how is Donald Rumsfeld legally responsible, you know, assuming that‘s true...
WEISS: Well because he is the one who sent out the word that we needed more aggressive types of interrogation techniques in order to produce more actionable intelligence.
ABRAMS: But how does that translate into exactly what happened? I mean you‘re basically saying he sent out a memo saying more aggressive and somebody else interpreted that to mean naked and fake masturbation?
WEISS: No, no, it wasn‘t just that. It was the fact that he signed off on these new techniques that were used at Guantanamo. He signed off on 17 at one point. He signed off on 20 at another point. And those are the techniques which the international committee of the Red Cross, which is hardly a left wing organization, characterized as being torture.
ABRAMS: All right, so Mr. Rivkin, how do we end this lawsuit? I mean regardless of what you think at Abu Ghraib, you know, there‘s got to be a way to end this lawsuit? What‘s—how is that going to happen?
RIVKIN: Well this—let me say this. This lawsuit would collapse on its own weight. The German government, unfortunately, is not moving rapidly enough to get rid of it. I think my colleague, Mr. Weiss, knows full well the teaching of international court of justice in the case titled Congo v. Belgium. It stands for a proposition you cannot as a matter of international law bring criminal charges against senior government officials of a foreign country.
So universal jurisdiction is a myth. It does not exist. This lawsuit is a stunt to embarrass this administration, to embarrass United States. Nevertheless, it is still very pernicious. It continues to foster the impression—and I think you ask good questions Dan—look, there‘s enormous difference between the use stress techniques that were authorized, whatever you think of them, and torture and abuses...
RIVKIN: ... at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere...
ABRAMS: All right. I got to...
RIVKIN: ... and the critics are sweeping everything...
ABRAMS: All right...
RIVKIN: ... together as if they all were proximately related...
ABRAMS: All right. I got to wrap this up, but I certainly hope that the Germans address this and I‘m sure that they will dismiss this, although Mr. Weiss seems to disagree. So we shall see.
WEISS: Can I...
ABRAMS: I got to wrap it up.
ABRAMS: If you want to make one final, one sentence.
WEISS: Yes, I think Mr. Rivkin got the international court of justice completely wrong...
ABRAMS: All right, there‘s the sentence...
WEISS: ... and there are nine other defendants...
ABRAMS: All right, he got it wrong...
WEISS: ... in this suit.
ABRAMS: Peter Weiss and David Rivkin - I apologize to you Mr. Weiss.
Thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
RIVKIN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the Twinkie defense worked. It got a man off of murder charges. Now there‘s the Zoloft defense. Lawyers say the teenager killed his grandparents and burned down their house because he was taking the antidepressant.
And you know that fake Rolex that might save you thousands of dollars? You know where the money you spend on it could end up—in the hands of al Qaeda—millions of dollars worth a year. Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. The FDA admitted in October some antidepressants used to treat depression in children could lead them to suicide or other destructive behavior. And now a child in South Carolina raises more questions about whether one particular antidepressant, Zoloft, can bring out the worst in a patient, even leading a 12-year-old to murder his own grandparents.
Tiffani Helberg of NBC‘s Charlotte affiliate WCNC has more.
TIFFANI HELBERG, WCNC REPORTER (voice-over): Fifteen-year-old Christopher Pittman wiped away tears as the prosecution described his crime to the jury.
BARNEY GIESE, PROSECUTOR: Chris Pittman pulled that trigger and there won‘t be any doubt in your mind but that Chris Pittman knew that what he was doing was wrong.
HELBERG: After three years of living in juvenile detention, Pittman is now a six feet tall lankly teenager, a stark contrast to the 96-pound 12-year-old that admitted to shooting his grandparents and burning down their home.
ANDY VICKERY, CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN‘S ATTORNEY: This is a case about one drug that‘s taken three lives.
HELBERG: Pittman‘s lawyers say the boy was depressed and given the maximum dose of Zoloft for adults. They say that sent the normally quiet boy into a state of involuntary intoxication.
VICKERY: He had no reason to do it. These are the people he loved the most in the world. They were the stable forces in his life.
HELBERG: But prosecutors say the drug is not an excuse to kill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a case—this is not a trial about Zoloft. This is not a case—this is not a trial about Pfizer. They‘re not on trial. This is not on trial. Chris Pittman is on trial.
HELBERG (on camera): Today witnesses described the intricate web of lies that Pittman told them. He claimed a black man shot his grandparents and burned down their home, but investigators say when Pittman sensed they knew he was up to something he confessed, even went so far to say that he‘s not sorry he did it and that they deserved it.
In Charleston, I‘m Tiffani Helberg. Back to you.
ABRAMS: All right. “My Take”—I don‘t think a 12-year-old should be tried as an adult. But with that said, I‘m not willing to accept that this drug will—quote—“make someone kill their parents, burn down the house, and then blame it on some random African American intruder.”
Joining me now is defense attorney George Parnham. He represented Andrea Yates who had claimed postpartum depression as part of her defense in the context of that trial that led her to kill her five children and Florida prosecutor Stacey Honowitz.
All right, Mr. Parnham, here in South Carolina they‘ve got an insanity defense. They‘ve got guilty but mentally ill. Is it your sense that the defense here is trying to have this young man simply sent to a mental hospital and not get a criminal sentence?
GEORGE PARNHAM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: South Carolina has a provision that includes, for instance, that if an individual knows or has the capacity to know the difference between right or wrong, but doesn‘t have sufficient capacity to conform his or her actions to the standards of law, then the individual can be determined to be guilty but mentally ill. At which time that individual then is sent away to a facility for a period of 120 days for evaluation.
ABRAMS: And then after that period, though, they have to serve out their regular sentence.
PARNHAM: Yes, that is...
PARNHAM: ... an alternative, correct.
ABRAMS: So I mean what are they looking for? Are they trying to say that this kid couldn‘t understand right from wrong because of Zoloft?
PARNHAM: Well I‘m not certain that a determination of rightness or wrongness is appropriate in this particular scenario. It seems to me that based on the circumstances that I‘m aware of that there were actions taken by this young man after he shot his grandparents, burning the house, coming away with apparently a stolen vehicle that obviously would suggest that the individual had the capacity to know what he was doing was wrong. Whether or not that person could conform his conduct to the standards required by law is another matter, and that‘s where the Zoloft issue becomes so relevant.
ABRAMS: Stacey, this is a long-shot defense, isn‘t it?
STACEY HONOWITZ, BROWARD COUNTY FL PROSECUTOR: Yes and Dan, actually in reading all the articles and researching the case, that‘s exactly what the defense is trying to say. They‘re trying to say that he didn‘t know the nature of his actions. He didn‘t know what the consequences are. He did not know the difference between right or wrong and it was all based on the fact that he got this dosage of Zoloft, a double dose right before the incident took place.
But it is a long shot. It‘s very hard to prove it‘s an insanity defense, basically. He did not know the difference between right and wrong and certainly even Mr. Parnham just said just now you know, there‘s so many things that happened after the fact that the prosecutors are bringing out that he knew exactly what he was doing and he knew what he did was wrong. So it is a long shot.
ABRAMS: But what about this Stacey? The FDA‘s public health advisory came out in October 2004. Remember, his dosage was increased two days before the grandparents were killed.
Pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants should be closely observed for clinical worsening as well as agitation, irritability, suicidality—I never even heard that word—and unusual changes in behavior, especially at times of dose changes either increases or decreases.
Does that matter in the context of this case, Stacey?
HONOWITZ: Well I think there‘s—the defense is certainly going to try to say look at the reports. They‘re going to bring all these reports in. I think the judge has already ruled those reports to be admissible. But I think what‘s important and what the prosecutors are going to bring out is that when you‘re on an antidepressant drug such as Zoloft, you have to be monitored.
In other words, just because you got Zoloft on Tuesday doesn‘t mean that your body has absorbed it and you‘re going to go out and kill or do something violent or commit suicide on Thursday. So all of these factors have to be taken into consideration...
ABRAMS: And Pfizer says, you know, they put out a statement saying the murders of Christopher Pittman‘s grandparents while tragic are no way connected to the use of Pfizer‘s antidepressant Zoloft. A vast amount of clinical and patient experience continues to support the safety and efficacy of this medication. There‘s no scientific evidence to establish that Zoloft contributes to violent behavior in either adults or children.
But for me, Mr. Parnham—excuse me—the most important thing is his confession, as read back in court by an investigator. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCINDA MCKELLAR, CHESTER COUNTY‘S SHERIFF‘S DETECTIVE: I just aimed at the bed. I shot four times. I‘m not sorry. They deserved it. They hit me with the paddle. My daddy used to beat me with that paddle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: How do you get over that when you‘re claiming that the defense is Zoloft?
PARNHAM: Well there‘s no question but that it‘s an uphill battle and Stacey is absolutely correct. I think this opens up a whole new issue aside from the statement that the young man made after his arrest. Even Pfizer in its Web site on Zoloft admits that it is not completely understood how this drug interacts in the mind and that is of great concern to me.
Because obviously, if you have an individual who is extremely depressed, that individual being diagnosed by a medically certified physician, his psychiatrist, doubled up on this medication. Who knows what happens inside the mind of an individual and what might trigger an action that would be a result of the inability to conform his conduct to the standard required?
ABRAMS: But again my concern is that if this defense works, the public, I think, response is going to be very negative to it. I mean apart from the fact that he‘s 12 - again...
ABRAMS: ... the 12-year-old part about it. I don‘t understand why he‘s being tried as an adult.
PARNHAM: I understand and I believe also...
ABRAMS: It‘s going to undermine defenses like the ones you presented in other cases.
PARNHAM: And I understand that as well. But if in fact is a factor and you must remember that there has to be established a causal connection between Zoloft...
PARNHAM: ... and the decisions made by this young man. And that‘s why it‘s going to be very difficult. Because if Pfizer doesn‘t know that cause of connection, then...
PARNHAM: ... I don‘t know what the defense lawyers are going to do...
ABRAMS: Very quickly, Stacey, why are they trying him as an adult here? He‘s 12.
HONOWITZ: Well, the crimes are so heinous and so cold and calculated, it is their belief that he should have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They tried to move it out of juvenile court I think on three separate occasions and the judge just wouldn‘t go for it. Too cold, too calculating, too heinous of a crime.
ABRAMS: So, what‘s the age minimum...
HONOWITZ: Well doesn‘t make—I mean we have—you know, we try 12-year-olds in adult court. We‘ve done it before. You know...
ABRAMS: I know you‘ve done it before...
ABRAMS: It bothers me every time...
ABRAMS: You know, it bothers—look and again I‘m saying this defense is not going to work. But the idea that they‘re putting a 12-year-old on trial as an adult, I mean you know to me, adult—anyway. All right. George Parnham and Stacey Honowitz, thanks a lot.
PARNHAM: Thank you.
HONOWITZ: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: Good to see you both. Appreciate it.
PARNHAM: Thanks. Bye.
ABRAMS: We know terrorists have been running drugs for years to raise money. Did you know that they also may be running fake Louis Vuitton bags and fake Rolexes? The government now says they‘re getting millions from counterfeiting. Think about that the next time you try to save some money on a bag.
And should I get the government to give me a go ahead before I put a story on the air? That‘s what one in three high school students seem to think. I say it‘s time for some kids to learn some history. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Next time you see someone selling a fake version of that latest Louis Vuitton bag or a pirated “Spider-Man” movie you might want to stand up and yell “this person may be financing terror.” Well not always but in many cases it seems that that‘s exactly what‘s happening. The funding of international terror organizations including, for example, Hezbollah and maybe al Qaeda. Not surprisingly, the government is now taking this issue a lot more seriously than ever, cracking down on the trade in counterfeit products, which it says generates close to $450 billion each year.
“My Take”—before 9/11, look, this was an important economic issue for us. Many European countries, counterfeiters making millions each year using the brand names of others. That meant those of us who bought the real thing got lower quality products at higher prices. But after 9/11, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are using counterfeit goods to do it, if that‘s the case, this is a much more serious problem. I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a panel today for “Harper‘s Bazaar” magazine on this issue and one of the speakers was my next guest, Assistant United States Treasury Secretary Juan Zarate who heads the U.S effort to combat terrorist financing. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
JUAN ZARATE, ASST. TREASURY SECRETARY: Thank you Dan. Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: All right, so lay it out for us. Clearly a link between terrorist groups and the selling of these counterfeits?
ZARATE: Well Dan, we have seen instances where terrorist groups like Hezbollah have used the counterfeiting goods to raise and move money.
ABRAMS: What kind of goods?
ZARATE: Retail items. For example, Hezbollah financier down in South America, the triborder area, who was arrested now has been designated by the Treasury Department, had a couple of fund companies that he was operating, an extortion scheme as well as some other things, had counterfeit items that he was using to sell and then to send the proceeds on to Hezbollah. So there are instances that we‘ve made public where this has happened.
ABRAMS: And you‘re concerned that it goes beyond Hezbollah, right? I mean the concern is that, you know, that person who‘s selling the random, you know, fake Rolex could very well be financing al Qaeda as well.
ZARATE: Well, Dan, this is part of a broader concern that we have. Because as we see al Qaeda balkanizing, as its cells operate more independently, these cells need different ways of raising money. And frankly, we‘ve done a fairly good job of clamping down on the known sources of financing for al Qaeda since 9/11.
ABRAMS: How much? How much—do you have any sense of how many dollars you‘ve either frozen or confiscated from al Qaeda?
ZARATE: Well we‘ve designated 397 individuals and entities, frozen over $147 million in assets...
ABRAMS: Al Qaeda, though? We‘re not just talking about terrorist organizations...
ZARATE: No, this is large. This is—again the United States recognizes more than al Qaeda as a terrorist threat. Hamas, Hezbollah are threats to the U.S. So we‘re talking about more than just al Qaeda. This is a global war, so...
ABRAMS: Any sense of how much from al Qaeda specifically of that 147 million?
ZARATE: It‘s a good portion of it and a good portion of that actually belonged to the Taliban, which is a large portion that was returned to President Karzai for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, which was an important step. But the larger issue, Dan, I think—and this goes to the counterfeiting problem—is that these groups, be it the FARC in South America, be it Hezbollah, be it al Qaeda, are finding different ways of raising and moving money, whether it‘s drug trafficking, whether it‘s fraud, whether it‘s counterfeiting. These are all methods that can be used...
ABRAMS: And people need to think about that I mean when they‘re buying the fakes.
ZARATE: I think so and that‘s the message that you‘ve heard with respect to drug trafficking. It‘s certainly the message that we‘ve made with respect to crime generally, that these things can ultimately lead to national security threats, not just al Qaeda and terrorists but also transnational threats.
ABRAMS: Because it‘s cheap. I mean—we‘re putting up the numbers now of how cheap it is to execute one of these terror attacks. It doesn‘t cost a lot of money. And...
ZARATE: No, that‘s right. But it also takes money to sustain a terrorist organization, alliances around the world, to recruit, to train. So it‘s important that everyone keep focused on the fact that the terrorists are still out for us.
ABRAMS: Very quickly, someone asked you a question today that you weren‘t able to answer at the panel. Why hasn‘t the president himself, if this is an issue that relates to terrorism, why hasn‘t the president himself come out and said this is a big issue, this is a big deal?
ZARATE: Well certainly, Attorney General Ashcroft, representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Evans from Commerce have met on this issue, have had public events, and have pointed out the need to deal with counterfeiting at large and I think they‘ve done a very good job of bringing public attention to it.
ABRAMS: Juan Zarate, keep up the good fight. Thanks for coming on the program.
ZARATE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Appreciate it.
First he was in white, then he showed up today in black. Looks like Michael Jackson may have been paying attention to one of you upset with his innocent looking getup. Your e-mails are coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, is it time to let the government take a look at stories before journalists print them? That‘s what quite a few high school students seem to think. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—it‘s a sad day when high school students seem to believe it‘s time to make some major revisions to our Constitution. A new study out of the University of Connecticut found that more than one in three high school students say the First Amendment goes too far. And half of the students think the media shouldn‘t be able to publish stories without getting government approval first. Wow! Getting approval first.
I guess that means that students want more tabloid stories and less hard-hitting pieces about government corruption. Because I assure you, the government won‘t be approving those. But it just goes to show you how poorly the media is viewed by the public at large and I would argue how little these students understand what that would really mean. I‘ll be the first to admit that the press sometimes goes too far, sometimes gets it wrong.
And if you want to accuse them, us, of being too tabloid at times, OK, I‘ll take it. But to check with the government is to make our press an arm of the government. State-run media. You think people here don‘t trust the press? That ain‘t nothing compared to China, Syria or Burma where the government controls the media. It‘s called propaganda, pure and simple. As for the First Amendment going too far, it does go pretty far.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. The framers took a lot of time to make it exactly that way. Are today‘s high school history classes skipping over the Bill of Rights? Hate the media if you want. Try to change it. When you start talking about tinkering with the Constitution in an effort to have more government control over the media, I say those students should get detention and required reading, George Orwell‘s “1984”, a reminder about what life is like when big brother is always watching.
Up next, picture this. A chunk of ice lands on your car. You first thought it was hail or snow. Think again and look up. “OH PLEAs!” is coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Jury selection, day one in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial. Yesterday Jackson arrived wearing all white. Apparently the white of innocence.
Alice Miceli in New Jersey. “First Michael should drop the virgin white and wear a normal suit to court. He should want to blend in, not stick out like a sore thumb.” He wore black today Alice.
Many of you e-mailing about the alleged victim‘s parents including Jasmine Medina. “I‘m curious as to why none of the coverage surrounding the Jackson case questions the parents involved. Why isn‘t anyone asking why these children were allowed in his bed in the first place or why they were sleeping there at all.”
Actually, Jasmine, almost half our show last night addressed the credibility of the family. But if you want to call for an investigation of the mother‘s parenting, fine. But either Jackson molested that boy or not. Whether mom should not have let the boy stay at Neverland is a question for the morality police and maybe even Social Services. We‘re talking about a trial here where Jackson could lose his freedom. Unless it goes to her credibility, I‘ll leave her parenting for another day.
And from Indiana Lina Jackson. “The family prosecuting Michael Jackson is just in it for the money. I‘m pretty sure that if someone really did molest her child, you would want him behind bars, not drop the charges for money.”
Lina, charges haven‘t been dropped here. His family has not yet sued Jackson for money. It is the state prosecuting, not the family.
Finally Barbara Knowles in Georgia. “Will you please point out that there were only 200-250 fans or supporters of Michael Jackson present at the beginning of his trial? Come on. Just about anybody could get 200 fans. You probably have 200 fans.” Thanks a lot, Barbara. Even I might have 200 fans.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them and read them at the end of the show.
“OH PLEAs!”—it‘s a bird. It‘s a plane. It‘s ice. Well kind of. Imagine this—you return home for the night. Park your car in the driveway. Enter your home. You hear an exploding crash from outside. You look outside and find your car totaled by a—quote—“explosion” that shook the entire house. It happened to Nina Gambone in Leominster, Massachusetts.
She and her 13-year-old son had just returned home from a trip to the shore. Gambone looked out and saw a large blob of what looked like ice on the top of her car, the roof smashed, her windshield shattered. When the Leominster police and fire department arrived at the scene, a police lieutenant formally identified the cause with 99 percent certainty.
I can just picture it. Ma‘am, your car has been struck by lavatory ice. Yes, frozen waste fell from the friendly skies. The FAA confirmed the meteor was indeed from an airline‘s lavatory. The FAA further confirmed that this something special in the air was from a European flight due to the white color. The lavatory ice from domestic flights are blue. The fire department couldn‘t immediately remove it because it‘s hazardous waste. I‘ll just hope they didn‘t call their colleagues with a warning about a dirty bomb.
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. See you tomorrow.
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