Guest: Stacy Brown, Harvey Levin, Peter Kane, Jean Casarez, Matthew Mangino, George Parnham, William Fallon
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Michael Jackson hospitalized. His case put on hold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Jackson has been evaluated in our emergency department today for a flu-like illness with some vomiting.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Jury selection in the case delayed for a week, potential jurors apparently not happy. What happened?
And a now 15-year-old boy who claimed the drug Zoloft caused him to kill his grandparents when he was 12 is found guilty and sentenced to 60 years in prison. But should a 12-year-old have been tried as an adult?
And a priest who came to symbolize the sexual abuse cases in America is sentenced to 12 to 15 years. But will he be abused or worse in prison? We‘ll talk to a former inmate.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, Michael Jackson is in a Santa Maria hospital as we speak, thereby delaying his child molestation trial for a week. En route to the courthouse this morning for jury selection, Jackson reportedly became so seriously ill that he was taken to a local emergency room.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi is standing by live in Santa Maria. Mike, what‘s the latest on Jackson‘s condition?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well the latest, Dan, is that he‘s continuing to be treated at this hospital, Marian Hospital, about a mile and a half from where we are right now at the courthouse. You know, it was an interesting scene this morning.
We were in the overflow room, “we” meaning myself and Matt Carluccio, one of our producers, and we were watching the television monitor at 8:42 Jackson was not there. Tom Mesereau, his lead attorney was there, Susan Yu, another attorney. No Michael Jackson and no Brian Oxman, his third attorney, and we wondered whether or not he was late.
Don‘t forget he had been late once before and was lectured sternly by the judge about that. Suddenly we saw Mesereau talking to one of the court officers who went back to the judge‘s chambers and Judge Rodney Melville, who you‘re looking at, came out and announced the following. That Mr. Jackson is not here. He‘s over at Marian Hospital in the emergency room being treated. Mr. Oxman, one of his attorneys, is there with him.
And there began a stampede from the overflow room, you can imagine, as though a head of state had been assassinated. I must say Matt Carluccio was among that stampede, reporting this incident that now there was going to be a problem with Jackson being sick. And as you reported before, Dr. Chuck Merrill did come out from the hospital and announced that these were flu-like symptoms. Mr. Jackson was being treated intravenously. It would take several days for him to be treated and that caused the delay for the rest of the week.
ABRAMS: And let‘s see if we can try and get Matt Carluccio out there again. We like to say his name as many times as possible because we love Matt.
All right, Mike, the judge didn‘t buy it, though, at face value, right? He didn‘t just say oh he‘s sick, all right. He wanted to hear it from the doctor.
TAIBBI: Absolutely, for a couple of reasons, I think. First of all, this judge is not brooking any delays, as you‘ve seen in your own reporting on this case, so he got a conference call going with Dr. Miller, with Tom Sneddon the prosecutor, and with Tom Mesereau, and they sat there and listened to the doctor who doesn‘t have a nickel in his dollar, as an old friend of mine used to say, basically say listen, these are classic symptoms. The guy is being treated intravenously. He‘s going to stay here at least the night.
It‘s going to take several days for his recovery. Although the doctor did say later on it might be in the short end of the three to four days before there was a full recovery. So the judge, you‘re right, demanded to be satisfied that Mr. Jackson was truly sick.
ABRAMS: Mike, I hear all of these reporters saying you know, yesterday I saw Jackson sniffling, and yesterday I saw Michael Jackson blowing his nose. And all these people—I mean is this for real or is this people just sort of, you know, trying to read little hand motions as to what happened yesterday?
TAIBBI: Well, I was looking at one of the court artists who actually did the sketch today of Michael Jackson with a tissue to his nose from her memory of what she saw yesterday.
TAIBBI: I was sitting six feet from Jackson for about six hours yesterday, and maybe I saw him sneeze once or cough, but I don‘t remember him doing what I‘ve been doing for the last five days, which is blow my nose every couple of minutes, because I have had the flu.
ABRAMS: Yes. Well maybe that‘s how Jackson...
TAIBBI: ... I guess...
ABRAMS: Maybe that‘s how Jackson got it. You were sitting real close to him, you said. You know, you never know.
TAIBBI: Don‘t put that on me.
TAIBBI: I don‘t have a nickel in that dollar, Dan.
ABRAMS: Mike Taibbi good to see you. Thanks for coming on.
TAIBBI: All right.
ABRAMS: All right, court won‘t be back in session until next week. But when it heads to trial, it seems some major celebrities could be called. We told you yesterday about the names on the list. But now we have a lot more information about why some of them may be called and Jackson‘s relationships with them.
Joining me now, Jackson family friend and NBC analyst Stacy Brown and “Celebrity Justice” executive producer and attorney Harvey Levin. All right, so Stacy, let‘s—you wrote a great note today to all of us about the various relationships Michael Jackson has with these people. Let‘s go through them one by one. Let‘s start with Elizabeth Taylor.
STACY BROWN, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND: Well from I understand, Elizabeth Taylor has been sick in recent months. And in fact, hasn‘t—Michael has not been able to contact her recently despite the many calls that have been put in to her by his handlers.
ABRAMS: Harv, Elizabeth Taylor probably just a character witness, possibly, right?
HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”: You know, Dan, I don‘t think that they‘re really going to get character witness in, in this case because it‘s really not relevant to the charge. They can‘t just put somebody‘s good character on trial here. My understanding is that a lot of these people, and notably Jay Leno, the involvement has to do more with the accuser and his family, that we know that Jay Leno was connected, for example, to the Laugh Factory, which is a big comedy club.
And the defense is saying that the mother of the accuser solicited people like Jay Leno and other celebrities, telling them my son needs medical care, we have to pay medical bills when, in fact, everything was paid for by insurance. And basically what the defense is trying to do was show that...
LEVIN: ... this woman used stars, allegedly lied to them, deceived them, and this was a money-grubbing thing from the beginning so they allege.
ABRAMS: Right and I get that. But how else do you explain Elizabeth Taylor? I mean look, I agree with you that they‘re not going to be allowed to call character witnesses in the end unless somehow it becomes some great issue, Jackson takes the stand, et cetera. But why else would Elizabeth Taylor be on the list?
LEVIN: Well, I know that the defense has been hard at work subpoenaing lots and lots of people. And I can tell you that there are a lot of people and some stars who are not even on that list right now who have been contacted. But for the more than part, Dan, I‘m told that these witnesses really don‘t go to the core of the case in the sense that they have something particularly relevant.
LEVIN: They have one item or another item. Jay Leno was really surprised. Kobe Bryant was you know surprised that he was called. The only one that I know who really is directly relevant to this case is Chris Tucker.
ABRAMS: Right. Right.
LEVIN: And I know that both the defense and the prosecution want him on the stand and want to ask questions of him. And I‘ve heard that Chris Tucker wants 100 miles...
ABRAMS: Right, I want to get to Chris...
LEVIN: ... away from this case. He doesn‘t want to have anything to do with it.
ABRAMS: Right, let me get to Chris Tucker...
ABRAMS: Let me get to Chris Tucker later...
LEVIN: ... which was that famous plane flight...
ABRAMS: Right. Harv, let me just...
LEVIN: ... it sounds like Chris Tucker is probably going to get called.
ABRAMS: Right. Let me try and do this in order, though, because I‘ll get to Chris Tucker. Jay Leno, we talked about him, the idea that he would be called by the defense. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I watched some softball over the weekend, Geraldo‘s interview with Michael Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see that thing? Michael said—that‘s what he said—he said in his interview that being a celebrity has made him a target. Well, that plus having sex with young boys. Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife, Debbie rowel is talking about suing Michael Jackson for custody of the children and today Michael said look, can you have them when they turn 15, OK...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Good defense witness there, Jay Leno. Quincy Jones, Stacy, again another name on the list. What‘s the—what is Michael‘s relationship with Quincy Jones?
BROWN: Well it‘s very interesting because from what I‘m told, again, there hasn‘t been a relationship for years. They—in fact, it‘s gotten to the point where the word “hate” has been used from both sides. And last year, Quincy has his “We are the future” concerts in Rome. Michael reportedly wanted to be a part of that and Quincy turned him down. The concert is to help underprivileged children.
ABRAMS: And, again, you know, and Harv let‘s do Quincy Jones and Diana Ross together—any ideas as to why? I mean is your theory, Harvey, that they‘re just trying to throw out names there to impress the jurors?
LEVIN: No, absolutely not. You know, that backfired big time in the Martha Stewart case where people were, stars just gratuitously came to support Michael—to support Martha Stewart. Jurors don‘t like that. I am told that these people, for the most part, have limited value.
I will say this about Quincy Jones, Dan. There are things that we know that both sides are looking at with him. And even though he‘s been, you know, subpoenaed by one side, I am told that the prosecutors are interested in Quincy Jones and his relationship with Michael Jackson. And things that Jackson may have told him, and things that Quincy Jones may have done with Michael Jackson, and this is developing right now. But of all of them, you know, Chris Tucker is probably the most important, but Quincy Jones is the most intriguing.
ABRAMS: Stacy is nodding. What do you know, Stacy?
BROWN: Yes, that—what Harvey is saying is exactly correct, Quincy Jones is wanted by the prosecution as well...
BROWN: Because Michael has confided in only a few people over the years and Quincy Jones is believed to be one of them. However, I don‘t think Quincy has the type of information, say a Bill Burror (ph) or Bob Jones (ph) would have.
ABRAMS: All right, let me take a quick break. Because you know, you heard Harvey mention a couple of minutes ago Chris Tucker, going to be an important witness and Kobe Bryant on the witness list and not really for what you think. He actually seems to be more directly related to something in this case rather than some of these others, so stick around.
Also coming up, he‘s the poster child for the priest sex scandal. Paul Shanley sentenced today to 12 to 15 years, but how safe will he be once he enters the system? Another priest was killed while serving his sentence. We‘ll talk with a former inmate.
And his lawyers claim the drug Zoloft caused him to kill his grandparents. The jury didn‘t buy it, found him guilty, sentenced to 30 years in prison. But he was 12 years old when he committed the crime. We debate charging a child so young with adult murder.
And victims of the tsunami suing U.S. forecasters for not issuing a warning about the deadly quake. What?
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ABRAMS: A lot of people are asking why is Kobe Bryant on the Michael Jackson witness list? Well, we‘ve got some answers coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Jackson‘s attorney today says you‘re on the list to defend Michael Jackson in court...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I? Am I really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That‘s what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you good friends with him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I‘ve known him. I mean I‘ve, you know, had conversations with him and things like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Can you imagine you‘re Kobe Bryant, after everything this guy has been through, and you‘re at a press conference and someone says hey Kobe, guess what. Michael Jackson wants you to testify for him. Anyway, we‘re talking about the who‘s who in the Michael Jackson case.
All right, Harv, you guys actually broke the story about Kobe Bryant‘s relationship to this case. Lay it out. Harv...
LEVIN: To the accuser—yes, the mother had talked to Children Services at a point during—in the early stages of all of this. And the mother had dropped Kobe Bryant‘s name, along with Michael Jackson‘s name, saying I know a lot of celebrities, they‘re helping my son out, who was undergoing chemo at a hospital in Los Angeles, and it was just a major name drop in this report.
And you know, I think the defense—again Kobe Bryant is one of those people who was peripherally involved and you saw his reaction when he was asked about it. Even he had trouble remembering it, but he was involved in helping the boy, as were many other stars. Dan, I have to tell you, it is amazing to me that this woman was able to make so many connections with so many celebrities during all of this.
ABRAMS: Yes. Stevie Wonder, Stacy, he‘s on the witness list as well. You know, we were talking yesterday that, you know, what he could possibly know about this case.
BROWN: Well that‘s very interesting, too. Another witness that—from nowhere because Stevie told me himself that he hasn‘t talked to Michael in years, the last time I spoke with Stevie. And Stevie has this charity every December at the Forum in Los Angeles and he‘s invited Michael -- he told me he‘s invited Michael several times and Michael has declined. So I don‘t know where the relationship is now.
ABRAMS: All right, now Harv, you were talking before about Chris Tucker. He really may be significant. Not just Chris Tucker himself, but also his girlfriend at the time were very involved, or at least got to know or at least meet this family.
LEVIN: They knew them well and as a matter of fact, right around the time the Martin Bashir documentary aired and as the prosecution believes they tried to get this family out of town so that they wouldn‘t watch it, and they flew them down to Florida. They flew them on a jet chartered by Chris Tucker and Tucker was actually accompanying them, spent time with the family.
And it was on that jet on the way home that prosecutors say Michael Jackson was plying the accuser with alcohol, that he licked the accuser‘s face at a point, gave him a present, a watch, made crank calls with him on cell phones and that the brother, the little brother, was watching all of this. So Chris Tucker‘s involvement in the family is going to play big both for the prosecution and for the defense.
They‘re both interested in him. And Dan, I‘m telling you, he so wants nothing to do with this case.
ABRAMS: Very quickly, Stacy, his girlfriend, too, was present at one of the interviews with the Department of Child Services, right?
BROWN: That‘s correct. That‘s very correct. But as Harvey was saying, that‘s the one witness—Chris Tucker is the one witness who is legitimate in Michael‘s corner there.
ABRAMS: Right. All right. Harv, sorry about that delay we‘ve been having with you. Thanks for coming on the program, as always good to see you. And Stacy Brown, as always, thanks a lot.
Coming up, he was convicted of abusing children and sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison. Will former priest Paul Shanley face some abuse of his own in prison? We‘ll talk with a former inmate up next.
And Ashley Olsen, the latest celebrity to sue the tabloids, this time over a headline, but the article is not really even about her. Can she win? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF HON. STEPHEN NEEL, JUDGE IN PAUL SHANLEY‘S CASE: On indictment 006, rape of a child, not less than 12 and not more than 15 years in a state prison. On indictment 007, rape of a child, not less than 12, not more than 15 years in a state prison to run concurrently with the sentence on indictment 006.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Former priest Paul Shanley sentenced today in a Massachusetts courtroom, convicted of raping a boy almost 20 years ago. He won‘t be eligible for parole until he‘s close to 90. Despite a courtroom pledge from prison officials to keep him safe while he‘s behind bars, some now saying that Paul Shanley won‘t be. That he could now be the target of inmates who want to punish him in their own way.
Remember, two years ago another poster boy for the church sex abuse scandal, former priest John Geoghan was strangled and beaten to death in prison after he was convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy despite being in protective custody. A fellow inmate later told investigators he killed Geoghan—quote—“to save the children.”
Joining me now a man who spent 22 years in a Massachusetts prison. At one time he was even in the same unit as John Geoghan. Peter Kane was put in protective custody at various times after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend‘s child. He joins me now.
Thank you for taking the time, Mr. Kane, to come on the program. So give me a sense of what‘s it like in the prison. Is he going to be safe?
PETER KANE, SPENT 22 YEARS IN MA PRISON: I can‘t see that he wouldn‘t be safe in the ensuing weeks because of John Geoghan. The Department of Corrections took a big hit after Geoghan‘s murder. And I can‘t see that they would let him fall through the cracks. He‘s very high profile. Whatever they do with him, they‘re going to watch him very closely in—again, in the ensuing weeks and months to come. But it‘s after that. It‘s after everybody forgets about him that you know, policies will get laxed and then he stands a chance of being seriously hurt.
ABRAMS: How do people, as you put it, fall through the cracks? I mean how is it that someone who‘s supposedly in protective custody is going to get attacked by other inmates?
KANE: Well there‘s a whole culture in the prison guard—there‘s a guard culture here in Massachusetts and I think it‘s across the country where you know, this type of prisoner is not welcome. He‘s not wanted, nobody likes him, and they don‘t even know who he is and they hate him already, and that cuts right through, you know, prisoners and guards. So the guards will, you know, they will tire of seeing him, you know, they will tire of catering to whatever directives they‘ve been given to, you know, isolate or seclude him from other prisoners. And policies will be, you know, they will be forgotten and they won‘t follow through like they‘re supposed to.
ABRAMS: And one of my producers was telling me that you said sometimes they may leave a door open or something which is sort of a subtle hint that it‘s OK, do what you need to do.
KANE: This happened throughout—I was in prison from 1980 until 2001 and in the first—in the early ‘80‘s and all the way up to like 1990, it was not a big thing for a guard to open—if a guard was watching a segregation unit, such as the protective custody block where Paul Shanley will most likely be, it‘s not unlikely for you know, a guard on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon, when the men are taking showers, to open up a door and have another prisoner come out.
It was entertainment for them. I saw it all the time. They‘d let two prisoners out that they—at the same time for showers and just watch what would happen. That was not uncommon at all. And I don‘t think it‘s uncommon today.
ABRAMS: All right, Peter Kane, I should point out, of course, these are your own personal experiences and observations. Thank you very much for taking the time. Appreciate it.
KANE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a 15-year-old boy convicted of killing his grandparents when he was 12, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole. Why was he tried as an adult? We debate.
And an Oregon man indicted by a grand jury on charges he used the Internet to organize a mass suicide for Valentine‘s Day. No one died, so did he really commit a crime by just asking them to do it on the Internet?
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ABRAMS: Coming up, a now 15-year-old who claimed the drug Zoloft caused him to kill his grandparents when he was 12 is found guilty, sentenced to 30 years in prison, but should he have been tried as an adult? First the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the State of South Carolina, v. Christopher Frank Pittman, we the jury unanimously find the defendant guilty of murder, signed by—February 15, 2005. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if this is your verdict, please reply by raising your right hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Christopher Pittman, age 15, found guilty of the shotgun murders of his grandparents he liked to call Pop-Pop and Nanna, murders Pittman committed when he was 12. The defense had claimed the antidepressant Zoloft drove Pittman to kill and that he didn‘t even know what he was doing was wrong.
The prosecutors pointed out after shooting his grandparents he tried to escape, then blamed the crimes on a mysterious black man. Police say Pittman even confessed, saying in part, I‘m not sorry, they deserved it. They beat me with my paddle. No bravado in Pittman today when he addressed the court before Judge Danny Pieper imposed sentence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN, CONVICTED OF MURDERING GRANDPARENTS: I can‘t really say. I know it‘s in the hands of God and whatever he decides, that‘s what it‘s going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Let‘s go to the Charleston courthouse where Court TV correspondent Jean Casarez is standing by. Jean, no big surprise here in terms of this verdict, right?
JEAN CASAREZ, COURT TV CORRESPONDENT: No, I don‘t think so because of the details, the detail that he undertook in the killing and then in the lie afterwards. I mean they were immense.
ABRAMS: And one of the quotes—this is number seven here. “I went into their room. I just aimed at the bed. I shot four times. I turned the light on. I really didn‘t care then.”
The only way he was going to actually be found not guilty is if the defense could show he didn‘t actually understand that what he was doing was wrong.
CASAREZ: That‘s right. And when the jury spoke out today after the verdict came in, one of the things they said that really showed them that this was an intentional act was that he waited. He said that he waited 10 minutes until his grandparents fell asleep, and that‘s when he got the gun, walked up the stairs to the loft and shot them both.
ABRAMS: All right, Jean, and tell us about the decision that the prosecutors made to try him as an adult. How did that happen and why did it happen, since he was only 12 at the time?
CASAREZ: Right, well it‘s all based on South Carolina statutes and here in South Carolina when it comes to murder, they do not designate an age that can go up to adult court. So it is the family court that has the original jurisdiction and they did have it.
And the family court judge had the discretion to waive it up to general court, or adult court and he looks at a number of factors. You can imagine. He looks at the crime and how violent it was, how many victims, if it was against a person or property. But he also looks at the defendant‘s age and the criminal record, and the fact that it is more preferable to have the entire case tried in one court.
But the judge—and I think it‘s based on the facts, exactly what he admitted to doing—waived it up to adult court. The arson charge, however, remains in the family court and that‘s by statute also, another statute. But at this point...
CASAREZ: ... we don‘t know what the prosecution will do with that charge.
ABRAMS: So real quick, it was a judge who made this decision, right?
CASAREZ: Yes, it was. And then the defense actually wanted a reconsideration so they went...
CASAREZ: ... to Judge Pieper in the adult court and he confirmed it.
ABRAMS: All right. They‘re going to be appealing that decision we‘re told. Jean, stick around.
“My Take”—the verdict was the only appropriate one based on the law, but I still don‘t get—I just—the kid never should have tried as an adult. In my mind, a 12-year-old is simply not an adult.
Matthew Mangino is the Lawrence County, Pennsylvania district attorney, and George Parnham is a criminal defense attorney, whose most recent work includes the defense of Andrea Yates for drowning her five children.
All right, Mr. Mangino, what am I getting wrong here? I mean 12 years old, they could have said he‘s going to be tried in a juvenile court, and look, maybe the outcome isn‘t perfect, but the idea of a kid who is 12 now going to prison for 30 years?
MATTHEW MANGINO, LAWRENCE COUNTY D.A.: Well, the law is clear in South Carolina. In fact, the Supreme Court of South Carolina decided in a very similar case, a double homicide by a 12-year-old, that trying a 12-year-old as an adult in adult court is appropriate.
ABRAMS: They ruled that it was constitutional maybe, but appropriate, isn‘t that something that is more of a discretionary issue?
MANGINO: Well, I mean appropriate is up to the court and the Supreme Court decided. And Jean used the conditions that were set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Kent v. the United States where they laid out specific conditions that have to be met. The Supreme Court of South Carolina applied specifically Kent v. the United States when they decided the previous case and decided that, you know, trying a 12-year-old for murder in the adult court is appropriate in South Carolina.
ABRAMS: Yes, but Mr. Parnham, isn‘t really what the courts have said in the past is it‘s OK to do it, but they‘re not saying you should do it. They‘re not saying you have to do it under South Carolina law, and it just seems to me that there was discretion here. I‘m talking about 12 years old.
GEORGE PARNHAM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Dan, you‘re absolutely correct. My view and my take on this is that first of all it‘s the move of the prosecutor to request a waiver of jurisdiction from the family court judge. It‘s not basically a move on the part of the judge that compels the adult court to take supervision...
ABRAMS: Let‘s just try and put that into more layperson‘s terms. Bottom line is what you‘re saying is that it was the prosecutor‘s decision to ask for it, right?
PARNHAM: Correct. The D.A. takes a look at the situation, obviously horrible facts, and makes a determination that the facts themselves compel this individual to be tried as an adult. Also, it‘s obvious that the individual child, and that‘s what he was at the time, is a child, and was a child and still is one, has to meet certain criteria for maturity to have his actions basically evaluated from an adult status. I don‘t know whether or not, for instance, in the family court they even took into consideration his mental disabilities or any information regarding the depressants that the individual had been using prior to the killing of his grandparents.
ABRAMS: Let me ask Jean. Jean, do we know if they did?
CASAREZ: I don‘t think they did and I think that‘s going to be an issue on appeal. Because way back when, when the prosecution asked for the judge to look at this in family court, I don‘t think the Zoloft case was born yet in this trial, but it definitely will be an issue on appeal.
ABRAMS: You know, here‘s the prosecutor and look, this is one of the reasons I think that this went to the adult court and it‘s not, you know, it‘s not because of the number of victims, the maturity of the boy, all of that. Look, they say that those are the reasons. This is the reason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARNEY GIESE, PITTMAN PROSECUTOR: That is how close Chris Pittman was to his grandfather, who had to have been facing him, looking at his face, and he fired that shot into his mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mr. Mangino, any chance you think that the governor might step in or someone else?
MANGINO: Well, I don‘t know that anyone really needs to step in. I mean, you know, that‘s one of the factors that the court can take into consideration, the seriousness of the offense. I mean this was a young man who, you know, shot and killed his grandparents, tried to cover it up by burning down the house, fled and then basically when was asked about it, said hey they deserved it.
I mean this is a person who understood the difference between right and wrong, knew what he was doing, was trying to cover his tracks. Certainly someone who has enough maturity to understand that what he did was wrong and he needed to do something about it to protect himself.
ABRAMS: Come on, an 8-year-old might understand he did something wrong and then try and cover it up. I mean I‘ve seen kids as young as 5 know that they did something wrong...
ABRAMS: ... and then try and cover it up.
MANGINO: Well Dan, don‘t you think we need to apply the law, though?
I mean we still to have work within the confines of the law...
ABRAMS: But you keep making it seem like it‘s a mandate that they had to try him as an adult here.
ABRAMS: They didn‘t have to try him as an adult.
MANGINO: No, they don‘t. But the court, as you used the word earlier, had discretion. They looked at these issues. They applied the law of the Supreme Court of the United States, the law of the Supreme Court of South Carolina...
ABRAMS: But that allows them to do it.
MANGINO: ... discretion they found that...
MANGINO: ... this was appropriate case for the adult court.
ABRAMS: Yes and if he had been 9 or 10, you think the same thing?
MANGINO: The court would have had to do the same kind of review that they did in this case. You look at them on a case-by-case basis. There isn‘t anything that says this is exactly what has to happen. It‘s not mechanical...
MANGINO: ... you apply the law.
ABRAMS: Mr. Parnham, real quick, there have been cases though where they‘ve had trouble on appeal because the kids have been so young, correct?
PARNHAM: That is correct. There—you know, there has to be a determination made that there‘s a certain level of maturity that is not possessed by a child. And therefore, the child should not be held to the level of culpability, despite the actions that were committed when that individual was 8, 9, 10 or 11 or 12 years of age.
Eddings v. Oklahoma, for instance, even though a death case, speaks well in 1982 to the various issues that the courts must take into consideration.
PARNHAM: The other factor...
PARNHAM: The other factor that must be understood, that at the time of the waiver, the court made a determination the South Carolina juvenile facilities did not and were not adequately prepared in order to take care of a child in the juvenile system. I find that woeful and certainly should be addressed at another level by other individuals.
ABRAMS: All right, Jean Casarez, Matthew Mangino and George Parnham, thanks a lot.
MANGINO: Thank you Dan.
PARNHAM: Thank you Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Ashley Olsen, the latest celebrity to take on the tabloids. She‘s suing “The National Enquirer”. She could have a tough time, though. And tsunami victims suing U.S. forecasters claiming they didn‘t do enough to warn officials of the deadly earthquake.
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ABRAMS: We‘re back with our “Just A Minute” segment. You might recognize that it‘s strikingly similar to our “Just One Question?” segment. But as many of you noticed, I had a hard time sticking to just one question so we‘ve changed the rules. Now it‘s our guests who‘ll deal with the restrictions. They‘ve got a minute to answer my questions and I can ask as many as I want. I like that so much better.
Joining me now, former Massachusetts‘ prosecutor Bill Fallon. All right, Bill, a group of Austrian and German victims of the tsunami disaster are planning to file a lawsuit against Thai and U.S. authorities and the French hotel chain Accor. They say those groups failed to warn them the devastating tsunamis were heading their way. The question: Since when does the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration owe every tourist an accurate prediction for every natural disaster?
WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Dan, this is why people detest attorneys. What we have done is we‘ve trivializing this huge tragedy here, and I think next thing we‘ll be going after farmers. They better watch out, too, because the Farmer‘s Almanac didn‘t predict this.
I mean I think there‘s an insanity about this, to suggest that you go to a vacation spot and somehow everybody has got to verify that—next thing if it‘s not sunny, do you get to sue someone? And I mean again, this is a terrific tragedy; I just think attorneys aren‘t the answer. These types of lawsuits aren‘t the answer and guess what? If this is the answer, we‘ll have big segments on local news because there will be no more newscasters going around.
ABRAMS: And there‘s no obligation. I mean that‘s the problem here, is that the idea that the people who predict tsunamis owe a duty to each and every tourist around the world is just absurd.
FALLON: No, it‘s absurd and I‘m going to be shocked if they don‘t, in fact, dismiss the case. What we know they‘re looking for is some kind of discovery here. And guess what? People are pained. I understand you‘re looking for someone to blame and you can‘t blame the almighty. But guess what? Sometimes a tragedy cannot be helped in a court system...
ABRAMS: Issue two: An Oregon man has been indicted by a grand jury on charges he used the Internet to try to organize a mass suicide for Valentine‘s Day. Investigators discovered he‘d encouraged as many as 32 women he met online to kill themselves. The women are supposed to remove their clothing and hang themselves on Valentine‘s Day. He‘s being charged with solicitation to commit murder and manslaughter, even though no one died. The question: Can he really be responsible for just encouraging other people to take their lives over the Internet?
FALLON: Dan, you know I think he can here. He had his own idea of a Valentine Day massacre and I think that the truth is, is that we have taken in this country a position that you can‘t have assisted suicide, let‘s say, and it is a crime. We‘ve certainly had doctors, more particularly prosecuted for that. I‘m thinking of Kevorkian and some other people. That‘s much more specific, that led to a death or led sometimes to an almost death or at least a trying of it.
ABRAMS: Yes, that‘s very different. Here we‘re just talking about a guy on the Internet saying, hey, guess what I think you should do—and I‘m not justifying the guy. But, you know, doesn‘t this sort of set a precedent that people who ask other people to do things on the Internet are suddenly going to be held criminally responsible?
FALLON: Oh Dan, I think it‘s a huge issue. And I think the burden of proof is going to be a little difficult here, but guess what. We‘ve looked at the Internet as—to be in your living room, to be in your life. We‘re getting people for solicitation of minors, for sexual purposes, whether they actually do it or not, having people do things. And quite frankly, I‘m not saying they can win this case, but I certainly understand how they‘re saying don‘t feel you‘re free of any criminal activity because you‘re on the Internet.
ABRAMS: Yes, I don‘t know. I think—well, anyway. Teen actress Ashley Olsen expected to sue “The National Enquirer” for defamation. She‘s apparently outraged over a story alleging that she is—quote—“caught in a drug scandal.” The suit will include charges that the cover photo is misleading, making her appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The question: Apart from the story inside, which really deals with a guy she‘s supposedly dating, and not her, can she sue because of the headline and the picture?
FALLON: Well, Dan, you know, many of us who have had some bad pictures obviously think that we should be able to sue for them, but that aside, I think—remember, you can‘t really take away the story from the photo. The photo itself, particularly that photo, maybe isn‘t enough. But then it says, “Ashley Olsen caught in drug scandal”. The implication being, quite frankly, that she‘s part of the drugged-out, wigged-out person here.
Now that picture alone without that title, if you will, could mean nothing. Now the question is, she‘s a public figure. The picture doesn‘t seem like she‘s snorting through a dollar bill or something, so it might be kind of difficult. But they‘re not just suing on the picture. Now there certainly have been doctored-up pictures.
I don‘t think that picture is bad enough, but I don‘t think you can say it‘s just a picture alone. It‘s the picture with the story. If I read that—and this is where the headlines of “The Enquirer” get them into trouble all the time—and the only reason I don‘t know that Ashley won‘t drop this, because remember, in discovery they can find out all those records that she hasn‘t released.
She‘s been a media darling. Now she‘s been the cause for them to exist. I think it‘s the photo and the title that are going to get them to a settlement.
ABRAMS: Yes, they seem to settle in most of these cases.
FALLON: They do.
ABRAMS: Bill Fallon, thanks for playing in our inaugural episode of “Just A Minute”.
FALLON: Any time Dan.
ABRAMS: Good to see you. Coming up, when the prime minister of Lebanon was assassinated, Syrians and previously unknown Islamic group—well the Syrians were suspected and an Islamic group claimed responsibility. But in the Arab world, it seems there‘s no crime without implicating Israel. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: Coming up, an assassination in Lebanon, oh guess who the Arab papers are blaming? It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—another example of how many in the Arab world try to pin their problems on Israel. This time it‘s Monday‘s bombing in Lebanon, which killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and at least 13 others. Almost immediately, the Syrians became the chief suspects. Hariri had long taken the position that Syria should get out of Lebanon and allow the Lebanese to run their country without Syrian intervention.
That public pronouncement believed to have gotten him killed. Lebanese opposition leaders have said as much. The presumption of Syria‘s involvement apparently so strong that the White House announced today, we‘ve removed our ambassador from Damascus. There‘s even been talk of possible foreign military intervention. The other possible suspect, a previously unknown Islamic group that claimed responsibility.
So one group takes responsibility. Another government is almost uniformly believed to have been the culprit. But wait—in the Arab world there is no crime without somehow implicating Israel. Evidence beside the point, the Pan Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat editorialized on its front page that the first fingers of suspicion point towards Israel in consideration of the fact that it is always the gainer from disturbing stability and security in Lebanon.
An Iranian foreign ministry stated that only Israel had the resources and the motive to target him and therefore must have taken part in the assassination. I love that only Israel could have pulled it off argument. It‘s reminiscent of the still prevalent belief amongst many Arabs that Israel was actually behind 9/11 and when Yasser Arafat died, suggestions without any evidence to back it up, that Israel poisoned him. The list goes on and on and on.
They want a scapegoat. If there‘s one thing that can unite the Arab world, it‘s hatred for and of Israel. I‘m certain some are even suggesting Israel is actually orchestrating attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq as well. Until the Arab world recognizes and addresses its own problems head on without always blaming Israel, those problems will continue to be, well, problems.
Coming up in 60 seconds, a Wisconsin man gets fired over the type of beer he drinks. It‘s tonight‘s “OH PLEAs!” We‘re back in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night, covenant marriages in Arkansas. A marriage in which a couple chooses to make it a lot harder for them to get divorced. Governor Huckabee and his wife renewed their vows, making their 30-year marriage a covenant one. He says it will help Arkansas‘ increasing divorce rate. I said the notion that the law is going to be able to help a failing marriage is just downright silly. And I‘d rather they get divorced than stay in a miserable marriage.
From Ocoee, Florida, David King. “You missed the boat on this topic. People leave when it gets tough. Then they divorce no matter who it affects. Then they find someone new and have the same problems in time because they didn‘t deal with them in the first marriage.”
Maybe David, but why do you want the state legislating that?
Amy Ashworth in Manassas, Virginia. “If the state really wants to reduce the divorce rate, they should make getting married more difficult by requiring people to go to counseling regarding the realties of marriage.”
And psychotherapist Jeffrey Anglin in Sarasota, Florida. “I am 100 percent in favor of marriage counseling and 100 percent against the state mandating it.”
From Walnut Creek, California, Ericka Leiva. “The whole covenant marriage law could work like a green light for men to cheat and abuse their wives because they‘ll know it won‘t be easy for women to divorce them. Who came up with that law? Let me guess, men.”
Finally Craig Thrivente. “Dan, who made you an expert on marriage?
Wait until it happens to you.”
Thanks Craig. Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.
We go through them at the end of the show.
“OH PLEAs!”—a lesson on why not to drink in public. Twenty-four-year-old Isac Aguero spent a Saturday night out with his friends in downtown racing Wisconsin, celebrating Mardi Gras, sipping some brewskis and enjoying his weekend off from work. He was even featured in the town‘s newspaper, “The Journal Times”, in its “On the Town” section, showcasing the city‘s nightlife, love the shades.
All was fun and game until work on Monday. When Aguero, a forklift operator at CJW Inc., a local beer distributor to return to his job and found the office abuzz, and it wasn‘t from the beer. You see, CJW is a distribution company for Miller Brewing Company. Unfortunately, his 15 minutes of fame in the newspaper seemed to have exposed Aguero for what he really was, busted, red handed with a Bud Light. Apparently his boss didn‘t think Aguero should be drinking a Bud Light instead of making it “Miller Time”. Aguero was fired, at least he was honest saying Bud Light is my beer of choice. Get a job with Anheuser-Busch, then you can have your beer and drink it too.
That does it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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