Guest: Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy, Marc Klaas, David Gibbs, Mercedes Colwin, Susan Filan
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, there‘s a desperate nationwide search for a 9-year-old girl who disappeared from her Florida bedroom.
ABRAMS (voice-over): The FBI tracks down Jessica Lunsford‘s estranged mother in Ohio while her father and grandparents plead for help from anyone who has seen Jessica. We talk with the sheriff leading the search.
And Scott Peterson‘s lawyers ask for a new trial. One report, that the defense says it has new evidence that could help clear him.
Plus, opening statements in the Michael Jackson case start Monday.
Our legal team here tonight with mock opening statements for each side.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. There is a lot of news to report at this hour. In addition to the stories we just mentioned, there has been a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that many say could shatter the peace process. We‘ll have to see what happens there. At least several dead there outside a Tel Aviv nightclub.
Also, a person of interest being questioned in a notorious serial killer case known as the BTK case. We‘re following that as well.
But first on the docket, the search intensifies in Florida. Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, last seen sleeping in her bed at 10:00 Wednesday night, her father called police yesterday morning when he discovered she wasn‘t there. Authorities mobilized canine, air, bloodhound units in the search. And in the last hour, police found the body of a little girl in the waters off of Tampa. They thought it might be little Jessica. Turns out it was another little girl. Jessica‘s mother, estranged from her for years, was tracked down in Ohio, and in shock over her daughter‘s disappearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA BRYANT, JESSICA‘S MOTHER: I know me and her dad love her and everybody around her, you know, I just want them to find her. I mean in one piece and to make sure she‘s OK. She‘s my baby. I mean I got a 5-year-old son, and I don‘t know if I could go on without her and I hope that she‘s not dead. That somebody hasn‘t taken her and did things that they wanted to do to her. She‘s 9 years old. She‘s innocent. Nobody should have just come in there and taken her like that, but it happens every day. But you don‘t think it‘s going to happen to you. Never in a million years I thought it would happen to my daughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Jessica‘s father and grandparents, the last to see her, emotional this morning, pleading for Jessica‘s safe return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA‘S FATHER: I really need as much help as I can get right now. I just—I want my daughter home.
RUTH LUNSFORD, JESSICA‘S GRANDMOTHER: And if you know anything at all, where she might be or who she communicated with and anything please let the authorities know. We need her home and she needs us.
ARCHIE LUNSFORD, JESSICA‘S GRANDFATHER: I just want to know where she‘s at, know that she‘s safe, see her back home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the last thing you said to her?
R. LUNSFORD: I love you. That‘s all I said and she said to me—she always expresses her love.
M. LUNSFORD: I need your help. I know nobody knows anybody when things like this happen. The children don‘t come home if we all don‘t work together and I really need you. And I just plead with you to please help me find my daughter. I don‘t care who you are. Drop her off on the corner and call me, I‘ll come get her. I don‘t care. She just needs to be home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy with Florida‘s Citrus County Sheriff‘s Office. Sir, thanks very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it. So...
SHERIFF JEFFREY DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY FL SHERIFF‘S OFFICE: Good evening.
ABRAMS: ... any leads you‘re working from right now?
DAWSY: Well, first let me say thank you very much for taking your time out to help us. We need your help and we appreciate you very much. We do not have anything specific leads, but we would sure appreciate anybody that knows anything to call us. We need your help.
ABRAMS: And we will continue throughout this interview, Sheriff, to put up the number. Anyone can—why don‘t we put it up right now, if we can, there we go. There‘s the picture. There‘s the description. Nine years old, brown hair, brown eyes, 4‘11”, 70 pounds approximately. That‘s the number, 1-352-726-1121, is the phone number you can call if you have any information.
All right, so Sheriff, I understand that you were able to get to the computer that the girl may have had access to. You said in a press conference today it was actually in a living area not in a private bedroom that the girl had. Anything from that computer been retrieved yet or are they still working on that?
DAWSY: We‘re still working on it. We‘ve recovered some bits and pieces but nothing that we can place to directly correspond to the missing of Jessica. Especially we always look at the predator, child lures on the cyber safety end of it, and it‘s kind of interesting, Jessica just went through a class that we put on here for all our third graders that deals with the predators and also the predators on the computer which we call cyber safety.
ABRAMS: Anyone suspicious seen in the neighborhood or anything? I mean anything like that?
DAWSY: Well, you know, this is kind of a unique neighborhood. In one way it‘s rural, the other way it‘s fairly congested. A lot of people live out in this particular surrounding areas, but nobody has come forth with any, I guess, solid lead that would lend us to believe that we had a stalking predator here looking for those kids.
ABRAMS: Now, is it true initially you did believe that this body that was found was Jessica‘s and it turns out it was not, right?
DAWSY: Well, you know, it‘s just kind of ironic that a child‘s body would be found down here, at least that‘s what we were led to believe, an 8 to a 10-year-old. The sheriff of Hillsborough County, David Gee, and I corresponded throughout this issue, preparing me and preparing the family up here just in case it was the young girl. By the grace of God, it was not our girl. The problem is now some other family is dealing with this sorrow.
ABRAMS: Well yes, that‘s what I was going to say. Do you have a sense of who that girl actually is?
DAWSY: No. I know you‘re not familiar with the terrain here, but it‘s about 70 to 75 miles away from here where this young girl was found.
ABRAMS: All right, so as of now, you know, no indication as to what that may be, you know, who—does her family know, et cetera? Do you know?
DAWSY: I‘m sorry, could you repeat the question?
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry. I didn‘t ask it very artfully. I was asking whether you know whether the little girl whose body was found, family, do they know who her family is? Do they know who she is?
DAWSY: I couldn‘t comment on that.
ABRAMS: OK. Anything else that we should know about this case that could help people possibly find little Jessica?
DAWSY: Well, let me just tell you a little bit about little Jessica. This is not a runaway. This young lady, everything that I‘ve been able to validate about this girl, is that she truly loved her grandmother. Whenever she left that yard she would tell her grandmother where she was going. She left it without shoes in a nightgown in the middle of the night. This does not match this child. This is the reason why we‘re at such lengths to find this young girl.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. All right, Sheriff, we‘ve been putting up the number throughout this interview and we certainly hope that anyone who has any information will give you a call. Good luck with the work, thanks a lot, we appreciate it.
DAWSY: And thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Let‘s talk to Marc Klaas. Marc‘s daughter Polly, abducted from her home in ‘93, murdered by a paroled sex offender. All right, Marc, sorry we have to see each other on these kinds of terms again, but you know, you see that father there basically in tears, you know, look, as for me I have never experienced this. I get a feeling as I‘m watching this with tears welling up in my own eyes as I watch them. Tell us what it must be like for him.
MARC KLAAS, POLLY KLAAS‘ FATHER: Well it‘s devastating. I mean it probably was you know, several hours before he‘s emotionally and psychologically came to terms with the fact that his daughter actually is missing and then it really hits home like a sledgehammer. You realize that everything you had believed in and everything that you had trusted in has pretty much betrayed you, and the child that you have invested your life in is gone.
It‘s an absolutely hideous and horrible situation. But that having been said, he‘s going to have to rally. He and the grandparents are going to have to put themselves together. They‘re going to have to find a reason to get up every morning to keep hope alive, to cooperate with law enforcement, to cooperate with the media, and certainly to prompt the public to help bring this child home.
ABRAMS: And Marc look, you‘ve now spent a good amount of your life studying these cases, helping other families involved in these kinds of cases. It is odd, though, I mean it is unusual I should say, where the police come out and you really get a sense that it was a stranger abduction, much like the Elizabeth Smart case, for example. I mean in many of these cases you get the feeling that they‘re looking towards someone who the girl knew well. In this case, at least I got the feeling from that sheriff that they‘re looking for a stranger.
KLAAS: I don‘t believe that at all.
KLAAS: I don‘t—no, no, not at all. I believe that they‘re going to find this girl closer, rather than farther away. That somebody was aware of who this child was. It may have even been somebody at church the evening before. Maybe somebody saw this, you know, very pretty little girl, and followed them home.
KLAAS: I think...
ABRAMS: That‘s a fair point. When I said stranger, I didn‘t—I shouldn‘t have said stranger. I just meant not someone in the immediate family.
KLAAS: Yes, I don‘t believe it‘s an arbitrary crime at all. I certainly believe that somebody was aware of the child, aware of where her bedroom was and certainly had the chutzpah to walk through apparently an unlocked door and take her away. But, listen, Dan, that having been said, we have to remember that when my daughter, Polly, was kidnapped 12 years ago there was stipulation in the all-points bulletin that the information was not for press release.
In other words, they wanted nobody to know. This sheriff and the adjoining agencies and the FDLE has created a new standard for response. This is unbelievable what they‘ve done. They seem to be doing almost everything right. And I think they have to be commended and the world has to look at what they‘re doing and duplicate it.
ABRAMS: All right, Marc, good to see you again, as always.
ABRAMS: Again, if you have any information about Jessica Lunsford, please call 352-726-1121. Remember, she‘s only been missing since yesterday morning, so you might be able to really help.
Coming up, a judge rules Terri Schiavo‘s husband can remove her feeding tube in three weeks. But the ruling buys her parents some time in their bid to get to keep their brain-damaged daughter alive.
And Scott Peterson is back at the Redwood City courthouse, his lawyer is asking for a new trial. Some reports say they have new evidence they claim could help clear him.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a Florida judge rules a brain-damaged woman‘s husband can remove her feeding tube in a matter of weeks. We talk with the lawyer representing Terri Schiavo‘s parents; hope to stop that from happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S FATHER: We‘re happy that we have at least three weeks before they‘ll kill Terri. We‘re unhappy that we don‘t have much time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Robert Schindler, father of Terri Schiavo, the 41-year-old Florida woman who doctors say has been lingering in a persistent vegetative state since suffering brain damage 15 years ago. Her husband, Michael, wants her feeding tube pulled. Florida courts have agreed that that was Terri Schiavo‘s wish. And today on the 15th anniversary of the day she suffered that brain damage, Judge George Greer said he was—quote—“no longer comfortable granting delays in the case and gave Michael Schiavo permission to have Terri‘s tube removed at 1:00 p.m. on March 18. But that does not exclude the possibility of delays. David Gibbs is the attorney for Terri‘s parents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GIBBS, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S PARENTS‘ ATTORNEY: There will be a number of filings on Monday, and most of these are prepared but we are wanting to coordinate our strategy. A number of outstanding attorneys from across the country are offering their expertise in different areas. And we are wanting to put forward the most aggressive defense we can of Terri Schiavo‘s life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: David Gibbs joins us now. He is the attorney for the Schiavo parents. David, you and I have talked about this a lot this week and apart from the substance, I mean your position is that you‘re hoping for delays, you want to save Terri‘s life, et cetera. Practical matter, judge has ruled, tube will be pulled. Do you have any legal avenues still to pursue?
GIBBS: Yes, we have a number at this point, Dan. Obviously we can appeal that stay order to the second DCA in Florida here. And if the appeals court in Florida will not hear it, we have appeal options to the United States Supreme Court. All of those are prepared and ready if necessary. But we‘re confident with the other pending motions, in particular the improvement of Terri.
We don‘t believe Terri is in PVS at this point. We believe she has advanced and progressed. They‘ve now discovered that the brain is not like a hard drive on a computer, but it‘s much more like the Internet, it can relink and move. When we watch Terri with her mom and dad we believe doctors and medical evidence are going to save Terri‘s life.
ABRAMS: But you haven‘t been able to get a court to agree with you on that.
GIBBS: Well we filed it; at the same time we had the stay hearing with Judge Greer. We‘re hoping now to get it heard. We had asked for the stay so we would have some time to do this in a more orderly fashion. But we are completely committed to having these hearings within the next 21 days where Judge Greer will have to deal with the issue. Terri Schiavo is a disabled woman...
ABRAMS: But if Judge Greer thought that you had a real shot of the motion you‘re—on the motion you‘re talking about, he wouldn‘t have given a firm date that said at that time the tube will be pulled. And he would have said—he wouldn‘t have said that these delays are over.
GIBBS: Well, what Judge Greer said—this is a trial judge—he‘s uncomfortable deciding the ultimate stays. He said the stays needs to come from an appeals court and basically he handed it up. But we now have statements from the Vatican pleading for the life of Terri Schiavo. Governor Jeb Bush has said Terri‘s life should be spared.
ABRAMS: Governor Jeb Bush has been fighting for this for a long time and you know, with all due respect to the Vatican, I don‘t know how much influence that‘s going to have on courts in Florida.
GIBBS: Well we‘re hoping it has some influence because Terri was a practicing Catholic and when representatives of the Pope are saying it would violate her Catholic faith, we believe that‘s a clear First Amendment violation. At a point of death for one to violate their own faith, to me seems to be the most severe...
ABRAMS: But isn‘t...
GIBBS: ... of offenses under our Constitution.
ABRAMS: Except the courts have found again and again that her wish was not what you‘re saying, but her wish was to die if she were in this particular situation.
GIBBS: One court in 2000 determined that she was in a vegetative state and that this is what she would want.
GIBBS: But we believe that those are incorrect rulings and we intend to continue aggressively fighting them. When you see Terri, Dan, I‘d invite you to come meet her, if the attorney for the other side, if the husband would let you in you would see how alive she is, how she responds to her mom and dad. Yesterday she was trying to say I love you to her mother, Mary.
ABRAMS: That‘s not what—look you‘ve seen her, I haven‘t. But that‘s not what the doctors have been saying so far. I understand you...
GIBBS: And let me just invite you...
ABRAMS: All right...
GIBBS: ... or any other responsible journalist. As a matter of fact, this week we intend to file a motion to allow media access to Terri...
ABRAMS: OK, fair enough.
GIBBS: ... because we believe the world needs to see who we‘re killing, how alive she is. You know, there were people...
GIBBS: ... who turned the gas on in the gas chambers...
ABRAMS: All right...
GIBBS: ... and thought they were doing the right thing.
ABRAMS: I got to wrap it up. David, thank you for coming back on the program. As you know, we will continue to follow this. We‘ll continue to follow this entire story and we‘d love to have you back on the program. Appreciate it.
GIBBS: And I look forward to the day we can have Terri on.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Scott Peterson‘s lawyers ask for a new trial and one report says the defense has new evidence that they say could have cleared him. We get the latest from the courthouse.
ABRAMS: There‘s breaking news in the Scott Peterson‘s trial. Peterson‘s defense team ask Judge Alfred Delucchi to set aside the guilty verdict and give Peterson a new trial. He was convicted in November. You remember the case. He‘s set to be sentenced in a couple of weeks. The jury recommended the death penalty. But reports today that the defense may believe they have new evidence that could have helped exonerate Peterson.
Joining me now from the courthouse, our friend Edie Lambert of NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA. All right, so Edie, what is the defense saying?
EDIE LAMBERT, KCRA REPORTER: Well, first of all I should point out something interesting today and that is that three of the jurors who convicted Scott Peterson came to court today. The hearing was very brief but they said they felt they just needed to be here for it. So they were in court as defense attorney Mark Geragos filed that motion for a new trial. It‘s over 100 pages long and it will be under a seal until the prosecutors have a chance to file their response to it.
But it likely focuses on three main arguments. First of all, that the jurors who were kicked off during deliberations, two of them, should never have been removed from the case. Also, focusing on Scott Peterson‘s boat, specifically the jurors should never have been able to climb into the boat and rock around in it. Also that the defense should have been able to prevent—to present to the jury a demonstration video that the defense says shows you cannot throw a body from a boat like Scott‘s without the boat capsizing.
And Dan you mentioned new evidence issues. Specifically, the defense is claiming that the prosecution had a tape in which an inmate in Modesto is talking to his brother about the likelihood that Laci Peterson was abducted during a home invasion robbery. This tape never turned over during the normal discovery part of the trial. So Judge Delucchi will be considering all of those arguments as he decides whether to grant a motion for a new trial.
It‘s likely that he will not go ahead and do that. But that date is now set for March 16. That‘s a new sentencing date. Meantime, after court today, the prosecutors gave a rare interview. And Rick Distaso talked about what it was like to go head-to-head against famous defense attorney Mark Geragos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that Mark Geragos did a fine job in this case. I think he defended his client well. And we treated it just like we did pretty much any other case. We had a plan from the beginning and we proceeded through with the plan and justice was served in the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMBERT: Scott Peterson was in court today, wearing a suit. Also in court, his mother and his sister-in-law, Janey. He is still being held in the jail here in Redwood City and still described as a model inmate. Meantime, again, the new sentencing date is coming up on March 16. And, Dan, Judge Delucchi said he is very firm he will not be granting any more delays. Back to you...
ABRAMS: All right, Edie Lambert, good to see you. In the studio criminal defense attorney Mercedes Colwin. All right, Mercedes Colwin, this new evidence, what do you make of it?
MERCEDES COLWIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I mean it‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) statements by an inmate. I mean this doesn‘t show that he was innocent. That he didn‘t kill Laci and his unborn child and I think Delucchi is going to conclude the very same...
ABRAMS: What about—the dismissed jurors is the big thing, right?
COLWIN: I think you‘re right.
ABRAMS: ... the fact that they threw out these jurors.
COLWIN: That is the biggest issue here...
COLWIN: ... was that dismissed juror, especially the lawyer, that lawyer-doctor was certainly pretty suspect is why he was thrown off.
ABRAMS: All right, well we shall see. You know, look, still an uphill battle for this defense team no matter what they say. But you know, they‘re not frivolous legal claims. Mercedes will be back with us in a little bit.
Coming up, Michael Jackson in court one last time today, before opening statements on Monday. Our legal team, including Mercedes, is here with mock opening statements for each side.
ABRAMS: Opening statements coming Monday in the Michael Jackson trial. Our legal team is here with podiums to present a much shorter version of what you may hear or what I may hear in the courtroom. First, the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. The jury has been sworn, motions argued, both sides in the Michael Jackson case will address jurors for the first time on Monday when they deliver opening statements. But today, we bring you a sneak peek of what you can expect to hear from that courtroom just three days from now. Two of our guests are here to give mock opening statements in the case of the State of California v. Michael Jackson. For the state, prosecutor with the Connecticut State Attorney‘s Office, Susan Filan and for the defense, criminal defense attorney Mercedes Colwin. Each have about three minutes. We start with Susan Filan for the People of the State of California.
SUSAN FILAN, CONNECTICUT PROSECUTOR: This case is about a famous, powerful man who sexually molested a cancer-stricken boy from a broken home. Michael Jackson lives in Neverland. In Peter Pan, Neverland is a place where lost boys play all day long with an adult who refuses to ever grow up. In Jackson‘s Neverland, he plays with the lost boys all day and all night. But what the lost boys don‘t know is that this Peter Pan is a pedophile.
The price of admission to Neverland is sexual molestation, innocence lost, and youth ruined. We will prove to you that Michael Jackson, the great entertainer, is a predator who lured a sick, lost boy into Neverland, slowly groomed him, gained his trust, and then sexually molested him. This victim had cancer. He had lost his spleen, a kidney and lymph nodes and received extensive chemotherapy. He was as sick as a young boy could be. And while he was lying in his hospital bed, near death, he had a few wishes, and one of them was to meet Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.
A telephone relationship blossomed into an invitation to Neverland but bad things happened at Neverland. Michael Jackson showed the victim pornography and plied the victim and his brother with alcohol. Almost every night, Jackson served alcohol to a 13-year-old boy who had no spleen, no kidney and stage four cancer and then sexually molested him. How do we know this? The victim and his brother stayed in Jackson‘s room and the victim slept in Jackson‘s bed with Jackson.
The victim‘s brother saw Jackson put his hand into his brother‘s underpants and masturbate his brother while masturbating himself. Jackson also rubbed his genital area against the victim‘s buttock. Usually in child abuse cases, there are no witnesses. Pedophiles molest in secret in the dark where no one can see them. But in this case, there is an eyewitness. Both the victim and his brother will testify in explicit detail how Jackson sexually molested him and physical evidence corroborates their accounts.
The victim‘s fingerprints and Jackson‘s fingerprints are on the same pornographic magazine, proving that Jackson showed it to the young boy. After molesting the boy, Jackson took away the victim‘s soiled underwear and during a search of Neverland, authorities found the victim‘s underwear. Michael Jackson tried to cover up what he had done. He tried to keep it a secret. But Jackson‘s cover-up is consciousness of guilt.
After the abuse, he tried to hold the boy and his family hostage at Neverland. He also tried to send the boy and his family to Brazil. But some of the most powerful evidence will come from Michael Jackson himself as he speaks to you in his own words. In a documentary he admits that he likes to have young boys sleep with him in his own bed, and he sees nothing wrong with it. After you hear the people‘s evidence, you will be compelled to find Michael Jackson guilty of preying on a sick, weak young boy. The King of Pop is the king of pedophilia. The King of Pop is a predator.
ABRAMS: Susan Filan, thanks Sue. Mercedes Colwin now for the defense.
COLWIN: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is a simple case and it‘s stressed on one solitary word, truth. When you discover the truth you will conclude that there‘s only one possible verdict, that Michael Jackson is innocent of all charges. In searching for the truth, I respectfully ask that you focus in on the following evidence.
First, the timing of the accusation is suspect. After Michael‘s documentary aired on February 6, 2003 the Department of Children and Family Services began an exhaustive two-week investigation. Three investigators from the department interviewed the accuser, his brother, his sister and his mother. The evidence will show that they all emphatically denied Michael did anything inappropriate. Never once did the accuser and his family say they were being held against their will.
Never once did the accuser say Michael Jackson had abused him or plied him with alcohol. Never once did the accuser‘s family say we need your help, Michael Jackson is victimizing us. Prosecutors want you to believe that the accuser and his family didn‘t report these allegations because the abuse simply didn‘t happen then. Well, that‘s not true, ladies and gentlemen. Look to the first felony complaint. In that first complaint it says, that the abuse occurred between February 7 to March 10, right in the middle of that intensive investigation by Children and Family Services.
This timeline defies logic. And you‘ll hear that the accuser changed his story. Now this isn‘t the first time the accuser and his family changed their stories. In fact, the evidence will show that they have a consistent pattern where the accuser and his family make initial reports and then change to it suit their purposes. A perfect example of this is what happened a few years ago when the family entered into a department store, picked up for shoplifting and were being interviewed by security guards.
Initially the family said we were physically assaulted. Later on when they brought a complaint, they said we were physically and sexually assaulted. Why did they do this? Well, they won a large settlement because of it, not there was no evidence of wrongdoing, ladies and gentlemen. This simply—the department store said we‘re going to contain our costs, we‘re going to contain our exposure, and we‘re going to settle this case.
In this case simply like this has occurred here, where Michael Jackson, you‘ll hear some of the allegations that he settled many years ago. These allegations were never brought to trial. They weren‘t even brought to the law enforcement officials. They were just bare conclusory, self-serving allegations. Now why would the accuser bring these allegations?
Look for the next tool, the underlying motivation to bring false accusations is pure and simple averis (ph). What is shown by this family is once the Michael Jackson gravy train came to an end, after the accuser‘s request for money was rejected, the allegations that are before you suddenly arose. Now the prosecutor will try to convince you that the family stayed at a plush inn and at Neverland were against their will. Does that make sense ladies and gentlemen when you will see a stream of charges from the accuser‘s mother, including manicures, pedicures and massages? Hardly the behavior of someone being held captive.
Now Michael Jackson‘s generosity is legendary. Michael Jackson has helped thousands of children. His love for children remain undeterred. And you will come to realize he could never harm any child, let alone this one. Finally, the last tool in your search for the truth is the burden of proof. The prosecutor must show that Michael committed these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. If any of you have any doubt based on reason and common sense you must vote to acquit Michael.
When all is done in this case, look to the timeline, the reporting history, underlying motivation, thousands of children that Michael Jackson has helped without incident, and hold the prosecutor to their burden and you will have uncovered the truth. That Michael Jackson is innocent of all charges. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Mercedes, and Susan, great job. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Last time I had to do it, when we did the Peterson closing arguments, I had to do all the work. So you know what? Let‘s have two pros do it. Thanks a lot guys.
Coming up, Illinois legislators are trying to stop convicted sex offenders from wearing Santa and Easter Bunny costumes around children during the holidays. Can they do that?
ABRAMS: Back now with our “Just A Minute” segment where I lay out today‘s other legal stories. My guest has a minute to discuss each with me. Back with us Susan Filan, prosecutor in Connecticut.
Topic one: Attorneys for the woman accusing basketball star Kobe Bryant of sexual assault questioned him under oath for the first time today as part of the civil lawsuit she filed, at least we believe they questioned him. The criminal case was dropped in September after the woman decided not to testify. But she‘s continuing with the civil suit seeking unspecified damages. Bryant alleges the sex was consensual.
So question, if you‘re Kobe‘s attorney, how much don‘t you let him answer here because the judge has not told them exactly what he has to or not has to answer.
FILAN: You really don‘t want him answering anything. I mean, the worst thing for him to do is go on the record in front of a stenographer and have this memorialized for all time. So as his attorney you want to keep this as minimal as possible...
ABRAMS: But how do you do that? I mean you know, the whole point of a deposition is for you to question the person and be able to get some answers. You basically say to him, don‘t answer that, don‘t answer that. When you ask him about his past sexual activity or things like that, you just keep saying to him don‘t answer it, don‘t answer it?
FILAN: Well it‘s a problem and that‘s why there‘s such an advantage in a civil case, because a deposition is a terrific tool of discovery that isn‘t available to us in criminal cases. You can say don‘t answer, don‘t answer, but what that‘ll end up is you‘re in front of the judge and the judge is...
ABRAMS: ... because the judge isn‘t there.
FILAN: You can get the judge on the phone. You can take a recess. I mean there—you can get immediate ruling if it gets that heated. But typically what you want to advise your client is say as little as possible. Don‘t elaborate. Don‘t embellish and be careful. If you have any questions, ask for a break, step aside to talk to me.
ABRAMS: Issue two: Have you gotten an e-mail from the address FBI.gov saying the FBI has been monitoring your Internet use and found you‘ve been assessing illegal Web sites, then ask you to open an attachment and fill out a questionnaire? Well if you have, delete it. The FBI issued a warning this week saying Internet scammers are sending out the e-mails, spreading a virus via the attachment.
So question, first of all, how serious of a crime is this for those who are perpetrating this?
FILAN: Dan, it‘s incredibly serious. In this day and age, computers are like oxygen. You cannot live without one...
ABRAMS: How much time are they facing?
FILAN: Well it depends on where they‘re prosecuted. Some of these people are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their crimes from outside of the country. Depends on if you can get them into the country for prosecution, but it‘s certainly a jail case.
ABRAMS: And federal case, right? I mean...
FILAN: It‘s a federal case. And in some cases it may have to be an international case, in which they have to use the United States Department of Justice‘s International Unit to get them back into the United States. It‘s very extensive. It‘s a serious problem. And the United States Department of Justice is working very, very hard on this.
ABRAMS: All right, let‘s move on to issue three. Illinois legislators are trying to stop convicted sex offenders from wearing Santa and Easter Bunny costumes around children during the holidays. They‘re also hoping to prevent them from handing out candy at Halloween. The ACLU is taking issue with the bill, saying it‘s concerned the sex offender registry casts a wide umbrella when it comes to who is included on the list.
Quote—“The list was first started for hard-core defenders but has expanded to a whole host of people.” So question, can they do this? Can they say oh no Easter Bunny and no—I mean sort of nuts, right, to like pick the costumes that they can‘t wear?
FILAN: Works for me. If we‘re going to err here, let‘s err on the side of the children. What is more important...
FILAN: ... what‘s more precious than our children?
ABRAMS: So you‘re going to pick—what you‘re going to say no Santa, no Easter Bunny, what else...
FILAN: Do you want your kids sitting on the lap of a pedophile...
ABRAMS: No, no...
FILAN: ... in a Santa Clause suit?
ABRAMS: ... no, I don‘t want to be—you know what? You got to make rules that at least are uniform. What you‘re going to pick just random costumes and say oh you know what, here are the holidays we‘re most concerned about. Halloween, you know, the bottom line is, you would hope on Halloween children are being supervised by their parents anyway as they‘re walking around from door to door.
FILAN: To me the key is that you let a—or you let somebody who is possibly going to be convicted of this or plead guilty to this, know that this is a consequence ahead of time. If they can reasonably foresee that a conviction is going to result in them not wearing an Easter Bunny costume, that‘s OK.
ABRAMS: You know, and the ACLU will say look—and others will say look, they‘ve served their time. They‘ve served their punishment. You know, the bottom line is telling them that they can‘t have you know, a good time with their own family, even if it‘s supervised, for example. That they‘re not allowed to walk into their own home, for example, wearing a Santa suit?
FILAN: Well I don‘t know how—I mean I thought we were talking about in public, in a mall or a photographer...
ABRAMS: Well, you know what? I would think that some of these stores should take the responsibility and not hire someone like that. But anyway, all right, Susan Filan, thanks.
Coming up, the FDA votes to allow Vioxx back on the market, but many of those voting once worked for the company that makes the drug. What kind of independent vote is that? It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: Coming up, did you hear the one about the house thieves who called the police themselves? It really happened. It‘s our “OH PLEAs!” segment coming up.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—were you as surprised as I was when the FDA voted to keep painkillers Vioxx and Bextra on the market? Remember Merck pulled Vioxx off the shelves in September after studies seemed to indicate it could significantly increase the risk of heart attack? That time all I was thinking about were the lawsuits and whether the company and others that made drugs like it would be going out of business. I‘m no expert but it sure sounded dire.
Then the 17-15 vote at the FDA last week, approving Vioxx, 17-13 approving Bextra. What happened? I don‘t know. Apparently there are conflicting studies. But it got me thinking about who is on the FDA panel. Talk about conflicts. “The New York Times” reports today that 10 of the 32 government advisers who evaluated the drugs last week used to work for the companies that make the drugs. Nine of the 10 supported keeping the drugs on the market. Think about that.
If they had not voted, the votes would have been 14-8 to keep Vioxx off the shelves, 12-8 against Bextra. Federal law prohibits researchers who‘ve worked for a drug company from sitting on panels that consider the company‘s product, but the FDA grants conflict of interest waivers to certain doctors or other experts. Officials at the agency say without these waivers, the panel wouldn‘t have the best researchers making the calls. And almost all 10 have denied that their past work influenced their vote.
But you know, that‘s not enough. In this context, I‘d rather have objectivity or even the appearance of it. I don‘t care if the doctor is the leading expert in his field. If he collected a hefty paycheck from Pfizer five years ago, I‘m concerned about having him or her serving on an FDA panel, reviewing a drug that could change the fortunes of that company and think about it.
When these companies get sued, jurors may now believe a conspiracy was at work to keep these drugs on the market. That may be even worse than if the FDA just pulled the drugs. The FDA announced last week there will be a new safety review board to track drugs already on the market, supposed to be independent of the FDA. I hope they give serious thought to the definition of the word independent before picking the members. Having worked for a company doesn‘t necessarily mean the person can‘t be fair. But like in the courtroom, it sure does make it feel like there could be bias.
All right, I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night I spoke with Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who is demanding the complete medical records of 90 women from two abortion clinics, all from either girls under the age of consent or from women who received late-term abortions. He says he needs the information for an investigation into possible sexual abuse of children, and to ensure these abortion clinics are following state laws reporting suspected sexual abuse. I said there has got to be more a targeted way to get the information. It seems to me an effort just to discourage women from getting abortions.
Lisa in Fort Worth, Texas asks, “If the children who had been allegedly raped didn‘t want to report the rape at the time it occurred, who in their right mind would believe that those same children would cooperate with an investigation and criminal prosecution?”
Justin Rothgeb in Concord, California. “Is the Kansas A.G. going to demand every hospital turn over their records on teenage birth in Kansas also? His position is ridiculous.”
Last night in my “Closing Argument” I said former spiritual adviser to President Bush, Doug Wead, who released secretly recorded conversations with then Governor Bush for history purposes should have known that people generally don‘t like a snoop who secretly records phone conversations and no matter what you think about what he did, he‘ll certainly go down in history as being disloyal.
Craig Hebert is disgusted. Quote - “Instead of discussing what a fool Bush made of himself, you would use a spin technique to try to persuade silly people that Wead will go down in history as a disloyal person.”
And Mo in New York. “This is one of those rare occasions when I must disagree with you. In regard to the disclosure of the secretly recorded conversations between then Governor Bush and Doug Wead, I‘m glad they were made public and I think it was the right thing to do.”
Look, Craig and Mo, both of you seem to miss my point. It is both historic and disloyal, but I don‘t understand how Wead didn‘t know there would be a back lash. He is now retreating saying he‘ll give the tapes to President Bush so some material may never be heard, meaning history suffers and yet, he‘s still disloyal. Either do it for history‘s sake with the price being disloyalty or you remain loyal and you deprive history. You can‘t have both and in Wead‘s case, it seems he gets neither.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
Remember we now have our own blawg, a “Sidebar”, the blawg about justice. You can sign up for our e-mail newsletter. You can be the first to know what the stories are that we are covering each day at the ABRAMS REPORT address at—sorry—email@example.com.
“OH PLEAs!”—talk about selective use of the police. Two Danish men stop at a summer cabin and head inside. The two reemerge, their arms full of various arms. They were about to load the swag (ph) into their car, but then a problem. Someone had stolen their car keys. Well this dynamic duo calls the police for help. Not a good move.
You see, the two were thieves, robbing the cabin. A passerby witnessed the 18 and 12 -- 20-year-old burglars break into the cabin, carry out their loot. The witness confronted the thieves, demanded they return the goods and took the keys to their getaway car to ensure the two couldn‘t leave with their new items. The thieves locked out from their car were left with a troubling choice.
Leave the car and possibly evidence behind, or, well, call the police to report their stolen keys and hope they‘re going to get away with it? They took the road less traveled and the police just had to show up and, well, case closed. A lesson to all would be thieves. Generally, the police are not there to help you. They are there to catch you. Just a little thought.
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. I will be live in Santa Maria, California, Michael Jackson, opening statements on Monday. See you then. Have a great weekend.
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