Guest: Jim Thomas, Mickey Sherman, Jeanine Pirro, Bob McNeil
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, I‘m live in Santa Maria, California, where the Michael Jackson case is finally underway.
ABRAMS (voice-over): In opening statements, prosecutors describe in graphic detail how they say Michael Jackson molested the 13-year-old boy, while the defense lashes out at the accuser‘s family, claiming Jackson isn‘t the first celebrity they tried to get money from.
And Kobe Bryant‘s deposition delayed. Could that mean he settled his case with his accuser?
Plus, Scott and Laci Peterson‘s mothers in a heated argument at what used to be the couple‘s home. Scott‘s mom was trying to move furniture out of the house.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight and throughout the show, finally, opening statements from both sides in the Michael Jackson case. And from Judge Rodney Melville, the 10-count child molestation and conspiracy indictment read with a list of 28 alleged overt acts. Some involving booze and sex, graphically described.
Then, D.A. Tom Sneddon came out swinging, saying Jackson exposed the teenage boy in this case to—quote—“strange sexual behavior”, strange behavior, which threatened to leave the confines of the Neverland Ranch, according to Sneddon.
“When on February 3 of 2003 -- and I quote—“Michael Jackson, the defendant in this case, world‘s was rocked and it didn‘t rock in a musical sense. It rocked in a real life sense.” Rocked by a British-made documentary that exposed Jackson‘s private parts or at least the private parts of his personal life, for the first time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He talked about the fact that he shares your bedroom.
MICHAEL JACKSON, ON TRIAL FOR CHILD MOLESTATION: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you understand why people would worry about that?
JACKSON: Because they‘re ignorant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it really appropriate for a 44-year-old man to share a bedroom with a child who is not related to him at all?
JACKSON: That‘s a beautiful thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s not a worrying thing?
JACKSON: Why should I be worried? Who is the criminal? Who is “Jack the Ripper” in the room?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Sneddon went on describing a desperate Jackson and five unindicted co-conspirators, obsessed with trying to restore Jackson‘s public image, but according to Sneddon, the video did not make it easy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you actually invite children into your bed, you never know what‘s going to happen...
JACKSON: ... when you say bed, you‘re thinking sexual. They make that sexual. It‘s not sexual. We‘re going to sleep. I tuck them in. We put—I put little—like on music on, like a little story time, I read a book. They‘re very sweet. We put the fireplace on give them hot milk. You know, we have little cookies. It‘s very charming, very sweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Sneddon also told the jury about regular alcohol-fueled evenings with Jackson and his accuser that were neither charming nor sweet. Prosecutors say they‘ve got a witness beyond the accuser and his little brother who will confirm some of that, a flight attendant who can testify to pouring alcohol into soda cans while Jackson sat with his underage guests on a chartered plane. Sneddon described what the accuser‘s little brother would describe. Let me warn you. This is graphic.
Quote—How on other occasions he happened upon seeing Michael Jackson masturbating himself with one hand while Jackson‘s other hand was inserted into the underpants of his brother.”
We‘ll get to the defense in a minute in our next segment. But first “My Take”—prosecutor Sneddon while rattled a couple of times by technical problems and defense objections seems to have laid out a case that depicts Michael Jackson as a pervert who plied this boy with alcohol. It was not the best organized statement I‘ve seen, but at least he seemed to have gotten the point across. It‘s a tough case.
Joining us now, Westchester County New York District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman, L.A. based criminal defense attorney Bob McNeil and former Santa Barbara County sheriff and NBC analyst Tim Thomas who was in court as well today.
All right, Jim, let me start with you. Tom Sneddon is a friend of yours. What do you think was the most important point that Sneddon made today?
JIM THOMAS, FMR. SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: I think the most important point that he made today was the fact that there were two Michael Jackson‘s, a public Michael Jackson and a private Michael Jackson and he said the public Michael Jackson like in the tape says I gave the kids hot milk and cookies when in reality he says he can prove that what he gave them was alcohol and pornographic materials. I think that that was the thing that probably had the biggest impact on the jury right from the start.
ABRAMS: Mickey, let me read you this quote from today from Tom Sneddon. I‘m going to keep doing this, going to keep bringing you the quotes as to what they said today.
“The private world of Michael Jackson reveals that instead of bedtime discussions and children‘s books and discussions of Peter Pan, that this 44-year-old man is sharing his collection of sexually explicit magazines, that he‘s talking to the accuser about masturbation. He‘s telling him it‘s normal and it‘s OK and everyone does it. That each of these acts is calculated to desensitize the boy to change his moral antenna and to add the trust and the admiration of an adult voice to the boy‘s conduct to convince him what was being done was all right in the adult world and it worked.”
Mickey, what do you make of it?
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That‘s a tough statement and obviously he‘s describing the process of grooming, which is what child molesters do. The question is—these are his statements. These are Tom Sneddon‘s statements. We know how passionate he is about this, rightfully or wrongfully. The issue is Dan, whether or not these witnesses, whether it‘s the young boy, his brother, or the flight attendant are going to have the information and the testimony to back this up. Rhetoric is what‘s ruling today. Let‘s see what the evidence has to accomplish though.
ABRAMS: All right. And let me read you another quote. I‘m going to read this to Jeanine Pirro. Again, this is another somewhat graphic one.
“You‘re going to be able to peek into the defendant‘s private world. You‘re going to hear the accuser describe to you his molestation. You‘ll hear the accuser‘s brother tell you how on the other occasions he happened upon seeing Michael Jackson masturbating himself with one hand while Jackson‘s other hand was inserted into the underpants of his brother.”
Jeanine, when it comes to these molestation charges, it seems it‘s really going to come down to the credibility of this boy and his brother because no one else witnessed the molestation.
JEANINE PIRRO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY NY D.A.: Clearly, the jury has to believe the boy in this case. I mean he is the linchpin of the case, but what we heard today in the prosecutor‘s opening, Dan, is the fact that there are other witnesses, other witnesses who can testify that they brought wine and vodka into the bedroom when Michael was there with the victim and his brother. Other witnesses who will say that the children were served alcohol in diet cans on the airplanes—stewardesses.
There are other witnesses who will corroborate what this child is saying. And I have to tell you, Dan that we‘ve been saying for the longest time oh it‘s about the victim and the mother. It isn‘t just about them. There is corroborating evidence. This is going to be a technology case where we‘ve got all kinds of e-mails and videos as well as telephone logs. It seems that Michael Jackson‘s world may be coming down, if as a prosecutor alleges, he‘s able to prove the evidence that he‘s bringing out today.
ABRAMS: But the corroborating evidence goes to the conspiracy, Bob McNeil. It doesn‘t really go to the molestation. The corroborating evidence to the molestation seems to be primarily testimony from the family, in particular, the mother saying, for example, she saw Michael Jackson licking her son‘s head at one point and here‘s what Tom Sneddon said to defend himself against allegations that this mother, and we‘ll get to this in a minute about all the litany of problems with this mother‘s testimony.
Quote—“She never talked about suing Michael Jackson. She will tell you she wants not one penny from Michael Jackson. She will tell you I want not one penny of the devil‘s money.”
And Bob, I mean that seems to be very important to the prosecution here, but I wonder whether they should have tried to sort of vouch for her. I mean she‘s got so many problems here. Prosecutor came out and said yes, here are some of them, but the defense—and we‘ll talk about it later—came out and just laid them all out.
BOB MCNEIL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a situation where, without a doubt, the credibility of the mother and the credibility of each of the boys that are testifying about what happened to them and what they saw. It‘s paramount, and I believe that based upon what we heard today about a paralegal saying that the mother admitted that she lied in the J.C. Penney case, this has—would have tremendous effect on her credibility, so I think that Sneddon is going to have a problem in this case, putting forth the evidence that‘s going to support his opening statement, because you know, the evidence just doesn‘t come in, like you see it in an opening statement or like you write it in a police report.
ABRAMS: Jeanine, how—let‘s just talk turkey here. I mean, the bottom line is that what the prosecutors want to do is distance themselves from the mother and what the defense wants to do is put the mother and slap it together with the rest of this family and say she‘s the one in essence concocting all of this.
PIRRO: You know what? This is so frustrating for prosecutors across the country. Whenever we go to trial in a criminal case, it‘s about the victim. Now if your victim is a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old with stage four cancer who has lost a spleen, a kidney, and who knows what else, then what we‘re going to do is we‘re going to trash the mother. Let‘s not forget that it‘s the boy‘s father who went to jail for six months for beating the mother. It‘s the boy‘s father who beat the boy and his sister and brother and that‘s the only person who‘s been convicted of anything in this case. So what if the...
ABRAMS: Yes, but...
PIRRO: ... mother sued J.C. Penney. J.C. Penney...
ABRAMS: And lied?
PIRRO: ... is going to pay out money...
ABRAMS: And lied—wait, wait and lied about it?
PIRRO: Who said she lied...
ABRAMS: That‘s OK...
PIRRO: ... a paralegal...
ABRAMS: That‘s not relevant.
PIRRO: Did the judge say she lied? Who is this paralegal? I want to know who this person is. Is this somebody who worked for the defense, for J.C. Penney?
ABRAMS: It‘s someone who worked for her own attorney.
PIRRO: But let me tell you something. Did the attorneys say it? And J.C. Penney is not going to hand out $150,000 to a woman who has no power, who‘s disenfranchised and poor. You can‘t even take...
ABRAMS: I don‘t know...
PIRRO: ... something back without a receipt. Come on, Dan.
ABRAMS: Yes, I don‘t know. I got to tell you, this is not nothing.
This is significant in this case...
PIRRO: They‘re going to trash the mother.
ABRAMS: This is—it‘s more than just trashing. Trashing the mother suggests that it‘s without merit. They‘ve got—the defense is laying—we‘ll talk about the defense in a minute because they‘ve laid out all the mother‘s problems. When we come back, we‘re going to talk about that and we‘ll get to, you know what the defense is going to say. Attorney Tom Mesereau hammering the credibility of the accuser‘s mother, claiming she‘s been hustling celebrities for years, even before she met Jackson.
And tomorrow prosecutors start calling witnesses. First up, a man whose documentary the prosecutors say rocked Jackson‘s world.
And some breaking news in the case of an American citizen who was accused of being an enemy combatant. A judge rules he must be released. We‘ve got a live report coming up next on that breaking story.
Plus, Scott and Laci Peterson‘s parents were civil to each other in court. Not anymore. Trouble this weekend in front of the house Scott and Laci once lived in.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Include your name and where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, live from Santa Maria, California, Michael Jackson‘s lawyers have just wrapped up their closing—their opening statements. Coming up with a report on what they had to say.
ABRAMS: We‘re back now with some breaking news and it is a federal court ruling. Remember Jose Padilla, the American held as an enemy combatant since May of 2002? He was suspected of being a plotter in a dirty bomb attack. Remember, the attorney general made a big announcement about his arrest at the time. Well this is a big ruling.
NBC‘s justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us now from Washington. So Pete, what did the court say?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I agree it is a big ruling Dan. It is a legal setback for the Bush administration‘s conduct of the war on terror and a federal judge today, Henry Floyd, who was by the way, appointed to the bench by the current President Bush, Judge Floyd said that the government has no power to detain an American citizen who was arrested here as an enemy combatant.
It‘s different—it might be different the judge said if was like Yasser Hamdi, the other American who was actually arrested on the battlefield in Afghanistan, sent to Guantanamo Bay and ultimately brought to the U.S. Not so with Padilla, the judge says. This is fundamentally a law enforcement matter. He says that if the government‘s interest was keeping Jose Padilla off the street so he couldn‘t do damage, he should have been charged with a crime, and the judge also says if the president doesn‘t think there‘s enough legal authority for to hold someone like this, then he should go to Congress and get the laws changed.
Now the judge has given the government 45 days to release Jose Padilla from custody. You can be certain that the Justice Department will appeal this decision and try to put a stay on that release date. This happened once before, you might remember, in the appeals court in New York. They said the same thing. He can‘t be held. The government got a stay on that. That went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the court said sorry you were in the wrong court, you need to start over, and this is the first part of the new round now.
The judge in South Carolina where the case was refiled at the Supreme Court‘s direction, the federal judge there saying that the—there is no legal authority to hold someone like Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant. Now as you understand, Dan, that doesn‘t necessarily mean he‘d be a free man because the government would probably immediately file criminal charges and then arrest him, but then he‘d have all the legal protections that anybody does in the criminal courts.
ABRAMS: Right. All right. Pete Williams thanks very much.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
ABRAMS: We‘re going to try and do a debate on this tomorrow night.
This is—it‘s a big ruling...
ABRAMS: ... from a federal court that could have a big, big impact on the war on terror. Tomorrow night we‘re going to try and do this.
Coming up, Jackson team, defense, opening statements, they lay into the family. Making the accusations here, just listing all of the problems that this mother has had in the past, all the lies that she‘s told. How did it play?
And the man police say is the BTK serial killer in court for the first time tomorrow. He‘s reportedly admitted to six murders, so why might he not face the death penalty?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S ATTORNEY: Believing that children are the true example of God‘s beauty, innocence and purity, Michael has devoted as much of his life to helping the world‘s children. He has donated millions of dollars to healing children with disease, helping children with Aids, and traveling the world to emphasize the importance and welfare of our children. Michael Jackson would never harm a child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Michael Jackson‘s attorney Tom Mesereau there, he got his first opportunity to address the jury this afternoon and he was not quite as kind as you heard in that particular statement. This time, he was going after the credibility of the accuser‘s family.
Jennifer London was in the courtroom for the end of the opening statement that occurred or at least the end of today‘s opening statement which occurred just minutes ago. She joins us now with the details. Jennifer, how much—how far did he go with this assault on the family?
JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, the afternoon session that I was in, he spent the entire time saying that they‘re going to concentrate on who these people are and what they‘ve done, these people being the accuser‘s mother and her family. Mesereau is spending a lot of time telling the jury that right after she applied for disability, the mother then went out and spent $23,000 on a new car. Then she applied for welfare and food stamps, never disclosing that she had received some money from stars like Chris Tucker and never disclosing that she had received a fair sum of money from the settlement with J.C. Penney.
Mesereau also outlining all of the shopping the mother did while she was supposedly being falsely imprisoned by Michael Jackson. Mesereau talked about at least six different shopping trips, everything from shopping for clothes, trips to the day spa, manicures, pedicures—the shopping trips totaling more than $3,300. Again, Mesereau saying to the jury all of this while she was supposedly being falsely imprisoned.
Mesereau also providing, Dan, what may have been sort of a motive for why she may have made what they call these false child molestation allegations against Jackson. Mesereau saying as soon as she realized that Jackson was not going to support them forever, and that they could not live at Neverland Ranch forever and that they were not going to get rich off of Martin Bashir‘s documentary, Mesereau saying she did not go to the police with the alleged molestation claim.
Dan, Thomas Mesereau did not finish with his opening statement today.
He will continue tomorrow when court begins.
ABRAMS: All right. Jennifer thanks a lot. Back with me, all right Mickey Sherman, you know, so that‘s the defense‘s argument, but how do they deal with the fact that she didn‘t sue? I mean that‘s what the prosecutor Tom Sneddon kept saying. She didn‘t sue; instead she went to the police.
SHERMAN: Well first of all she went to a lawyer first and the lawyer may have advised her not to bring a lawsuit because it would certainly impact any prosecution. But you know, these days, Dan, as you well know, you don‘t always get the money from the big case in a lawsuit. Amber Frey book deal, you know what I‘m saying?
I mean there‘s a lot—there‘s a big pot of gold at the end of these big cases for a lot of peripheral players, much less the main player, so it may not be the lawsuit that she was looking to cash in on. It could have been the book deal. It could have been the movie of the week and it may very well have just been the celebritydom or the fact that maybe she‘s part of the big case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dan...
ABRAMS: Jeanine, let me...
ABRAMS: Hang on. Let me just read one more from Mesereau. “She knew exactly what was happening. She had one problem. She wanted money and she didn‘t see that coming. We‘ll show you that all she cared about was how do I profit, how do I get distribution rights.”
PIRRO: Look, in 1993, the 15-year-old in that case or 14-year-old, made $23 million without even bringing the case to law enforcement. The following year, another victim, in a child sexual assault, got 2.5 million, so what is this woman hoping for?
PIRRO: A million dollar book deal maybe at the end of the day after she goes through hell for two years. That makes no sense. She came forward with her child who—and by the way, this whole case will depend upon whether or not he is deemed to be credible. It‘s not about her. It‘s about the child. It‘s about the corroborating evidence of the sexual assault. It‘s about the people at Neverland who saw this boy drunk. It‘s about the stewardesses who served him alcohol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dan, if I may comment...
PIRRO: It‘s about the pornographic magazines with his fingerprints on them. This isn‘t about milk and cookies.
ABRAMS: Bob McNeil.
MCNEIL: All right. Thank you. I hear what Jeanine is saying, but understand this. There‘s a strategy, when you have a civil case, potential civil case on behalf of this young man or the mother or the other brother, what you want to do is you want to wait. Let the prosecution proceed. I think the lawyers in here knew that it was a credibility case, and they wanted to see what would happen in the criminal case first.
Remember, you don‘t have to file a case, a civil case until the boy reaches the age of 18 and a year after that, so they can wait. There‘s no rush. And it‘s better off to do that and then bring your civil case afterwards and I believe that was the strategy on behalf of the...
PIRRO: But Bob, the burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. Why risk losing that case when in a civil case it‘s the preponderance of the evidence, a far less burdensome standard...
MCNEIL: No, but it doesn‘t...
PIRRO: ... to the plaintiffs.
MCNEIL: It doesn‘t matter whether this criminal case is won or lost. What happens is the district attorney takes all of his resources and does all the research for you and then you put your civil case on...
MCNEIL: ... and it‘s much easier.
ABRAMS: Whether she actually wanted money in this case or not, she is going to come out stinking out of this case. I mean, they talked today—number 18 here—about all the people that she supposedly approached to get money for her son, Jay Leno, George Lopez, Mike Tyson, Jim Carrey, I mean all people that the defense team claims that she went after.
All right, let me take another break here. Stick around. Coming up, the first witness is set to testify tomorrow. Here at the Jackson case, we will have a preview of what to expect.
And some tense moments at the home of Laci and Scott Peterson as Scott Peterson‘s mother tries to move items out of the house. The police were called, there were words exchanged. The details are coming up.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a mystery witness in the Michael Jackson case who could save Michael Jackson, but will she be able to testify? We‘ll preview the first witnesses to take the stand coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: I love my community and I have great faith in our justice system. Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court. I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Welcome back to his community, Santa Maria, California. Michael Jackson‘s lawyers are almost finished with their opening statement for the—for this case. There‘s still a little bit to go. And just two days ago, this past Saturday, a possible break for Jackson‘s team. We heard about it in the opening statement today. A mystery witness in the Jackson case revealed, name is Mary Hosler (ph), a paralegal who worked with an attorney representing the mother of Jackson‘s accuser.
It was in another case, it was a case against the department store, J.C. Penney five years ago. The paralegal was deposed this weekend, questioned by both the prosecution and the defense. According to Hosler (ph), the boy‘s mother said she lied about being assaulted by a J.C. Penney security guard so she could get money from the department store. And she further says that the bruises suffered by the mom in the wake of the supposed J.C. Penney attack were inflicted by someone else not the store security guard.
She is a key witness for the defense or at least could be as they try to diminish the credibility of the accuser and his family. Building the argument that the family has a history of making false allegations. So Bob McNeil, isn‘t there an attorney-client problem here? This is a paralegal who was working for this woman‘s own attorney and she‘s going to come forward and say she lied, she lied, she told me she lied, but can she say that?
MCNEIL: I don‘t know that it applies in a situation where a person has committed a crime. I mean, if she lied in this and did it under oath and she would have had to have made the statement under oath, that‘s a perjury, and I don‘t know that she can bring up the attorney-client privilege to keep that from coming in.
ABRAMS: Wait, how does the—wait the attorney-client privilege gets waived, Bob, just—if you commit some sort of crime? So if anyone lies under oath, their lawyer is allowed to raise their hand and say, hey, he lied.
MCNEIL: I‘m talking about the fact that the statement itself is the crime, not the fact that the person is a criminal being represented by an attorney. That‘s a different situation. But you‘re talking about a situation here where she filed a false claim against the insurance company for J.C. Penney. That‘s a crime and the insurance companies advised plaintiffs about that and advised them not to do it, so I just don‘t know that for sure that the attorney-client privilege would apply in this case to prevent this evidence from coming in, in this case.
ABRAMS: Mickey, is she going to be able to testify?
SHERMAN: I don‘t know. I got some problems with the attorney-client privilege there. I think it may very well apply. I think Sneddon may be able to keep it out, but if it does come in, Dan, I mean it‘s not only lying. The allegation is that she lied under oath. And there‘s a big difference between lying and lying under oath. When that woman gets up and testifies in the case against Michael Jackson, if she has a demonstrated or proven history of having lied under oath in a prior occasion, I‘ll tell you, Tom Mesereau will have a field day doing a cross-examination and a bigger field day during the final argument.
ABRAMS: This is huge, Jeanine. I mean, you know you were—we were talking about this before. You were kind of minimizing it, so what, they‘re going to talk about her past. If they get a paralegal in there who says that in another case she made up stories about being assaulted and she admitted she made them up, that‘s not going to blow this case for the prosecutors?
PIRRO: Look, first of all, it‘s a collateral matter as it relates to the mother and this alleged paralegal. The paralegal is bound by the same attorney-client rules that the attorney is. I don‘t even know if it comes out, I don‘t know if it‘s true, but like anything else, it‘s got to be tested, there‘s got to be a direct and a cross-examination. I‘m not ready to say...
PIRRO: ... that this crime didn‘t occur because a paralegal says the mother admitted to her for whatever reason...
PIRRO: ... which doesn‘t make any sense. Come on, Dan. This is about the 13-year-old boy. It‘s not about his mother. And you can‘t trash a 13-year-old...
PIRRO: ... because he‘s a cancer victim, so you trash his mother.
ABRAMS: Well, wait a second, I think they‘ll probably trash the 13-year-old in this case as well, saying...
PIRRO: That‘s going to be very dangerous.
ABRAMS: ... his mother—they have to. They have—they cannot just let this boy get up there and make allegations and say oh you know what, he‘s a cancer victim, as a result we‘re not going to say—they—when this boy gets up on the stand, they‘re going to try and prove that he‘s been influenced by his mother and that she‘s gotten him to lie in the past and that this is just another example...
SHERMAN: That‘s not going after the young man. I disagree. I don‘t think they‘re going to go after this young boy. He‘s a victim. There‘s no way of getting around that. He‘s either a victim of Michael Jackson or he‘s a victim of his mother or both.
SHERMAN: I think they‘re going to go and vilify the mother and say...
SHERMAN: ... that this young man has been victimized...
ABRAMS: But they still have to show...
SHERMAN: ... by his mother...
ABRAMS: Wait—but they‘re not going to just let his testimony go unchallenged. This is not going to be like another case where you have a cancer victim and you walk around and you‘re so careful what you say. Jim Thomas, you now Tom Sneddon pretty well. Look, he‘s going to have to be careful. This is going to be a tricky matter, but I can‘t imagine that he‘s just going to let this boy‘s testimony go—that the defense is just going to let this testimony go unchallenged.
THOMAS: No, I think you can count on the defense going after the boy because Tom Sneddon will say yes, the problem is with the mother and he knows that, he recognizes it, but he says just because the mother is problematic, that‘s not the same for the kids. Also we all know people who are dysfunctional. You‘re not going to have a pedophile who picks a family that is not dysfunctional. If you ask your viewers out there how many of your children will allow a 13-year-old son to sleep with a 45-year-old man nights on end, I think you would find very few.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dan...
THOMAS: So I think the mother is going to be recognized as a problem, but the emphasis...
ABRAMS: But if the mother filed, Bob, if the mother filed a false claim against J.C. Penney and she made up that story, her son was also involved in making false claims. Remember, this happened all because the boy was accused of shoplifting at J.C. Penney and then he and his brother and everyone else are questioned about what happened there. If that was an entirely false accusation, that likely means that the boy was up to something as well.
MCNEIL: Dan, you‘re absolutely right. You see it‘s really about how you go after the complaining witness in this case and his mother. You just do it a different way. You don‘t come at him and being harsh but you just lay out the facts and you just break this boy down so that he admits to some lies and then he admits to some more lies and then he admits that his mother influenced him. That‘s the way you have to do it and Mesereau is going to do it just like that if he‘s got the ammunition to do it with.
ABRAMS: All right, let me lay out who—we‘ve learned that the witnesses are going to be Martin Bashir expected to be an early witness. He was the one who, you know was the guy who made that tape, “Living With Michael Jackson”, that the prosecutors are saying was the reason that all of this started.
Ann Gabriel, Jackson‘s former publicist is going to testify about some statements that Jackson made about the mother, in essence saying things like we got her on tape and we‘re going to make her out to be—I don‘t even want to say what he said—a crack “blank”.
From the Sheriff‘s Department who‘s going to talk about forensics and then Dawn Hobbs, “Santa Barbara News-Press” reporting that a videographer for the Sheriff‘s Department is going to testify that the accuser‘s sister is going to testify—that two flight attendants are going to testify as well.
You know, Mickey, it seems to me the biggest problem that the defense team has here is the liquor.
SHERMAN: Lost you (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I assume what you‘re asking me is the fact that some of the witnesses are not associated with one team or the other.
ABRAMS: No, no, Mickey, what I was saying is that the liquor is going to be the biggest problem for the defense. The fact that you‘re going to have witnesses, flight attendants who are going to say yes, we were pouring it into coke cans, yes, he‘s sitting there with the boy, you‘re going to have other people who are going to say the boy was acting drunk.
SHERMAN: I don‘t know. I got to tell you, I think there‘s a lot of people who give liquor to young kids. I mean it‘s not—it shouldn‘t be condoned, but I don‘t think this jury is going to be focusing in on that.
SHERMAN: I think they want to see if there‘s a touching...
SHERMAN: I don‘t think...
ABRAMS: Mickey, I got to tell you...
PIRRO: ... how do you give liquor...
ABRAMS: ... no one is going to accept...
PIRRO: ... to a stage four...
PIRRO: ... cancer patient who is 13...
ABRAMS: Yes, yes, yes...
PIRRO: ... years old and it‘s not just...
ABRAMS: ... no one is going to accept that. Yes...
PIRRO: ... it‘s the security guards who see the boy drunk. It‘s the
· his personal valet who brings in the vodka and the wine to the boy, Michael Jackson and his brother...
ABRAMS: And he‘s got one kidney and no spleen.
SHERMAN: Inappropriate. Inappropriate, but it‘s not going to convict him of child molestation simply on the evidence of giving alcohol. I don‘t believe it. There‘s got to be more here.
ABRAMS: Wait. But he‘s not just charged with child molestation. He‘s charged with four counts of giving the boy alcohol to further—I mean they also have to prove that the reason he gave him the alcohol was to further this criminal activity...
ABRAMS: ... but...
SHERMAN: They‘ve got to get both sides of the puzzle...
ABRAMS: All right, the opening statements...
PIRRO: What about the pornographic magazines?
ABRAMS: Yes, you know, the judge won‘t let them use the word pornographic...
ABRAMS: ... it‘s silly. Instead they‘re using the word sexually explicit. All right, barely legal as a sexually—anyway. All right. Jeanine Pirro, Bob McNeil, Jim Thomas, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) we got more of the opening statements tomorrow. I‘ll still be here in Santa Maria.
And the police called to Scott and Laci Peterson‘s Modesto home this weekend. Peterson‘s family, Scott Peterson‘s apparently trying to move items out of the couple‘s home. Laci‘s mom showed up. It got ugly. The details coming up next.
And what is Gary Coleman doing at the Michael Jackson trial?
ABRAMS: Back now with our “Just A Minute” segment. I lay out today‘s other legal stories. My guest has a minute to discuss each issue with me. Back with us is criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.
All right. Issue one: Dennis Rader, suspect in the BTK murders, makes his first court appearance tomorrow via two-way video. Rader was arrested Friday. Sources say he admitted to six of the 10 killings he‘s being held in connection with. The governor of Kansas is saying that DNA evidence was key to cracking the case. Rader, a married father of two, a Cub Scout leader, served as president of his church council.
Question: Can prosecutors pursue the death penalty against Rader?
There are some issues here, Mickey.
SHERMAN: Yes, based upon the murders that he‘s being charged with or accused of right now, no. At that time apparently Kansas did not have the death penalty, so what they‘re going to have to do is find other murders that he may have committed after the death penalty was reinstated. But I got to tell you that doesn‘t mean they‘re necessarily still going to go for the death penalty.
Sometime and we saw this in Ted Bundy‘s case, they‘ll trade off the no death penalty in order to solve some unsolved murders. That may be a factor. And we saw in the Green River killings up in Oregon and Washington that the community said you know, we don‘t want to ask for the death penalty because it‘s going to cost us too much money to the taxpayers. So it‘s not carved in stone if they‘re ever going to go for the death penalty even if they have the legal ability to do so.
ABRAMS: Isn‘t Ted Bundy dead, Mickey?
SHERMAN: He‘s still dead. But...
ABRAMS: Yes, he‘s dead.
SHERMAN: ... what he tried to do is bargain for more time saying you know I killed other people. I can put other parents‘ minds at ease, letting them know where their daughters are buried, if you want to just keep me alive and at that point they said no, the hell with you.
ABRAMS: Issue two: Kobe Bryant‘s attorneys have announced that the basketball star‘s long awaited deposition has been postponed. It was originally scheduled for Friday. It would have been the first time Bryant had to testify under oath about the alleged sexual assault. So question, does this mean a settlement is in the works? Sounds like it to me, Mick.
SHERMAN: It might. Then again it may mean that one of the lawyers is on vacation in Snowmass. You know, it doesn‘t really—I think we tend to read into too much of these things. But I got to tell you this is a guy...
ABRAMS: Mickey, you‘re not representing one of them, so maybe it‘s not that issue...
ABRAMS: ... that would probably be the issue.
SHERMAN: I got to tell you, it—but by the same token, Dan, this is such an unimportant issue to Kobe Bryant. He has got boatloads of money. There is—the only downside is I think is he‘s going to get some bad P.R., which that ship kind of sailed some time ago. So this whole lawsuit is like a gnat, annoying gnat around his face. He‘s going to settle it eventually. I don‘t think it‘s going to be...
ABRAMS: How much...
SHERMAN: How much? We‘ll never know...
ABRAMS: What would be your guess as to how much?
SHERMAN: Three, four, five million bucks. Maybe more. You know, there‘s no leverage any more. The criminal case is gone. He can take his chances in court. How much worse can his reputation get? He has got his job. He has got his family. He‘s got a future in the NBA. I think the endorsements will start to come back. I don‘t know which ones, but eventually they probably will. So his problems are essentially over. It‘s just a question of paying money and letting lawyers make a few dollars.
ABRAMS: Issue three: And this one—the Modesto police called to the vacant home once occupied by Scott Peterson and his wife Laci. On Saturday neighbors reported a loud argument—turns out it‘s between Laci‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, and Scott‘s mother and brother, Jackie and John—Sharon Rocha confronted Scott‘s family apparently as they carried furniture and boxes from the home owned by Scott and Laci. According to John Peterson, they were—quote—“moving out what‘s left.” No arrests were made. So question, Mickey, who owns the contents of that house?
SHERMAN: You know, it‘s not such an easy question and I got to tell you, these types of issues are not necessarily fair. Years ago I was involved in a schoolteacher in our area who killed his wife and two children one night and then hung himself. In the end, both families, the husband‘s family and the wife‘s family says well we don‘t want the house. Well let‘s share it.
Turns out that who got the house, the husband, even though he murdered both his wife and his two kids, because he died last. Now does that apply here? I‘m not sure. Bottom line is did in fact Laci leave a will and did she leave all her belongings to Scott or is the law such that if she dies it goes to Scott automatically. Then again...
ABRAMS: But wait—but Mickey let‘s be clear.
ABRAMS: The fact that you murdered your wife doesn‘t automatically mean...
ABRAMS: ... that your family doesn‘t get any of your joint belongings?
SHERMAN: Got to be a statute against it. In Connecticut we have one. I got to believe in California they may have one as well, but then again who knows what the laws are like in California on esoteric issues like this. But unless there‘s a law saying that you cannot profit from the—from your murder, then it‘s going to go to believe it or not Scott‘s family. It‘s likely as not they‘ll resolve it...
ABRAMS: All right.
SHERMAN: ... by just divvying it up and today‘s events...
ABRAMS: All right, out of time. Mickey Sherman—Mickey good to see you.
ABRAMS: Thanks. Coming up, why the unprecedented secrecy in the Michael Jackson trial accomplished nada. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the Michael Jackson has been clouded in secrecy since the beginning. That secrecy was a sham as we learned today in the opening statements. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—well, it‘s official. The unprecedented secrecy surrounding the Michael Jackson case, the sealed motions, gag orders, the secret hearings have accomplished, well, nothing. Today‘s opening statements were supposed to be the first time we learned about secret details of the indictment, the names of unindicted co-conspirators, the specifics of what Jackson is alleged to have done and when and where. But it struck me as I was listening in the courtroom that there was almost nothing mentioned today that we didn‘t already know.
Sure there were some details, how many sexual explicit magazines were found at Neverland. Exactly how Michael Jackson‘s alarm system worked in his bedroom. But every other major detail was leaked including the grand jury transcripts. The incredible level of secrecy that Judge Melville imposed here did nothing to protect the potential jury pool. The information was out there. They found jurors who just didn‘t follow the case closely, as they do in every high-profile case. I told you it would happen.
The judge‘s orders may have led to some inaccurate reporting, that‘s about it. Not only was the secrecy unconstitutional, it was a sham, an excuse for both sides. They can claim they don‘t want to try this case in the media while secretly doing just that, trying this case in the media. By law the information should have been released, but as a practical matter the additional safeguards just transformed the release of information into a competitive game.
Another reminder, and as John F. Kennedy once said, secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society. In a case like this, it just didn‘t work.
Coming up in 60 seconds, why was Gary Coleman at the Michael Jackson trial today? It‘s tonight‘s “OH PLEAs!”.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. On Friday, the 15th anniversary of the day that Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage, a Florida judge gave her husband permission to have Terri‘s tube removed on March 18. More delays are possible. The family‘s attorney making numerous filings and I said before, I think it‘s time for this saga to end, now all the courts seem to agree that Terri expressed a desire not to live like this, and doctors seem to agree she‘s in a vegetative state.
From Roseboro, North Carolina, Julia Rogers focuses on the husband. “Correct me if I‘m wrong, but don‘t vows go something like to love, honor and cherish in sickness and in health, keeping only to each other until death do us part. If he doesn‘t respect the vows of marriage he made, then why should he respect her supposed request?”
Well, it‘s the courts ultimately determining, Julia, what she would have wanted for herself, not what he wants for her.
And Joelle Tisch in New York City on the family of Terri Schiavo‘s attorney, David Gibbs. “I‘m sickened by the comments David Gibbs keeps making comparing the removal of the feeding tube from Terri, a brain damaged woman, to the Holocaust, using terms like Hitleresque and gas chambers. This is a sick woman who will never again live a normal life and he‘s comparing her to millions of healthy people who were killed simply because they were Jewish.”
The jury in the Michael Jackson case selected last week, eight men, four women, no African Americans. I said Jackson chose to live in the Santa Barbara area, an area dominated by Hispanics and whites, he can‘t complain now that his neighbors aren‘t racially diverse enough. His lawyer didn‘t even try and change the venue.
From Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Janice Bennett. “The race card is getting old. People are tired of hearing race as an excuse. In 2005 that‘s all it is, an excuse.”
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there‘s just a lot of losers on the defense side, and on the—what‘s the side that...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The offensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The offensive side—no, no, it‘s...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prosecution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prosecution...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you God. I just woke up. I don‘t get up at 5:30, OK? I haven‘t got up at 5:30 in seven years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yes, while the other diminutive actors who came to know Michael Jackson have been staying away from this case, there‘s one who‘s brought his own special touch of madness to the Jackson trial. Fresh from his 2003 run for governor of California, “Diff‘rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman in Santa Maria to share his courtroom insight and entertainer savvy with the public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All Comedy Radio needed a field reporter to cover this madness down here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And while Gary is not sure if he can do more than just state the obvious, he did bring a tattered C-list glamour to the proceedings, giving a new example, giving a perfect example of whether it‘s appropriate or not to say “different strokes for different folks”.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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