Guest: Jim Thomas, Rikki Klieman, Jean Rosenbluth, Amy Dean, Adam Schupack
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, a bombshell in the Michael Jackson trial as Jackson‘s attorneys seem to have caught the accuser‘s brother in a lie.
ABRAMS (voice-over): A Perry Mason-like moment in the courtroom today as the brother of Michael Jackson‘s accuser admits he was wrong about a pornographic magazine he said Jackson showed him. And the boy also admitted he lied under oath in a separate civil lawsuit. Is the prosecution on the ropes?
And the woman who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault back in January files a civil suit against Cosby for assault, emotional distress, and defamation, and she‘s getting graphic about what she says happened.
Plus, investigators find DNA at the scene where a Chicago judge‘s husband and mother were murdered last week. With no suspects matching the new evidence, the question—are police heading down the right track?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, bombshell testimony out of the Michael Jackson case. One of the most important witnesses against Jackson, the accuser‘s brother, admits he lied under oath in a controversial lawsuit the family brought years ago and says Jackson did not show him a pornographic magazine that was admitted into evidence yesterday.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom today and he joins us now. So Mike, let‘s take these one by one. The boy admits he lied in the civil lawsuit. What does he say he lied about?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: He says he lied about his father. Now don‘t forget this is a boy whose parents went through a very, very contentious divorce in the year 2001. A few months before that in the J.C. Penney‘s case, the boy gave his deposition—we‘ve reported about this before—in which he said, among other things, that his father never hit him and his father and mother never fought. His words under oath in a deposition.
A few months later in the divorce litigation he said, as all of the siblings said, his father hit them all daily. They were brutal beatings with hangers, belts, et cetera, et cetera, breaking the sister‘s tailbone she said and on and on. So the boy was asked why did you lie the first time? He said I don‘t know. It was a long time ago. I don‘t remember why. And that was his answer to that, and that I think was the more important moment in the testimony today, Dan.
ABRAMS: Mike, let‘s go over some of these inconsistencies in the—that we have heard so far. All right. So we‘ve got the fact that he lied under oath in the—in this J.C. Penney case. That this magazine that, you know, the prosecutors introduced is not actually the one that was showed to him because the date didn‘t work. And this is one of the key ones. The alarm sounding when he says he witnessed molestation, meaning Jackson‘s bedroom had an alarm system in place, and what defense attorney Tom Mesereau is trying to show here is how is it that you got into the bedroom and saw what you say you saw, that molestation, without Michael Jackson hearing the alarm.
TAIBBI: All right. I think this is really important, Dan. Much more so than the magazine, which was not quite a Perry Mason moment. It was one of those instances where this very sophisticated adult attorney is dealing with this unsophisticated 14-year-old monosyllabic witness and he‘s saying is that the magazine you identified. He says yes. That‘s the one? Yes, it is. The woman on the cover dressed in a certain way. Yes, it is. He said well that can‘t be the one Michael Jackson showed you because the date on it is August 2003, months after you say the family last visited Neverland, so that was the kind of gotcha Perry Mason moment.
I think, though, the people listening in court would say that the boy was going yes, yes, yes. He wasn‘t saying yes that‘s the exact one. That would have been more of a gotcha moment. The more important thing, though, is about the alarm system. The boy testified and answered a great many questions by Tom Mesereau saying yes, this is how the alarm system works, but the boy said when the doors closed in Michael Jackson‘s bedroom, you can‘t hear the alarm.
You know that Mesereau was going to say of course you can, introduce witnesses who will demonstrate the system, maybe even that will be the basis for a jury visit to Neverland. When they get up there and they realize that anybody coming into this two floor, two level bedroom, master bedroom of Michael Jackson‘s would trigger the alarm and the alarm would, in fact, be heard. And that would severely contradict the important contradiction of this boy‘s testimony.
ABRAMS: All right, Mike. Thanks a lot.
“My Take”—this could be the beginning of the end for prosecutors. A kid who‘s already lied in a lawsuit and who sort of got caught in another possible misstatement. I‘d be nervous if I were the prosecutors here.
Joining me now criminal defense attorney Rikki Klieman, former federal prosecutor Jean Rosenbluth, and MSNBC analyst and former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas. All right, Jim, you‘re there. You know, you know Tom Sneddon. The fact that you got these witnesses, these kids who are admitting that they lied in a previous lawsuit where the allegation in that lawsuit was sexual abuse and false imprisonment.
JIM THOMAS, FMR. SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: No, the thing that he supposedly lied about was the relationship with his father. And remember, I think he was 9 years old back then. I‘m not even sure he knew what under oath meant. So I wouldn‘t hold that much against him. I think the issue probably today more so than any of the ones you have mentioned, frankly, is the issue where he said that he sent a card to Michael Jackson with a certain wording on it that he says he got from another card. And I think the defense is going to claim, no, that was something that the mother told him to write down. And I think that that‘s probably going to be more problematic tomorrow than any of the issues that we have talked about yet today.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know, Rikki, it seems to me like there—again, this is a young kid, so you give him a little bit of slack, but boy, this is exactly, I think, how the defense had hoped this case was going to go.
RIKKI KLIEMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Indeed, Dan, and one of the things we see is that often times testimony is like a tennis match. That is you see the ball go to one side of the court. Yesterday was a devastating day against Michael Jackson. Now it bounces to the other side of the court where Tom Mesereau really steps up to the plate and he winds up in a situation where he can show a young boy is lying.
I think the key of what we‘ve heard so far really is that alarm and I agree with Mike Taibbi 100 percent. If I‘m defending this case, I make a motion for a jury view. I‘d go there, put the jurors in the position of what they could hear with some testimony that says the alarm system is today as it was in March of 2003. That could be the death knell for this case.
ABRAMS: All right. And Jean, let me read you what some of the inconsistent statements are, all right, and this is of the boy himself as to exactly what he saw—and again, let me warn you, this is graphic, so, again, that‘s out there. This is graphic. All right.
All right. Question: There are times you said that Michael Jackson touched his butt and not his crotch, right?
I never said he touched his butt.
Did you ever tell anyone that when you saw Michael Jackson in bed with your brother he was rubbing his butt?
But then yet, there is an account from the grand jury testimony of the doctor who interviewed the boy. Michael and the accuser were in bed, and he, meaning the brother, saw him rubbing his penis against the accuser‘s buttocks. He also witnessed Michael Jackson kissing him on the cheek and touching his buttocks.
I mean you know this is it. I mean the key is what did the boy see? And if there are inconsistencies in how the boy has characterized what he saw, just like for any witness, it‘s a big problem.
JEAN ROSENBLUTH, FORMER PROSECUTOR: That‘s true, but there is not a witness in history who has every told exactly the same story from start to finish, and in fact, if they did, there would probably be allegations that it was rehearsed. There are certainly inconsistencies in what the boy testified to today, but I don‘t think any of them are fatal.
I mean frankly, one issue of barely legal probably looks very similar to another. The alarm is probably the worst thing, but then again, if you believe the boy, his brother slept through the alarm, so how loud can it be? And frankly, why does Michael Jackson have an alarm leading up to his bedroom? I mean the prosecution can exploit that to say he was doing bad things in there and wanted to know when somebody was coming. So I don‘t think anything...
ABRAMS: Right. But if he‘s got an alarm...
ABRAMS: ... but if he‘s got an alarm that according to, I guess the prosecutor, this doesn‘t even really warn him of anything, right? I mean the prosecutor...
ABRAMS: ... basically saying, well, yes, he‘s got an alarm, but according to the boy, you really can‘t hear it.
ROSENBLUTH: I think that the inference is going to be that he was so engrossed in what he was doing that he just didn‘t hear it. But...
KLIEMAN: ... probably a very, very light alarm...
ABRAMS: All right. Jim, let me just read—let me read about the alarm. This is from the testimony today.
Question: How do you know when there is an alarm that goes off when you enter Michael Jackson‘s hallway?
Because while you‘re walking through the hallway you can hear it.
And have you heard it before?
When did you hear the alarm that goes off when you enter Michael Jackson‘s hallway?
Every time you walk through it.
During the two times you claim you saw Michael Jackson touch your brother in bed, that bell went off, didn‘t it?
Go ahead, Jim.
THOMAS: Well, he calls it an electric bell. He doesn‘t call it an alarm. And I don‘t know if that in his mind has anything to do with how loud it is. What he did say, too, is that if you are in the room over by the bed, you cannot hear the alarm with the door closed. And he said in both occasions at the time that he went up that staircase that the door was closed.
So I think—I know that the defense has already asked for a visit. The judge has not yet granted that, but that may be an issue to where people are eventually going to be able to find out whether you can hear it on the bed or not and with your previous guest‘s statement how engrossed was Michael Jackson at the time...
THOMAS: ... I think that will also come into play.
ABRAMS: Rikki, I mean we all sit here and we talk about what are the most important inconsistencies, which one—but you know it just seems to me when you look at this from sort of the gut, right, and you got a 9-year-old kid at the time who‘s lying in the context of a civil lawsuit that his mother is filing against a company claiming sexual abuse and false imprisonment, the exact same claims that are being made here, boy, you have a 9-year-old who‘s lying in that kind of case. It just—I don‘t know. It just makes me wonder whether the jury is going to be able to accept this kid‘s testimony.
KLIEMAN: Well of course, that‘s the ultimate question. Obviously, Mr. Sneddon believe that the testimony not only of this youngster, but also the accuser, also the accuser‘s mother, that all three people and the sister, let‘s say four people in the family had problems. He knew this. This is not anything that is a revelation to him, but nonetheless, he believed that that testimony would carry the day.
Ultimately it‘s going to be up to the jurors, but one of the problems is this. Sexual molestation cases by their very nature make jurors queasy about rendering a verdict in favor of guilt unless they really, truly believe the accuser. In this case the brother of the accuser says that the accuser was sleeping, so he may be the most important witness in this case. And his testimony is troubling.
ABRAMS: And remember, we‘re going to talk about other incidents that the boy says he was awake for. The grand jury, the boy says oh yes, I remember two times being molested and there are other times I kind of remember it in a dreamlike state. I guess referring to the fact that knowing his brother is going to say he was molested while he was sleeping. This case—this is a problem. There are problems with this case.
All right. Rikki Klieman...
ABRAMS: ... please stand by. Jim, I‘ll give you a chance in one second. Let me take a quick break. We will continue this discussion in a moment.
And coming up, the woman who claims Bill Cosby assaulted her is now suing Cosby in civil court. She‘s got a pretty graphic description of what she says happened.
Plus, investigators find DNA outside the house where a Chicago judge‘s husband and mother were murdered. Can‘t find the suspect yet to match.
Your e-mails to email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Bill Cosby‘s accuser now taking her case to civil court. She‘s got some pretty graphic claims. It‘s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, ACCUSED OF MOLESTATION: Caused a nightmare for my family, my children, and me. I never intend to place myself in so vulnerable a position ever again. 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: Well he‘s getting that trial. We‘ll have to see how he feels about the community after the case is over. All right. We‘re talking about some inconsistencies in the testimony of the accuser‘s brother who testified today. He is now 14. He was 12 at the time. And he conceded that in a case a few years ago he had lied when he was 9 years old in another case his mother had brought.
Question: When you stated under oath in the J.C. Penney deposition in the year 2000 that your mom and dad never fight, were you telling the truth?
You were asked if your dad ever hit you and you said never, right?
Was that the truth?
Please tell the jury why you lied under oath.
I don‘t remember. It was like five years ago. I don‘t remember nothing.
Former Santa Barbara Sheriff Jim Thomas wanted to jump in before. Go ahead, Jim.
THOMAS: Yes, I wouldn‘t be putting a nail in the coffin of this case just yet because the boy has still stuck by the alcohol, the use of the pornographic magazines and the two acts that he saw and he hasn‘t wavered from those at all. And it‘s going to be difficult I think for Tom Mesereau to get him off of that. And remember the judge still has to make a decision on the 1108 motion in order to allow 1993 evidence to come into this case.
THOMAS: If it does, you‘re going to have at least one if not two other victims and other witness who will say they saw Michael Jackson inappropriately touch other boys come into this case and add it onto what‘s already here.
ABRAMS: Yes and look, and I have always said that I think the evidence in the ‘93 case was stronger than the evidence in this case. But you know, Rikki, I expected that you know the boys weren‘t going the get up on the witness stand and start crying and say I‘m lying, you know, oh, actually that‘s not what happened. The bottom line is the way the defense is going to win this case is by undercutting the credibility of this family.
ABRAMS: I wasn‘t expecting them to back off their statements about what happened.
KLIEMAN: Well, those things don‘t happen in court except on things like the old Perry Mason. No one says “I lied, I lied.” It doesn‘t work that way. The question for this jury obviously in the end is why should I believe this young man and his brother and his sister and his mother or why shouldn‘t I?
KLIEMAN: And this is a case where the jurors also we have to remember, bring their common sense into the jury box. They get to watch these children and they have to say would I really convict someone who might do 20 years in jail...
ABRAMS: And Jean...
KLIEMAN: ... as a result of this.
ABRAMS: ... one of the things the prosecutor, though, has going for them is the fact that they‘re all telling the same story. I mean either this family got together, which the defense would say, to concoct this story, or they‘re all telling pretty similar accounts of what happened.
ROSENBLUTH: Well, I think that‘s right. And I think one important thing to remember about the testimony today is that the boy stuck to his guns and he repeatedly said that nobody coached him during that J.C. Penney testimony or the implication is now. And with that J.C. Penney testimony, it is true that he admitted lying, but what did he lie about? He lied about the fact that his dad was beating him up and his parents fought. And those things are embarrassing and it‘s relatively easy to see how a little 9-year-old boy would be scared to mention...
ROSENBLUTH: ... something like that.
ABRAMS: All right. We shall see. Jim Thomas, good to see you.
Thanks a lot. Rikki and Jean are going to stay with us.
Coming up, Bill Cosby not charged criminally after a woman claimed he
sexually assaulted her. Now the accuser is taking her story to civil court
· money damages. Wait until you hear what she says happened.
Plus, the P.C. police are back. When nature calls, most of us view our options as men‘s room or women‘s room. Now some activists are demanding gender-neutral bathrooms.
ABRAMS: The woman who told police that Bill Cosby drugged her and sexually assaulted her filed a civil suit in federal court today seeking payment for the emotional distress she says she suffered and also for the damage to her reputation she said came after certain news organizations released her name to the public after Cosby and his lawyers made derogatory statements about her to the press. Her suit also says that after she went to the police, Cosby and his lawyers called her four times and offered her money.
The Pennsylvania prosecutor decided last month there wasn‘t enough credible evidence to pursue any criminal charges against Cosby at the time the prosecutor said—quote—“because a civil action with a much lower standard of proof is possible, the district attorney renders no opinion concerning the credibility of any party involved so as not to contribute to the publicity and taint prospective jurors. Cosby‘s lawyer said at the time he was looking forward to moving on with his life. That plan is likely to be complicated by this suit.
Joining us once again is Rikki Klieman. All right, Rikki, so first question, this is the kind of case that would probably settle, right?
KLIEMAN: Yes, of course, these cases always settle. It‘s very rare that they go forward and they settle for good reason. Because the person who‘s being accused wants to stop this from going any further and the person who is accusing really wants the money, at least wants the money because you can‘t get an apology except, of course, in Kobe Bryant‘s case...
ABRAMS: But so what—I mean look the allegations here is not rape. It‘s that he—let me read from number two here. The allegation is Cosby offered plaintiff three blue pills which he told her were herbal medication, which would help her relax. Plaintiff questioned if she needed to take all three pills. Cosby assured her that all three pills were necessary.
Within a short period of time, plaintiff‘s knees began to shake, her limbs felt immobile, she felt dizzy and weak, and she began to feel only barely conscious. That‘s according to the accuser in this case. And then she says from there Cosby effectively molested her to a certain degree. I don‘t want to get—it‘s so graphic that I don‘t want to sort of get into exactly what she says happened. But it was some—it wasn‘t rape, but it was, I guess you could call it molestation.
ABRAMS: If that‘s the allegation, how much do cases like this settle for? I mean let‘s assume the accuser believes it‘s true. If you‘re the lawyer, how much would you be willing to settle for in a case like this?
KLIEMAN: Well, Dan, I hate to give you the lawyer‘s answer it depends, but I‘m going to give you that answer because it‘s not just what is the injury worth, which is how you would initially value a case like this, but it‘s also how much is the defendant worth.
ABRAMS: He‘s worth a lot.
KLIEMAN: And one of the ways—he‘s worth a lot...
ABRAMS: Right, so what are we talking about?
KLIEMAN: ... and of the ways...
ABRAMS: A couple of million?
KLIEMAN: ... the cases get settled—it could be a couple of million and then it could be 500,000. It could be 250,000. One of the ways that we used to settle sexual assault cases before they ever went forward in my law firm was that we would scour the country for similar verdicts or settlement records and we would say, look, these are the figures. This is reasonable. We want a reasonable settlement. All of that goes out the window when you have a celebrity with the money and power and prestige of Bill Cosby who doesn‘t want his reputation going down the tube...
ABRAMS: So what do you say if you‘re Bill Cosby‘s lawyer and he says look, I didn‘t do anything wrong. I didn‘t do any—I didn‘t do the things that she claims I did. Do you still suggest that he settle?
KLIEMAN: Yes, of course, Dan. And one of the things that, again, I did in my law firm was when I represented people who were accused of these kinds of crimes, if they‘re crimes, or in this case, a civil case about money, I would say, look, what is it worth to you to make this thing go away even if you didn‘t do it. And that‘s the unfortunate problem with many of these cases. People pay money to make them go away even if they haven‘t done something wrong.
ABRAMS: Rikki Klieman, thanks a lot.
KLIEMAN: Nice to see you, Dan.
ABRAMS: ... investigators find DNA outside the home where a Chicago judge‘s mother and husband were killed last week. No suspects match the evidence, and now some are wondering if the police are on the right track.
They say cats have nine lives. Well some felines in Minnesota might have just eight left if a proposal allows locals to shoot at cats.
And 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 new development in the case of that judge whose family was killed. A call to arms over the Internet by a white supremacist, but first the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. DNA, a fingerprint both recovered from the crime scene. Still no arrest. Over 600 tips, talks to persons of interest, and a $50,000 reward. Still no suspect. The mystery behind the murder of a federal judge‘s family in Chicago remains unsolved.
Last Monday Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow arrived home from work to find her mother and husband shot to death execution style. Among the evidence investigators are looking at, a cigarette butt left in the kitchen sink as well as several left in the area where an unknown car was reportedly parked, a beverage can from that same area, a shard of glass with a fingerprint believed to be from the broken basement window—might have served as a point of entry—the window frame, a piece of cloth or plastic found near the window. A glove found near the home. Two bullet casings found in the house, and a mop believed to have been used to clean up blood.
The DNA found on one of the cigarette butts failed to match any of the more than two million criminal profiles in the national database, but—nor does it match that of anyone in the judge‘s family. And so just who are these persons of interest the authorities are focusing on? Well, we know about one lead, white supremacist Matthew Hale convicted in 2003 of soliciting Judge Lefkow‘s murder, but he‘s been in prison awaiting his sentencing next month.
And now the weekly phone calls and twice-monthly visits from his parents halted indefinitely, perhaps because Hale released a statement from prison last week through his mother, denying any part in the killings of the judge‘s family. And just this week, a sort of twist in the case. Investigators now looking at a Web site run by a white supremacist seeking personal information on three more judges.
Phil Rogers of our Chicago affiliate WMAQ has the story.
PHIL ROGERS, WMAQ REPORTER (voice-over): It‘s all right there today on the Hal Turner Web site. References to all three Seventh Circuit judges who ruled against Matt Hale in a trademark case with a solicitation for readers to come up with their home addresses.
(on camera): Can you understand in a city like Chicago, which is very much in shock right now over what happened at Judge Lefkow‘s home, they‘re very concerned about the fact you are on the Internet soliciting the home addresses of federal judges.
HAL TURNER, WEB SITE HOST: I can understand why people might think that‘s something to be concerned about. Certainly I have no malicious intent. I don‘t intend to hurt the judges or to incite any harm to the judges, but you know you have to have faith in the American people.
ROGERS (voice-over): Maybe so, but it‘s clear today that just a week to the day after Judge Lefkow‘s family was murdered, the U.S. Marshal Service is not amused.
SHANNON METZKER, U.S. MARSHAL‘S OFFICER: A level of discomfort? Absolutely. You know, we want to get to the bottom of is this a viable threat and do we need to you know, establish a protection detail on this. It‘s—our oldest mission is protecting the judiciary. We‘ve never lost anyone under protection and we take it very seriously.
ROGERS: Turner‘s Web site is loaded with references to other judges who have been the subject of violence. He still posts a photo of Judge Lefkow with the caption gotcha. But today he insisted that Matt Hale‘s followers should not misconstrue his call for information as a call to arms.
(on camera): Isn‘t there the possibility that people out there in the Internet, in the blogosphere, if you will, will read between the lines of what you said and believe that you are calling on them to go to these judges‘ houses for nefarious purposes?
TURNER: You know, it‘s hard for me to sit here and speculate what might be running through the mind of one of 300 million Americans. People are responsible for what they do. I‘m responsible for what I‘m doing. If someone goes out and commits a criminal act, they‘re going to be held responsible.
ROGERS (voice-over): Phil Rogers, NBS News, Chicago.
ABRAMS: “My Take”—I‘ll say it again. The authorities should use any and every technicality to bring in anyone who is threatening judges or even—I just want to know if there‘s anything they can do about this guy. Joining me now retired Dade County Florida Circuit Court Judge Amy Dean. She received death threats while she was on the bench and Adam Schupack, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago.
All right, so Judge Dean, anything they can do legally against this guy?
AMY DEAN, RETIRED DADE COUNTY FLORIDA JUDGE: Not per se unless they can demonstrate that the way they got the information was illegal. Certainly a judge‘s information is not generally publicly available. But certainly if so-called friends of the judge knew about their private information and gave it to them, I don‘t see immediately what they could do about it.
ABRAMS: This must be—I mean based on your own experiences, pretty scary stuff.
DEAN: It is certainly something that would be very great concern to me obviously. There were times when I just took different routes home. My information wasn‘t generally available, but it certainly gives one pause.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me read exactly what they are asking. Needed immediately, home addresses of the judges, background and biographical information, photos, voting records, property ownership records, info about any skeletons in their closet, alcoholism, drug use, homosexuality, lesbianism, race-mixed families. You know the whole nine yards, the full Monty. Mr. Schupack, what is this guy up to, Hal Turner?
ADAM SCHUPACK, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, Hal Turner has been known to us for some time. He back in April of 2003 when the Lefkow case was proceeding, Turner issued a call on his Web site basically saying it wouldn‘t be legal to kill Judge Lefkow, but he thinks she should be killed. He‘s been saying this stuff for quite some time, so it‘s not surprising that he would be seeking to compile information on other judges in an attempt to intimidate them.
ABRAMS: But it sounds like he knows exactly what he can and can‘t ask for as a legal matter.
SCHUPACK: Well he knows very well what he can and can‘t ask for. And obviously issuing direct threats against individuals is different than posting information about them to your Web site. Very often leaders of different white supremacist groups will post information, will give coded hints that they would not frown upon violence against particular individuals, while at the same time not directly and publicly calling for that violence. But Hal Turner in the past has done that.
ABRAMS: So Judge Dean, are these judges about whom he‘s asking this information, are they going to have to change their lives now as a result of this?
DEAN: Well, I think they need to be more vigilant. I think they have to consider certain things (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with their family, be more watchful, and they may even consider having an escort.
ABRAMS: These are judges who are on the highest court in the land, in the federal court right below the Supreme Court.
DEAN: That‘s true.
ABRAMS: So they don‘t have regular—but yet they still don‘t have as a matter of course protection, right?
DEAN: Well they have tremendous protection in the courthouse, but not as a normal matter do judges have an escort home from law enforcement, that‘s quite true.
ABRAMS: Did that change your life having to do that?
DEAN: It was very disconcerting. In fact, in talking to my kids the other day, they mentioned it was one of the things they remember about growing up is having that police car in front of the house.
ABRAMS: How long did you have the protection for?
DEAN: Thirty days.
ABRAMS: And what was it—I mean how did it work? They would literally go with you to and from work?
DEAN: Yes, and they‘d stay in front of my house all night and when I went to work in the morning, they would leave and I would go to the courthouse.
ABRAMS: Mr. Schupack, do you think white supremacists are behind this?
SCHUPACK: Well, at this point we still don‘t know, and the police are, of course, looking at every lead, not just white supremacist...
ABRAMS: Right. And you hear some people now criticizing the police saying, you know, for example, the person who worked with Judge Lefkow‘s husband now saying well you know they should be looking into his work because you know, maybe there were clients, et cetera who were angry at him. Boy that would be one heck of a coincidence, wouldn‘t it, if that were the case.
SCHUPACK: It would be. At the same time, it makes sense that the police do look at every lead and certainly the white supremacist angle to this case is one that‘s very logical. Matt Hale sits today in prison for soliciting the judge‘s murder. And information about the Lefkows was sent out on countless white supremacist Web sites and chat rooms with calls to do harm to her family.
ABRAMS: All right. This is just an awful case. We‘re going to follow this though. I mean I really want to get to the bottom of who is behind this and we‘re going to stay on top of this.
Let me put up the number real quick. Anyone who has got information on the—on this case, 312-744-8445, 312-744-8445. Judge Dean, Adam Schupack, thanks a lot.
DEAN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up...
SCHUPACK: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... a third bathroom for transsexuals? Come on. And animal lovers listen up. A Wisconsin man wants the law changed so that he can shoot cats.
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 story with me.
With me again is criminal defense attorney Rikki Klieman. All right, Rikki, issue one. What do public bathrooms and marriage have in common? A University of Chicago law professor says they are among the—quote—
“very few spaces in our society divided by sex.” So now some groups want to close that divide by establishing a third category of gender-neutral bathrooms to serve transsexuals, cross dressers, and other people whose sexual identity can be fluid. The activists say the new category is needed so they won‘t be harassed or attacked when they use a pubic facility.
Rikki, I can‘t believe I‘m even asking you this, but this is nonsense, right? I mean this is not going to happen.
KLIEMAN: Well, it might happen, Dan. You know, in Europe there are bathrooms that are gender neutral. Certainly, if you‘re a woman when you stand outside the women‘s room in an airport, you stand outside the women‘s room in a restaurant, and you see the men keep going in and out, in and out, in and out...
ABRAMS: So you make more women‘s bathrooms.
KLIEMAN: ... you‘re standing in line.
ABRAMS: You make more women‘s bathrooms.
KLIEMAN: Well Dan, you know in the world...
ABRAMS: So you want a third...
ABRAMS: ... you want a third—right, you want a third P.C. bathroom for people—and I guess this also involves emotional feelings about it, right? I mean it‘s not just physical. It‘s also if you feel like something of the opposite sex, then you would obviously go to the third bathroom?
KLIEMAN: Well I‘ll tell you, Dan, I think that there may be some people who might carry the day on this one. I think we‘re going a little far with legislation. But I just say this. I would like all bathrooms to be singular and gender neutral, so when I need to go in the restaurant, I get to go.
ABRAMS: Really? I don‘t know—all right, but what about the, you know, big bathrooms? You‘re willing to share with the guys there, got to change their shoes...
KLIEMAN: Well, that may be another story.
ABRAMS: All right. We got to go to issue two. Lacrosse, Wisconsin,
a firefighter wants the law changed so he can shoot any stray cats that
show up in his yard. Mark Smith says that when he gets up in the morning -
· quote—“there‘s cat tracks under my bird feeder. I look at them as an invasive species, plain and simple.” So Smith wants state officials to label domesticated strays as an unprotected species and anyone with a Wisconsin small game license can shoot on sight. So you can imagine, Rikki, cat lovers are howling over this one. So why should...
KLIEMAN: Very good, Dan.
ABRAMS: ... why should stray cats get protection Wisconsin doesn‘t give to other unprotected species like house mice, pigeons, possums, skunks, and weasels?
KLIEMAN: Well, et cetera, et cetera. I‘ll say this, Dan. This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard about. I go with the cat lovers. I think that this is just preposterous. For heaven‘s sake, we should go out and start shooting animals because they are bothering other animals? What happened to the basic laws of evolution?
ABRAMS: ... wait, wait. You‘re allowed to shoot all those...
ABRAMS: ... you‘re allowed to shoot all the animals that I just laid out there with that particular license.
KLIEMAN: Well, but I think that‘s ridiculous, too. I just think...
KLIEMAN: ... that animals should be able to take care of themselves.
KLIEMAN: We shouldn‘t go after those others...
KLIEMAN: ... but Dan, the idea...
ABRAMS: ... a lot of people in a lot of places who would disagree with you about that one.
KLIEMAN: But that won‘t be the first or the last time...
ABRAMS: Yes. And in terms of ridiculousness, it‘s tough for me between this one and the transgender bathrooms one, but anyway...
KLIEMAN: Well I gave you one with a straight face, Dan...
ABRAMS: Yes, exactly. Rikki, good to see you.
KLIEMAN: It‘s great to be with you, Dan.
ABRAMS: See you again soon.
KLIEMAN: Thanks so much for having me.
ABRAMS: Coming up, if you‘re on the terror watch list, there‘s a list of things you can‘t do—fly on planes, work at airports, but you can buy a gun? It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, people on the terror watch list can legally buy guns. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—if you‘re on the FBI‘s terror watch list, there are a lot of things you can‘t do. You can‘t work at an airport. You‘re not suppose to be able to fly on a plane. You can‘t get on a cruise ship, go to the Bahamas, but apparently you can go out and buy yourself a gun. A new report from the independent General Accounting Office in Washington found that terrorists or those suspected of being involved in terrorism are buying guns just as easily as everybody else.
The director of the FBI came out today and confirmed that. In just nine months last year, 47 suspected terrorists legally purchased firearms and according to Director Mueller, there‘s nothing the FBI can do about it under the nation‘s gun laws unless you are a terrorist who also happens to be a convicted felon, a domestic violence offender, an illegal immigrant, mentally deficient, the FBI can‘t stop you from purchasing a personal firearm. Are we saying that our love for guns outweighs our fear of potential terrorists?
And to make things worse, after they‘ve purchased their weapons, the federal government legally had to destroy the background checks within 24 hours. Congress passed that law last year so that the feds wouldn‘t be able to use gun-buying records for law enforcement purposes. This is insane. I know all about the Second Amendment.
I wrote a law review article about it and I know there are serious problems with the terror watch list. There have been numerous cases of mistaken identity. The Department of Homeland Security even admitted in October it‘s doing a pretty shabby job of coordinating the list, but if the list is going to mean anything, it should at least prevent people whose names are on it from buying weapons. If there‘s a mix-up because the watch list is faulty, that can be cleared up with some additional investigation. The airlines do it every day. Congress should act now to make sure terrorists can‘t use this nation‘s lax laws to create private arsenals to use against our own citizens.
Coming up in 60 seconds, you say tomato. I say tomato, but who cares? What I want to know is, is it a fruit or a vegetable? New Jersey‘s figured it out.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. In my “Closing Argument” Friday I said we should add judges and prosecutors to the list of those in society we appreciate because of the risk they take every day facing down bad guys and the risk that that can pose. Many of you echoing the sentiments.
Lance Hamner, a prosecutor Indiana. “I‘ve had death threats come to me from many different directions and at least two hits put out on me for prosecuting a drug dealer killer who we subsequently convicted. It was gratifying to me to have our peril acknowledged. On behalf of myself and my colleagues, I thank you.”
Todd Smith, assistant D.A. in Canton, New York. “On behalf of prosecutors everywhere, thank you.” And thank you to all of you who wrote in those notes.
And speaking of prosecutors, I said if you listen to defense attorneys, prosecutors get the wrong guy in every case they pursue. Public defender investigator Sandra Smutz. “Your comments on the danger some judges and prosecutors face are well taken. However, your stereotypical dismissal of defense attorneys under cuts your argument and makes me wonder about your understanding of democracy.”
Don‘t wonder, Sandra. It‘s OK. The reality is that defense attorneys are representing the bad buys. Sometimes they‘re innocent, but in the vast majority of cases, you are on the side of the criminal. Now look, I respect what you do. Our system could not function without you and some—and let me also point out some defense attorneys are threatened by their clients as well. But it‘s the prosecutors and judges who are far more regularly threatened by the criminals.
In my “Closing Argument” last night I said the suggestion by Giuliana Sgrena, former hostage and Italian journalist for a communist newspaper, that the U.S. military intentionally tried to kill her as her car sped towards the Baghdad airport is absurd. She has a right to be angry, deserves some answers, but she is only hurting the effort to find those answers because now her credibility is at issue.
Nigel Elliott writes, “You may not believe Ms. Sgrena, but her account is the last straw for a world sick and tired of U.S. lies. Because yellow journalism and talking heads brainwashed by Bush like you, more and more Americans with a brain and college education are turning off the TV and going online to read British, Canadian and other foreign English news sites.”
Nothing I can do about that, Nigel. By the way, Nigel, it sure sounds like a British name to me. Who knows?
Mike Doss, “You attacked the credibility of the surviving witness in the Baghdad roadblock by dismissing Giuliana Sgrena as a communist. Not only is it a fallacious argument to attempt to nullify someone‘s testimony merely on the basis of their political ideology, but she was not even driving the car.”
Mike, I dismissed her claim because it‘s ridiculous. The fact that she works for a communist newspaper that‘s repeatedly criticized the war only goes to her wanting a soapbox for her views.
Also last night I said I‘m getting tired of hearing people complain about Martha Stewart‘s action-packed days since her release from prison. She served as much time as anyone else convicted of a similar crime.
Nancy Laucella in North Granby, Connecticut. “The problem with Martha is that she‘s never been humble about her time away. She‘s basically thumbing her nose at the powers who put her in Camp Cupcake. She should just get on with it and forget staging her image comeback on TV.”
And M. Casey in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. “I think some wanted Martha to be broken, apologize and fall apart in public and they‘re still waiting.”
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.
“OH PLEAs!”—for all the smarmy academic snobs out there who like to correct people on tomatoes being fruits (UNINTELLIGIBLE). New Jersey is giving it to the Assembly Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, approved a measure on Monday to officially name the tomato as New Jersey‘s state vegetables.
That‘s right, all you trivia nerds. Tomato as the official state veggie, not fruit. Yes, I know the seeds technically make it a fruit, but that‘s like calling Paris Hilton an actor. By using a century-old Supreme Court ruling that placed a vegetable tariff on tomatoes reasoning that if it‘s typically served with dinner and not as a dessert, it must be a vegetable. The call for an official state vegetable occurred after a group of fourth graders wrote letters to lawmakers to adopt a state fruit.
The winner there was the blueberry, not the tomato, encouraging a campaign for the state vegetable. Some now are going to feel a lot more confident calling a tomato what it is to me. I say a tomato is a vegetable. I know. I know.
That does it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Come on back tomorrow. This Michael Jackson stuff sure is heating up. See you then.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.