Guest: Bo Dietl, John Conyers, Linda Fairstein, Howard Safir, David Farris, Gerald Curry, Robert Vance, John Goger
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A superior court judge and two others are gunned down in a courthouse in Atlanta. How can we protect our judges and prevent this assassination of our system of justice?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Another day of violence against judges. A massive manhunt—manhunt is under way for a man who went on a shooting rampage in an Atlanta courtroom, killing a superior court judge, as well as two others, before fleeing. Are our courthouses and the people who work there receiving adequate protection? Big question.
Robert Vance is a circuit court judge in Alabama. His father was a federal appeals court judge and was killed by a mail bomb delivered to his home in 1989.
But first, we begin tonight with Judge John Goger, who knew Judge Rowland Barnes, who was killed today and works in the same courthouse.
Judge Goger, thank you very much for joining us.
What is your reaction to hearing how this—these events went down today?
JUDGE JOHN GOGER, FRIEND OF JUDGE BARNES: You know, I‘m stunned.
The courthouse in Atlanta is in fact a pretty secure place. What happened today is absolutely bizarre. I don‘t know can that—you can‘t make something up like this.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s a defendant, here‘s a defendant, Judge, in a case who is accused of having taken an old girlfriend and taping her mouth with duct tape and planning to spend weeks with her torturing her until her birthday, a man who has obviously been accused of a deliberate violent crime.
Yesterday, he‘s disarmed from—he‘s carrying a shank that he built in prison, a weapon he made for the purpose of hurting somebody to get out of custody. And then today, he manages to get his hand on a pistol in the holster of a deputy. And then he kills the judge, the court reporter and another deputy. How did that guy get near a gun today?
GOGER: You know, Chris, I mean, your guess is as good as mine. I mean, I think the larger issue is what we lost today. We lost a spiritual force in our courthouse.
MATTHEWS: Judge Barnes, tell us about him.
GOGER: Great guy, absolute great guy, common sense, fair, got to the bottom line. His court reporter—and let‘s not leave her out of this.
GOGER: The best.
MATTHEWS: You know, my dad was a court reporter. He was the senior court reporter in Philadelphia. I know what they do and how hard they work and how smart they have to be. I understand that completely, sir.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the judge.
I want to know more about the judge who was killed today. Is he the sort of judge that sort of had a self-confidence, a physicality, confident in sitting up there on the bench?
GOGER: Big guy, knew how to control a courtroom and did it with a way that made everyone feel comfortable.
He was never the type of guy that would try to intimidate people into respect. He was never the sort of person that had to try to overpower the room. He was a person that made people feel comfortable. His—his—his greatest attribute, I think, was his sense of, you know, what‘s going on. And he knew...
MATTHEWS: Yes, he want to the bottom—he wants to get to the bottom of things.
MATTHEWS: Let me say you about...
GOGER: Let me say—I shouldn‘t interrupt you.
GOGER: But he knew it wasn‘t about him. He knew it wasn‘t about him. He knew it was about the case, the people in that courtroom. And that‘s what he focused on.
MATTHEWS: When you have a scary defendant, someone accused of a violent crime, murder, rape, whatever, assault, serious assault, do you watch them as they come into the courtroom and watch the way the they‘re escorted into the courtroom and how they‘re being controlled?
GOGER: You know, unfortunately, in the Superior Court of Fulton County, we do in fact have a lot of people that you could call dangerous or scary.
And, yes, you keep your eye on them, but never, never, never—I‘ve never expected or suspected anything like this could occur.
MATTHEWS: In some courtrooms, they don‘t have uncovered weapons. They wear jackets over their weapons, so that no one can reach over and pull them out of their holsters, because they‘re under a coat and they can use them, obviously, when necessary but no one can disarm them.
GOGER: Right. You‘re absolutely right.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think in your courtroom—why, in your courtroom, do deputies walk wasn‘t with exposed pistols?
GOGER: Well, the pistols aren‘t really exposed. Every deputy covers that pistol. It is in a secure holster.
MATTHEWS: Has it got a strong—has it got a strong button on it?
GOGER: Yes, a very strong button on it.
It would take a considerable effort to get that gun out unless you had the deputy‘s permission or unless, as in this case, you were completely overpowered.
MATTHEWS: You know, what strikes me about this, as a complete outsider, is that this suspect, a defendant in a violent criminal case involving deliberate violence against a woman he knows, a long sort of planned effort to sort of humiliate her, hurt her, in a most criminal fashion in a deliberate case, if he‘s guilty, and then the day before they have to disarm him from a weapon he made while in jail, not to be especially careful, in fact, eminently controlling of this suspect.
GOGER: You know, I have no explanation for that. And I don‘t know that we‘ll know a lot about how this came down until perhaps for weeks.
But I will say this. As a general proposition, the deputies in that courthouse take real good care of us, take real exceptional care of the public, the jurors and everyone who comes into that courtroom.
MATTHEWS: Are you afraid—are you afraid to be a judge normally or is it a position of such august respect that, even the hardest cases give you guys your due and don‘t try to hurt you or even think about it?
GOGER: You know, I wish it was a position of august respect. That‘s nice of you to say that.
MATTHEWS: Well, it should be.
GOGER: But, no, I don‘t believe that the judges in Fulton County or anywhere think about this as a—as something that could happen or should happen or could happen. I think we all, you know, we go into that courtroom and just try to do the best we can.
And I just cannot believe that there is a—I don‘t believe you can be a judge if you walk into the courtroom worried about the fact that someone is going to pull a knife or a gun or something like that. I don‘t know how you could possibly be effective if that was on your mind when you sat up there on the bench.
MATTHEWS: Your Honor, would you please hold on for a second? I want to talk to another person tonight.
Let‘s talk right now to Judge Robert Vance. He‘s in another state, Alabama, but his father was killed in a mail bombing back in ‘89.
Judge Vance, let me ask you about your reaction to this case. Is this a security lapse or one of its fluke cases where a real hardcase makes a leap for a gun, gets lucky in the sickest kind of way and kills a couple of people?
ROBERT VANCE, CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE: Chris, the contrast between this case and the case we‘ve been hearing about earlier this week involving Judge Lefkow‘s family is striking.
With Judge Lefkow‘s family, that‘s an unusual situation. You can‘t really plan on it. The system can‘t really do anything, practically speaking, to prevent that. Here, by contrast, there was an attack in the courthouse itself. There should have been security measures. And I‘m sure the Fulton County Courthouse had numerous security measures to prevent against just this sort of thing from happening.
Unfortunately, the best security system won‘t work if there‘s human error involved. And it sounds like there was at least one mistake. Oftentimes, in a catastrophic situation like this, there are a series of mistakes that happened. And they just cascade to disaster. That sounds like what happened here.
Of course, we can‘t tell for sure. And it is risky to speculate. But I was very surprised when I heard about this situation.
MATTHEWS: Well, I was surprised to hear that this defendant in this case was sort of roaming around the courtroom in a manner that suggested an insolent attitude towards the whole proceeding, and maybe not waving a gun, because he didn‘t have one, but certainly a guy that was filled with all kinds of attitude about his right to basically show what he thought of the judge and the whole system.
VANCE: It is going to take some time to figure out what exactly happened, how he was able to overpower a guard and seize the weapon, how he was able to go back into the courtroom and kill two people, how he was able, then, to go down to the ground floor, apparently, where he killed another sheriff‘s deputy, and how he was able then to commander a vehicle on the street outside the courthouse.
It‘s just—we don‘t have enough facts yet to know for sure, but it just sounds like there were a series of problems that occurred should not have occurred.
MATTHEWS: It is amazing to me he is still on the run, that he is able to escape from a courthouse with all the police around and still be at large early in the evening, a Friday. It is just—well, it is, as you say, a dramatic case.
When you went on to the bench, were you afraid of the same thing happening to you that happened to your father?
VANCE: To be honest, I gave it some thought. That was in the back of my mind.
I had discussions with my mom and my family to make sure everyone was comfortable about it. So, it is lurking there in the background. But I agree with your other guests that you simply cannot do your job if you become paralyzed with fear wondering who is behind the next corner.
Well, let me ask you, Judge Vance, have you ever gotten a look from a defendant after being convicted, a look of horror that scared the—scared you?
VANCE: Well, I‘m fortunate in the sense...
MATTHEWS: Like, I‘m going to get you?
VANCE: I‘m fortunate in the sense that I don‘t handle criminal cases.
MATTHEWS: I see.
VANCE: Purely civil litigation.
However, even there, where you‘re signing orders evicting people from houses on occasion or entering judgments against people for large sums of money, 99.9 percent of the time, there‘s no problem. But, on occasion, you run into someone who strikes you as a little unusual. And that thought pops into your mind. Is this someone who presents a danger to me?
MATTHEWS: Judge Goger, let me ask you the same question. When you have to rule in a criminal case, do you sense sometimes that this guy is a dangerous case?
GOGER: Well, quite frankly, I think Judge Vance‘s types of cases, my greatest concerns in fact have arisen out of civil cases.
GOGER: Much like the situation in Chicago. I mean...
MATTHEWS: Judge Lefkow was—had her family killed because of the judgment she rendered on a civil matter involving a medical—medical claim.
GOGER: Right. That‘s right.
I think, for whatever reason, in those sorts of contexts, those folks feel more pressures, more tensions.
GOGER: I think that people in criminal cases typically are resigned to either, I‘m going to win this case or I‘m going to lose this case.
MATTHEWS: And they usually know they‘re guilty, I assume.
Anyway, Judge Vance, Judge Vance, thank you for joining us from Birmingham.
VANCE: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: And my sentiments are with you, Judge Goger. What a good man you are to come on tonight and help us understand this under these circumstances, losing your fellow judge, who you respect so much.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go now to NBC‘s Don Teague with the latest in Atlanta.
Don, fill us in on the facts. We‘ve been reporting tonight that this was a case where a deputy was disarmed of her pistol. The pistol was used by the defendant to kill the judge, the court reporter and another deputy, and escaped, and he has not been found yet. Is that all true?
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That is true.
And there are certainly, as your guests were saying, a lot of unanswered questions. We had authorities come out here about 45 minutes ago and still not answer most of those questions. They said they don‘t want to do anything that would jeopardize the status of this investigation. I will tell you something that I‘m not sure if you know yet. And that is that there has now been a $60,000 reward that has been offered for the capture of this subject.
And there is a manhunt under way, as we‘ve been talking about all day. And it is spreading. It is for the first couple hours just the Atlanta area. But, clearly, it has been some 10 hours now since this happened. The suspect could be hundreds of miles away, conceivably. It‘s just been a tough day here after what was really a deadly morning here in downtown Atlanta.
MATTHEWS: What was the make of the car? What is the make of the car?
Do we know?
TEAGUE (voice-over): Chaos this morning at the Fulton County Courthouse, as word spread quickly of the unfolding horror.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The courthouse will never, ever be the same. This is just unthinkable.
TEAGUE: Police say Brian Nichols, who was standing trial for rape, overpowered a sheriff‘s deputy who was escorting him into court. They say he took the deputy‘s gun, injuring her, then shot and killed the presiding judge, Rowland Barnes, and the court reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody off the sidewalk!
TEAGUE: Witnesses say Nichols ran from the courtroom, sending bystanders diving for cover.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there was a bunch of deputies, probably about six or maybe nine of them, running down hallway with their guns drawn.
TEAGUE: The suspect made it out of the building, where police say he shot and killed another sheriff‘s deputy who confronted him on the street. Local TV reporter Dennis O‘Hare (ph) was walking nearby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was absolutely heartbreaking and horrifying to watch. And even as a reporter, you look at that and you say, my goodness.
TEAGUE: Police say Nichols escaped in a stolen car after pistol-whipping the newspaper reporter who was driving it.
DON O‘BRIANT, “THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION”: And he said, give me your keys or I‘ll key you. I give him the keys. He opens the trunk. He said, get in the trunk. And I said, no.
TEAGUE: Don O‘Briant broke his risk and received 15 stitches, but counts himself lucky.
O‘BRIANT: To escape without being shot or thrown in the trunk.
TEAGUE: With authorities fearing Nichols would quickly escape on Atlanta‘s highways, drivers began seeing alerts, as the rest of the country watched the drama unfold on cable TV.
MONICA CROWLEY, CO-HOST, “CONNECTED: COAST TO COAST”: Atlanta police ask that you call that number.
TEAGUE: Tonight, the city is in shock as three families mourn those lost and a community asks how something like this could happen.
GOV. SONNY PERDUE, GEORGIA: It‘s a sad day when the very foundation of our country, the civil justice system, is threatened by someone creating such a heinous act in the courtroom.
TEAGUE: And, Chris, I think I heard you ask me what type of car they‘re looking for just before they rolled that taped spot.
It is a ‘97 Honda Accord, a green one. But they caution, and we should as well, that this suspect attempted to carjack several other people, has proven a willingness to do so. And he may have actually—this may not have been the first car that he took. So, while that is the car they‘re looking for, they know that he could well take another car if he chooses to risk that, draw more attention to himself, steal a car or just lie low. His options are on the table tonight—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Do we know how he got the gun out of the officer‘s holster?
TEAGUE: Well, they are not going to talk about details about that.
I can tell you, earlier today, what they said was happening was they were in a—he had been taken to a side room where they‘re allowed to change from basically a prison garb into civilian clothes. And it was somewhere either at that point or right beyond that point, after his cuffs had been taken off, his hands were free, that he managed to get the guard‘s gun. He may also have gotten another guard‘s gun, using this gun to go from that room, crossing some distance and even a walkway in the courthouse, after disabling the first guard.
Using that gun to get a gun from another guard, so he possibly had two guns with him when he went into the courtroom. That was earlier today, what authorities were telling us. And now they‘ve sort of backed off from giving us any new information. But that‘s what we know right now.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Don Teague down in Atlanta, Georgia.
MSNBC will stay with this story throughout the night.
And when we return on HARDBALL, we‘ll talk to two more officers of the court who were both targeted in courthouse shootings, plus former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir on what needs to be done to protect America‘s judges.
And the excitement is building here on HARDBALL, because, Monday, the HARDBALL College Tour is back. And who better to kick it off than California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from beautiful Stanford University? If that‘s enough, Tuesday, the Academy Award-winning director of this year‘s best picture, Clint Eastwood, with me from Carmel, California.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Joining me now are two people who have had firsthand experience as targets of shootings at courthouses.
Retired Judge David Farris survived a shooting spree in his Texas courtroom 13 years ago that killed two attorneys and wounded three others, including two judges.
And my first guest you may recall from this videotape. Gerald Curry is an attorney who was shot at close range outside a California courthouse.
Gerald, what did you think when you heard about this story this afternoon about a judge being shot right in his own courtroom?
GERALD CURRY, ATTORNEY: Well, I heard about it at lunchtime today.
And, obviously, it is very sad and very tragic. In California, we have metal detectors. So, people who have guns or shanks cannot get into the courthouse. So, I think, inside the courthouse, we‘re fairly protected out here, but I was shot outside the courthouse. But, obviously, it was a very tragic incident that occurred today.
MATTHEWS: When you were doing that cat-and-mouse at the risk of your life with that client, where were the—where were the security guards around? Anybody around?
CURRY: No. Yes, this wasn‘t a client. My client was a professional trustee who administered a trust for this individual‘s benefit.
But this was outside the courthouse. And most of the security personnel are inside the courthouse. So, it is difficult to protect attorneys and judges and witnesses once you‘re outside the courthouse.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to—let me go to—let me go to Judge Farris.
Judge, the case we saw today, tell it—how it might have compared to your case, your situation down in Texas.
DAVID FARRIS, FORMER STATE APPEALS COURT JUDGE: Well, one big difference is that our case involved an individual who I suspected came thinking he would die in a blaze of glory, whereas this fellow obviously was attempting to escape.
MATTHEWS: This case involved, apparently, from everything we‘ve heard so far, somebody who grabbed a gun from an officer within the courtroom itself.
FARRIS: That‘s what I understand. And you wonder how the officer could be that careless.
MATTHEWS: What do you think ought to be done in the cases like this, Judge? You were a victim of one of these. What do you think ought to be done?
FARRIS: Well, it is a local of a matter of local government being prepared to spend money on the state level. I think it involves a lot of money, having qualified people and enough people to secure a courthouse.
And family courts are where the greatest risks exist, and obviously also in the criminal courts as well.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever think—do you think before your incident, where you had somebody shoot up your courtroom and kill those people, did you have any sense that that was possible or this had never come to mind before?
FARRIS: It had come to mind. And I had anticipated what my reaction would be if anyone ever did fire a gun in our courtroom. And I reacted just as I anticipated that I would.
MATTHEWS: How was that?
FARRIS: Well, I fell to the floor, got under the bench and also gave some thought to how to escape if the assailant came around the edge of the bench and tried to shoot me.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s be logical here right now and talk about what could be done in courtrooms.
And, Gerald, jump in here.
But, Judge Farris, since you were there in this kind of situation, we have metal detectors. That‘s one answer. They work, I guess. And, No. 2, how do you keep officers from having their guns pulled out of their holsters, Judge Farris?
FARRIS: Well, I don‘t think that the officer should put himself in a position where the gun can be taken from its holster. I observed that happen in a courtroom where an officer got too close to someone who had nothing to lose. And the individual could have taken the officer‘s gun from him. I was just amazed that the officer was so careless. But it is a matter of training, I suspect.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Gerald Curry.
The situation around courthouses, they are particularly inflammatory, because one person wins and they‘re happy and they go home. They go have a party somewhere. But, in 50 percent of the cases, the other side is miserable. Has that been your experience and they might be volatile enough to commit a crime?
CURRY: That‘s exactly right.
When you try a case, there‘s a winner and a loser. Many cases are settled. But the case that are tried, there is a loser. And, unfortunately, it seems these days there are more people who seem to be emotionally unstable and willing to act on their hatred and their impulse. And I think that‘s what we‘re seeing today, unfortunately.
MATTHEWS: Gerald, stay with us. And, Judge, stay with us as well.
We‘re bringing in right now former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir. He was of course already—he‘s already been associate director of the U.S. Marshals Service. He knows the business.
What do we do here to keep these guns out of the hands of people who are reaching for them?
HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, I think one of the things that we can do is, we can emulate what happens in federal courthouses.
You never see an exposed gun in a federal courtroom or a federal courthouse. All law enforcement officers have them under jackets, under their control. The other thing is training. You know, there are no uniform rules or procedures or best practices for court security in this country. We need to take a look at federal, state, local courthouses and have kind of a manual for how we do this and make sure that the people who are there are trained on what to do in a contingency situation like this.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re judging—we‘re trying bad guys all the time. That‘s what courtrooms are for, sometimes gang leaders who have gang members in the very courtroom right outside right there. Do we have metal detectors for all—all cases now in the United States?
SAFIR: There are not metal detectors in every single courtroom in the United States. There are in federal courthouses, but not in every state or local courthouse. And they vary from very complex buildings to very simple buildings.
And we should have metal detectors in every court proceeding.
MATTHEWS: How do you expect juries from people who come into court looking mean and giving them the eye?
SAFIR: Well, you can‘t do anything about the psychos.
MATTHEWS: With a gun I mean, the guy comes in and they may have a gun in their pocket.
SAFIR: A gun is one thing. Psychological is another. But you can prevent weapons from coming into courthouses. And with properly trained personnel, you can prevent criminals from obtaining weapons.
MATTHEWS: Is there a drop in the sort of the—even the—among the hardest cases of respect for law and order? In other words, can you imagine this kind of thing happening years ago?
SAFIR: Well, you know, it is hard to tell. It is possible years ago.
But the truth is, there is a lot less respect for authority and there‘s a lot less respect for law enforcement officers. And that‘s something that we have to deal with every day. And we deal with it through technology and well-trained people who know the procedures.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the lack of capital punishment really being inflicted in most cases takes away that final thing to stop a person from just acting on their rage?
SAFIR: Well, you...
MATTHEWS: I mean, if you hate the judge, why not kill him? You will spend a couple years in jail. You‘re not going to get executed.
SAFIR: Well, you know, this comes back to the things that happen in prison. You remember Marion Penitentiary, where there was a cell block full of murderers and they killed a number of guards because they had nothing to lose.
SAFIR: I personally believe in capital punishment.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I do, too.
Anyway, thank you very much, Gerald Curry. And thank you, Judge David Farris, and, of course, Howard Safir, former New York Police commissioner.
When we come back, inside the mind of a suspected shooter. Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt will be with us, along with former sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard this noise like, help me, help me. So, I ran into the garage and she told me that somebody like point a gun on her and carjack her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, you know, he pulled in. And the next thing we knew, we heard some screeching tires. One of our employees went up towards the floor, caught just the ending of the exchange, where the person, I guess the suspect, jumped in the car to pull out, pulled out, made a left and was gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Police in Georgia are searching right now for this man, Brian Nichols, the suspect in today‘s courtroom shooting that left a judge, a court reporter and a sheriff‘s deputy dead.
Joining me right now is Linda Fairstein, former sex crimes prosecutor, and author of “Entombed,” and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
Let me start with Linda, Linda Fairstein.
It‘s great to have you on the show, even though the circumstances are terrible. But thanks for coming on the show. It‘s good to see you again.
LINDA FAIRSTEIN, AUTHOR, “ENTOMBED”: Great to be back.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a—let‘s look at the charge this guy—he got out—he got out of a case by hung jury. He‘s accused of duct-taping an old girlfriend, bringing in his—sort of tailgate lunch to spend a couple weeks with her until her birthday, beating her up and raping her until her birthday. It is quite an elaborate, premeditated crime, if he‘s guilty of it.
And then we find out that he built—he made two shanks, two weapons he was found carrying yesterday that took a lot of time to make. What do you make of a guy like that?
FAIRSTEIN: Well, obviously, yesterday‘s episode, certainly, if people didn‘t think from the occasion of the crime itself, the coming into court with two shanks should have ratcheted up everybody‘s attention, before we talk about other extreme, costly security measures. Why isn‘t somebody like that being brought and being handcuffed before he comes in the courtroom, so he is not able to move around and get access to guns?
Why is one officer going in alone to get him, an officer, by the way, who is female—my feminist friends will kill me for this—but female and smaller than he is? Why aren‘t three officers going in to secure him coming into the courtroom? We‘ve had officers give their guns away, the one who is actually going to have contact and be in the more vulnerable position, give a gun to another court officer. How many were in the room?
Did the judge have the ability to call for what we call backup and make sure that crew was secure enough? So, just terribly tragic circumstances, by hindsight, a little easier, unfortunately, for me to talk about what might have prevented it. But these are potential tragedies in courtrooms all over this country.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Clint Van Zandt.
If this guy had been a murderer, instead of a defendant in a case that involved this sort of complex, weird torture thing he had set up with his old girlfriend, would he have been treated differently in the courtroom?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I would hope so.
You know, what they‘ll tell us is that they deal with 450 criminals a day, moving them back and forth from the jail. And they only have got so many deputy. But here‘s a guy, just like you said, with a proven history of violence and, heck with being politically correct, violence against women.
MATTHEWS: And premeditated thinking about murder—about crime.
He‘s accused of thinking through a crime quite deliberately.
VAN ZANDT: And if he had the shanks yesterday, I mean, the guy didn‘t bring those just for a dart game. He had a reason for them. He had a reason yesterday. He carried it out today.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the profile of this person, Linda.
This guy, I don‘t know anything about him except what we found out today. He killed three people today. He killed them in cold blood with an intention to get out of that—get out of that jail. And he did. What do you make of him in terms of what this brain is like right now? Is this guy smart enough to get away?
FAIRSTEIN: I think he certainly is smart to get away. I mean, he‘s either been very smart and/or very lucky up to this point.
He probably know the territory, from what it sounds like. He‘s from Florida and may have a route back there. The idea of carjacking and then carjacking again, whether he‘s abandoned the car and is on foot now, I mean, the police don‘t even know by what means he‘s traveling. And, obviously, as someone said earlier, pretty desperate, possibly a second gun, a part of the country where, unfortunately, it‘s not that hard to get handguns, as we‘ve seen over and over again.
FAIRSTEIN: So, this is a guy who has had a tremendous good fortune to this moment today. And I think he‘s quite desperate.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re going to come—let‘s talk about why he chose to kill the judge, the court reporter, who was obviously no threat to him, the woman court reporter, why he shot the other deputy and he didn‘t shoot the guy he got the car from.
We‘ll be back with Clint Van Zandt and Linda Fairstein.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The manhunt goes on for Brian Nichols, the suspect in today‘s courtroom shooting in Atlanta.
I‘ll be back—I‘m back again with Linda Fairstein, former sex crimes prosecutor and author of “Entombed,” one of her latest books, and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
What kind of a guy are we looking for here?
VAN ZANDT: Well, we have got a stone-cold antisocial personality.
Call him a psychopath. Call him a sociopath.
MATTHEWS: Smart one.
VAN ZANDT: Smart killer, guy who has been around. who knows the city, who knows the streets.
I mean, he has escaped right into his home environment. He knows that area. He knows the town. State troopers, you have got to cover the border. You have got to look for him bailing out of the state. I would keep looking for him right in Atlantic, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And what about the—what do you gather from the way in which he escaped and killed the officials?
VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, the question in my mind from a profiling standpoint is, did he go, looking—I mean, he made a decision. He could have bailed out the door, down the steps and been gone.
MATTHEWS: If that was his mission.
VAN ZANDT: If that was his mission, only to escape. But he didn‘t. He went in the courtroom. So, he was looking to confront someone. The question is, was he looking for his girlfriend, who was testifying against him? Was he looking for the prosecutor? They weren‘t there.
So, then, did he substitute the other victims in the court? That‘s the question that I want to hear answered. But it doesn‘t make any difference right now. We have got a killer on the street with a gun.
MATTHEWS: Linda Fairstein, let me ask you if there‘s any connection
here between his sexual violence against his old girlfriend, that sort of
premeditated thing he‘s accused of, if he did it, of tying her with duct
tape, duct tape, planning to keep her there for weeks while he sat and ate
from his watercooler, his beverages he provided, and planned to keep
abusing her until her birthday. That kind of criminal mind, how does that
· does that play into what we‘re looking for now?
FAIRSTEIN: Well, just as Clint said, clearly, he‘s a psychopath. So, that‘s well demonstrated in both instance, and smart enough to have a whole scheme devised to keep the girlfriend for that long.
You‘re looking for a very dangerous, smart man who knows the territory. And I think everybody is at risk until he is captured.
MATTHEWS: What do people do, Clint, if this guy tonight stops them in their car? Advise them.
VAN ZANDT: Well, keep going. This is a guy, just like the reporter did.
MATTHEWS: Well, get a good look at this guy, is one start.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Get a look at him.
VAN ZANDT: Yes. Yes. Just like when he confronted the reporter and he told the reporter, get in the trunk, the reporter said no. You go with this guy and you‘d be dead.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I recommend that to all my kids. That‘s still the best...
VAN ZANDT: I do, too.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t leave the scene with anybody.
VAN ZANDT: I tell my wife. I tell my daughter. I said, run. Bad guys aren‘t a good enough shot.
MATTHEWS: You‘re better to get shot right there.
VAN ZANDT: If you start running, they don‘t go to the range every month, like a cop does. They‘re going to just start blasting. I would rather my wife or daughter or myself get shot on the street than go with this guy and let him have his way.
MATTHEWS: If you go in that car, you‘re not getting out.
FAIRSTEIN: That‘s correct.
VAN ZANDT: You‘re a dead man...
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that, Linda?
FAIRSTEIN: Absolutely right. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Is the recommendation generally...
FAIRSTEIN: Just get away, absolutely. Your only chance is to get away. The likelihood once you get in the car, as Clint knows from all the serial cases he‘s worked and I‘ve seen, you don‘t get out again.
Add to that the motive of why he wants to kill you. He wants to kill you because you won‘t be able to tell the cops immediately what your car looks like, what the license number is, and how much gas is in the car. You won‘t tell them anything because you‘re going to be gone.
VAN ZANDT: My fear right now, Chris, is, he dumped that car, he switched another car, and we don‘t know the other car is missing or we don‘t know the driver is missing right now, too, or he is inside of a house holding somebody right now and we don‘t know about it.
There‘s a lot of potential out there. This guy is cunning. This guy is smart. This guy is a killer. And he‘s going to whatever he has to do.
MATTHEWS: Not a good night in Georgia to pick up a hitchhiker.
Anyway, thank you very much, Clint Van Zandt and Linda Fairstein.
When we come back, Congress has oversight of the marshal services that protect federal judges, but is it enough? Is enough being done to keep them safe? The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is going to be joining us in a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERDUE: It‘s a sad day when the very foundation of our country, the civil justice system, is threatened by someone creating such a heinous act in the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
How safe are our courtroom today and do we have enough federal marshals to handle threats against federal judges and their families?
Democratic Congressman John Conyers is the ranking Democrat and longtime chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Federal Protective Service.
Mr. Chairman, Congressman, what are we doing? Are we doing enough to protect federal judges, like Judge Lefkow‘s family, that were killed the other day?
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: Chris, we took a look at the Bush budget projections for F.Y. ‘06. And it has flatlined. And we think that the Federal Protective Services within the U.S. Marshals needs to be increased, particularly in the area of threat analysis and at least a couple hundred more marshals that can be assigned to the courtroom.
Now, I‘ve talked to judges. And we‘re going to hold hearings. But the judges in the federal system generally feel pretty good about the technology, the rules and the procedures that they have. You can‘t even bring a cell phone into a federal court building nowadays.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the number we‘ve been getting here.
There‘s 2,000 federal judges. I mean, you know all this, Mr. Chairman. There‘s about 3,200 federal marshals. There‘s 20 federal judges right now under protection.
MATTHEWS: What does it cost? What does it cost to protect a judge around the clock?
CONYERS: Well, I don‘t know about the daily costs, but I can tell that we spend $93 million a year on just the Federal Protection Services for judges. And we think that that is going to have to go up probably by almost $100 million. But we‘re going to hold hearings, so that we can really get to the bottom of this.
As you know, we‘re running in a bit of deficit.
CONYERS: But this issue of protecting judges has to be dealt with thoroughly. And I commend you for taking this into your program tonight.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘ve been talking about it all weekend, unfortunately.
Do you think that—you‘re used to—you‘ve been covering the law and helping to enforce it for all these years, Congressman, all those years chairing the committee. Do you think the respect that sort of even among hard cases for the bench has dropped and people haven‘t afraid to do the kinds of horrible things that they used to be afraid to do?
CONYERS: I do. I think that the notion of violence in our society is more easily resorted to than ever before.
I think there are a lot of social reasons for that. I think that we have too much outrage and this anger that can lead to these people. And there are only a few in our society that are off the charts. We have to create as vigilant a system as we can, Chris, to give every protection through our U.S. Marshal Service. And these practices will be picked up, as they normally are, by the state court systems that will be as efficient, effective and secure as we can possibly make them for our court.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Congressman John Conyers of Detroit, Michigan, for joining us on this very difficult night.
Coming up, more on the search for the suspect in today‘s shooting in an Atlanta courthouse with former New York City homicide Detective Bo Dietl.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYRON FREEMAN, FULTON COUNTY SHERIFF: It‘s very tragic, but we‘re going to do everything we can to bring this person to justice. And we have got all the law enforcement agencies out, as I said before, on the manhunt, and we‘re going to not rest until we find him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For more on where Brian Nichols might be hiding and what techniques the police might use to find him, we turn to our man who has a lot of experience dealing with bad guys. Bo Dietl is a former New York City homicide detective.
Bo, he‘s is a hardcase. We looked at what he is charged with, the trial he was being tried for, duct-taping that old girlfriend, planning to torture her for weeks, making those shanks. We know he‘s a deliberate mind. Well, you can call everybody like this a criminal mind, but a particularly deliberate kind of customer. What do you make of what we‘re going to face over the next several hours in the pursuit of this guy?
BO DIETL, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, let‘s start right from the beginning.
From the beginning, when they found him with two shanks days ago, I mean, this—they put them on alert. The district attorney called that sheriff‘s office. And shame on the procedures that were put into effect that he was brought into that court without at least two or three people around him. That‘s one.
Now you have to figure out. He came back into that courtroom and he proceeded to shoot that judge and shoot the stenographer. I guarantee you, if there was other people in that courtroom, including his girlfriend, he would have done that. Did he plan this ahead? That‘s what you have to think. Or did this happen in the fraction of the moment?
Of course, once he got out of the building there, he had to go hijack a car. So, then you‘ve got to figure, everything is happening as it is going along. He was able to get from the eighth floor down out of that building. And let‘s face it. The procedures and the security in that building did not fail, because they did not let somebody in that building with a gun. That gun was taken off an officer in that building.
Now he escapes. Now he is out there with the car. I feel very frightened about the fact that we haven‘t found that car yet. Now, once we find that car, we know that he either jumped into another car, he took the occupant of that car, could be in the trunk. I mean, you get a gun. It is very easy to say you could run away from somebody with a gun that is pointed at your head.
But if you‘ve been with a gun barrel pointed at your head, you don‘t think that fast. You go along with the person. You know he possibly had just killed three people.
DIETL: He‘s capable of doing anything. You go to where his friends are, who he had contact, who he made phone calls to from that jail. You find out, who he was in communication. You set detectives out there. You put a dragnet around his friends. You put a dragnet around his family and he—most of the times, there‘s some...
MATTHEWS: You‘re out on—you‘re on an interstate highway right now. You just drive into a gas station, because you know the guy or woman has got the keys in the car. You hijack that car, put them in the trunk, dump them somewhere dead. This guy could get away, couldn‘t he?
MATTHEWS: He could leave the state.
Now, the most important thing that we have out there is the people watching your show and watching all these shows. Remember, he can shave his head. Remember, when you see something unusual, you pick up the phone. You‘ve got to call the police on this. There‘s going to be telephone numbers that he‘s called from, from the jail, like I said.
MATTHEWS: Yes. We‘re looking at him right now and the tip line.
DIETL: And he could be bald now. The mustache could be gone. So, we have to figure out—he could look like anybody.
MATTHEWS: Yes, OK, Bo, great report for the public there. I‘m glad -
· I hope everybody is listening and nobody gets hurt tonight.
Next week is tough guys week here on HARDBALL. We‘re just kidding in this case. On Monday, the HARDBALL College Tour returns with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger live for the full hour from Stanford. Then, on Tuesday, the full hour with Clint Eastwood from Carmel, California, where he was once mayor, me and Clint, me and Arnold. What a week.
And, on Wednesday, he‘s breaking his silence on a cable exclusive, Doug Wead, the friend of the president who secretly taped him before he was in the White House. Doug Wead is coming clean with us Wednesday night.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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