'The Abrams Report' for March 16

Guest:  Daniel Horowitz, David Wohl, Geoffrey Fieger, Vernell Crittenden

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up fireworks erupt inside the courtroom as the judge sentences Scott Peterson to death. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Laci Peterson‘s family members have their first opportunity to speak directly to Scott Peterson.  No lawyers‘ questions just raw emotion.  Calling him evil, soulless, a baby killer, Peterson‘s family walks out in disgust.  Our panel was in the courtroom. 

And “Baretta” star Robert Blake found not guilty of killing his wife. 

Plus, the lead investigator in the Michael Jackson case testifies the accuser said Jackson molested him five to seven times, not just twice. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  What a day in the world of the law.  In the last few minutes, “Baretta” star Robert Blake found not guilty, not guilty of the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.  This only moments ago—can we show the shot of Robert Blake?  There he is only moments after finding out that he is soon to be a free man. 

Now, there is still one count that they hung on, and we‘re going to have full coverage of this.  We‘re expecting press conferences.  Blake—this guy has sung outside the courtroom, so he certainly—we would expect he will have something to say outside that courtroom at any moment.  We will bring that to you live. 

We‘re also—before we go to Scott—Daniel Horowitz, California lawyer, very quickly, before I get to the Scott Peterson sentencing, are you surprised?  I mean everyone is saying oh this isn‘t surprising (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Bottom line is that as a matter of common sense they had a lot of evidence against this guy. 

DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Dan, to me, everybody deep down knows that he probably either did it or had it done on his behalf...

ABRAMS:  Right.

HOROWITZ:  ... and he was part of the plan, but she was so unattractive as a victim, that reasonable doubt in this case went in his favor.

ABRAMS:  And they just didn‘t have—they didn‘t have any physical evidence on this guy.  Everyone—they had no—this guy served—was serving time before the case.  They wouldn‘t let him out of prison.  He is likely to be...

HOROWITZ:  There was evidence...

ABRAMS:  ... a free man.  All right, we‘ll talk about it.  We‘re going to have full coverage of the Blake case coming up in the program.  Again, Robert Blake may be speaking at a press conference at any moment.  We‘re bringing that to you.  That‘s the podium. 

All right.  So in the meantime, Scott Peterson‘s sentencing.  More than two years after a pregnant Laci Peterson disappeared, the case is over.  Today, Peterson sentenced to death.  Within 48 hours he will be transferred to San Quentin Prison, California‘s death row where absent some successful appeal he will live out his last days until his execution. 

Peterson sat emotionless, shackled at the waist, wearing a dark suit as Laci‘s family one by one only yards away looked him in the eye and described him as a baby killer, evil murderer, spoiled, self-centered.  Laci‘s brother, Brent, even said he bought a gun thinking about killing Peterson himself. 

At the height of the emotion in that courtroom a war of words between Scott and Laci‘s parents prompting Scott‘s parents to yell inside the courtroom and eventually storm out.  Wow.  Joining us now a number of people who were in that courtroom today, Edie Lambert, reporter for KCRA, Daniel Horowitz, criminal defense attorney, David Wohl, criminal defense attorney and our old pal Geoffrey Fieger is with us as well. 

All right.  Edie Lambert, lay out that moment for us.  What happened when the Petersons literally screamed in that courtroom? 

EDIE LAMBERT, KCRA REPORTER:  This was during the first victim impact statement which came from Laci Peterson‘s brother, Brent Rocha, and he was characterizing Scott Peterson as a spoiled, self-centered rich kid who basically was raised poorly—I think that was the implication and that‘s what both parents seemed to lash out at.  The first person to lash out was Jackie Peterson, Scott‘s mother who shouted that‘s not true and then just a few minutes later Lee Peterson shouted that‘s a lie.

At that point, Judge Delucchi made it very clear the next word I hear, I don‘t care who it comes from, that person is getting kicked out of this courtroom.  Neither parent waited for that.  They got up and left on their own.  They just apparently did not want to hear one more word from the Rocha family about their son. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  All right.  Let me read some of what—Laci Peterson‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, emotional testimony today.  Remember—look at that sketch.  All right.  She‘s sitting only—the other one—she‘s sitting only yards away from Scott Peterson looking him in the eye and saying the following. 

“There is unbearable sadness in my life.  The Scott I knew is the one Laci loved and I entrusted him with her.  You made a conscious decision to kill Laci and Connor.  You planned and executed their murders.  Yes, you did.  You threw them away like a piece of garbage.”

She went on.  “Your arrogance led you to believe you were more intelligent than anyone else.  You were wrong.  Dead wrong.  You‘re not intelligent at all.  You‘re stupid.  Stupid to believe murder was your only way out of marriage.  You attended a Christmas party with your girlfriend while your pregnant wife went to her Christmas party alone.  There was no way for me to know on December 15 it was the last time I would ever see Laci alive, but you knew it.  You‘re lazy, spoiled, self-centered and a coward, but above all, you‘re an evil murderer.  Not even Satan will claim to have a part in your makeup.  You Scott are proof that evil can lurk anywhere.  You don‘t have to look evil to be evil.  You chose what you thought would be the easiest way out for you.”

Whew.  David Wohl, what was that like? 

DAVID WOHL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Oh man Dan, I‘ll tell you something, when I heard her words—I mean especially the words of “what would little Connor have gotten in his Easter basket?”  And when she presupposed what he would have said, “dad, I promise I won‘t take up too much of your time”, I mean anyone with little kids, it hit me in the stomach like a Mike Tyson punch, I‘m telling you, you saw Peterson sitting there chatting with his attorneys, completely uninvolved and completely dispassionate. 

It didn‘t affect him at all.  It really highlighted the sociopath that this guy is, and the unfeeling monster, as the family described him as, that he is, and I‘ll tell you, it just—it was the most emotional, incredible court hearing I have ever been involved with. 

ABRAMS:  Why—she went on.  “Why did you murder her, Scott?  That‘s an answer we‘ll never get.  How dare you murder her?  She was my daughter.  I wanted her and always will.  I trusted her.  You betrayed me, betrayed her, betrayed everyone.  You selfishly cheated on her, then murdered her.  I know you‘re nothing but an empty shell.  You have no heart, no soul.  She didn‘t stand a chance physically against you Scott.  How did that make you feel?  Were you proud of yourself?  Do you feel a sense of accomplishment, relief that they were gone?  There‘s a huge hole in my heart that will never be healed.  I miss Laci so much.  I miss having a daughter.  I miss making plans with her.  I miss teasing her, hearing her giggle.  I miss her telling me about plants and new recipes, about her baby, and her plans for future.  I miss being my daughter‘s mother.”

Daniel Horowitz, when you told me that Scott Peterson was sitting there whispering, as David Wohl talked about it, with his attorney when much of this was going on, you know, this guy just—even at this moment, even at this time when he‘s being sentenced to death, and I think—you know, some people have questions about the death penalty, et cetera, boy, you know it makes it hard for almost anyone to feel sorry for Scott Peterson. 

HOROWITZ:  You know Dan, the problem with this whole case is that it says almost every murder justifies the death penalty in the sense that Scott was a poster boy for life, we thought.  Here‘s a kid who has never committed a crime before, has done a lot of nice things, but he, because his personality is so empty inside, he somehow turned this into a death case by his own conduct in that courtroom, and when he and Geragos were whispering to each other as Judge Delucchi is describing the horrendous nature of this act, it was just a situation where you said, you know, this guy doesn‘t care.  Maybe he really did deserve it. 


HOROWITZ:  I think in this case...

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to keep reading because I got to tell you, as I was hearing about what Sharon Rocha was saying in that courtroom, you know, I was just riveted to her words.

“I‘ll never meet my grandson.  What kind of person would he be?  Would he cry when he has his picture taken with Santa?  I‘ll never know this because his father murdered him.  Laci didn‘t know that Scott that sits in this courtroom, she loved you, but she didn‘t need you.  I find solace in the knowledge that you sentenced yourself to death when you murdered Laci.  You took it upon yourself to be her judge and her jury and then her executioner.  I only care that you get what you deserve, which is death.  You didn‘t count on Laci‘s spirit.  That it would be stronger than your evilness.  We had to bury Laci without her arms to hold her baby, without her head to kiss, and smell her sweet little baby Connor.  You have no idea what the thought of that does to my soul.”

All right, Geoffrey Fieger, go ahead.

GEOFFREY FIEGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well this is the legal method by which the victims, and this family is a victim of Peterson, clearly, get their pound of flesh, Dan, and it‘s a relatively new innovation, and in a way it‘s cathartic for them.  It provides, as I think the family indicated today, some closure, and that‘s—hopefully, I think the purpose of it.  Other than that, it‘s a sad, sad day for that family and Peterson—I don‘t think this is the first crime Peterson ever committed, frankly. 

ABRAMS:  Well...

FIEGER:  I‘ve said this before. 


FIEGER:  I don‘t believe...

ABRAMS:  Well...

FIEGER:  ... a sociopath like him has not committed crimes before.  I think he just hasn‘t been caught.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to take a break and the panel is going to stick around.  But the most—I think the most poignant moment from Sharon Rocha is coming up.  I‘m going to read that after the break, but it just tears you up when you read it.

All right.  Also coming up, we‘ll talk about what it‘s like on California‘s death row.  We‘re going to talk to someone from San Quentin.  That‘s exactly where Scott Peterson is going to be calling home pretty soon.

And Robert Blake found not guilty, not guilty only moments ago.  We‘re expecting at any moment we could be hearing from Robert Blake himself.  We will bring that to you live when it happens.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  The heartbreaking words of Sharon Rocha right before Scott Peterson is formally sentenced to death. 

And a not guilty verdict in the Robert Blake case.  All that coming up.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He is a jerk and I have one comment for Scott. 

You look somebody in the face when they‘re talking to you.


ABRAMS:  One of the jurors who actually showed up—many of the jurors showed up today to watch Scott Peterson be sentenced to death, and that is exactly what happened.  The formal sentencing of Scott Peterson today and what an emotional day inside that courtroom.  The family members of Laci Peterson testifying and talking directly to Scott Peterson from only yards away, leading to sobs in the courtroom.  The family of Scott Peterson‘s—his parents walked out of court. 

Let me read you two more things that Sharon Rocha, Laci‘s mother, said directly to Scott looking him in the eye. 

“I‘m haunted every single day with visions of you murdering Laci.  Did she know you were murdering her?  Did you look her in the eye as you killed her?  Was she conscious when you put her in the bay?  Nothing will ever undo your evil.  You deserve to be put to death as soon as possible.  What were you thinking as you were killing Laci?  What do you think Laci was thinking?  I‘ll tell you what I think she was thinking.  Scott, why are you killing me?  You know how much I love you.  You promised to take care of me and protect me.  Scott, I don‘t want to die.  Please stop.  Please stop.  I don‘t want to die.  And your son was thinking daddy, why are you killing mommy and me?  Daddy, why are you killing us?  We don‘t want to die.  You deserve to burn in hell for all eternity.”

You know Edie Lambert, as I read these words—I have to fight back tears myself as I read these words from the mother of Laci Peterson.  Let me ask you this.  All right.  I want to play a piece of sound from Sharon Rocha, from January 2003 when she got very emotional.  I want to ask you—you were in the courtroom—if this was the same Sharon Rocha that we saw in the courtroom today.  Let‘s listen.


SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S MOM:  Soon after Laci went missing, I made a promise to her that if she has been harmed we will seek justice for her and Connor and make certain that that person responsible for their deaths will be punished.  I can only hope that the sound of Laci‘s voice begging for her life and begging for the life of her unborn child is heard over and over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life.  The person responsible should be held accountable and punished for the tragedy and devastation forced upon so many of us. 


ABRAMS:  Edie, was she calmer than that or was that the tone that we saw in the courtroom today? 

LAMBERT:  I would say it was even more intense when she was actually looking at the man who killed her daughter and her grandson.  It was just an upwelling of rage and grief thrown straight at Scott Peterson.  And it was that exact quote, you can imagine from reading it being in the courtroom that packed the most emotion of anything that she said.

That was the point where a lot of people were not just crying but sobbing in the courtroom.  I was sitting close to some of Laci Peterson‘s friends.  Many of the reporters were crying, trying to take notes but at the same time, you‘re human, tears rolling down your face.  Even some of the detectives were wiping tears away from their faces.  The only person I saw who didn‘t react was Scott Peterson. 

ABRAMS:  You know, this guy.  I don‘t know.  David Wohl, you were there.  You know look and we‘re going to move on from this in a minute.  I just—you know this was her day.  This was her moment to get to speak directly to Scott Peterson.  No lawyers asking questions.  No filter.  No, “that‘s not admissible.”  She got to say what she wanted to him, right? 

WOHL:  Absolutely, and Dan, you know what I thought about, though, is that Sharon Rocha‘s only beginning this journey of hers to get final closure.  You know California, 28 years, 10 inmates executed.  Another 38 have died of homicide, suicide or natural causes.  Scott‘s more likely to die from either of those. 

The question is, will the Rochas live long enough to go to that death chamber and see Scott get the needle?  I mean that‘s going to be a close call and it‘s going to be very difficult because the average is 20 or 25 years until that happens. 

ABRAMS:  You know here‘s the thing that gets me, all right, is you have Sharon Rocha in tears.  You have Brent Rocha talking about the fact that he went out and bought a gun, was thinking about killing Scott Peterson.  That‘s how emotional he was about this, and Scott Peterson no emotion.  No emotion.  People might say well you know look, some people are like that.  Some people don‘t show emotion.  Oh, yes?  Remember this? 


SCOTT PETERSON, LACI PETERSON‘S HUSBAND:  Knowing that she‘s missing but walking the dog through there like she would do most mornings is—like a way to experience her right now for me, and a lot of times I can‘t make it very far—make it part of the way.  I certainly can‘t make it to the part of the park where currently there is a big poster of her up. 


ABRAMS:  Unbelievable.  All right.  We‘re going to go back to the Blake case in a minute, because again, not guilty verdict in the trial of Robert Blake, and the jurors are holding a press—and a lot of people are saying Robert Blake found not guilty?  He said he went back into a restaurant to get his gun and his wife gets killed in the meantime? 

A wife who two people testified he came to them and said, “Hey will you whack her?  Will you snuff her?  Will you kill my wife?”   Blake found not guilty today.  All right. 

We‘re waiting for that press conference to start from the jurors.  We‘ll take a little bit—we‘re hoping Robert Blake is going to speak at some point outside that courthouse.  And here is I believe—is that one of the jurors?  All right.  This is one of the jurors in the Robert Blake case, going to presumably try and explain how they came up with a not guilty verdict for Robert Blake. 





UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  My full name - first of all, I was the jury foreman and my jury number was number five. 


ABRAMS:  So the jurors are there from the Robert Blake case, where in the last hour Robert Blake has been found not guilty.  Remember, he was serving time because this was considered such a serious crime, murder with special circumstances.  He was in jail before the trial started.  He was eventually released and allowed to stay out during the trial, but that was his reaction when the verdict came in, again, within the last hour.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Here are the jurors.  Let‘s listen. 


THOMAS NICHOLSON, BLAKE TRIAL JUROR:  So irregular in everything he said or tried to say had no bearing at all in terms of the case.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Prolific liar.  Couldn‘t get the story straight if he had sat in front of anyone, I felt. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sir, why did you decide Robert Blake did not kill his wife? 

NICHOLSON:  They couldn‘t put the gun in his hand.


NICHOLSON:  Circumstantial evidence.  There was no GSR.  There was no blood on the clothing.  There was nothing.  Supposition more than evidence. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you feel that the case did hang on McLarty (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the prosecution had? 

NICHOLSON:  Pretty much, I thought, in my opinion, but I felt the primary thing from where I saw it was the fact the circumstantial evidence was flimsy.  It tended to be disjointed.  It tended to be relied upon unreliable people, basically it was—they could never connect all the links in the chain. 


NICHOLSON:  Can‘t hear you, honey. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) days of deliberation, what was the back and forth for the last eight days? 

NICHOLSON:  It wasn‘t a back and forth as much as we literally filled three chalkboards with information.  We took down every witness‘s testimony.  We dissected every witness‘s testimony.  We never excluded anybody that we didn‘t feel had some semblance of sense.  And basically, we just cut it to ribbons to find out where the facts were. 


ABRAMS:  All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... was Robert Blake‘s alibi, leaving the gun in the restaurant? 

NICHOLSON:  His alibi was superficial at first, I thought.  One of the people we felt had some semblance to credibility or what had happened was that we felt were the two young people who testified that they saw Robert Blake behind them, but by the same token, there was nothing at all that anybody could conclude that they heard any gunshots at all.  There was nothing.  And as a result of that, there was no gun in his hand. 



ABRAMS:  You hear the jurors there in the Robert Blake case explaining the not guilty verdict.  They couldn‘t put the gun in his hand they keep saying repeatedly.  Geoffrey Fieger, you don‘t have to put the gun in the person‘s hand.  Is this one of those cases where the jurors left their common sense at the door?

FIEGER:  No.  No, you‘ve got to remember this case—let‘s not have a short memory about it.  His co-defendant was let go at the preliminary exam because there was zero evidence against him, and remember he was put in that position because I think the prosecutor had hoped to squeeze him and have him turn on Blake.  There was literally, Dan, no evidence in this case other than the way it looked...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait...

FIEGER:  ... and that is that he found his wife dead after leaving...

ABRAMS:  No.  No.  Now wait a sec...

FIEGER:  ... but other than that there is zero evidence. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Do you want me to lay out the evidence...

FIEGER:  I know what the evidence is. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 


ABRAMS:  You said there‘s no evidence.  I‘ll tell you the evidence...

FIEGER:  There‘s two.  Wait...

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you the evidence...

FIEGER:  ... there‘s two unreliable witnesses. 


ABRAMS:  The bottom line is it‘s the totality of the circumstances here, all right, and let me give them to you.  All right...


ABRAMS:  In addition to these two stunt men who come forward and testify that Blake asked them to quote—“whack or snuff his wife”...

FIEGER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... it was also proven that Blake didn‘t tell entirely consistent stories about how he felt about his wife.  He doesn‘t seem to be telling the whole truth that he hated her.  I don‘t think there is any question that Robert Blake hated this woman... 


ABRAMS:  ... with a passion.

FIEGER:  And she was—wait a second...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now...

FIEGER:  ... and I believe everybody on that jury thought she was a despicable character. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m sure they did.

FIEGER:  That‘s another reason.  She‘s no Laci Peterson.  That‘s a big problem in this case. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Look, as a legal matter, I‘m not surprised that Robert Blake was acquitted.  All right, but—let me go to David Wohl.  David look, I get it; there was no smoking gun.  Everyone wants the CSI evidence these days.  They want to see the blood on the shirt.  They want the—they want to see the gunpowder on the hand, et cetera. 

Bottom line they didn‘t have it in this case and as a legal matter that makes this a tough case, but jurors are also told “don‘t leave your common sense at the door” and the idea again, you heard the juror just asked about it, about the alibi, the idea that Robert Blake goes back into a restaurant to get his gun that he left in the restaurant by accident.  That he goes back to get his gun and he comes back and his wife, who he hated, has been shot.

A woman who it seems pretty clear he never wanted to marry in the first place.  If you even believe these witnesses a little bit who talk about Robert Blake laying out a scenario whereby they would kill her, it seems common sense might dictate he did it. 

WOHL:  Well Dan, absolutely, we‘re sitting at a bar with a beer, we know he had something to do with this.  We know he was either involved in it directly or he asked somebody to do it.  But when you‘re talking about sending a man to prison for the rest of his life you have to follow that instruction of beyond a reasonable doubt very carefully.  No forensic evidence, no hair, no blood...


WOHL:  ... no connection to the murder weapon.  The gunshot residue on his hand traceable to his own weapon that had nothing to do with the crime.  So that was the problem the jury came down to.  Hey look, this is the rest of his life...

ABRAMS:  All right...


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on...


ABRAMS:  I got to take a break, but I wanted to play this.  This is the prosecution in the closing argument in the Robert Blake case, found not guilty today.  Here is what they said.


SHELLY SAMUELS, BLAKE PROSECUTOR:  He‘s there.  He has the opportunity.  He has the motive.  Nobody else in that one minute—the one-minute that it took to kill her was there.  No one was seen.  There is no evidence it was anybody else. 

No cars heard to pull away quickly.  Nothing.  And for what reason would another shooter leave that gun in that dumpster?  Take the chance.  Only someone who couldn‘t leave the scene.  The defendant. 


ABRAMS:  Jurors didn‘t buy it.  Robert Blake found not guilty today. 

We are waiting to see if Blake is going to speak at a press conference.  We‘re going to show you the verdict.  Robert Blake broke down after—few seconds after that—you‘re seeing right there.

More on the not guilty verdict in the Robert Blake case coming up.



ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  We‘re covering two big stories for you. 

Number one:  The not guilty verdict in the trial of Robert Blake.  The jury hung on one count of solicitation to commit murder.  So it‘s possible that prosecutors could charge him again on that one, but not guilty of the murder of his wife, not guilty on another solicitation charge, and we are waiting to see if Robert Blake himself is going to speak at a press conference at any moment. 

In the meantime, Scott Peterson sentenced to death today officially by the judge after emotional testimony inside that courtroom.  It means that in the next some-odd hours, we don‘t know exactly when, Scott Peterson will be heading to San Quentin Prison in California to go to death row. 

Vernell Crittenden is with the San Quentin Prison.  He‘s the spokesman there.  Good to see you again.  Thanks for coming back on the program. 

VERNELL CRITTENDEN, SAN QUENTIN PRISON:  It‘s nice talking with you again Abrams. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Is your prison ready for Scott Peterson? 

CRITTENDEN:  Oh most certainly.  We‘ve dealt with a number of high profile cases.  Just recently we received Stuart Alexander, which the media had called the “sausage king”.  He‘ll actually be in the same building with Scott Peterson as we are putting him through the process. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  There‘s something sort of ironic about Scott Peterson being in the same building as a “sausage king” in prison, but what is going to happen practically when he gets there?  First of all, do we know when he‘s going to get there? 

CRITTENDEN:  Well we do have that understanding there at the prison, but our policy prevents us from making it public until he arrives to the prison, but when he does arrive, and he will arrive definitely before the weekend, he will first be taken and processed, will have his photo taken.  He‘ll be given an unclothed body search with all of his body cavities inspected.  He will also receive a haircut, get a photo, have his DNA testing done, and then he will be assigned over to one of our death row housing units, which we call the adjustment center, and he will be there for 45, 60 days at the most. 

ABRAMS:  And will he get time to interact with other prisoners or is he going to have to be protected from them? 

CRITTENDEN:  Well actually our process doesn‘t allow that interaction when inmates first arrive to death row and they spend all of their time by themselves in their cells.  They eat their meals.  They exercise in very small enclosures we built by themselves.  They shower by themselves.  Other than that activity, everything is done inside of their cell. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Vernell Crittenden, thanks for coming back on the program.  Appreciate it.

CRITTENDEN:  You‘re welcome, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  We‘re told that Robert Blake is on his way to the microphones after a not guilty verdict in his trial.  I mean this is really somewhat startling—look, yes sure, the people who have been watching this case saying not that surprising as a matter of law.  They didn‘t have the smoking gun.  They found the gun, but it wasn‘t smoking.  And they didn‘t have begun powder residue that was definitive.

They didn‘t have blood.  They didn‘t have any physical evidence linking Robert Blake, but they had a whole lot of circumstances that sure made it seem like Blake did it.  The jury saying not enough.  Repeatedly, the jurors saying we could not put the gun in his hand.  We couldn‘t bring together the links in the chain.  As we wait for Robert Blake to show up at the microphones, I‘m going to go to my guests as we wait for Mr. Blake.  That‘s his lawyers coming.  I don‘t see Mr. Blake there. 

But all right, Daniel Horowitz, legal matter a surprise, but this is Gerald Schwartzbach, Blake‘s attorney.  I‘m sure he‘s going to be thrilled.  Let‘s see if he says anything about Robert Blake coming up to the microphones.  In the meantime, Daniel Horowitz, as a lawyer it‘s a big win, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

HOROWITZ:  It‘s a tremendous win, and Schwartzbach is a very well respected lawyer, Dan.  He‘s a fellow who has taken cases pro bono and gotten actually a man released who was convicted and sentenced to life...

ABRAMS:  All right...

HOROWITZ:  ... set aside the sentence...

ABRAMS:  Let me listen to him. 


M. GERALD SCHWARTZBACH, ROBERT BLAKE‘S ATTORNEY:  It didn‘t make sense that they would be hung on Hambleton and convict Robert of the murder, so logically, my head was telling me there are two acquittals and it‘s probably 11-1 or close to that.  My—but—you know, unless you have tried cases, you can‘t know the terror that goes through a lawyer‘s heart when a jury walks in. 

I was standing approximately in this location about a year ago, March 1 of last year, and people were concerned about my ability to have a successful attorney-client relationship with Robert, and I said to them then that I had no doubt that he was innocent, and I had no doubt that he and I were going to have a successful attorney-client relationship.  And that I fully expected that our relationship would last as long as the both of us were alive.  And that‘s exactly how I feel right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) did he say to you when you heard that “not guilty” coming from the jury or from the clerk?  What did he say to you? 

SCHWARTZBACH:  I don‘t think there was a word.  He handled today—he‘s handled—he handled the whole trial—I mean a lot of people have taken shots at Robert.  I have lived here for a year.  I have spent an enormous amount of time with him.  And he handled this trial, the trial that people were saying he was afraid of, he handled it with tremendous grace. 

He handled the deliberations with more composure than I was able to muster.  He handled today—I mean he said to me, as the jury was about to come back, he just—he said, you did your best.  Now, what kind of person who is waiting to find out—what kind of person is that who says something like that?

Knowing that—he doesn‘t know which door he‘s walking out of.  He doesn‘t know if he‘s getting his life back or whether or not his life is over.  And he says to me, you did your best because he wanted me to be able to live with whatever the results were. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At one point...

SCHWARTZBACH:  I‘m sorry.  I can‘t hear you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After the verdict was read, there was a few moments when you went back to chambers a while and came out.  Mr. Blake went really and his eyes lit up.  What was that about? 

SCHWARTZBACH:  I had told him that the judge was dismissing the third

·         count two. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At one point Gerry, he was comforting you.  Tell us what that was all about. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  The attorney for Robert Blake there, all smiles after a not guilty verdict.  And so the question, though, still remains, David Wohl, there is one count where the jury hung.  Do you think that the prosecutors are going to go after him again on this charge of solicitation to commit murder? 

WOHL:  Well, I thought I heard Schwartzbach just say that the judge dismissed that last count.  I‘m not sure, but if the judge didn‘t not a chance, Dan.  It would be a gigantic waste of money to do that because frankly, the charge in chief, the murder charge was a not guilty verdict. 


WOHL:  There was no way you were going to come back and a solicitation and retry that, big waste of money, not going to happen. 

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey, you agree?

FIEGER:  Yes.  Absolutely, there‘s not a chance in the world, and I‘m sure it was 11-1 in favor of acquittal.  I‘m just surprised that one held out for guilt, I mean under the circumstances. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a quick break here.  We‘re going to have more.  We‘re waiting to see if Robert Blake is going to speak, himself.  We will bring that to you live if and when it happens.

Also—no—but just stay there.  We got some other stories we‘re covering too.  It‘s a huge day.  I don‘t know if we‘re going to get to the other stories, so just come back.  Please.  Thanks.



ABRAMS:  We‘re continuing our coverage of the not guilty verdict in the trial of Robert Blake, the “Baretta” star today a free man.  He was out on bail before, but it now looks like he is going to be free and clear after a jury found him not guilty of the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.  There is a press conference going on as we speak from his attorney.  We are expecting to hear—or we‘re thinking we may hear from Robert Blake himself at those same microphones.  We will bring that to you live, if and when it happens. 

All right.  Now to the Jessica Lunsford case in Florida.  The question, have you seen this man?  John “Johnny” Evander Couey, the center of the search for the missing Florida girl.  She‘s 9 years old.  He‘s a registered sex offender with a last known address of Grover Cleveland Boulevard in Homosassa Springs.  In the last hour, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy released some details about Couey‘s criminal past. 


SHERIFF JEFF DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY, FL SHERIFF‘S DEPT.:  In 1978, a burglary while the residence was occupied, entered a juvenile‘s bedroom, put his hand over the juvenile‘s mouth and as I have been led to believe kissed her.  That raises some major issues. 


ABRAMS:  Tips led detectives to a residence close to the Lunsford home.  The residence of a relative of Couey‘s.  They were told Couey hadn‘t been there, but later another relative said he had in fact been staying at the house, was asked to leave.  The same person admitted to buying a bus ticket for him in her name. 

On Saturday police interviewed him at a Savannah Salvation Army shelter, but they say because there was no probable cause to arrest him he was released.  Now they want to talk to him again and he‘s on the run.  Yes, this is from the statement they gave.  While it‘s unknown whether Couey has any involvement in Jessica Lunsford‘s disappearance, detectives certainly have an interest in questioning him.  Law enforcement officials know that he‘s prone to violence when he‘s under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

All right.  So Daniel Horowitz, too hard to say to the police, come on, what happened here, people?  Is it—are we unfairly quarterbacking - Monday morning quarterbacking them? 

HOROWITZ:  No, Dan, I think it‘s fair to Monday morning quarterback this lack of following the man, at least.  Why couldn‘t they have tailed him or why couldn‘t they have at least somehow kept track of him?  There‘s not that many hard suspects that they had at the beginning, so you put your energy where you have a lead.  It‘s usually the obvious suspect, unfortunately. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  You know what?  I‘m going to shift gears.  That‘s little Jessica.  Let me put up the number before we shift gears here, all right.  All right.  I‘m going to read the tip line, which the number is—right there -- 352-726-1121.  If you have any information about this missing little girl, and again, it seems that there is a person of interest that they want to talk to.  Can we put up the picture of him again?  It‘s Couey.  John “Johnny” Evander Couey.  They want to talk to him, a person of interest in this case. 

All right.  We‘ve got a lot of stuff going on here.  The press conference in the Blake case continues.  A lot of whispering going on with the lawyer makes us wonder whether maybe Blake is coming up. 

In the meantime, I believe we have the—do we have the foreperson in the Scott Peterson—all right, we‘re expecting to have the foreperson from the Scott Peterson jury join us in a moment to talk about the death sentence for Scott Peterson.  There are just an enormous number of legal stories going on here today.  All right.  Let me take a quick break.  When we come back, we‘ve got, as you can see, a lot to cover. 

Robert Blake may be speaking.  Peterson jury foreperson on the death sentence imposed today.  And again, if there‘s anything new in the Jessica Lunsford case, we‘ll bring that to you as well...


ABRAMS:  Not guilty verdict for Robert Blake, death sentence for Scott Peterson.  Got breaking news to report to you, coming up.


ABRAMS:  Robert Blake—approaching the microphones is Robert Blake now found not guilty.  He is a free man.  There is one charge the jury hung on, but it seems that that case will not resurface, at least it appears that way.  Blake going from criminal defendant—oh wait a second—all right—to a—let‘s listen.


ABRAMS:  All right, Robert Blake, a man who has sung outside the courthouse as this case has been going on, found not guilty about an hour ago, smoking a cigarette, approaching the microphones to talk about his reaction to the verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How does it feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll get to it.  Back up.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can‘t get down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get down there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How do you feel...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get him up to the...



ROBERT BLAKE, FOUND NOT GUILTY:  There‘s an old saying that...


BLAKE:  ... success has a large family and that failure is an orphan and in this case, it is just the opposite.  Failure has a very large family, but success here is a very small family.  The people that did this, Bridget Daniels (ph), David Christianson (ph), Gus (ph) and Joanna (ph), these are two young lawyers who came in for short dough and long hours to save my life.  Gus came in to buy groceries.

He found out that he was an accountant and before it‘s all over, he‘s going to be a lawyer.  And Joanna (ph), God love her, did everything.  And Lois Heaney picked a jury.  She said, Robert, your lawyer, Gerry Schwartzbach, I know him well.  He‘s not colorful.  He‘s not flamboyant.  I‘m not sure he has much lung capacity and he may have a speech problem because he whispers a lot, so we need a jury of his peers.

We need an intelligent jury that will listen carefully to Gerry because he‘s not going to be flying his arms.  He‘s not Gerry Spence.  He‘s not Godzilla.  He does his job.  And so Gerry threw out all the previous jury whatever they are, and brought Lois down.  At one time, there were as many as 11 investigators on this case, and they all had their hand in my pocket.  If you want to know how to go through $10 million in five years, ask me.  All you‘ve got to do is get in front of—what?  I‘m broke.


BLAKE:  I need a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘ve got a million.  Robert...

BLAKE:  I‘ve got what?


BLAKE:  A million what?


BLAKE:  No, I didn‘t put up bail. 


BLAKE:  Hold on a second (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  OK, just let me get through (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 



BLAKE:  Anyway, Gerry brought in Jackie Kelly (ph), the investigator and Linda Larson (ph).  Both of those women did their job, had short dough and long hours.  They went out and they found what they had to find about the stuntman so I wouldn‘t have to take the stand.  God bless Karen McLarty.  God bless Karen and Cole.  Jackie went and found them.  She was gentle with them.  She gave them the courage to step forward and tell the truth.

And they went out to Lucerne Valley and they found Keith Seals and Donna Sharon.  They got them to come forward to tell the truth.  So I didn‘t have to take the stand because that job was done.  And Ted came down from up north to do the trial presentation, but he did so much more than that.

And I had a dozen people down here that I wanted to hire and Gerry said no.  We‘re bringing this man down because he actually became a lawyer.  He went through every detail of the case.  He said, oh, here‘s the whole situation about shovels and hammers and tape and junk and he went through every photograph of 70,000 pages of discovery to do what he had to do to put that stuff up there on the screen so Gerry could work with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I should just—let me just add, before when I was talking, I inadvertently I failed to mention Lois Heaney from the National Jury Project and Jackie Tully (ph), our principal investigator and Linda Larson (ph), who did real quality work down here as well, and Ted Brooks from Litigation-Tech in the Bay area.  And all those folks did fabulous work. Just fabulous work.


BLAKE:  Let me just wrap it up here a little bit.  So this small band of dedicated warriors saved my life.  They saved Rosie‘s daddy‘s life.  Allison Schlinski (ph), Gerry‘s co-counsel, you don‘t know her, and you never will know her because that‘s the way she wants it.  She writes some of the best motions in southern California and doesn‘t even sign her name to them.  And other lawyers take credit for them.  Undersecretaries and assistants take credit for it.

And Allison Schlinski (ph) gave up...


ABRAMS:  A rambling Robert Blake talking as if he just won an Academy Award rather than an acquittal in a murder trial.  Thanking all the people responsible for allowing him to get there.  That‘s a chopper shot there.  Basically saying that he was short on dough, but that they still did the job.

Robert Blake found not guilty of the murder of his wife Bonny Lee Bakley. I‘ve just got no time, but Daniel Horowitz, it sounds—I don‘t know if he is all there.  Daniel Horowitz isn‘t there.  All right.  I‘ll just tell you I don‘t know.  Geoffrey, very quickly, 10 second thought.

FIEGER:  He‘s not all there.  Thank God he didn‘t get on the stand. 

Can you imagine?


ABRAMS:  Right.  I mean what a disaster that would have been.

FIEGER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Geoffrey, Daniel, David, everyone from the show, thank you very much.  Nine o‘clock special tonight on MSNBC.  I‘ll have full coverage of whatever Robert Blake says after this.  When he gets to the substance of the case, we‘ll have it all, special edition.

Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Got my friend Gavin Newsom on the show.  Thanks for watching. 


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