'The Abrams Report' for March 22

Guest: Jay Sekulow, Sharon Rush, Edward Lazarus, Jesse Jackson

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, we‘re waiting for a federal appeals court to rule on whether to keep Terri Schiavo alive. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  The Atlanta-based court got the case this morning after a federal judge rejected Schiavo‘s parents‘ plea to reinsert her feeding tube.  Her parents say she‘s fading fast.  The court will have to move quickly if Terri is to remain alive. 

And the deadliest school shooting since Columbine.  A 16-year-old kills nine before turning the gun on himself. 

Plus, Michael Jackson back in court without a doctor.  We talk to the spiritual advisor who prays with him every morning, the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  Why is he involved in this case?

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, we are waiting from a ruling—for a ruling from a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Atlanta.  That decision could mean life or death for Terri Schiavo.  The court‘s officially closed.  The staff, though, working on the Schiavo appeal, still working, we‘re told they‘ll do so indefinitely.  As soon as a decision comes down, we are going to bring it to you live. 

Meantime, protesters demanding life for Terri are outside the court while the judges consider this new appeal from Terri‘s parents and sibling.  Their attorney, David Gibbs, pleading that Terri‘s feeding tube be restored telling the court—quote—“Where as here death is imminent.  It is hard to imagine more critical and exigent circumstances.  Terri is fading quickly and her parents reasonably fear that her death is imminent.”

Asking the appeals court for the following, a reversal of the federal court‘s decision not to reinsert the feeding tube.  They want a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the husband, Michael Schiavo, from withholding Terri‘s nutrition and hydration, and they want to order the Hospice to transport Terri to the hospital to reinsert the feeding tube and provide any medical treatment necessary to keep her alive. 

The latest appeal follows District Court Judge James Whittemore‘s rejection of the parents‘ appeal this morning.  This after Congress put the case in federal court.  With time running out, Terri‘s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler trying one last time to get relief from Florida‘s legislature as well.  Mary Schindler told reporters this within the hour.


MARY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO‘S MOTHER:  I understand that we only need one vote in the State Senate to save my daughter.  Please, Senators, for the love of God, I‘m begging you, don‘t let my daughter die of thirst. 


ABRAMS:  And now George Felos, the attorney for Terri‘s husband, Michael, has just denounced rumors about his client and again urging Florida voters to contact their legislators to say stay out. 


GEORGE FELOS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL SCHIAVO:  We know that you Floridians out there do not want the legislature meddling in this matter.


ABRAMS:  All right.  “My Take” on what‘s been happening today.  This -

·         I said it yesterday believe it‘s an unconstitutional act of Congress. 

It‘s essentially rejected all of the state court findings and placed this case and this case only in the federal courts.  It‘s been taken to a new level of absurdity.  Now some senators and congressmen like Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay have the nerve to say that Congress had effectively ordered the lower court judge to reinsert Terri‘s feeding tube. 

Even those who support this half-baked legislation were saying yesterday before the ruling well all we did was provide Terri‘s family another avenue.  We just allowed the federal court to hear the case just to give her the same rights as those condemned to death.  Well now that they don‘t like the federal court opinion, they‘re saying the judge had been ordered to do so by Congress.  Congress doesn‘t order judges to do anything.  This is going from the unconstitutional to the downright dangerous. 

So as we wait for the decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, I‘m joined now by Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center...


ABRAMS:  ... for Law and Justice.  He‘s represented Terri Schiavo‘s parents before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Edward Lazarus is an attorney, constitutional law scholar, and Sharon Rush is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Florida.  All right. 

Jay, we‘re waiting for this 11th Circuit...


ABRAMS:  ... Court of Appeals opinion.  I find this to be downright disgraceful that there are members of Congress going out and suggesting that they ordered the court to reinsert—I heard from everyone yesterday, hey, all we‘re saying is allow the federal courts to hear it. 

JAY SEKULOW, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW & JUSTICE:  Well, the actual legislation is a grant of jurisdiction, you‘re correct there, Dan.  But the jurisdiction grant also provided for mandating of de novo review, which is, you know, a complete review of everything.  This judge denied the parents‘ request for the feeding tube to be reinstated after basically an hour and 40 minute hearing.  It‘s impossible for that to constitute de novo review.  And that‘s actually what‘s up before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals right now. 

And that is going to be the issue of was this the appropriate level of review.  I frankly think the 11th Circuit, probably either—depending on who the three judges are, but ultimately the whole (UNINTELLIGIBLE) panel, the entire...


SEKULOW:  ... 11th Circuit are going to say no, that‘s not de novo review. 

ABRAMS:  Well...

SEKULOW:  You couldn‘t have even done that in an hour and a half. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but see this is what, Professor Rush, congressmen love to tell the courts how to do their job.  They love it.  They want to tell them how long they should spend deliberating.  They want to tell them what they should look at and what they shouldn‘t look at.  And that‘s not the way our system works.

SHARON RUSH, UNIV. OF FLORIDA LAW PROFESSOR:  No, it absolutely is not.  And this judge, Judge Whittemore, reviewed all the evidence that was on the record and decided that there was no additional procedural due process that would effect the ultimate decision in this case, that in fact, the evidence shows that this is what Terri wants. 

ABRAMS:  What about the claim that, you know, look, and when we talk about—let me be just clear to my viewers—when you say de novo review, it means basically that the federal court can look at this from the beginning.  They can look at it anew.


ABRAMS:  And it means that they don‘t have to give the sort of deference that you might have to give in other kinds of cases.  That‘s what the legislation says.  But even with that the case, Professor Rush, that does not mean that this judge cannot have reviewed all of the papers, all of the evidence that was introduced at all the state trials and said, look, I‘ve reviewed it, I‘ve looked at it.  There hasn‘t been any—Terri Schiavo or Terri Schiavo‘s parents, depending on how you look at it, haven‘t been deprived of any federal constitutional rights. 

RUSH:  That‘s right.  And in fact, the point of this would be to reinstate the feeding tube, they would want an injunction to do that and an injunction would, by definition, requires that we have immediate action.  So in terms of thinking of a de novo review with a full trial that‘s going to take days or whatever, I don‘t think that‘s what anyone imagined. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But that‘s what de novo...

RUSH:  So...

SEKULOW:  De novo review means you get to look at the case from afresh.  It doesn‘t mean...

ABRAMS:  That‘s what the judge...

SEKULOW:  Hold it, Dan.  There is no way—this record I‘ve seen is voluminous.  You could not have done this in a day.  Do you know not one single judge, Judge Greer on the state court level, not this judge, not one single judge has looked at—in person at Terri Schiavo?  You‘ve got someone being basically being given a death sentence...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Wait a sec...


ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  You want judges...


ABRAMS:  Oh and if the judge had gone, Jay, you know what you‘d be saying.  This judge is acting like he‘s a doctor.  That‘s what you‘d be saying if that had happened. 


ABRAMS:  Yes you would, Jay. 

SEKULOW:  Dan, you know me better than that. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s so...

SEKULOW:  You know me better than that. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s such a...


ABRAMS:  All right. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  Fine.  Then let me take that back.  I won‘t accuse you of that.  Others would have said, what made this judge a doctor?  I would much rather have experts evaluating Terri than some judge who is not a medical expert go in and look. 

SEKULOW:  Well you know, there‘s never been a PET scan of this woman ever done.  And that‘s the biggest neurological test of someone that‘s had significant brain damage.  Never done.  That‘s one of the reasons why Senator Frist at the Florida Senate said we need to have this kind of review. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Lazarus, my problem with this is that the arguments change every day depending on what happens in the courts and in the legislatures and the bottom line is for 15 years—and again, if this had been 12 years ago, I could see some people saying, you know what, give it a time, what‘s the rush, what‘s the rush.  It‘s been 15 years this case had been litigated, it‘s been relitigated, it‘s been reviewed by every Florida court and the U.S. Supreme Court, and everyone‘s coming to the same conclusion.  And suddenly, people are talking as if this is the first time we‘ve heard about this case. 

EDWARD LAZARUS, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW SCHOLAR:  Well, Dan, I certainly agree with what you said, but I also think that the discussion so far has been a little bit off point because the question in front of the district court judge at the moment or when he made his decision was not on the merits of the case in terms of whether she was in a persistent vegetative state and all of that.  He had to decide the strength of the federal legal claim, and that‘s what he needed—for an injunction, you have to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.  And they can‘t show that they have a good federal or constitutional claim, and that‘s why the judge threw out—refused to put the tube back in.  Not because he conducted a de novo review of all the evidence.

SEKULOW:  Yes.  Well except the statute requires, actually, Professor, the statute requires de novo review.  That‘s what the requirement is.  And the injunctive proceeding that was initiated yesterday was supposed to have a de novo review that included a subtenant look at the due process claim, which is the claim here, is the denial of life. 


SEKULOW:  Clearly, that‘s what‘s at stake here.


SEKULOW:  I mean no one is denying...


SEKULOW:  ... that the death sentence here is ultimately what‘s at stake. 

LAZARUS:  That‘s just not true.  What was before the court...

SEKULOW:  Well, have you looked at...

LAZARUS:  ... the judge...

ABRAMS:  Let him respond. 


ABRAMS:  Hang on, Jay.  Let him respond. 


ABRAMS:  No, Jay, let him respond. 


ABRAMS:  Let him respond.  Go ahead. 

LAZARUS:  The question, if you look at the counts of the complaint there that Judge Greer was biased, that there was no lawyer appointed...

SEKULOW:  You‘ve seen the amendment...


LAZARUS:  These are not questions of fact as to...

ABRAMS:  All right. 


ABRAMS:  I‘m going to take a quick break.  We‘re going to come back. 

Jay we‘ll talk about this more.


ABRAMS:  Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing this.  Again, if Terri Schiavo‘s life is going to be saved it‘s going to have to happen within hours, within days, and the 11th Circuit knows that well.  They are there.  We are waiting. 

All right.  And a 16-year-old kills his grandfather before heading to school and opening fire in the deadliest school shooting since Columbine.  He reportedly called himself a native Nazi and an angel of death. 

Plus Michael Jackson looked a little better walking into court today.  But how‘s he really feeling?  We‘ll ask his spiritual advisor, the Reverend Jesse Jackson who talked to him this morning.  Some people are asking why is someone like the Reverend Jackson spending so much time with Jackson—

Michael Jackson? 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I know.  I know how strongly all of you feel about the Schiavo case.  You‘re letting me know.  Keep them coming.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, we continue to wait for a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals making the decision about whether to reinsert Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube.  We‘re waiting.  Coming up.



ABRAMS:  You‘re looking at a live picture of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, where at any moment, three judges of that court are expected to rule on the fate of Terri Schiavo.  The woman whose feeding tube was disconnected days ago on Friday, her parents, her siblings now trying to have that feeding tube put back in.  They are fighting, though, I would say it is an uphill legal battle to have that be the case.  Before I go into a little bit about the 11th Circuit and we figure out who these judges are, Republicans, Democrats, et cetera, let me just ask Professor Rush, what do you expect the court to do? 

RUSH:  I expect the court will affirm the district court.  Basically, what‘s at issue here is whether or not she‘s been adequately represented through all of these court proceedings, and the district court judge said that basically there‘s no—nothing new that could happen that would afford her more protection than she‘s already been given.  So there‘s really no federal interest in this case because Terri has the right, the Supreme Court has said under Cruzan that she has the right to have the feeding tube removed.  And so the question really is whether the evidence indicates that that‘s what she wanted and all of the evidence indicates that. 

ABRAMS:  You mention Cruzan and the exact language in the opinion said, “A confident person has a liberty interest under the due process clause in refusing unwarranted medical treatment.”

Jay, are you hopeful about what‘s going to happen in the 11th Circuit? 

SEKULOW:  Well you know the 11th Circuit Court of appeals is like any circuit court, it‘s going to depend on who the three judges are...


SEKULOW:  ... it‘s a rotating pool and you don‘t know who they‘re going to be and it depends.  The circuit tends to vote more of a conservative to libertarian streak, so that may bode well but it is strictly dependent upon who the three judges are. 

ABRAMS:  I got to tell you—I mean I know that some people are dividing this along you know liberal/conservative...


ABRAMS:  ... and there is something of a divide, but it‘s not—this is not one of those cases that divides strictly along those sort of...


ABRAMS:  ... those terms. 

SEKULOW:  You‘re absolutely correct.  In fact, you had the Democratic Black Caucus in the Congress, a majority of them, voted in favor of this legislation. 


SEKULOW:  So no, it‘s not cutting across even judicial philosophical lines. 


SEKULOW:  I think what you‘re going to—I mean there‘s an emotional tie to this case.  I think all three of us would agree, look, this is a horrible situation, and the worst possible situation you could imagine if this was your wife or your child.  I mean you can‘t think of anything worse in that regard. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SEKULOW:  Having said that, it is—it‘s always and you know this, and I do mostly appellate work, anytime you‘re going to the Court of Appeals and you lost in the lower court, you‘ve got a tough challenge. 

ABRAMS:  Let me—little statistics on this court that is deciding this issue that could come down at any moment—jurisdiction over cases in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, there are 12 active judges on the bench, seven appointed by Republicans, five appointed by Democrats, nine male, three female, one African American—let‘s go on as to who appointed them.  One appointed by President George Bush, four appointed by President Clinton, four appointed by the first President Bush, one appointed by Reagan, one appointed by Ford, one appointed by Carter, and as a result, Mr. Lazarus, this really is a toss-up.  I mean it really depends, as Jay Sekulow said, on who gets the case. 

LAZARUS:  It could depend on that.  Of course, this court could decide to take the case immediately enblank (ph) and everybody could participate.  But yes, it‘s a bit of a lottery in all courts of appeals as to which three judges you‘re going to get.  But I suspect there‘s a lot of conversation inside the court if it is a three-judge panel sounding out the other judges, because this is such a political hot potato, it‘s going to be in the public eye, and I don‘t think you‘re going to see a court that wants to go down 2-1 one side or the other. 


SEKULOW:  I think Ed‘s right. 


SEKULOW:  I think the potential for an enblank (ph), a complete court review here quickly is probably very high. 

ABRAMS:  Take another quick break.  We‘re continuing to wait for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals‘ opinion in this case.  Again, as the parents of Terri Schiavo say, and I don‘t think anyone would argue with this, time is of the essence. 

And coming up later in the program, what is Jesse Jackson doing in the Michael Jackson case?  Well he‘s a spiritual advisor, apparently talks to him regularly in the mornings before court.  So I want to ask him, what‘s really wrong with Michael Jackson?  We‘ll ask him...


ABRAMS:  All right.  This just in, in the Terri Schiavo case, that‘s the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, that‘s what we‘re waiting for, a decision at any moment with regard to whether Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube should be reinserted.  The Justice Department has filed late today a statement of interest in the case saying that Congress intended that the district court take a complete and fresh look at all the issues before Terri Schiavo‘s allowed to die. 

Dying—the requested order now would preclude an orderly consideration of all these questions with care, dignity, and orderly procedure that are required by a proper respect for the issues at stake and for Congress.  Edward Lazarus, it sounds like what some in Congress are saying, what the Justice Department is saying, what actually the appeal from the attorney for the family of Terri Schiavo is saying is that Congress was mandating, they‘re saying, reinserting the tube. 

LAZARUS:  Yes, that de facto is exactly what they‘re arguing, because they‘re saying, look, you‘re going to have to look at all—however many thousands and thousands of pages of testimony there is.  You may have to have a hearing with new testimony.  You may have to do all kinds of things and you can‘t do any of that unless you put the tube back in.  So as a practical matter, that‘s right.  They‘re saying Congress ordered the tube back in and I think if you read the law, it‘s a little tough to square with the actual language of the statute, but they‘ll be in there arguing intent. 

ABRAMS:  You know, Jay, what bothers me, and again, what bothers me about this is I feel like this was such a last-ditch effort, meaning you know as a legal matter that they would have a stronger argument if the tube had not been removed yet. 

SEKULOW:  Oh, absolutely and easier...

ABRAMS:  And so they wait and then until the tube is removed, making the argument a lot harder because now you have to ask someone to act as opposed to...


ABRAMS:  ... just retain the status quo. 

SEKULOW:  But you know, to defend the lawyers here a little bit in the Florida courts, and I represent the—Congressman Weldon was the author of the legislation...


SEKULOW:  ... but to defend the lawyers in the court, they tried to get into federal court, Dan, here.  And as you know, the difficulty was standing.  They couldn‘t get in with a cause of action that would stick...

ABRAMS:  But what about the congressmen though...


SEKULOW:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  I agree with you that.  But why the U.S. Congress? 

SEKULOW:  I think what happened here was a convergence of a number of factors.  One, I think the original hope was it was going to be resolved by the Florida legislature.  It did not.  They got bogged down.  The House and Senate, I did not think it was going to pass.  I could not imagine Congress...


SEKULOW:  ... acting that quickly, but they did.  So the law is what the law is, you know, and the fact is right now is the courts have to construe the law and time, as you said before the break, this is—you‘re talking about a case where time is of the essence.  Every minute that we‘re here talking about it and that feeding tube is not in, I mean in essence, and this is the tragedy of the whole thing, Terri Schiavo is starving. 

ABRAMS:  Jay, I‘m going to ask you probably the most difficult question...


ABRAMS:  ... which is what do you think the ultimate outcome is going to be, 11th Circuit, Supreme Court, down the road, is Terri Schiavo going to be kept on a feeding tube or is her life going to end in the next few days? 

SEKULOW:  You know my hope and prayer is that the feeding tube is reinserted.  Of course all of our hopes and prayers for the family that she would somehow recover through that and that‘s going to—that would be miraculous action and God‘s intervention and that‘s what I believe.  Now having said that, I‘m an appellate lawyer...


SEKULOW:  ... and I know when you‘ve got a trial court record, it‘s difficult.  It‘s going to be an uphill battle.  But you certainly—these are the kind of cases where you don‘t give up hope. 

ABRAMS:  Professor Rush, very quickly, you expect that the feeding tube is going to remain out? 

RUSH:  I think so.  I don‘t see any federal interest in this case. 

ABRAMS:  And Mr. Lazarus? 

LAZARUS:  I think that‘s likely, and we‘re going to learn that federal law and the Constitution, unfortunately, don‘t address all the tragedies of the human condition. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jay said it right, you know, whatever you think

about this case, it‘s, you know, it‘s a tough one for everyone involved and

·         all right.  Edward Lazarus, Professor Rush, and as always, Jay Sekulow, good to see you. 


SEKULOW:  Thank you.  Thank you.

RUSH:  Thank you.

LAZARUS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us to talk about his discussions, his advice, his counsel to Michael Jackson. 

And the deadliest school shooting since Columbine.  A 16-year-old kills nine before turning the gun on himself.  He wasn‘t actually going to class there.  Who was he?  Why did he do it?  We‘re going to get a live report from the scene. 

And we are continuing to wait—if that 11th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion comes down, we are going to bring it to you live. 

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:  Coming up, the Reverend Jesse Jackson has been talking to Michael Jackson on a regular basis as an advisor.  He joins us next.  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back, it‘s been a rough trial for Michael Jackson physically.  Jackson left court hours ago surrounded by supporters.  He was early today, walked slowly from his SUV to the courthouse looking a lot better than when he was almost carried by a bodyguard and his brother.  Yesterday he even had a doctor in tow.  It was the third time since the beginning of the case that he was late or missed court because of hospital visits.  So what‘s really ailing Michael Jackson? 

Joining me now is a man who talks to Michael Jackson often and even talked to him earlier today, former presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson who has been serving as a spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson.  Reverend, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.



JACKSON:  Thank you.  I‘ve known this family since 1968 and so it‘s a deeply devoutly religious family.  So it‘s not a new thing that I‘m praying with the family, but in this hour of real stress, we have shared quite a bit. 

ABRAMS:  What is wrong with him?  I mean it seems that every day, he‘s a 46-year-old man who doesn‘t have any that we know of, long-term debilitating illness, and it seems that he‘s constantly ailing. 

JACKSON:  I think the combination of the stress of this trial and the severe back injury is taking a toll on him.  But that, of course, is enormous pressure and my appeal to him, of course, in this crisis and to his mothers and others, of course, is to be prayerful, to be faithful, to not surrender and to stand by his own beliefs and in this crisis only his faith can see him through. 

ABRAMS:  Some have said that he may even be a danger to himself.  Are you worried about him possibly harming himself? 

JACKSON:  No.  I don‘t think Michael is at all suicidal.  I think he has amazing resilience and strength in light of that which he‘s facing.  He feels and his family feels very wronged by an ambitious prosecutor.  He feels that sense of being wronged, the sense that he feels that those who are now his accusers have a weak case, but even the idea of conjuring up the trial of 10 years ago, he feels enormous pressure.  And of course when these storms do come, all you can do is hold on and not surrender.  But I think that his family has gotten closer through it all and prayer really has been their main weapon. 

ABRAMS:  You‘re convinced he‘s innocent, right? 

JACKSON:  He said he‘s innocent and he‘s presumed innocent until proven guilty.  And so far, as bizarre as this is, the accusations have not penetrated.  I remember so well the prosecutor with this grandstanding, 70 people going into his house armed, as if they were going to face armed resistance and ram sacking the house and coming out having this huge press conference and if there are any accusers, come now.  This is the kind of setting a climate that was really drama and theater. 

And of course whether you are Michael Jackson or Rush Limbaugh or however famous you may be, you deserve due process and dignity.  And I think that this kind of grandstanding approach, trying this case in the newsroom rather than the courtroom somewhat undermines the expectation, the reasonable expectation of dignity and due process. 

ABRAMS:  Did he say anything about what it was like for him to be sitting in the courtroom with the young boys making the accusations? 

JACKSON:  Well that he felt in some sense hurt, betrayed, because you know, through all of this, these children‘s families‘ and parents have lived at Neverland ranch.  I mean their parents, the whole family is involved in the relationship.  So in some sense he feels a bit overwhelmed by a very politically inspired it seems prosecutor.  On the other hand, those that he trusted he feels in some sense betrayed by them, and yet through it all he‘s willing to go through the process and to do so and honor the procedure and live with the process and the outcome. 

He feels himself to be innocent and that he will prevail, but he‘ll feel very bloodied up and up muddied up through the process.  He feels—very definitely feels wronged by the process.  I hope that he survives it, and in a case like this, of course, there are no winners.  It‘s all pain, all losers, but what can you do when your back is against the wall except to pray and be faithful? 

ABRAMS:  And Reverend Jackson, I know that much of what you advise him on is spiritual and prayer, et cetera.  Do you ever give him practical advice, for example, saying things to him, like, look, you got to—this is a trial and I know it‘s hard for you and you‘re not used to this, but you got to behave like an adult, you have to not come across as so childlike all the time outside of court, when you‘re walking, with the hospital, et cetera? 

JACKSON:  That certainly is my point of view and I‘ve tried to say to him that there‘s a trial within the courtroom and there‘s a trial of public opinion.  And one has to give all the appearances of the sincerity that this case deserves.  And of course, he has that sense of sincerity, while he‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of physical pain, the emotional stress, he still is his own person.  He will not negotiate away his person. 

I just hope that one can deal with the facts of this case and not with the show business of it all.  Someone said the other day that he‘s a celebrity.  Well, he‘s a citizen.  As a citizen, he deserves a trial that respects dignity and due process. 

ABRAMS:  I think he‘s getting a fair trial there from what I‘ve seen and I‘ve made a prediction on this program before that I expect—I think he‘s going to be acquitted or there will be a hung jury.  But, let me very quickly...

JACKSON:  Well, I certainly hope—I hope that he will never subject himself again—the very appearance of this relationship has been very damaging to Michael and I hope that he will never again have...

ABRAMS:  Not have kids sleeping in the bed, yes...

JACKSON:  ... this level of—that part is not working. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Very quickly, Reverend Jackson, because I‘ve got you here and we‘re waiting for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in the Terri Schiavo case as to whether her feeding tube can be reinserted, I‘ve only got 30 seconds, I just wanted you to—just quickly get your thoughts on that. 

JACKSON:  Well I think the feeding tube should be reinstated.  This is a very tough emotional, ethical, political issue.  But you know she is brain impaired, she is not brain-dead.  And right now they‘re starving her to death.  They‘re dehydrating her to death, and that raises profound ethical questions.  That tube should be reinstated.  She is not brain-dead.  She‘s brain impaired.  It‘s not right to starve her to death.  That‘s not right ethically. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  That‘s the Reverend‘s take.  Reverend, good to see you.  Thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.  I appreciate it. 

JACKSON:  Thank you very much. 

ABRAMS:  As for what happened in court today, crucial prosecution witness testified a comedian who befriended the accuser‘s family told jurors she got a very disturbing phone call from the boy‘s mother in February of 2003, a phone call that led her to believe the accuser and his family were being held against their will. 

Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom, is standing by live in Santa Maria. 

Mike, it sort of goes to the heart of the conspiracy case against Jackson. 

Sounds damaging, was it? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well it sounded damaging when it was said, Dan.  You‘re right.  The comedian is Louise Palanker, perhaps not a household name, but a working comedian and comedy writer by her description for the past 20 years.  Plus, she said today that she had taken a phone call shortly after the Bashir documentary from the mother of the accuser.  The exchange went like this.

Did you take her remarks seriously that she was afraid?  She said, these people are evil, referring to the mother, they‘re keeping us.  I would say, where are the children?  The children are with me.  I said, are the children in school?  She said no, and that‘s when she started crying.  She said she did take the remarks seriously. 

Question:  Did you call anybody after this phone call?  Just my lawyer.  Why did you call your lawyer?  Her answer, I felt that they were being held against their will, which as you point out, is the heart of the conspiracy.  Later under direct testimony, Ms. Palanker said that she was asked about the accuser himself. 

During the period of time that you‘ve known him, have you been able to form an opinion about him concerning his character or honesty.  Her answer, yes, he‘s been honest in the face of others wishing him not to be.  That‘s on direct.  On cross-examination, some interesting things happened as always does with an effective cross-examination.

This is due process at work.  Jackson‘s chief attorney, Tom Mesereau, got her to admit that in a conversation in which sheriff‘s investigators, which she did not know was being recorded, she said a lot of other different things.  She said, for example, about the family, the accuser‘s family, this family can be as wacky as they want to be.  They always were kind of strange.  And about the mother whom she defended in her direct testimony is never asking for money, never being a problem. 

She said of the mother she is unbalanced, I think she‘s totally bipolar, and the behavior of the children were so over the top all of the time.  Additionally, Louise Palanker was forced to admit that a comment she had made about Jamie Masada, the comedy club owner who allegedly introduced the accuser to Michael Jackson, that he was a pathological liar was an exaggeration.  Yes, she said it, but she didn‘t really mean that.  It was an exaggeration.

So, this effective prosecution witness was, as often is the case on cross-examination, revealed to be something a little bit different.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mike Taibbi, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

TAIBBI:  All right. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the worst school shooting since Columbine, a 16-year-old opens fire, kills nine before killing himself.  New details are coming up and a live report from the scene.

And we are waiting for a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in connection with the Terri Schiavo case at any moment.  The court could rule whether that feeding tube should be reinserted.  We will bring that to you live when it happens.  Stay with us. 



ABRAMS:  Let me just tell you we are waiting for a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Terri Schiavo case.  Live picture of the court there.  If and when that happens, we‘re going to bring it to you immediately. 

Minnesota police together with the FBI are sorting through the details of a school shooting, left 10 dead, seven injured.  The boy apparently came in armed with weapons and a flak jacket. 

NBC‘s Kevin Tibbles is in Red Lake with the story.  Hey Kevin. 

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Dan.  Well, this evening this is a community in shock.  People are asking how could someone so young turn so violent and leave so many families grieving the loss of their loved ones? 


TIBBLES (voice-over):  As tribal elders from the Red Lake Chippewa Nation gathered for a somber vigil outside a local hospital where some of yesterday‘s victims died and others are recovering. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So keep them close to your heart. 

TIBBLES:  Authorities investigating the shootings began piecing it all together.  They say 16-year-old Jeffrey Weise shown here at age 8 began his violent rampage at the home of his grandfather, Daryl Lussier, a sergeant on the Red Lake police force. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Armed, we believe with a 22-caliber weapon, Mr.

Weise shot and killed Mr. Lussier and his companion Michelle Sigana. 

TIBBLES:  Investigators say Weise then takes his grandfather‘s bulletproof vest, gun belt and weapons and makes off in his police vehicle and drives the mile and a half to the school.  Sometime after 2:00 p.m., Weise speeds towards the Red Lake High School, halts at the front door, and shoots the school‘s 28-year-old unarmed security guard, Derrick Brun, to death.  As Weise enters the school, witnesses say he smiles and waves walking down the locker-lined hallway shooting at random.  He stops outside a classroom, steps inside, levels his weapons, and fires.  He kills 52-year-old Neva Rogers, a veteran teacher and three students, injuring several more. 

ALICIA NEADEAU, STUDENT:  It was scary.  It was the most scary thing that ever happened to me before.  I just heard the gunshots and they just kept getting closer and closer. 

TIBBLES:  2:55 p.m., 911 operators alert police.  Two callers say there‘s a gunman in the school. 

(on camera):  At the height of the rampage, one student, Ashley Morrison, was barricaded in a classroom and the gunman was banging on the door.  She called her mother who could hear gunshots in the background. 

ASHLEY MORRISON, STUDENT:  I could hear my friend screaming and she was just screaming and he, like, just start—he shot her and there was no more screaming and we just knew she died. 

TIBBLES (voice-over):  2:57, just two minutes later, police arrive at the school, Weise returns to the hallway still shooting. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Weise did fire upon them and one of the officers managed to return fire. 

TIBBLES:  The officers are uninjured.  3:05, Weise runs back to the same classroom, and according to police, shoots himself to death.  3:15, the hospital in nearby Bemidji, Minnesota is alerted and begins preparing for casualties.  The most seriously injured are airlifted to the nearest trauma unit 152 miles away in Fargo, North Dakota. 

Sometime later, police find the bodies of Weise‘s grandfather and his companion dead in their home where the killings began. 


TIBBLES:  And Dan, now it becomes the job of investigators to piece together this timeline to determine how or what drove this young man to commit these heinous crimes on such a remote reservation in such an isolated part of this country—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Kevin, I want to ask you about the kid, the suspect, Jeff Weise, because we‘re just getting this in, that apparently he was posting some comments, et cetera, on the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party site and the administrator for that site is saying we knew him briefly through 34 posts he made on the forum.  He expressed himself well and was clearly highly intelligent and contemplative, especially for one so young.  Do we know anything else about what this kid was up to? 

TIBBLES:  Well, we do suspect that he did have conversations with people on this Web site, essentially a Neo-Nazi Web site is how it‘s being described here.  He was also using the German word, the angel of death, to refer to himself, and he spoke of his tribe here in this reserve as being perhaps not as pure of race as he wanted it to be.  So there were symbols or at least indications coming out of him at that point that he was perhaps unhappy.  Many people here described him as aloof.  Many people said he was strange and was picked on at school, but no one here could have imagined that he would go to these lengths. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Kevin Tibbles, thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the school shooting, most deadly since Columbine.  Why does it seem it‘s not having the same impact as Columbine?  It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up. 


ABRAMS:  We continue to wait for a ruling from the federal court of appeals in connection with the Terri Schiavo case.  The question, are they going to demand that her feeding tube be reinserted?  We‘re waiting.  We‘ll bring you that as soon as it happens.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—am I alone in feeling like we‘ve become somewhat desensitized to a school shooting?  The latest in Minnesota yesterday at Red Lake High School.  At least 10 dead.  More than half a dozen injured.  There‘s something particularly frightening about the idea that our kids are not safe in school and yet, it no longer feels as momentous and terrifying as the days and weeks after the Columbine shootings in Colorado or even Perdue (ph) at Kentucky or Jonesboro, Arkansas. 

Sure, we‘re covering what happened in Red Lake.  As we reported earlier, 16-year-old Jeff Weise allegedly killed his grandfather, took his guns with him to school where he reportedly smiled as he gunned down classmates.  Earlier reports suggest he may have posted comments on an online Nazi forum supporting Hitler under the name angel of death. 

I covered Columbine.  I was out there in April ‘99 for nearly two weeks after high schoolers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 and then themselves.  That national sense that a cataclysmic event had shaken the foundations of American society just isn‘t there this time around.  Even though this case seems eerily similar to Columbine with a student sporting a dark trench coat, viewed by other students as a loner, participating in online fringe groups.

I‘m not sure if it‘s good or bad but it is.  Other school shootings in recent years just haven‘t received the kind of attention Columbine did.  Yes, the number of dead at Columbine was slightly higher, but the point is the same.  A child came to school heavily armed and killed classmates and/or school officials. 

I just don‘t hear people saying, can you believe it like they did several years ago.  Instead, it‘s more a sense of resignation, almost an expectation it was bound to happen.  I fear that even in the past 10 years, the shock and awe has been replaced with routine and familiar. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, lots of e-mails on the Terri Schiavo case as we wait for a federal court of appeals to issue a big ruling. 


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  A federal judge turning down the request by Terri Schiavo‘s parents to keep her alive by reinserting her feeding tube.  The case now up to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.  We‘re waiting for a ruling.  Many asking about Terri‘s husband Michael Schiavo. 

From Knoxville, Tennessee, Gerine asks, “Why is Terri Schiavo‘s husband in such a hurry for Terri to die?  What does he have to gain if she‘s dead when her parents want to take care of her lovingly?”

Isn‘t that the point, Gerine?  That now he really doesn‘t have that much to gain except that he‘ll have been fulfilling Terri‘s wish.

And Nancy Smith, “Give me a break.  Have you ever been married?  You‘ll definitely want your parents over your spouse making a life and death decision for you.”

Really, Nancy?  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know that most people married would agree with you on that one.  You know, your parents are not your next of kin once you get married.  I love my parents, I love them a lot.  But if and when I get married, I want her to make the decisions.

From Belmont, New Hampshire, Paula Buckle, “Forget the politics.  Forget the 15 years.  Forget how many courts and judges have heard this case.  I‘m glad the government stepped in and I hope and pray the judge rules in favor of restarting the tube feeding.  I would hope if my life hung in the balance that the government would step in on my behalf.”

Paula, even if you had said that that‘s not what you wanted. 

Vicki in Baltimore, Maryland, “Thank you Dan for being the first person that I‘ve heard finally acknowledge that all the legal wrangling surrounding the Terri Schiavo case has nothing to do with her wishes, but what her parents and siblings want.”

Twice convicted sex offender John Couey charged in court yesterday for the murder and kidnapping of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.  We asked since Florida is among eight states that legalize chemical castration, why aren‘t more Florida sex offenders losing a different type of right? 

Linda Pottberg in Gainesville, Florida, “Castration does not stop the issues of control and violence that are a major part of the pathology of sexual abusers.”

Craig Brewer, “It makes a lot of sense to castrate a sex offender.  If they would have started castrated sex offenders a long time ago, there might be a lot of little children alive today.”

San Bernardino, California, J.J. Binkley, “No need to castrate John Couey.  Just put him in prison among the general population and let nature take its course.”

Kathleen O‘Malley in Copiague, New York, “Castration is too good for people like Mr. Couey.  All castration would do is disable his apparatus.  He would still have the mindset of a child molester.  I recommend a lobotomy.”

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word-- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show. 

“OH PLEAs!” --  Jack Kerouac‘s quote that life is a wink of the eye and winking stars rings true for one 56-year-old woman in Alexandria, Virginia literally.  But the stars in this story belong to a couple of police officers.  Cegurna Thomas may have had more ailments than she can count on one hand, but she‘s not dead. 

The social worker who tends to Thomas daily called paramedics.  She found Thomas unresponsive without a pulse.  The paramedics still unable to find Thomas‘ pulse, pronounced Thomas dead and left the home for the police to finish processing the scene.  Then 11 minutes after she had been pronounced dead, one of the officers noticed her eyelids move and heard the faintest of breath. 

They called the paramedics back to the scene.  Thomas was alive.  Immediately brought to the hospital where she remained for four days.  She doesn‘t remember the events that occurred February 4.  It‘s not the first time she‘s been believed to be dead. 

Get this.  On another occasion, Thomas quit breathing, making some believe she was a goner.  The two paramedics were disciplined.  One terminated, the other suspended for 24 hours.  She gives new meaning to the term walking dead. 

That does it for us.  Back for a 9:00 p.m. special edition of the program as we wait for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on whether Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tube will be reinserted.  We‘ll have full coverage of that at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  There could be a ruling between now and then. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching. 

See you in a couple of hours.


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