Guest: Bruce Japsen, Clint Van Zandt, Arlene Ellis-Schipper, Ken Corley, Gary Kersh, Jeralyn Merritt, Larry Brinton, John Herbison, Mark Schone
LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST: Coming up, the verdict is in, jurors award more than $250 million to the widow of a man who died after taking the drug Vioxx.
DANIELS (voice-over): And divers in Aruba prepare to search for Natalee Holloway off of the coast this weekend as an emotional mother refuses to lose hope.
Plus, a former Catholic high school teacher charged with having sex with a student, arrested again. Could the new charge actually help her beat her rape charge?
And if she‘s convicted, she won‘t be able to live in one Texas town. It‘s banning sex offenders from moving there. Is that going too far? We ask the town‘s mayor.
The program about justice starts right now.
DANIELS: Hi everyone. I‘m Lisa Daniels. Dan is off tonight.
First up on the docket, a Texas jury delivering a massive reward for the wrongful death of a man who took the prescription painkiller Vioxx. That award, more than $250 million. The jury of seven women and five men spent 10 hours deliberating before finding the pharmaceutical giant Merck liable. This is the first of what‘s expected to be a wave of trials against the drug company.
Joining me now, “Chicago Tribune” business reporter Bruce Japsen who was in the courtroom for the trial. And Bruce, this case wasn‘t supposed to be one of the stronger cases. Are insiders saying that the future is dim for Merck?
BRUCE JAPSEN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE” BUSINESS REPORTER: I would say definitely. I mean this is a case where you had a younger jury. You didn‘t have an older jury where you have older people who are used to taking drugs and who worry about potentially drug safety anyway. It‘s—we got an interesting saga with a Republican trial lawyer, which is an interesting scenario, and a conservative county. Tom DeLay represents part of this area and they came out with a big verdict today.
DANIELS: Obviously it would be wrong to take this judgment, multiply it by 4,200, which is the number of future cases because all these cases are so different and the standards are different. The next one is in Atlantic City in New Jersey. Are Merck officials more optimistic about that one?
JAPSEN: Well, I would say if they can—it depends on who the plaintiff is. I mean if they can find an older—if it‘s an older patient who has clogged arteries and health risks, they might have a shot. But the bad news for Merck here is that they went and they got all of this data back to 1997. And I talked to jurors this afternoon and they said, listen, it showed that this drug had cardiovascular risks dating back almost a decade ago.
And the jury did not think that the company was forthright in getting this information out. And the $229 million in punitive damage was a figure that was thrown out in court from sales that they supposedly gained in 2001 by delaying putting some warning information in their label.
DANIELS: So Bruce, bottom line here, how much is the victim‘s family really going to get when all is said and done.
JAPSEN: Well in Texas, they cap punitive damages. So even her—Carol Ernst‘s lawyer, Mark Lanier, says they don‘t think she‘s going to get that. But she‘s probably going get, you know, a few million dollars out of this. I‘m sure he‘ll get his third—his firm will get their third. And probably one of the scary things for Merck going forward here is that this lawyer is involved in hundreds if not thousands of these futures costs.
It will be fortunate for Merck that the cases are not going to be tried 40 miles from Mark Lanier‘s hometown, but this is going to be a common thread here. And you had a younger jury. You had jurors saying they‘ll never look at pills the same way. They‘re going look at the labels and read the labels. It‘s going to be interesting going forward.
DANIELS: Yes, interesting not only for Merck, but for all of the other pharmaceutical companies. Bruce Japsen. Thanks so much Bruce for all that information. Appreciate it.
JAPSEN: Thanks for having me, Lisa.
DANIELS: Now we‘re going turn to Aruba where divers are getting ready to head out on a search tomorrow. They‘ll be going about a mile off the island following a tip from a man who is using technology, it‘s known as triangulation. And the man says he identified something that could possibly be a body.
Now meanwhile, the landfill remains untouched and it appears that more private funding has been secured to search the area. But—here‘s a big but—investigators are having a pretty tough time finding anybody to actually do the searching.
Joining me now with the latest in the investigation, MSNBC analyst and former FBI investigator, Clint Van Zandt. Clint, I can‘t even believe that people are taking the triangulation method too seriously given that there‘s no scientific proof that it works. Now the divers are following the tip.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR: Yes, you know I think it shows to some level the—for lack of a better term desperation in this investigation right now. You know normally, you stack up your priority leads, your less than priority, and then down at the bottoms, the ones if we‘ve got nothing else to do, let‘s just go ahead and run it down.
I‘m afraid at least in this case, we‘re at the very bottom over there. Triangulation—I went out and watched that and that‘s just you know hocus-pocus. I mean he could have been triangulating on the North Pole for all I know, so I wouldn‘t—you know, I wouldn‘t bet the farm on this one.
DANIELS: Clint, I saw you earlier on MSNBC and I heard you talking and you really seemed moved by your interview with Beth Holloway Twitty. How is she doing?
VAN ZANDT: You know it‘s probably one of the more challenging things you ever do. As an FBI agent, my last year, I sat down with two different families, really three and told them that in two cases, a child, in one case, an adult male was not coming home. There‘s no more trying, no more heart-tugging interview you can do. In this case, it‘s sitting down with Beth and you know it‘s a woman of tremendous strength, tenacity, courage, who has to balance in her mind the statistical probability and yet as a parent you never turn off that emotional porch light.
And you know when I sat with her, as a parent, as a human being, you just had to hold her hand and cry with her. It could be me suffering the same challenge and potential loss.
DANIELS: Clint, I want to show our viewers your interview with her. Here it is.
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S MOTHER: You know, some days I think that we may be hitting a wall, but you know I just—I can‘t give up.
VAN ZANDT: No.
TWITTY: I mean and it‘s not time and I mean I—you know and until we do hit a wall, you know we just have to keep going. I mean it‘s just not time.
VAN ZANDT: Beth, you‘ve had conversations with Natalee‘s friends who were with her on the island, who were with her the night she disappeared. What did they tell you happened at this local nightspot from the time that Natalee met Joran van der Sloot until the time she left with him?
TWITTY: You know even more important than that is what we know that Natalee would not do. And Natalee would not—she would not leave Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s and climb into the back seat of a car with Joran van der Sloot knowing that Deepak and Satish Kalpoe were two of his best friends and driving that vehicle.
I know that. I know that for sure that Natalee Holloway felt that she was getting in the back seat of an Aruba cab with an Aruba cab driver. That—to me that‘s important to establish that first.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
TWITTY: Now what preceded that? No, you know I think there—it was very minimal, the details of that. I mean Joran did not come into the establishment until close to closing time. I think this tends to be his, you know, his behavior.
VAN ZANDT: Now had Natalee met him before on the island prior to the night she went missing?
TWITTY: You know, Clint, if she had, it would have been in a brief hello and he met numerous students that night.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
TWITTY: Of course, he spent the majority of the time with one of her classmates at a Texas Holdem table. Now he had met some of the other girls, I think, you know, for a greater length of time than Natalee. But if she did meet him, it was only in passing, hi, and then on to something else.
VAN ZANDT: Where were the chaperons? I mean why weren‘t they right there on top of these kids?
TWITTY: What was the authorities‘ response when the chaperones were trying to seek help? The authorities did not respond. So I mean you know I‘m not even so sure what good it would have done, Clint. We have not gotten anywhere since. And even with me arriving on the island as quickly as I did, I was not even able to get much of a sense of urgency reaction out of them. Well I wasn‘t—no, I didn‘t get any urgency reaction out of them. So...
VAN ZANDT: Let me ask you this. Some people say you‘re too close to the case. You‘re too close to the investigation. That you should back off and let the cops do their job. How do you feel about that?
TWITTY: Well I wish we could, Clint. I wish we could. I‘d give anything to know that I could turn this over to the authorities and that they were carrying out a timely and confident and thorough and honest investigation. But we were not given that when we—from the moment we‘ve arrived on the island, so we have not had that luxury.
So how can we let it—if we let it go now—we let it go in the beginning and what happened? It fell apart in front of us. So why would we back off now? What frightens me is if we didn‘t have the support from everyone from—in the U.S. that has just been incredibly supportive, if we had not had the media.
VAN ZANDT: You‘ve got to ask yourself, have I done everything. Have I done everything...
TWITTY: ... but what bothers me is...
VAN ZANDT: Sure.
TWITTY: ... all the support that I‘m getting they don‘t know that I‘ll spend the rest of my life doing something instrumental to think because I‘m not used to being on this side.
VAN ZANDT: Have you ever had a sat-down with the other mothers? With Joran van der Sloot‘s mother...
VAN ZANDT: ... with the Kalpoes‘ mother...
TWITTY: Not with the Kalpoes‘ mother, but with Anita van der Sloot.
VAN ZANDT: With Anita, mother to mother.
VAN ZANDT: How did you feel in that meeting? Did you feel she was...
TWITTY: You know the only thing that I could get from her was—you know, I realize parents will—you know are going to defend their children to the very end. The main thing I did with her, Clint, was I just listened and I just listened to her probably—oh it had to be at least 45 minutes on her just about Joran and she just couldn‘t quit saying just enough—just glorious things about him.
And just a mother, though, that when I was listening to her, she‘s just in complete denial. She has no—either she has no idea of Joran‘s, you know, behavior or she‘s just—I don‘t know, Clint. She‘s in complete denial. I mean this is a male that‘s—he‘s gambling at casinos with an open line of credit.
He‘s at Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s with a VIP pass. Is that what they give him? I don‘t know. I mean he‘s been doing this for a long time. He‘s got a well-known past. This is a mother who has no idea who her son really is.
VAN ZANDT: September 4 is closing in on us.
VAN ZANDT: September 4 is the day Joran has another court appearance and it‘s my understanding that the judge then will have to make a decision. Is there enough new investigative information to hold him or turn him loose. Is that a pivotal date for you?
TWITTY: Oh absolutely. It‘s all that I can think about between now and September the 4th. And September the 4th I think is a Sunday, so surely we‘ll be finding something out either Friday—or Thursday or Friday or the Monday thereafter. It‘s all that we can think about.
VAN ZANDT: Do you think about one way or the other, the results, if he‘s released, if he‘s held, what that means to you and what you‘re trying to do to bring Natalee home.
TWITTY: No, I‘m not going to do it until I experience it. I haven‘t—
I‘ve done the whole investigation and this whole summer and I‘m just going to wait and see what happens and as soon as it happens, I‘ll know exactly what to do.
VAN ZANDT: What‘s your ultimate goal in this entire matter?
TWITTY: Just bring Natalee home. That‘s all we want to do, Clint. As soon as we can get her we are out of here.
DANIELS: Clint, I‘ve got to tell you I think that was a terrific interview. You really connected with her. And no matter what you feel about what she‘s doing, your heart goes out to her. This has been all consuming for her. She has a son, Matt, at home. Is her family worried about her?
VAN ZANDT: Well you know I‘ve had the opportunity to talk to her friends and talk to her husband and how is she doing? I mean this is a woman of tremendous strength, but you‘ve got to understand, I mean she‘s out all day long doing this. She‘s meeting with people. She‘s dealing with the expressions of we‘re behind you, we‘re supporting you. She answers e-mails.
I mean but you know she‘s like you and me. I mean she has to go to bed at night and she has to find the emotional strength, the manna, that‘s going to get her up the next day. And you know she says I‘m not doing this and you know for those out there, she‘s not doing it for her. She‘s not doing it for the media. She‘s doing this for her daughter.
And you know when I hear people say you know this story is old, move on, I think, my God, what if that was your child? You know what—would you want to move on? I mean if it wasn‘t for the media here driving the story, I don‘t know where she would be. And to the other parents who have lost children out there, your kids are absolutely as important as she is. Somehow this story has legs. We‘re concerned about it. And I would want to see every child get the same level of support, but that shouldn‘t take away from this case.
DANIELS: Yes and I think every parent feels the same way. Clint Van Zandt. Thanks so much, Clint, for that report and all your others. We appreciate it.
Coming up, Beth Holloway Twitty is worried that Joran van der Sloot could get out of jail on September 4, so what do prosecutors need to do to keep him there? We‘re going to ask a top Aruban attorney. That‘s next.
DANIELS: Joran van der Sloot, the only suspect in Natalee Holloway‘s disappearance, still in custody is two weeks away from perhaps the biggest day in this case to date. On September 4, the chief prosecutor faces a huge decision. Now she can go before the judge and ask for a 30-day extension to his detention or she can go before a trial judge and ask for charges to be filed and a trial date to be set.
She also has one other choice. She can ask the judge for Joran van der Sloot to be released. Now joining us now to help understand the options Aruban attorney Arlene Ellis-Schipper. Always great to draw upon your expertise. Arlene, if the judge does grant an extension, that‘s a big if, is that it, no more extensions?
ARLENE ELLIS-SCHIPPER, ARUBAN ATTORNEY: Well, basically, it‘s not such a big if. As you know, the prosecution has 116 days to prepare its case and they‘re well within that term still. This is just another check and balance where a judge of instructions will assess the case whether there‘s still enough probable cause to maintain Joran van der Sloot in pretrial detention.
And I would have to correct you—there is not a possibility to appear in front of a trial judge. The prosecutor in our system has the sole right to make a summation to court. And that is something she has to do according to our law after the 30 days has been passed. So after 4 September, there‘s another 30 days, and then you‘re completing the 116 days where you have to issue a summation to court either pro forma or a real summation.
DANIELS: Got you. It‘s good that you clarified that. How strong does the new evidence have to be? Because this is the third extension. The prosecutor has shown lots of evidence before. How important does this new evidence have to be?
ELLIS-SCHIPPER: Well it‘s not so necessarily new evidence. There still has to be probable cause. So basically it‘s not that huge what we‘re facing with. If an appeal court—and an appeal court has done that before, already found enough probable cause to maintain Joran van der Sloot in a pretrial detention, to me and I could be wrong, of course, it‘s pretty much a certain given that they will extend this time also, given the fact that they‘re still well between—within the 116 days.
After that, of course, they have to determine what criminal offense has been committed for to make—for them to make a summation. That is going to be the critical part.
DANIELS: OK, so if the prosecutor does ask for the charges to be filed and a trial date is set—let‘s assume that—am I correct at this point—the prosecution must present all her evidence against the suspect?
ELLIS-SCHIPPER: Well, basically, when you make a summation to court, you close the case as a prosecutor. And at that moment, you just—you present everything at court and also, for instance, at the victimize party, at that moment, the family Holloway gets complete insight of all court documents. On the other hand, if they‘re not ready, they can also issue what we call a pro forma summation, meaning that the case cannot be closed yet, but she has to describe and determine the criminal offenses that she is going to charge him with, an indictment actually in your lingo. And that means that she has to exactly describe what happened that night. And that‘s the difficulty in this case because we still don‘t know.
DANIELS: I‘m curious, because September 4 is a Sunday—typically will the hearing be done before September 4 or will it be done the following Monday?
ELLIS-SCHIPPER: No, it has to be done before September 4 at a certain hour -- I don‘t know the hour exactly. The term of the 60 days pretrial detention ends. And before that, there has to be an order for an extension, otherwise he will be released because of formalities.
DANIELS: Arlene Ellis-Schipper, always good to have you on. There‘s so many misconceptions when it comes to Dutch law versus American law. Really appreciate it.
ELLIS-SCHIPPER: You‘re welcome.
DANIELS: Well following the footsteps of towns like Miami Beach that won‘t allow sex offenders to move into the neighborhood, a small Texas town has done the same thing. Lawmakers in Brazoria, Texas decided Monday that sex offenders cannot live within 1,00 feet of areas where children gather. But since Brazoria is such a small town, those parameters cover every house in the town but one.
The ordnance passed unanimously by the town city council, which also made it a crime for landlords in the area to knowingly, knowingly rent to registered sex offenders. Now joining me now is the mayor of Brazoria, Ken Corley, and city councilman, Gary Kersh, who voted for the ordnance. Thank you both for appearing on the show. Really appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for having us on this program to help support our cause.
DANIELS: Mayor, let me start with you because I‘m curious where you got the idea.
KEN CORLEY, MAYOR OF BRAZORIA, TEXAS: Back in February, we‘re in Austin at the Brazoria County Days, and I talked to our state representative and wanted some kind of an ordnance that would prohibit sex offenders from being in the city of Brazoria. He said it couldn‘t be done, just strictly prohibit them.
Then basically at that time, we gave up, OK. Then watching Bill O‘Reilly on FOX when they interviewed the mayor of Miami, this showed us the way. We contacted the mayor from—actually the general—city manager, got the information from them, and we took it to our attorney. We studied it. We called Texas Municipal League, TML, and we moved forward from there.
DANIELS: Mayor, you‘ve got to watch MSNBC more, I‘m telling you.
CORLEY: Well from this day on, we will.
DANIELS: All right. Councilman, I think most people would agree with the notion behind the idea. But I think people in your city think you‘re doing a good thing. But there‘s the argument out there that maybe you‘re doing a disservice to other Americans because the sex offenders are going to be dumped in their backyards. How do you respond?
GARY KERSH, BRAZORIA, TEXAS CITY COUNCILMAN: No, that‘s not really true. I see as unique because it‘s a small type city and there‘s plenty of room to live outside of our city. So yes, we‘re pushing them out of our city, but there‘s plenty of room for them in the country or wherever they like to live. Just not in the city of Brazoria at this time.
CORLEY: Yes ma‘am...
DANIELS: ... take a step back, if a neighboring city passed a similar law, how would you feel?
CORLEY: Embarrassed that I wasn‘t there ahead of them.
KERSH: That‘s right. We took the first step. They should follow us.
DANIELS: True Texas style answer, I love it. Mayor...
CORLEY: As a matter of fact, we would like for this to go national because this is a national issue. This issue is not limited to Brazoria nor is it limited to the state of Texas. We would hope everyone would adopt this ordnance ASAP. It‘s way, way, way overdue.
DANIELS: Mayor Corley and Gary Kersh, do stay with us because coming up, we‘re going to explore more. Is Brazoria, Texas going a little bit too far? Is it fair to punish sex offenders even after they‘ve done their time been behind bars? We‘re going to be joined by a defense attorney who says this town is out of line.
Plus, nine years after a Tennessee mother goes missing, authorities charge her husband with murder even though they don‘t have a body, they don‘t have physical evidence that we know of that he committed a crime. We‘re going to talk to his attorney.
And our series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our hunt in Alabama wraps up today.
Please help authorities locate this guy, William Homann. He‘s convicted of sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl in Washington County. He is 36 years old. He is five feet tall. He weighs 140 pounds. And he is not registered with authorities. If you do have some information about where he is, please call the Alabama Bureau of Investigation—there‘s the number -- 334-353-1172.
And we‘ll be right back.
DANIELS: Coming up, the Texas town has all but banned sex offenders from living in it. Is it going too far? First the headlines.
DANIELS: We‘ve been talking about a Texas town that has just passed an ordnance banning sex offenders from moving into the neighborhood. Brazoria, Texas doesn‘t want sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, which essentially covers the whole town. They‘ve made it a crime also for any landlord to knowingly rent to registered sex offenders. The question is, is it fair for one town to decide what kind of people get to live there.
Joining me to debate it, defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt. And back with me Ken Corley, the mayor of Brazoria, Texas, the town banning sex offenders from moving in. Also City Councilman Gary Kersh, who voted in favor of the ordnance. And before I get to Jeralyn, Mayor, I want to follow up with you.
Right before the break, you told me—I asked you, how would you feel if a neighboring town did it before you and you said, I‘d be embarrassed. I think every city should do it. My question is, where should the sex offenders go?
CORLEY: There‘s a lot of country out there. There‘s—we are a small town in a large county. There‘s hundreds and hundreds of miles, square feet of miles where they can live.
KERSH: Yes, there are lots of houses that are not in the city limits where children gather and our county is so huge. I mean there is—there‘s plenty of places for them to live. It‘s not just telling them they can‘t live. There‘s plenty of places for them to stay.
DANIELS: I appreciate where you‘re coming from on that. But what‘s the difference between someone living there and someone working there?
CORLEY: We have schools. We have parks and that‘s where the children congregate. Outside of the city limits there is no schools. There is no parks. And we‘re trying to limit where the sex offenders cannot come to an area where there is a gang of children.
DANIELS: But they can walk there. They can—I mean if you restrict them from living there, they can work there. Is it more symbolic or do you actually think this is going to help?
CORLEY: It‘s already helped. It‘s already—as a matter of fact, we have already won. In February we started studying this. Since we started studying, we had 10 in Brazoria, five have moved out on their own. So, yes, ma‘am, it will work.
CORLEY: It‘ll work for us and you as well.
DANIELS: Let‘s bring in Jeralyn because I‘m curious what you‘re thinking.
What‘s your response to all of this?
JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: These laws are shameful. They pander to public emotion. First of all, when it comes to sex offenders and kids, most sexual offenders are people these kids know. Second of all, what you‘re going do when you restrict these offenders‘ ability to live in a town, to work in a town, you‘re going to deprive them of a way to make a living. They‘re going to go out and commit an economic crime.
They‘re going to end up back in prison. It‘s going be a vicious cycle. They‘ve done their time. These laws do not discriminate between violent sexual predators and between the 18-year-olds who had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend or the peeping tom or any other kind of sex offender. These laws are unfair, they‘re un-American, and they should not be passed.
DANIELS: All right, let‘s keep the un-American out of it. But Councilman, why don‘t you react to that one?
KERSH: Well she has the right to have her opinion and we do too. And I agree with some of the things she says, but in our city, people who work there it‘s local people. We don‘t have no industrial where they come in and out. When you meet somebody in our town, if you stay there six months, you‘re going to see them every day.
It‘s not like you‘re going to see a stranger. I mean when you go to the grocery store, you‘re going to speak to everybody in that store. So when she‘s talking about coming in and out and working, we have one that works at a local mechanic shop. He‘s not abandoned from our city. He does not have to move. He‘s grandfathered into this new ordnance. And we‘re not picking on the one that are there. Now, if they want to leave, that‘s their business.
DANIELS: Jeralyn, what do you think?
MERRITT: I think these laws are terrible. And I think that people think they‘re going to make them safer and they are not. What they are is discrimination. This week it‘s sex offenders. Next week who‘s the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) going to be? It‘s going to be somebody else. Maybe it‘s going to be somebody‘s passport who has a stamp showing they went to the Middle East. You know what—you know who gives who the right to say who‘s going to live in their town and what‘s good for their town...
CORLEY: The people that voted for us give us the right.
MERRITT: ... counter productive because we want to rehabilitate our prisoners. We want them to come out of jail and be able to earn a living and...
CORLEY: Sexual offenders cannot be rehabilitated.
MERRITT: ... productive members of society. Treatment—sexual offender treatment...
KERSH: There‘s no cure.
MERRITT: ... works in prison.
KERSH: There‘s no cure.
MERRITT: The actual recidivism rate is lower for sex offenders who have had treatment in prison...
KERSH: They don‘t even want them...
MERRITT: ... than it is for...
CORLEY: Ma‘am, you can‘t document that.
KERSH: You can‘t...
MERRITT: Yes I can.
KERSH: They don‘t even want them...
MERRITT: The Department of Justice statistics say, so go up on their Web site and you‘ll find it.
CORLEY: E-mail that to me at the city of Brazoria.
KERSH: They don‘t even want...
MERRITT: You can go right online.
CORLEY: If you‘re so passionate about this, we will help move...
CORLEY: ... any sexual offenders in your neighborhood.
MERRITT: OK, absolutely. I‘ll be happy to do that.
DANIELS: All right, let‘s leave it...
CORLEY: Do you want them in your neighborhood?
MERRITT: I have no problem with it. If they‘ve had treatment in prison, if they‘ve been released from prison, then they should be able to live, get a job, become productive members of society.
DANIELS: All right...
CORLEY: I could not agree with that.
DANIELS: I do think it‘s a healthy debate and I think we presented both sides of the issue. Jeralyn Merritt, Ken Corley and Gary Kersh, obviously different approaches to this. Really appreciate all of you...
MERRITT: Send me the e-mail so I can send him the stats.
DANIELS: All right. I‘m going to let you guys swap e-mails.
Coming up, nine years ago Janet March left her Tennessee home. She never returned. Her body has never been found. This week, her husband is in court charged with her murder.
And the former Catholic high school teacher accused of raping a 16-year-old student back in jail. The details next.
And our series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our search in Alabama concludes today. Next week, we‘re going focus on Alaska.
Jessie James Sims, convicted of raping a 3-year-old girl in Jefferson County. Sims is 47 years old, 5-foot, 11, weighs 175 pounds. This guy is not registered with authorities. Take a good look at that picture. If you have any info as to where this guy is, please call the Alabama Bureau of Investigation—there‘s the number -- 334-353-1172.
And we‘re going to be right back.
DANIELS: Coming up, nine years after his wife disappears, he‘s charged with her murder. The details right after the break.
DANIELS: A cold case in Nashville suddenly turning white hot. Nine years after his wife Janet disappeared, attorney Perry March has been brought back to Nashville from Mexico to face the music—murder charges. Janet Levine March disappeared August 15 of 1996 after quarreling with Perry. She was declared dead last year, but the whereabouts of her corpse has still been a mystery and may still be. Her ex-husband has been charged with second-degree murder, illegally disposing of a corpse, and evidence tampering. Well March‘s attorneys are wondering this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM MASSEY, ATTORNEY FOR PERRY MARCH: What new evidence the government has been able to come upon in the last nine years that brings this matter to a grand jury now and eventually to open court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: But while the indictment lists 40 potential witnesses, prosecutors won‘t talk about the evidence against March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Tom THURMAN, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You may not hear anything about the evidence until actual trial starts, which is obviously the way the state prefers it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: Larry Brinton is a long-time Nashville reporter with our affiliate WSMV, who‘s covered this story since it broke nine years ago and has spoken many times with Perry March. Also joining us John Herbison is one of Perry March‘s attorneys. Good to have you both here.
DANIELS: Larry, you know, I don‘t think the country realizes what an uproar the case has been for the last nine years. What is the reaction down in Tennessee?
LARRY BRINTON, WSMV-TV REPORTER: This is a story that‘s been on everybody‘s tongue for years and years and years. And the climax of it with his arrest has got people thinking maybe they found the body. They must have something. They finally brought an indictment. And the truth about it is it‘s a mountain of circumstantial evidence against Perry March, but very little if any direct evidence...
DANIELS: Do you know that for sure, Larry? I only ask that because I know the prosecution isn‘t saying what they have. Do we know it‘s a circumstantial case at this point?
BRINTON: Yes, I know that it‘s a circumstantial evidence case. They don‘t have a smoking gun.
DANIELS: John, I‘m curious if you know anything more about the evidence against your client?
JOHN HERBISON, ATTORNEY FOR PERRY MARCH: Well the real mystery is why now? Whether the government has any evidence that should bring a charge at this time that they did not have earlier. And those who know are not telling. That‘s something we‘ll find out about as the case progresses.
DANIELS: John, your client has denied any involvement in his wife‘s disappearance. What does he think happened to her?
HERBISON: Well he has consistently and adamantly denied any involvement in whatever may have happened to his wife after she left their home back in August of 1996. As to any theory of the case that we might present, that‘s going be based upon what evidence is presented and it‘s premature to say at this time.
DANIELS: John, is your client looking for his wife?
HERBISON: Well he‘s currently in custody. He does not know what happened to his wife. She left home on that evening. He has not seen her since. He does not know whether she‘s dead or alive.
DANIELS: OK, but he just went into custody you know recently. What‘s been...
DANIELS: ... going on for the last nine years? Has he been looking for her?
HERBISON: Well he‘s been in Mexico since 1999 until this month. It was kind of difficult to—well he doesn‘t know—first of all, he doesn‘t know where to look and he has gotten on with life. But now we have these developments and it remains to be seen what‘s going to happen.
DANIELS: Larry, you‘ve conducted a number of interviews with him. Is this what he told you? Has he ever waiver from this consistent story?
BRINTON: Well, John‘s got his theory and he‘s supposed to have his theory. He‘s a defense lawyer and he‘s a good defense lawyer. I think most people have a total different viewpoint of what happened and they don‘t think that Janet March left the house on her own. They think something happened to her. It was like 10 days before the police were even called into the investigation and lord knows what happened to her before then.
DANIELS: Well what do they think happened to her?
BRINTON: Well, prosecutors think that Perry killed her and disposed of the body, by himself or with someone. And the problem is you can‘t find the body. And I was talking to Perry one day on the phone and I said well Perry, you know, this early in the game they say they may not be able to prosecute you unless they find a body. And he said, well, Larry, what do you think they‘re going do? Find my business card on the body?
And I said, no, Perry, but if they find her rolled up in a carpet, you‘ve got a problem. And that‘s because there was a rolled up carpet that three witnesses say were in the house a couple of days before Janet disappeared that was rolled up in the living room and they saw it and it was gone when police started investigating and Perry said it was never there.
DANIELS: John, your client has given interviews before, not only to Larry, but to other outlets. Here‘s how he described what happened. He said, the night was normal through dinner. Then Janet and I began to argue. She had made a decision that she was going to take a vacation. And she also had—we also have this one—she had prepared a list for me of a lot of things that needed to be done. She made me sign her list and she said see you and she drove off.
HERBISON: That is his account and he is...
DANIELS: I mean even you‘re smiling. Who signs a list—a to do list?
HERBISON: Well it is an amazing case. And we look forward to getting the case before 10 men—before 12 men and women in a jury box so that we can sort out what‘s true, what‘s not true.
DANIELS: Amazing case or amazing story, John?
HERBISON: It is an...
BRINTON: Lisa, let me...
HERBISON: ... amazing set of facts.
BRINTON: ... you have time for a little sidebar. Perry told police when they started really investigating after they got rid of the missing person and got into really what happened to her, Perry told police not to interview the two children. They didn‘t know anything. But when I was interviewing Sammy, the oldest son, who‘s now 14, I was in Mexico interviewing him. And I said, by the way, do you remember that night?
Oh, yes, I remember that night. What do you remember about it? He said well I went to bed and at 8:00 my mother came up to give me my good night kiss. And she had some baggage and said—she said I‘ll see you soon. And she left and went down to the garage and got in her car. He said I went to the window and she drove out the driveway and then she waved to me and I waved to her.
DANIELS: And we‘re running out of time.
DANIELS: I want to hear the end of that. Is that pretty much...
BRINTON: Well it is because that‘s a total different thing...
BRINTON: ... either they knew something about it or they didn‘t.
DANIELS: Got what you‘re saying, Larry. Larry Brinton, John Herbison, not only will Tennessee be watching this one, but the country will. Thanks so much both of you for coming on.
HERBISON: Thank you for inviting me.
DANIELS: Coming up, the Catholic high school teacher charged with raping a 16-year-old boy, she‘s arrested again, she‘s back in jail. Could these new charges help her beat the rape charges?
DANIELS: We‘ve got some breaking news in the case of that Albany teacher accused of having sex with her student. Remember just a few weeks ago, we told you that Beth Geisel was charged with raping a 16-year-old from Christian Brothers Academy up in Albany, New York. Now she‘s also accused of sleeping with other students over the age of consent. Now she is back in jail. This morning, Geisel was arrested for drunk driving after she cut off a police patrol car and failed allegedly a sobriety test.
This isn‘t the first time we‘ve heard about Geisel having problems with alcohol. She‘s been arrested for drunk driving before. She‘s been accused of buying alcohol for her students on a school trip. And we called Geisel‘s attorney who would not give us a formal statement but did tell us quote—“We‘ve taken the position all along that she has an alcohol problem.”
So the question is could Geisel‘s alleged substance abuse problem be a part of her defense? Joining us now with more on the story is senior editor for “Justice” magazine Mark Schone who has been following this closely. And Mark, first tell us what happened this morning.
MARK SCHONE, “JUSTICE” MAGAZINE SENIOR EDITOR: Well at about 8:30, she was in the city of Albany, far from where she lives and not the nicest neighborhood, and she had a 37-year-old unidentified male in her car. And she pulled in front of a deputy. The deputy pulled her over, gave her a Breathalyzer. She got .13, which is far above the legal limit. And she was taken downtown and her bail has been revoked and I believe she is in jail right now.
DANIELS: Do we know who the male in the car was?
SCHONE: One of the local television stations reported that he was a known crack dealer, but I have absolutely no way of substantiating that.
DANIELS: Did they tell what evidence they have about that?
SCHONE: No, they didn‘t.
DANIELS: All right.
SCHONE: Only one station has reported that. I don‘t know if that‘s true, but I do know there was a 37-year-old male in the car with her.
DANIELS: All right, here‘s the big question. Do you think this incident and the fact that she has admitted she has an alcohol problem, is that going to help her in her defense? What is the view among most people that you‘ve talked to?
SCHONE: This could go two ways. I mean the D.A. is very angry. Her bail has been revoked. They‘ve referred to her as a threat to the community. She is back in jail. She has embarrassed the D.A. Her behavior has continued.
On the other hand, part of her defense is that she has been incapacitated by alcohol. And this merely demonstrates how severe her problem is. She did a month of inpatient treatment at a local hospital. She goes to A.A. meetings and I believe she‘s also on some depression medication.
DANIELS: I‘ll tell I‘m the last one who would point a finger at a victim, but what do we know about these alleged victims, the guys who are saying this teacher slept with us? Especially the 16-year-old with the charge coming with the three statutory rapes. It‘s really one person that all three charges are stemming from.
SCHONE: Well a couple of interesting things have gone on with this case. The defense lawyer intimated that there might be some coercion in this case. Meaning that perhaps the kids took advantage of her alcohol problem to initiate sex. And then perhaps pressured her to keep having sex on threat of exposing her. And there is a blog on the Internet—I‘m not going to give the URL—that gives the names and pictures and ages of these kids and basically puts that theory out there in some detail.
DANIELS: Yes, this is the phantom journalist. I‘ve heard a lot about him or her. He has a lot of information and I know you‘ve been in contact with this phantom journalist. Do you think it is an insider? Could it be someone of her family?
SCHONE: I really don‘t know who this is. I have a sense in communicating with this person that it‘s a young male. It‘s certainly somebody with access to the Christian Brothers Academy yearbook because that‘s where the pictures come from and I think it‘s somebody local. But other than that, I don‘t know.
DANIELS: Well this case is far from over. We‘re going to have to see where it goes exactly. Mark Schone, thanks so much for coming on the show. Appreciate all the knowledge.
SCHONE: Thank you.
DANIELS: Coming up, your e-mails on BTK killer‘s courtroom‘s rants. Stay with us.
DANIELS: Welcome back. I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Confessed BTK serial killer Dennis Rader spoke for almost 30 minutes in a Kansas courtroom yesterday at his sentencing hearing yesterday. Many of you not too happy about that.
From Elmira, New York, Elizabeth Seery. “The worst punishment for him over the last two days would have been to silence him. He should have only been allowed in the courtroom for the victims‘ statements. In the end, he got what he wanted, an audience.”
Elizabeth, I totally agree. It‘s disgusting to me that this monster, this animal got to hear himself speak, let alone have a national audience. It‘s disgusting. And Dan, as you know, decided not to air much of Rader‘s rantings because that‘s what he would have wanted.
Veronika writes, “Thank you so much for not focusing on Rader‘s sentencing tonight. The creep kept killing people so he‘d get attention and now he‘s getting just what he wanted.”
Well said, Veronika. Again, I agree with you. I‘m so glad Dan did that, not to air this monstrous lunatic rant.
Make sure you send your e-mails to the abramsreport—one word—@msnbc.com. We‘ll go through them and read them at the end of the show. That does it. Dan is back on Monday. I‘m Lisa Daniels. “HARDBALL” is coming up next.
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