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Larry King Live
Should the People Who Raised Matthew Propp Go to Jail for Kidnapping Him?Aired March 12, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW PROPP: My parents are the people I have known for 22 years, people who have loved me, cared about me, have always taken care of me, have always made sure I had everything I wanted and needed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Matthew Propp calls a New Mexico couple mom and dad. His biological parents call them kidnappers. We'll get opposing legal views from attorney Raymond Colon. He represents Barry Smiley, the man accused of abducting Matt two decades ago. And also in New York, attorney Fred Magovern. He's representing Matt's biological parents in their long effort to recover a son.
And then, this Florida 14-year-old has been sentenced to life behind bars for beating a 6-year-old girl to death. We'll hear from the boy's mother -- mother rather, Kathleen Grossett-Tate. From New York, the victim's mother, Deweese Eunick. She's trying to forgive her daughter's killer. From Florida, young Tiffany's father, Mark James. He thinks Lionel Tate is getting the punishment he deserves.
Plus Navy Commander Scott Waddle could face court-martial for the fatal collision of his sub with a Japanese ship. His wife, Jill, will talk about the ordeal. She'll come to us from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
All next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Let me begin by saying that Matthew Propp, the young man involved in all of this, was due to be on this show but canceled late this afternoon. We welcome to our program, both in New York, Raymond Colon, the attorney for Barry Smiley, and Fred Magovern, the attorney for Matthew's biological parents.
What, Raymond, has your client been charged with?
RAYMOND COLON, ATTORNEY FOR BARRY SMILEY: He's been charged with kidnapping in the second degree, which is a class b felony in the state of New York.
KING: And where does he -- is he on bail now today to get bail?
COLON: Yes, he was released this -- late this morning, early this afternoon, and he is out on a $25,000 secured bond.
KING: And any trial date set?
COLON: The next court date will be April 25th. That's not for trial. That's a control date of sorts.
KING: Fred, are your clients, the biological parents, involved in this in any way, in the criminal action?
FRED MAGOVERN, ATTORNEY FOR BIOLOGICAL PARENTS: Well, good evening, Larry, and thank you very much for having us.
KING: Thank you.
MAGOVERN: Appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about this case. It's a very important case, it's a very distressing case for my clients.
By way of background, Larry, I've been in the field of adoption law for 30 years. In answer to your question, yes, my clients are very much involved in the case. They're the victims of -- in the case, as is Matthew, the young man who was taken from them 22 years ago.
KING: What would a -- can you quickly tell us the circumstances under which he was taken?
MAGOVERN: Well, I'll do my best. I don't know if time actually will permit a full relation of it.
But essentially, Matthew was conceived out of wedlock. My client Anthony as well as my client Debbie Russini subsequently married. But during the pregnancy, they met with -- the Russini family met with the -- Deborah's family. Deborah's family refused to allow Anthony to assert his claim and wish to raise the child. They deferred and told him, we'll get back to you.
And what happened from that point on is a terrible tale of a young woman who was used and who was led to place her child -- actually, she never placed her child. It was her father who placed her child, turned the child over to an attorney who was representing the Smileys at the time...
KING: Now, the Smileys did get the baby, right?
MAGOVERN: The Smileys got the baby, correct, but when they took -- when they got the baby, they had no legal right to have the baby. Deborah, when she signed a document in the hospital, actually signed for her own circumcision. She didn't exactly know what she was -- what was being put before her. She had no access to counsel.
KING: And were the Smileys -- the Smileys ordered to return the child by a court when eventually she got together with her husband, with her then now soon-to-be husband? MAGOVERN: Well, no. They were subsequently married, Larry. But yes...
KING: That's what I meant, but then.
MAGOVERN: We went to court -- I'm sorry. We went to court in July of 1979, and we had a trial. We had an eight-day trial in family court before Judge Kevin Fogerty (ph). He unanimously -- he ruled in our favor that the consent, the documents that Debbie signed were fraudulent, a product of coercion. He ruled further that Anthony was precluded from being involved, and it was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fraud.
KING: And what the couple then did was run away with the child rather than give him back?
MAGOVERN: Well, they -- first, they exhausted all their legal remedies, which resulted in an additional delay. My client got two visits before the -- they were able to have that prevented during their appellate efforts, all of which were rebuked unanimously. Five judges who looked at this case...
KING: All right. I want -- I don't mean to -- but they took the baby away?
MAGOVERN: They did, they fled, Larry.
KING: OK. And that -- and been missing, nothing heard from for all these years.
MAGOVERN: That's correct. There were various rumors. My clients went around looking, but without success.
KING: Raymond, what is your defense?
COLON: Well, at this point, this is obviously a case which has a lot of historical background to it. And Fred is obviously going to be more insightful in terms of the history of this case.
It's very difficult except I would say at this point that our clients have, my client, Mr. Smiley, has pled not guilty. And I will have to defer right now to what our defenses would be in the courtroom.
KING: But there will be a vigorous defense, you're saying, right? It's not...
COLON: Well, absolutely, I mean certainly. This is a -- this is a couple that loves this child very, very much. This is an individual -- I'm speaking on behalf of my client, obviously -- who has such a significant strong relationship with this young man, who is a very thoughtful and insightful young man. And it's a tragic situation, because obviously the biological parents have been made to suffer as a result of what occurred. But thankfully, Matthew was raised in a proper manner, and he's a -- he's a very intelligent young man who loves his father, who loves Mr. Smiley, and Mr. Smiley loves him, obviously. KING: And he also today, as I understand it, in court hugged his biological parents. Is that correct? Biological father.
COLON: That -- that might be the case. And I think what I can say with a tremendous amount of self-assurance is that this young man has a tremendous amount of love in his heart for both Mr. Smiley, Mrs. Smiley, and the Russinis. I mean, that's something that's a fact that's not going to go away.
He has so much love to give to these individuals that have cared for him and who do in fact care for him today.
KING: Fred, since he is over the age now of being a child, can we just call it a wash? Can the state take a plea of a lesser charge and say turn it over to time served? You know, I mean, why can't we just end this in a Solomon-like manner?
MAGOVERN: Well, Larry, I suppose the state could. But if the state did, it would be an utter outrage -- an utter outrage. My clients have been victimized for 22 years by the Smileys. What they did was wrong.
And make no mistake about it: They knew what they were doing. It was calculated. They fled. And the fact that this young man has grown to maturity and appears to be by all accounts very, very happy and contented, misses the point.
They stole someone else's child. They've already been found contemptuous of the judge's order. So, you know, I don't really think there's much to discuss as to whether or not they took -- took...
KING: So you're saying they deserve punishment of some kind?
MAGOVERN: Larry, there has to be accountability for their actions. You cannot take somebody else's child, do a good job raising them, and then say, "reward me for the good job we've done raising him." It's an outrage.
KING: Could it -- could it be settled civilly, financially?
MAGOVERN: I, you know -- that's -- money -- monetary concerns have not motivated my client, although they've expended over $100,000 in the quest to find this young man,
This isn't the first adoption or situation, because it wasn't an adoption. We had one not too long ago, and it was the Steinberg case that turned out far differently, where someone else lied to birth parents and took their child, and that had a very, very different ending.
We're grateful that Matthew's alive and appears to be well, but the manner in which he's come to that point is just a terrible injustice to my client.
KING: All right. Let me get a break and come back with more of Raymond Colon and Fred Magovern on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Lots of subjects to cover tonight. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROPP: But what I want to clarify is the fact that the man I know as my father is in a New York state prison right now, actually in a county jail, you know, for something that legally may have put him there but morally I don't think he should be there for. And in the end, I hope, you know, all this can be resolved in a peaceful manner, something that can give both families a little bit of closure and maybe put it behind us at that time, maybe start new.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY RUSSINI, BIOLOGICAL FATHER: I thought about him every day. Every day. There's not a day that goes by that I didn't think about him. I would see somebody, look at my younger son, and see a young man, you know, blonde hair, blue eyes, and that's what I would look for. If I saw somebody walking down the street, with blonde hair and blue eyes that was maybe a little bigger, I would look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's the biological father. Now, Raymond, you have to admit that if there -- if what your client did was take this baby away, and even though they raised him very well, it would set a bad example if he got -- if nothing happened to him, then a lot of people in similar cases with adoptions that are questionable, would run off with the children, saying I'll cite this case as example, nothing should happen to me.
COLON: Well, Larry, of course, there are a lot of public policy implications here. But quite frankly, let me just say one thing and get this on the table: my client, Mr. Smiley, is very remorseful in terms of what the pain and the suffering that the Russinis have gone through.
But yes, there has to be a balance here of sorts, between meeting our justice for something of this nature, crime of this nature, which is serious crime -- the kidnapping, that is the allegation or in the indictment -- but you have to weigh that against what has happened, what transpired over 20 years, the upbringing that this child had, the fact that he is a good solid citizen, the fact that society has to ask, and the people of state of New York have to ask themselves, what would be gained by prosecuting the Smileys after such an extensive period of time, when no harm came to this child.
I'm not saying that if you stay away from justice long enough that you should be rewarded, but certainly society has to balance -- in terms of justice, equity, and retribution, or deterrence -- what are factors here. I don't think society would gain anything by putting Mr. Smiley in jail. I don't think that is the way go in this case. KING: Do you think there is a civil ending? I mean, certainly the biological parents, you would think, deserve the money back they have spent trying to find their son.
COLON: Well, I'm not representing the Smileys in any civil matter, I just want to put that out, make that clear to you. I'm representing him in the criminal matter, that is my foremost concern at this point.
And I would say that if there is a possibility of remedying this in a civil arena, then that's to be for civil attorneys, but my client does face a significant amount of exposure. He could get up to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison as a result of this charge, were he to be convicted. I do think that there are some problems substantively and procedurally with the case, however, it is our intention to try to reach an amicable disposition, if that is possible.
KING: Now, Fred, do you want that, or do you want -- for want of better term -- a pound of flesh here?
MAGOVERN: We don't want a pound of flesh, Larry. We wanted -- my client wanted an infant. My client has been deprived of sharing the childhood and giving guidance to his son for 22 years. We're not looking for a pound of flesh.
But there has to be accountability. This is not -- there are always instances of women who have walked onto nurseries and stolen babies out of hospitals, this isn't that much different. This was a legal theft that they carried out. There must be accountability. They can't just be swept away. The ends don't justify the means.
KING: All right, do you have a solution? I mean, do you say to yourself, this would be fair?
MAGOVERN: At this point in time, I don't have a solution, perhaps we need the wisdom of Solomon. I can only tell you that the things that we are hearing -- my clients are hearing -- the Smileys have yet to take accountability and take responsibility for what they have done.
We heard tonight that there is apology. I don't think that is what has really been extended, they're simply putting a spin on this to -- and they are using their -- my client's son to engineer a better position for their criminal charges. They have kidnapped a child! He is now an adult. It is a kidnapping, plain and simple. If it was my child who was kidnapped, I can tell you that I wouldn't be willing to shake hands and say, have a good day.
KING: All right, gentlemen, we will be doing lots more on this, and I appreciate your coming over, and we expect to call on you again. Raymond Colon and Fred Magovern, Colon the attorney for the Smiley family, Magovern the attorney for Matthew's biological parents.
When we come back, another intriguing story out of Florida: 14- year-old says he was aping wrestling matches and kills a 6-year-old. He did it when he was 12, when he is 14, he gets scheduled -- he gets sentenced to life in prison as an adult. We'll have lots of principals involved in that, don't go away.
KING: All right, last week a Florida judge sentenced 14-year-old Lionel Tate to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick.
Joining us in New York is Deweese Eunick, the mother of the victim; and in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Ken Padowitz, the assistant state attorney and the prosecutor in the Lionel Tate murder case. Also in Fort Lauderdale is Mark James, the father of the victim, Tiffany Eunick. And as well, Glenn Roderman, sitting right there with Mark. Glenn is the attorney for Mark James.
Also in Fort Lauderdale is Jim Lewis. He is the defense attorney for Lionel Tate. And in New York is William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International, USA. We also expect to be joined shortly by Kathleen Grossett-Tate, the mother of Lionel Tate.
Deweese, no one could bring your daughter back, and there's nothing worse than losing a child.
DEWEESE EUNICK, MOTHER OF TIFFANY EUNICK: Right.
KING: What do you think should happen to Lionel?
EUNICK: OK, Larry, what we -- what I actually wanted to happen to Lionel, his mom and Jim Lewis obviously did not want the same thing. So, right now, I haven't given it any thought. We knew exactly where we were heading, and that we were heading for first- degree murder. They knew I knew, so it comes as no surprise to any of us.
KING: All right, do you want him to serve life in prison?
EUNICK: That would not be my ultimate goal. I would have preferred to see him rehabilitated. At least, they would try to get -- let him spend some time in a juvenile system where he -- they could try to rehabilitate him. That would be my wish.
KING: And Mark James, you are the father of this boy. Are you and Deweese divorced?
MARK JAMES, TIFFANY EUNICK'S FATHER: Well, we were never married to begin with, you know.
KING: I see, so -- but you're the father of the boy -- father of the girl that was killed?
JAMES: Right. Yes, I was, Larry.
KING: How do you feel about the sentence?
JAMES: Well, I'm really happy with the sentence, you know. I mean, nothing can really bring back my daughter. But at least I know that the system works and there's some justice after all, because my daughter suffered, you know, more than 30-plus injuries, and the people need to know that this was not just an accident, as was claimed before.
This was a vicious murder. This was a slaughter of my daughter, who suffered more than 30-plus injuries. She had her skull fractured, her liver lacerated. She could have died from any of those complications, and to think that she must have suffered majority of those blows while she was unconscious on the floor, that even pains me more. So I think that justice has served.
KING: Ken Padowitz, as the assistant state attorney and the prosecutor in this case, was this a difficult prosecution, to prosecute a 14-year-old boy in an adult setting?
KEN PADOWITZ, TATE CASE PROSECUTOR: Yes, it was very, very difficult. This was a vicious and brutal murder, Larry, and there is no other way to describe it. He beat this little girl. She was 48 pounds, 6 years old and a first-grader. He was 170 pounds, and five grade levels ahead of her, 14 inches taller than her. And he beat her with his hands and fists and kicked her over the course of five minutes with such forces that experts testify were equal to falling out of a second- or third-story building.
This was a brutal murder, and it was a first-degree murder. There is no question about it. Prosecuting Lionel Tate in the juvenile court system here in Florida, he was looking at six to nine months in juvenile detention. That was not justice.
I decided to present this case through a Broward County grand jury and they indicted him for first-degree murder as an adult.
KING: And I know you agreed with -- naturally, you fought for the decision and you got it. But we have heard that you do not agree with a life sentence.
PADOWITZ: I think that I offered a very fair plea offer: three years in a juvenile facility and 10 years of probation with psychological counseling. They turned that down repeatedly. We went to trial. He's been convicted. The law says life in prison.
The judge followed the law, but I think that there is a more appropriate sentence for this horrible murder, yet taking into consider Lionel Tate's age at the time he committed it. So...
KING: The judge had no discretion at all, Ken?
PADOWITZ: No, he had absolutely no discretion. He was a very fair judge, and just followed the law when it came to sentencing. That's the only thing he could do. He followed his oath, as I did following my oath in prosecuting Lionel Tate.
KING: All right, we'll take a break. When we come back, we'll get Jim Lewis' thoughts as to why he didn't take that. We'll check with William Schulz of Amnesty International where they deal with how these kinds of things are handled not only in the United States, but in other countries. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Therefore, the sentence of this court in accordance with the laws of state of Florida that you, Lionel Tate, having been found guilty of murder in the first degree in the death of Tiffany Eunick, be sentenced to incarceration for your natural life ordered this 9th day of March, 2001. You have 30 days in which to appeal. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. This court will stand in recess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I am troubled by this. I mean, it's hard to say a 14-year-old child, then 13, that committed a crime, this is an easy thing. That is a tragic case. A young girl lost her life. This child's life has been altered forever. So we will accept the clemency request should it come up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jim Lewis, that's encouraging for your client. The question, obviously, is why didn't you take the plea bargain?
JIM LEWIS, LIONEL TATE'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Larry, this little boy was 12 years old at the time of this crime, and all of us in the defense did not believe that he intentionally meant to hurt or to kill this little girl. I think even the jurors have said that, that they didn't think that he intended to kill her.
This little boy was playing. He was wrestling with this little girl. We tried to show that to the court. But the judge in this case prevented us from showing much of our evidence and some of the psychological data and studies that show children often mimic what they see in terms of media violence.
KING: So, you thought you could win it, and so you turned down the plea because you thought the judge would rule in your favor and that you could convince a jury?
LEWIS: That's right. You know, it's very hard to tell a 3-year- old little boy that you're going to have go to juvenile prison for three years when everything he tells you and everything that you believe is that he did not intentionally mean to hurt this little girl.
KING: Are you encouraged by the statements of Governor Jeb Bush?
LEWIS: We're encouraged by those statements, and we're encouraged by the statements of Mr. Padowitz that he, too, will be seeking a clemency in this matter. But were going to appeal this because we believe, in fact, that Lionel should get another trial, a fair trial this time.
KING: Glenn Roderman, as the attorney for Mark James, why does Mark James need a lawyer in all of this? Tragically, his daughter is gone.
GLENN RODERMAN, MARK JAMES' ATTORNEY: Right, well, Mark originally wanted to make sure that justice did prevail in this case. I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 30 years here in Fort Lauderdale, and he came to me and asked me to make sure that all the evidence was presented, and, of course, the public was aware of what happened. We were able to do that.
The case was prosecuted perfectly. Mr. Padowitz is an excellent prosecutor, presented evidence as he knew it and saw it and there was a conviction. Just about predictable.
KING: Do you also agree with the idea of some sort of clemency here?
RODERMAN: Well, Larry, I think what's got to be done, we've got to alter system of justice as it relates to juveniles here in Florida and maybe in other states as well. I mean, Ken had no alternative but to present this case as he saw it. It was brutal murder, and there's just no other way to pursue it.
KING: We'll take a break, and when we come back, we'll get William Schulz of Amnesty International's thoughts on this and then more from Deweese and our panel, like to include some of your phone calls as well. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Stay there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defense states that the accident was simply Lionel Tate replicating what he saw being done by Sting, Hulk Hogan, the Rock, the professional wrestling aficionados, but this court is unaware of any wrestling plummeting an adversary that's half the size and one-third the weight, let alone half the age.
The argument is rejected that the 30-plus injuries discussed herein could have been inflicted by any, quote "means with usual, ordinary caution."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we check in with William Schulz of Amnesty, we have with us on the phone Kathleen Grossett-Tate, the mother of Lionel Tate, who has been sentenced to life in prison.
Kathleen, have you been encouraged by the statements of Governor Bush about clemency?
KATHLEEN GROSSETT-TATE, MOTHER OF LIONEL TATE: Hello? KING: Yes, are you encouraged by the statements by Governor Bush about clemency?
GROSSETT-TATE: Yes, Mr. King. Any help is acceptable at this time.
GROSSETT-TATE: ... the governor to say that he will consider the offer. Then, yes. It is something consider.
KING: Were you were shocked at the verdict?
GROSSETT-TATE: Not at all.
KING: You expected your son to be found guilty and to go to prison -- be sentenced to prison for life?
GROSSETT-TATE: No, I did not. I expected the verdict that -- of not guilty, but the sentencing, I expected that from the judge, because of the action, because of everything that went on during the trial, because of everything that went on during the hearing.
KING: Have you been able to see your boy since the trial?
GROSSETT-TATE: I saw him at the sentencing.
KING: But you haven't seen him since?
GROSSETT-TATE: No, sir.
KING: All right, Kathleen, I thank you. You hold right there. Let's go to New York. William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International, what's the viewpoint of your organization on all of this?
WILLIAM SCHULZ, DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, Larry, Amnesty International has immense sympathy for Tiffany and her family. We take no position on the guilt or innocence here. Our concern is simply not to multiply the tragedy.
The fact is that the Florida statutes are a violation of international law, they're a violation of biological law, and they're a violation of common sense. International law requires that the aim of incarceration, especially for children, is rehabilitation. And in fact, it outlaws life imprisonment without parole for those who commit crimes under the age of 12. This ruins the United States' reputation in the eyes if the international community, similarly to the fact that we are one of only six countries in the world that execute those who commit crimes under the age of 18, and those include such human- rights-despising countries as Iran, and Pakistan, Yemen. So, that's the first problem.
The second problem is that the statutes violate biological law. As a clinician wrote in "The New York Times" this Saturday in an op- ed, the fact is that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is the part of the brain that controls inhibition of action, is simply not fully developed in a 12-year-old, in a child.
And that's why -- that's why my last point is that it violates common sense. There are reasons why we have movie ratings of PG-13, there are reasons why 12-year-olds cannot be employed by McDonald's. And those are that they are not fully-developed persons, so this simply multiplies the tragedy.
KING: Mark James, can you understand that?
JAMES: No, I think what he says there is totally irrelevant at this point. I don't know where he come off on that tangent. I don't know where he came from. If he is seeking popularity, or to boost his career or what, but the frontal lobe of a child that age is certainly developed, of course, because I'm a nurse, and I can tell you that.
Secondly is that I have lost my daughter, and I have felt it -- I felt it firsthand, and he is telling me, here what I'm listening, if I -- if I am not hearing correctly -- is that a child under 18, it's OK for them to kill and not be punished, you know, as an adult, for a savage murder. You know, something is wrong in the system then, if he does not see that. They should be punished. You know, severely punished.
KING: Well, he's not saying he shouldn't be punished. He's saying they shouldn't go to life in prison or be executed, and other countries don't do that to people under 18.
JAMES: Right. But -- but you have to be careful at the message that we are sending, because remember that there are other kids that are listening here, and if they want to kill someone, and if we tell them that it is going to be OK because they won't be sent to prison for the rest of their life, there will be some leniency there, then they might consider killing. But when they see that someone at 12 years old can be sent to prison for life, then they will think twice.
KING: Yeah. All right.
Ken, how should the law be? How would you write this law?
PADOWITZ: Well, Larry, I think that I was in an untenable position when I looked at a juvenile system in Florida and all you would do is 6 to 9 months in a juvenile detention facility. I was in a position to seek justice for Tiffany. I had to present the case to a grand jury and have them decide whether to indict, or not to indict.
So, I would, as a citizen of Florida, not as a state attorney -- but as citizen, I think that the law should be changed to give more discretion to judges when kids are prosecuted as adults. There should definitely be discretion at sentencing, and I think that the juvenile justice system needs to be beefed-up. It was designed for petty theft cases, and it should be designed, now, to handle defendants who commit horrible murder.
And that is what Lionel Tate did here. This was not child's play. This was not an accident. KING: We'll get some thoughts from each of the members of our panel and then we'll hear from our friends in Pearl Harbor about what's going on there with that submarine investigation.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back with our group right after this.
KING: Welcome back. We've just learned that the Naval court of inquiry, looking into the accident involving the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville, is still in session at this time, so we may not be able to have Jill Waddle or her attorney with us. If that occurs, of course, we'll just continue with our panel until the top of the hour.
Let's take some phone calls; Gulfport, Mississippi, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. My question is for the defense attorney -- I think it's for James Smith.
KING: Jim Lewis.
CALLER: Jim Lewis. The little girl sustained over 30 injuries; my question is to him, is how could you defend -- it's not like the young kid Tate broke her neck accidentally in one supposed wrestling move; there are multiple injuries, how can -- she had to have been some type pain and agony; how can he defend that, as far as what was his defense? It wasn't just one accident that hurt her; there were multiple injuries that Tiffany incurred by this Tate kid.
KING: What was the defense, Jim?
LEWIS: Well, we actually tried to demonstrate that; we produced a videotape where Lionel basically acted out the wrestling moves that he did that injured the little girl. You know, these -- obviously this little girl died and that is a horrible tragedy, but, the 30 or so injuries that figure is grossly inflated. Some of those injuries; there was a liver and a head that caused her death.
But you are talking about very small sized bruises, many of which could have been actually caused by the paramedics or the mother of my client, who was trying to save the little girl by doing resuscitation efforts.
KING: Deweese, you know the mother -- the mother has left us, by the way, on the phone. You know Mrs. Tate, do you not.
EUNICK: For three weeks. Prior to my daughter's death.
KING: Are you sympathetic to her?
EUNICK: Um, I wouldn't say sympathetic with her, because, I am very disappointed with what went on, like just like she said she heard my daughter crying and she rendered no help to my daughter. So, I am disappointed in that fact that Lionel himself also heard my daughter crying, they did nothing to help my daughter. He just beat my daughter mercilessly, keep beating her. He had no heart.
KING: Yuba City, California. Hello.
CALLER: I have a question. I'd like to know if these children are to be tried as adults, why do we not allow them to drive, buy cigarettes, vote, every privilege that an adult has, why do we not let these children do that, if their adults? They become adults overnight because they made a mistake...
KING: All right, William, is it arbitrary?
SCHULZ: Well, I think that is a very good point, the fact is that in virtually all other aspects of our life, in relationship to children, we recognize that they are children, that they are not finished products. Unfortunately, when it comes to a crime, we somehow think that all the rules change, the reality is that 200,000 kids are being prosecuted as adults today in this country and 11,000 of them are convicted and being housed with adult criminals, where they are 500 percent more likely to be raped and it's inevitable that they will be taught the finer arts of criminality; that is self defeating.
KING: Now, Glen, Ken Padowitz said; wouldn't you say, as a veteran of 30 years of being around the criminal system in south Florida, something just doesn't ring right here?
RODERMAN: Larry, obviously, you always want the punishment to fit the crime. And apparently that is the big issue here in this case. I mean, you have a brutal beating -- no doubt -- that resulted in a death and there is punishment. Now people are very, very concerned about Lionel Tate.
I don't know how people have let go of the real thing here and that is the child's death. The system is crying out for change, and obviously there is a lot of violence in America, particularly among youths. You see these shootings in schools, and things that we never saw when we were kids. Obviously the system is pretty much the same system we had back then.
The legislature has to do something about juvenile crimes, particularly the violent ones. That is why Mr. Padowitz had no alternative, but to present this case to the grand jury, which came back -- I think it was unanimous -- obviously, should be tried as an adult for first-degree murder and trial jury came back unanimous in a very short period of time that he committed first-degree murder; what else are you supposed to do in our system?
KING: Were you in agreement when you learned of Ken's offer of a plea?
RODERMAN: I thought it was very liberal, Larry. I'm a criminal defense attorney for many, many years and I felt that Ken was obviously more than fair. I would have snatched that up in a heartbeat.
KING: Miami, hello. CALLER: My question for the panel is, why wasn't Tate's mother held responsible or charged in this crime since the little girl was left in her care?
KING: Jim do you know?
LEWIS: Well, you would have to ask Mr. Padowitz that. They certainly threatened to charge her on numerous occasions, but I think you have to look at the discretion that the prosecutor used in this particular case. You can't blame the grand jury for this child to be prosecuted as an adult. The jurors that tried the case -- the ones that have come forward -- have said they don't think Lionel should have been tried as adult, they don't think he should be in an adult jail.
And quite frankly, I don't think the decision to prosecute someone as an adult should be left to a prosecutor, it should be left to a judge, as it was previously here in this state.
PADOWITZ: Well, the problem is that you had a vicious murder by Lionel Tate who has been a behavior problem since kindergarten; he was expelled from school 15 times over his life, and in the two weeks prior to his sentencing after he is convicted of murder, and awaiting sentencing, he is trying to stab other inmates in the jail with a pencil. And...
LEWIS: Larry, that's just not true.
PADOWITZ: And he is stuffing paper towels in the sink and flooding out his jail cell.
LEWIS: This boy is fighting for his life in that jail.
KING: One at a time.
PADOWITZ: We have a defendant -- we have a defendant, who has been convicted of a vicious murder. But I think that has to be balanced and that is why we have a legal system set up to go to the governor have a clemency hearing, to have Governor Bush and two members of the Cabinet hear all of the evidence, and for them to make a wise and just decision as to what an appropriate sentence would be for Lionel Tate.
But Lionel Tate, he is a murderer, that is what he did here, he committed a murder. And he still misbehaving and acting up while he's in the Broward County jail, so we have a defendant who needs to be punished, yet someone has to take into consideration Lionel Tate's age.
The juvenile justice system in Florida was not prepared to handle a murder such as this, when he's looking at six months in juvenile detention; that is not justice for Tiffany.
KING: We will break; I'll have Jim respond. I got to get a break and then Jim can respond to Ken's charges about what happened post-sentencing. This is LARRY KING LIVE; stay right there.
KING: Before Jim responds, Ken, the question -- and I neglected to follow up with this -- why didn't you prosecute the mother?
PADOWITZ: Well, my focus was making sure that justice was done for Tiffany Eunick. I mean, too often, people forget that she is the focus in this, not Lionel Tate -- not the murderer, so my focus in prosecution was to ensure that I got justice for Tiffany Eunick by prosecuting the person who killed her. That was my focus. And it is just recently ended with Judge Lazarus sentencing Lionel Tate to the legal term.
KING: Jim, you want to respond to what Ken said about your client, post-sentencing?
LEWIS: Well, Lionel is not a vicious, bad kid; he's never hurt another person in his entire life. While he was in the jail, he is basically a very immature 12-year-old, some psychologists said he has the mind of a 9-year-old and a 10-year-old. He is basically not equipped to be in an adult jail. Tonight, he is sitting in an adult prison out in the Everglades. He's had his head shaved, he's in the blue uniforms, he's in solitary confinement, this is no place for a child to be; I don't care what he has done.
KING: Haleyville, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was wondering if the Wrestling Federation was willing to accept any responsibility for this crime?
KING: Anybody want to comment...
LEWIS: I can say they are not -- they haven't taken any responsibility. In fact they have sued me in New York for libel and slander because that was one of the defenses that was raised in this case.
PADOWITZ: Larry, I'll tell you why they are not going to take responsibility, because wrestling had nothing do with this murder. When Lionel Tate gave his confession to the police. He said nothing about wrestling. He said he was playing tag. It only became professional wrestling defense months after this whole thing began, when Lionel Tate was indicted for murder. And then he does this recreation video, which couldn't have possibly happened, because there were boxes and an exercise machine, where he shows himself throwing himself...
LEWIS: Let me correct you. That is not true again. The child was actually watching wrestling when they came and picked him up to take him to the police station to get a confession out of him. And the sheriff's own public information's man indicated that wrestling had been involved. KING: Deweese, do you think that young Mr. Tate is a -- just a -- bad boy inherently, do you think he is just -- there is no way to help him?
EUNICK: Larry, honestly, I'm not sure about that, because when he was given that chance for us to see whether he could be rehabilitated or not, they did not take that chance. They are the ones who actually gave up on Lionel, not the judge. He was given a chance, a second chance, to life, and they chose not to take that. So, I really don't know.
KING: Let me break, and we'll be back with some more moments and some more phone calls as well. Don't go away.
KING: Bayside, New York, hello.
CALLER: Hi, my question is for the defense attorney. Who made the decision for the kid to take that plea bargain, was it him or was it his mother? Because if it was his mother, then why -- if he was charged as an adult, then he should have made that decision for himself.
KING: Yeah, who made the decision, Jim?
LEWIS: How does a 12-year-old child make that decision about what is going to happen to him for the rest of his life? Obviously, that's a decision that his mother made with the advice and assistance of counsel. Quite frankly, we did not believe this child was going to be convicted of first-degree murder, and that's why we didn't just basically throw in and accept the deal.
Three years in prison was a fair deal, a fair outcome of the case before the trial, why isn't it a fair deal and outcome to the case now?
KING: Does anyone on the panel believe there is such a thing as a bad kid, just a kid who was, like, born sociopathically?
JAMES: I'm the one who would agree to that. I think that Lionel Tate is one of the coldest kid in America today, and that's why he is charge with first-degree murder. And my daughter paid a sacrifice with her life already to let us know that he is a murderer and one of the coldest ones, because even shortly after killing my daughter, Lionel Tate was walking around as if nothing ever happened.
The only time I ever saw any emotions from Lionel Tate was when he was sentenced to life imprisonment or incarceration, you know, he would not be going home to mother. So, I mean, how would you feel at this point if we let him out on the street three years from now, and then he goes and kills another child, or maybe kill another adult, and we said, oh, my God, he should have been in jail, and we are sorry. But then, that would have been too late.
KING: William Schulz, I know -- you look at this all over, do you believe there's such a thing as a bad child, inherently bad?
SCHULZ: No, I don't. We have just heard here that there certainly are children who have deep disturbances, there is no question about that, and they may be physiological, emotional, sociopathic, of course, but the reality is we have just heard in this case that Lionel has had problems since he was in kindergarten. In order to believe that he was inherently bad, we have to believe that at five years old, he was some kind of a bad seed.
I'm not going to second-guess the lawyers here, but I am going to say that there is common recognition that children are finished products, and that they can change. They can be rehabilitated, and that really has to be the goal here.
KING: Certainly, Ken, he is not going to be rehabilitated in a cell, 24 hours a day, light coming into the cell, and under -- you know, he's -- that sound awful cruel, doesn't it?
PADOWITZ: Larry, if I can tell you that I work with 200 other assistant state attorneys here in Broward county and Fort Lauderdale, and not only do we see convictions, but as the American Bar Association says, we are the ministers of justice.
And that is why I offered a plea offer that I did, and that is why this time, even though he's been convicted of first-degree murder for this brutal murder, I think that we need to take into consideration Lionel Tate's age at the time he committed it, and that is why I'm willing to join the defense and go to the governor and have him hold a clemency hearing to take into consideration all these factors.
KING: How quick can that happen?
PADOWITZ: I think it's going to happen as fast as the governor and the cabinet want it to happen. It's up to them right now, and I'll willing to aid them in any way they need to get all the information at their disposal.
JAMES: But, Larry, I would like to say that I do not understand at this point why would Mr. Padowitz, with no hard feelings against him, but if the mother said she does not like him on national television, and the boy obviously does not like him, why would he leave Florida -- I mean, down here, take a trip up to see the governor for clemency for him? I mean, these people are -- I mean they are very, very evil as people. And I don't think he should really take that position at this point.
KING: Well, Ken, we only got about 20 seconds, do you want respond?
PADOWITZ: Well, basically, I really -- my heart goes out to the father and the mother of Tiffany Eunick. I mean, nothing can ever replace their daughter, and there is nothing that I can say that can make them feel better, other than the fact that I'm going to try to seek justice for Tiffany, and I think I accomplished that, and I going to ensure that the right thing is done on this entire case, as a representative of the people of the state of Florida.
KING: Thank you all have much. We have not heard the last, obviously, of this one. We appreciate your being with us, and we apologize we couldn't do the admiral's story, because the Navy court of inquiry is still in session in Hawaii.
You heard from us, now we want to hear from you. What did you think of the show? Log on to our Web site, e-mail us your questions and comments at cnn.com/larryking.
Thanks for joining us, stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT," and good night.
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