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Panel Discusses Alejandro Avila's Upcoming Trial

Aired July 22, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, one week after 5-year-old Samantha Runnion was kidnapped from in front of her apartment, Alejandro Avila is charged with her murder and more. And he could face the death penalty.

Joining us, the man in charge of Avila's prosecution, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. With him, the man who headed the hunt for Samantha's killer, Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. Then later, defense attorney Mark Geragos, Court TV's Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor, and to help us take us inside the mind of a pedophile, forensic psychologist Victoria Thomas.

And later, seven years ago today, Susan Smith was convicted of an unspeakable crime, the drowning deaths of her two young sons. In an exclusive interview, her ex-husband David talks about coping with the terrible loss of his two boys. We'll also meet his girlfriend Tiffany Moss and their little daughter, Savannah. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Our panel will joins us in the second segment. We begin with Tony Rackauckas -- he's the Orange County district attorney -- and Sheriff Mike Carona, the Orange County, California sheriff. It's good to have you in person here, Sheriff. I've been talking to you so much via satellite.

Tony, why was the arraignment continued until August 9? Why wasn't he arraigned today?

TONY RACKAUCKAS, ORANGE COUNTY D.A.: Well, he just got the charges and the public defender wasn't ready for it. You know, they have a lot of things to look at. Sometimes, they might want to take a look and see whether to possibly enter some different kind of a plea. So, they have a few things to consider.

KING: If he were willing to sit down and say, I'll plead guilty to all charges in return for life imprisonment, would you give him that?

RACKAUCKAS: We're going to make a decision as to whether or not to seek the death penalty in this case, and that decision would be made independently of any kind of a suggestion like that. So, if we decide that this is a death penalty case, then we're going go forward with it. The answer would be, no, we would not accept that.

KING: And what, Tony, would be the determining factor in that, about whether it's death penalty or not? What determines that?

RACKAUCKAS: We'll look at everything. You know, we have a process that we go through in our county. And basically what that is, we have a committee called a special circumstance committee of attorneys who have a lot of experience with death penalty cases and the history of death penalty cases in our county. And we consider all of the facts and circumstances, and talk to the family, talk to everybody that's involved, give the defense an opportunity to say what they have to say.

KING: And then the buck stops with you?


KING: Yes.


KING: Have you prosecuted a death penalty case?

RACKAUCKAS: Oh, yes, I have.

KING: Has anyone been put to death by the state?

RACKAUCKAS: In the cases that I've prosecuted, actually, I've had three people given the death penalty by juries, and nobody has been executed yet.

KING: They're on death row, though?

RACKAUCKAS: On death row.

KING: Were you happy with the way the sheriff dealt with all of this? They're the ones that have to present you with the case?

RACKAUCKAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was the best model of cooperation that I've seen in my memory. Just the swift reaction of the sheriff in getting everything out to the media, and particularly the description and, you know, all of the things that went in to getting the tips that came back to get the arrest.

KING: Sheriff Carona, was there -- I feel like calling you Mike.


KING: Was there a game plan -- I mean, when you have a case like this, did you say, here's the way we do it, you do this, you do that, you do this? Was that in place?

CARONA: Yes. We use the incident command system in Orange County. That way, we can coordinate the activities of multiple agencies on a particular event, whether that's law enforcement, fire or, in this case, federal law enforcement, state law enforcement, local law enforcement.

KING: Incident command. CARONA: Incident command.

KING: Is that something that a New York City cop would know what we're talking about or a Chicago police officer? Is this a national kind of concept?

CARONA: The concept is national. Sometimes it's called uniform command systems. Sometimes, it's called incident command systems. It's getting to be a little different in each state. But in California, all 58 contis train under the incident command system, and that's what we utilized in pulling this one together.

KING: So, you put it into place as soon as the 911 thing took effect, right?

CARONA: As soon as we -- the first officer on the scene, the first deputy on the scene four minutes into it, began the process and he was coordinating a lot of the actions as we started to put the command post in. We had an incident commander. We had a press information officer. We have logistical officers. Everything was starting to be broken down into small components, and that's the incident command system.

KING: Is the prosecution part of the command system?

CARONA: No, sir.

KING: They have no play in it?

CARONA: No, sir. We try to separate out the prosecution. The DA has a very tough job. His responsibility is to make sure that this person is brought to justice, prosecute the case appropriately, convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that this man is guilty. My job, our job, was to cull through all the evidence that we had, all the investigative evidence, all the forensic evidence, and try to find a suspect that then he could prosecute.

KING: And when do you come in, Tony?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, we maintain availability from the beginning. In...

KING: But when, at this point, do they call you?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, when they're about done with the case, when they have evidence and they're ready to...

KING: When did this happen? Friday, Thursday night?

CARONA: We actually engaged Tony on Thursday night for some questions. And then Friday, after the 10:00 press conference, he became intimately involved and we gave him a -- him and his team a debrief of what he had.

KING: And you bring the charge, right?


KING: So, you make that determination after you get all the evidence from him?

RACKAUCKAS: Yes, that's correct.

KING: Was this in your mind, Tony, you deal with cases all the time, conclusive? I'm not asking you to tell me what the evidence is. But, to your mind -- some cases might be 98 percent and the prosecutors say we'll go with it.

RACKAUCKAS: This is very good evidence. It's compelling.

KING: That's all you're going to go? It's compelling.

RACKAUCKAS: It's very good evidence. And this is a case -- we don't bring a case unless we believe we have the right person. So first, we have to make a subjective decision in our mind that this is the right person, based on all the evidence and all the circumstances, this is the guy who did it. Then the next question is the admissibility of evidence and that sort of thing. And we are clear that we have very good evidence in this case.

KING: Without giving away anything, Mike, when did you think you know, in time relationship, we got him?

CARONA: Well, at 9:55, the morning of Thursday morning, I made a decision that we had enough probable cause to make an arrest. About 3:00 that afternoon, it was proof-positive to me, based upon all the investigative evidence.

KING: You hadn't made an arrest, though? You just...

CARONA: No, we had made an arrest at that point in time.

KING: And then...

CARONA: That was 9:55 in the morning, we made the arrest. By 3:00 in the afternoon, I was convinced that Mr. Avila was the individual who kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Samantha Runnion.

KING: Was it an easy arrest? Did he offer any retaliation to the arrest?

CARONA: No retaliation. He actually was very cooperative.

KING: Very cooperative. Was he asked questions? Did he deny?

CARONA: He was asked questions and he invoked his right to counsel. So, we stopped asking him questions. But in terms of the arrest itself, there was no struggle.

KING: Tony, is it a bad or good idea to take a prosecution like this personally? Are you a parent? RACKAUCKAS: Yes, I am. Yes, I am. Well, to some extent, you can't help but take it personally. I mean, you see these things that happen, and's it's personal. I know as a parent, for example, in this case, you just can't begin to understand mentally the horrifying time that these poor people must have had during the last few days. And so you can't help but take it personally. But as a professional, you get -- you back up and you look at the evidence, and you make professional decisions.

KING: Hard for you, Mike?

CARONA: Very difficult, Larry. I wish I didn't know today...


CARONA: I wish I didn't know today what I didn't know on Monday. It was tough looking at the pictures of Samantha. It was tough looking at the crime scene. It was tough...

KING: Something we'll never see.

CARONA: I hope to God you never see.

KING: It was that bad.

CARONA: Yes, sir.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. Our panel members will join us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. As we go to break, here's part of the court proceeding this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Your charged here, Mr. Avila, with several felony counts. In count one, you're charged with kidnapping. That's a felony. Count two, you are charged with forceful lewd conduct upon a child under the age of 14. That's filed a felony. Count three is identical, you're charged with forceful lewd act upon a child under 14. That's also filed as a felony. In count four, you're charged with murder of Samantha Runnion.



KING: Let's assemble our complete panel now. Remaining with us, of course, is Tony Rackauckas, the Orange County district attorney who will try this case if it goes to trial. Sheriff Mike Carona, the sheriff of Orange County, California who's become kind of a national hero in all of this.

Joining us now here in Los Angeles, Mark Geragos, the defense attorney who's handled cases involving kidnapping and pedophilia allegations. In New York is Nancy Grace, the anchor of "Trial Heat" for Court TV, former prosecutor who's handled cases involving child abduction, assault and murder. And here in Los Angeles is Dr. Victoria Thomas. She's a Ph.d., a forensic psychologist, teaches abnormal psychology at the University of California, Irvine, specializes in sex offender assessment, particularly interested in pedophilia.

Tony, will Dr. Thomas be a part of this case?

RACKAUCKAS: Somebody like Dr. Thomas, I imagine.

KING: I mean, you will testify, will be asked to speak to, or will the defense want to use that?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, I'm not sure where we're going to go with it at this point.

KING: You don't know yet?

RACKAUCKAS: We don't know.

KING: Dr. Thomas, what interests you specifically in pedophilia?

DR. VICTORIA THOMAS, PH.D., FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, in order to stop child molesting, we really have to try and understand what goes on in the mind of the perpetrators that do these crimes. We really want to do everything we can as scientists and social scientists to understand what makes them think and believe that sexual behavior with a child or inappropriate behavior is OK.

KING: What do we know know? What can we say definitely -- a pedophiliac (sic) thinks what?

THOMAS: Well, we can definitely say that somebody who's a pedophile has what we would call a deviant sexual interest in children, and we know that there are certain age groups -- 2 to 4, 6 to 8, 10 to 14...

KING: Male and female.

THOMAS: Male and female. Some are just interested in males, some are just interested in females.

KING: Small percentage of are kills?

THOMAS: A relatively small percentage. A crime like this is relatively, statistically, uncommon.

KING: Do we know why that pedophile kills? Those who kill, kill why?

THOMAS: Well, we know that anger is very much related to sadistic sexual behaviors. And, of course, every person who engages in these behaviors has their own unique idiosyncrasies of personality and behavior and history that contribute to why they did it.

KING: And they're usually not other kind of criminals? Right, they're usually not robbers? Is that true or not true? THOMAS: Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. This kind of crime is very unusual, but for the most part, child molesters are not generally general criminals. Although...

KING: Not general criminals?

THOMAS: ... some certainly are.

KING: It is impossible, isn't it, Tony, to find compassion in this case? I mean, as a public, as a prosecutor, we're supposed to be compassionate by nature as people. Wouldn't this case be impossible to find compassion if the accused is the one who did it?

RACKAUCKAS: I've been surprised in the past at the way that defense counsel can muster up compassion in very difficult cases. So I...

KING: So you're not going to rule that out?

RACKAUCKAS: Yeah, I don't think that it would be fair to say that anything like that is impossible.

KING: Mark, would this be a tough case to defend, off the way you see it?

MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Look, it's the worst case in the criminal justice system to defend. There is nothing worse. I mean, the worst crime in the criminal justice system is murder. The worst of the worst is a child murderer. In terms of the defense of the case, I mean, what you have to understand is, to try and get compassion or try to get to the defendant's case it would be on a reasonable doubt phases, that this is not the guy. That's a rare juror that is going to come back and you're going to say, OK, this is the guy, but I want you to feel compassion for him. I mean, that's not a defense anybody's going to use successfully.

KING: All right. If it is the guy, then, do you try to get his -- I asked Mark at the beginning -- the best way out for him? Do you try to get life?

GERAGOS: Well, an expression I use on occasion is, if it is the guy, if the evidence is overwhelming, if you realize that you're the engineer on a train wreck, you find them a soft place to land, if you can do it. In a case like this, I don't know that there is a soft place to land. I mean, there is -- it all depends on what the facts are. My guess is is that the reason -- and the sheriff doesn't have to acknowledge this -- but my guess is the reason they had him in custody at 9:55, is they were waiting for blood or DNA evidence.

They were probably also waiting to see whether or not that cell phone that he was using -- he said he was at the Ontario Mills mall. They've got the technology now to track down where the cell phone actually is at any one time. If that cell phone came back to a tower that was not at the mall, this guy's got big problems.

KING: Sheriff, would you acknowledge any of this? CARONA: Well, I can tell you, he's a great defense attorney, and obviously he understands the criminal justice process. I can't confirm or deny any of what's taken place here. I will say that we were analyzing a tremendous amount of data, forensic, after 9:55 arrest.

KING: And is he right on the technology? On the way you can trace a phone call?

CARONA: Absolutely.

KING: Nancy, is this a tougher case? Does Tony Rackauckas have an easy time of this, because of the nature and the public feeling, or are there difficulties?

NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: There are always difficulties and risks that you take going to a jury trial. An excellent defense attorney can muster up sympathy to get the right jury. Already we've seen news reports that the defendant's father was convicted of killing a neighbor. His brother was a victim of gang violence in Mexico.

What I see happening right now is this, Larry -- you've got DNA evidence. You've probably got fingerprints, hair, fiber, no real alibi. And once that triangulation process takes place with the cell phone, he's not going to be at any mall window shopping. Where does that leave the defense? They'll have to go with an insanity defense. And you have got this prior to show or argue some compulsion he can't control. I see it shaping up right now, because frankly, Larry, where else can he go?

KING: By the way, frankly, Nancy, could he be insane?

GRACE: Well, of course, it's possible.

KING: You don't want to prejudge...

GRACE: It's possible that Santa Claus is dangling outside this building right now, about to give me a present. But is it probable? No, it's not. He held down a job. He seemed to assimilate very well in society. He can certainly think up a lie, if he did create a lie, if he really wasn't at that mall. No, I don't see an insanity defense being truthful.

KING: A legal insanity. Technically, Dr. Thomas, are all pedophiles insane?

THOMAS: Absolutely not.

KING: Absolutely not?

THOMAS: No, not at all. Insanity is a legal term. It you want to say, do they have disordered thinking, are they distorted in their ideas of relationships with people, some of them certainly are personality disordered, but not a lot are schizophrenic or what we would call psychotics. KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, by the way, we'll be including your phone calls. And as we go to break, here's Samantha's mother speaking over the weekend.


ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA'S MOTHER: I cannot tell you all how much all of this has meant to us. You are truly being wonderful to us and our family, and we come out here every night, and we are working extra to read everything that you've written, but it takes a long time, and I thank you so much.



KING: We're going to include phone calls for our panel members.

But one quick question to the sheriff, because he was talking during the break -- you had to deal with the mother every day.

CARONA: Every day.

KING: And you spoke to her every day?

CARONA: Every day.

KING: Did she ask you to try to explain to her...

CARONA: Every day. She wanted to know, how could somebody do something like this? And to this day I don't have an answer for her. It's one of those quantum leaps of...

KING: There she is. Look.


ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA'S MOTHER: Please, ask your captor to let you go. We love you. She is my (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


KING: I know, but how do you handle that? What's the lesson in that? I mean, how do you get trained for that?

CARONA: You know, this is where I need to sit down with the doc, because I think a lot us who were involved in this case, it had an emotional impact.

KING: Need it?

CARONA: Oh, absolutely. We're doing a debrief right now for everybody who was involved in this case.

KING: Doc, do you do any work with victims?


KING: How is this mother ever going to -- how do you go on?

THOMAS: Well, what's happened to her has challenged everything that she believes about being safe and healthy in this world. And all of the things that were important to her now have to be reassessed.

It's really quite tragic for everyone.

KING: Does her opinion matter as to whether you go for the death penalty?

RACKAUCKAS: Her opinion is certainly going to be considered. It's factored in. I can't tell you that it's the final word, or that she decides it. It's going to be decided by me. But...

KING: But you include her thoughts?

RACKAUCKAS: Absolutely. And we feel such compassion for her.

KING: Is that a good idea, Mark.

GERAGOS: I think you have to. I mean, I think it would be -- part of the criminal justice system -- and post, what's called here in California, at least, the Victim's Bill of Rights, by the constitutional amendment, the victim has got a right to have input. And Mr. Rackauckas has got to do that. And I think he would do it even if it wasn't in the Constitution.

KING: Cornwall, Ontario Canada, as we go to calls, hello?

CALLER: Hello. My...

KING: Hello?

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Yes, go ahead, ma'am.

CALLER: My sympathies to the family, first of all.

I'd like to ask the sheriff, why would Avila be so careless to leave the body where it could be found so easily, and knowing now what DNA can do?

CARONA: Well, I think a couple of things.

First of all, this man is a sexual predator. He reacted impulsively with his sexual deviancy. As a result of his impulsiveness, he left a lot of physical evidence, both at the crime scene in Stanton as well as the crime scene in Riverside County. That was fortuitous for us.

Why that happens, the doctor could probably answer that better than I. It's the mind of a sexual predator. I can't get inside it, but I'm glad that he did leave those clues for us. KING: Would you guess, doctor, it's wanting to be caught?

THOMAS: Not necessarily. It could be a variety of things, such as just being angry and sloppy and wanting to deliver a message, flying in the face of other people.

KING: Nancy, would the mother's opinion matter to you as a prosecutor?

GRACE: Larry, it would mean the world to me.

And you know where I'm coming from, not just as a prosecutor but a violent crime victim. She has a right -- not necessarily under statute everywhere in this country -- but a right to be heard. You know, to us, it's a case. To her, it is her life.

And back to, you asked the doctor, did he want to be caught? You know what, Larry? I don't think he wanted to be caught. I think he wanted to continue as a predator. And I think the reason he left so many clues was because of haste to dispose of the body.

KING: By the way, if the mother's opinion does count, supposing she asked you to be lenient and give him life, would you then do that?

GRACE: I would consider it. I would Consider it. I would also consider the possibly that, while life may mean life without parole today, there's always a possibility the California legislature could rescind that and he could walk the streets again. I don't want that to ever happen.

KING: So you you'd listen to her opinion as long as she wants him to be killed?

GERAGOS: As long as she agreed with you.

GRACE: No, no. I don't think this is something to even kid around about or laugh about. Of course, I would have that be paramount.


KING: ... forgive, the highest element of Christian...

GRACE: I think that the prosecutor's duty is to the state, and not just to this victim, but other potential victims innocently walking the street out there.

KING: Do you have a comment on that?

RACKAUCKAS: Sure. We're going to look at that, her opinion, along with all of the other facts and circumstances in the case, and we're going to make the right decision.

And I can tell you that if you commit this crime in Orange County, you're either going to spend the rest of your life in prison and die of natural causes, or you're going to be executed. KING: No parole.

RACKAUCKAS: No parole.

KING: Port Richey, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening. First I want to say, sheriff, you and your men did a great job.

My question is: When this man was tried and he was acquitted last year, will that be allowed into this trial?

GERAGOS: Well, I can tell you that even though there's not a conviction, under the evidence code here in California, there's what's called 1101 evidence -- similar acts, similar uncharged conduct.

There is an argument -- I've had cases where prosecutors have successfully argued that, even in spite of an acquittal, that kind of conduct can come in.

So it's possible. It's the judge's call. And it will be up to whoever makes -- is the gatekeeper, so to speak, on that.

KING: Other than that acquittal case, has he had other charges at all, ever about -- dealing with pedophilia?

RACKAUCKAS: I don't think we can go into that.

CARONA: We're doing a criminal history background on him as we speak, Larry, and I don't have an answer for you.

KING: Ocala, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi Larry. I'll get right to the question.

When the sheriff said that Avila is 100 percent guilty, doesn't that take away or eliminate his presumption of innocence?

KING: You mean for a potential jury member?

CARONA: Well I -- first of all, I don't believe that it's my job to have a presumption of innocence. My job is to go out and collect evidence. And based upon that evidence, when I have a reasonable cause to believe this man may have committed this crime, we can make an arrest.

In this particular case, we have so much evidence, investigative and forensic and physical, that I personally am 100 percent convinced this is the man.

Now, this is Mike Carona, the sheriff of Orange County. I now turn this case over to the district attorney, who has the responsibility of prosecuting the case.

KING: And you have to be 100 percent convinced, right? RACKAUCKAS: Look, let me just make a brief comment about that particular question. And that is that there is a presumption of innocence in this case, and the jury will be instructed as to the presumption of innocence. And they will be instructed that they are to presume that this person is innocent, and to view all of the evidence, and to see whether or not that presumption of innocence is overcome.

So it's a rule; it's a trial rule; it's a rule for the jury, and that doesn't have to apply to the sheriff.

GERAGOS: What happens is a defense lawyer might argue in a case like this that, by the sheriff coming out and saying that, that somehow that's going to pollute the veneer, the jury panel -- the potential jury panel.

So what a judge would do in this case is, when he's got a panel in the courtroom, he will ask: Do you have a preconceived notion? Where did you base that on? And go through the hard questions.

KING: Is it going to be hard to find 12 men and women with no preconceived notion in Orange County?

GERAGOS: In Orange County, it's going to be -- I hate to say this...

RACKAUCKAS: The answer is, it's not going to be hard...


RACKAUCKAS: ... trouble finding a good, fair jury in Orange County.

KING: No? So you would oppose a change of venue?

RACKAUCKAS: Oh, sure. We'll oppose that.

GERAGOS: And I think the defense is going to argue real vigorously that they can't get a fair trial in Orange County.

KING: As we go to segment and more phone calls, here's the statements by Mr. Avila's mother this morning.


ADELINA AVILA, ALEJANDRO AVILA'S MOTHER: As a mother, my heart goes to them. And it's like if he's guilty, well, God can forgive him, and I hope that with time that they find he's not involved in this.



KING: We'll take some more calls and we certainly appreciate Tony and the sheriff and Dr. Thomas for coming up here today. And as always, Mark and Nancy for being with us. Ruston, Louisiana, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Are you there?

KING: Yeah. Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is -- the man that was arrested, they said the little girl that witnessed this said the little girl was kicking and screaming. The man that you have arrested, does he have visible marks to show that he has been in a struggle with the little girl?

RACKAUCKAS: We're not able to comment on the evidence to that extent.

GRACE: Well, the mother's already commented on it, though. The mom gave a statement and said her son had scratches around his legs, the bottom of his legs.

RACKAUCKAS: Yes, ma'am, but we're not really able to comment as to what the physical evidence does show, and all of that will be coming out as it's presented during the preliminary hearing and the trial.

KING: Would you talk as a forensic psychologist, would you talk to the 5-year-old who witnessed it?

THOMAS: Certainly. Certainly.

KING: And a 5-year-old provide a lot of -- she certainly provided a good photo, a good description of the way he looked.

THOMAS: Yes. And part of the reason that was so remarkable was the swift way in which law enforcement got onto the scene and was able to interview her, and to help her with her recollection.

KING: Just amazing job, sheriff. There is no other way to put it. Baltimore, hello.

CALLER: Hi. This question's for Mark. I'd like to know, well, first, I think they ought to release him to general population, but, Mark, would you consider defending this man?

GERAGOS: Look, this has got to be the worst kind of crime, as I said before, and as a parent of both a young boy and a young girl, for defense lawyers, there is no worse crime. If I thought this person was innocent and was getting railroaded, I wouldn't have a problem in a heartbeat.

That having been said, ethically you take an oath, and if you got called by a judge and the judge asked you to take this case in a court appointment, you've got a sworn duty to do that. So it would be one of kind of the worst situations to be in, because you'd be so conflicted. But I've had cases before that I've defended where kind of the perception was that it was a heinous crime, the person was guilty, and when we got into it, and it turned out the person was innocent. So it's a struggle.

KING: Sheriff, are you going to the funeral?

CARONA: Yes, sir.

KING: Are other members of your staff going, too?

CARONA: At this point, the family has invited us.

KING: That's Wednesday, right?

CARONA: Yes, sir.

KING: District attorney going?

RACKAUCKAS: No, sir. I can't go to the funeral.

KING: Because?

RACKAUCKAS: As much as I'd like to, I think that that might not be good as far as becoming too personally involved in order to...


GERAGOS: Absolutely. This is a district attorney who's taken some shots over the last six months or a year, but I think most of them have been unfounded, and he's got a very good sense of his ethical responsibilities, and he's right. Somebody would make a to-do out of that, and I think that would be unfortunate and it would kind of sidestep what the real issues are.

KING: What is he taking shots for, if he's such a great guy?

GERAGOS: He -- he came in and he kind of cleaned house in the D.A.'s office. And there has been some -- I guess the best way you can put it, is some malcontents there who's been taking their shots.


RACKAUCKAS: You go into politics, you take shots.

KING: Yeah, you do. Nancy, would you go to the funeral if you were a prosecutor in the case?

GRACE: Well, I would be very torn, but I think the district attorney has a valid point. I can just see a defense attorney arguing to the jury that you've got some bloodthirsty, vengeful district attorney who has his emotions before the case, and by not going, you're really protecting the case. You've got your eye on the ball.

KING: You probably will not be called to trial. Right?

CARONA: Yes, sir. I probably will not be called.

KING: Calhoun, Louisiana. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. I have a two-part question for the district attorney. KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: My first question is, as an elected official, how much pressure will be put on you from the public to seek the death penalty? And my second question is, will you put Sarah through the trauma of having to testify?


KING: Answer the first question.

RACKAUCKAS: As for the first question, ma'am, likely there would be pressure from the public to seek a death penalty, but that's not what the decision is based on, and so I'll make the decision, and it will be based on the facts and circumstances of the case and all of the kinds of considerations that are important. And I've been -- I mean, these are the kinds of things that you are required to do...


KING: And about the little girl testifies?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, you know what? I can't answer the second question, so.

KING: Isn't she the only eyewitness?

GERAGOS: There is no question. They've got to call her. If they don't call her, the defense will suspect there's a reason they're not calling her. And you know, I'll tell you something, you have that kind of a witness, how are you never going to call her? And this is a little girl who not only gave a description, which was uncanny, but on top of it, she knew where the car was, what direction it was heading.

KING: How can you not call her?

GERAGOS: This is a bright a 5-year-old.

GRACE: Well, another thing is...

KING: Hold on, Nancy, hold on.

RACKAUCKAS: It's not appropriate for me to discuss the tactics of the trial at this point and who the witnesses might be.

KING: Have you talked to the little girl, sheriff?


KING: You talked to her?

CARONA: No, sir. I talked to her family.

KING: Nancy, you were going to say?

GRACE: Well, I would say I know that the sheriff and the D.A. can't comment on the case, they don't want to taint the trial if it comes to a trial, but, of course they're going to call her. She was the reason we got that composite out there. And another thing, Mark -- you can speak to this. What defense attorney in his right mind is going to bully a little girl in front of a jury? Forget about it. This could be the state's star witness. I don't care if she's 5 years old.

GERAGOS: You're not kidding. If this girl is half as sharp...

GRACE: You're darn right.

GERAGOS: ... as I suspect she is, the last thing you want to do is get on the receiving end of...


KING: One more. Louisville, Kentucky, last call, quick.

CALLER: Yes. When this goes to trial, will it be held in Orange County, or moved somewhere else? And if it's moved somewhere else, who decides where it's moved to?

KING: If they change venue, does the judge decide it?

GERAGOS: The judge decides that. If they move it somewhere else, my guess would be is that the defense would ask that it gets moved up north, somewhere in the San Francisco area.

KING: Will it be telecast?

RACKAUCKAS: That's for the future to see. We're not going to oppose it.

KING: You won't oppose it if it is?

RACKAUCKAS: No, we won't oppose it.

KING: Will the defense oppose it?

GERAGOS: The defense probably would. But there is a -- ultimately, once again, that's up to the judge's discretion.

KING: We'll be calling on all of you again. Thank you, Nancy, and thank you all very much. Great meeting you.

THOMAS: Thank you very much.

KING: And, sheriff, congratulations, and Tony, thanks very much for coming up.

When we come back, another aftermath of a tragic story. Remember Susan Smith? She drowned her two young sons. That was seven years ago. Her ex-husband is here tonight with his girlfriend and his daughter. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Pamela Anderson tomorrow night. You may have heard of her.

We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE David Smith, the former husband of Susan Smith. She drowned their two young sons, Michael and Alex, in October of 1994 and was convicted of their murders just seven years ago today. Does it get any easier as time goes on?

DAVID SMITH, SUSAN SMITH'S EX-HUSBAND: A little bit. Time does make it easier. It's always there, but it's easier.

KING: She's in prison for life?

SMITH: Life. For 30 years. She didn't get true life. At the time, that's the kind of law -- life didn't mean true life.

KING: So, she will get out?

SMITH: Well, she'll be eligible in like 2023.

KING: And you now have a girlfriend and a daughter. Do you plan to get married?

SMITH: No plans on marriage. But, yes, I have a wonderful daughter now.

KING: Yes. We're going to be meeting her. You stood by your wife for a long time.

SMITH: During the nine days, yes, while they were looking for Michael and Alex, I sure did.

KING: Now, we can only empathize with the pain of losing children, like what do you make of what we've just discussed?

SMITH: It's horrible. It's very sad when I see stories like that now, because I, you know -- the little girl's mother, I've walked in those shoes, and I can feel that, Larry. And I know what she's got ahead of her. I know what's coming up.

KING: What does she have? Like, in the first year, what does she have?

SMITH: Probably at the least a lot of -- an emotional roller coaster. But she's going to have so many ups and downs to deal with and so many monsters that's going to -- she's going to have to confront. It's hard to even say.

KING: Now, she has monsters in the way the kid was taken and killed brutally. And your monsters, it was your wife that did it...

SMITH: Right.

KING: ... after first blaming someone else. You told us, I think you said, right, that you wouldn't have minded if they capitally punished her, right? SMITH: Right. I wouldn't have minded, yes.

KING: Still feel that way?


KING: So you have nothing but contempt?

SMITH: Nothing but contempt.

KING: No understanding of what might have caused her to do this?

SMITH: No. Because, Larry, as I said before, we all have problems. And women, in particular, since, you know, Susan did this, you know, they go through similar things or maybe worse things than Susan had in her past. But nothing gives you the right to murder your children. I can't comprehend that. I don't understand it to this day.

KING: Yes. Who could? It's unexplainable. Her mother has said that you seek revenge in this. You do, I guess?

SMITH: No. Well, not really. There's no revenge. I just wanted what was fair for Michael and Alex. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

KING: Well, now, when you hear about all these child stories, how do you deal with fear of the loss of Savannah, your little daughter? I mean, you lost two boys. You read about these, you hear about these other cases, you meet these guys tonight, the sheriff, the district attorney. Do you worry about Savannah?

SMITH: Sure. Sure I do. It was very difficult before she came into my life to deal with that fear. And -- but I realized that I had to -- I realized that, you know, Savannah had nothing to do with what happened to Mike and Alex. And I wasn't going to shun her any love because a fear of losing her. And I -- I finally swallowed that and put that way down deep inside. Now, the fear is still there, but it's not up front so much anymore.

KING: What do you do for a living now, David?

SMITH: I work with Wal-Mart, management with Wal-Mart.

KING: Good company.

SMITH: Yes, good company.

KING: There's a company that's doing pretty good. And you work right in your hometown there in South Carolina?


KING: How's everybody else? You keep in touch -- friends still close? Do people still commiserate with you? I mean, how do you -- does it come up a lot or not? SMITH: Yes, a lot. But it's mostly by strangers, like people who have lost children, and they...

KING: They contact you?

SMITH: Well, you know, I work in a public place. So they see me often and they just, you know, approach me and say, you know, it's ironic that I see David, you know, I lost a child, X amount of months ago or years ago and I was thinking about you yesterday. And, wow, here I am standing here talking to you. Things like that, and it's always an instant reminder when they do that.

KING: How many days were there before your boys were found?

SMITH: Nine days.

KING: So, you had nine days of not knowing where they were, right, didn't know they were dead?

SMITH: Dead or alive or anything.

KING: We keep hearing about this, the Smarts in Utah, faced with this. The woman last week faced with it for two days, I guess. What are those days like, when you don't know?

SMITH: Mine, Larry, was a blur. I don't remember eating. I don't remember sleeping. I don't remember going to different secure locations for interviews. They would move us around to hide us from the media and that. But it's very -- I remember it was very draining.

KING: You remember your wife was acting like she was drained, too, right?

SMITH: Right.

KING: Boy, when you think back on that.

SMITH: yes, when I think back now, it's just...

KING: That's death and betrayal. Things have changed for David Smith, thankfully. And we're going to show you how much they changed because you're going to meet her, his new little daughter and his girlfriend, right after this.


SUSAN SMITH, CONVICTED OF KILLING HER CHILDREN: I want to say to my babies that your momma loves you so much, and your daddy, this whole family loves you so much. And you guys have got to be strong, because you are -- I just know -- I just feel in my that you're OK, but you got to take care of each other. And your momma and daddy are going to be right here waiting on you when you get home. I love you so much.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Susan Smith has been arrested and will be charged with two counts of murder in connection with the death of her children, Michael, 3, and Alexander, 14 months. A 1990 Mazda, driven by Smith, was located late Thursday afternoon in Lake John DeLong near Union. Two bodies were found in the vehicle's back seat.


KING: Never get over that. Never, ever. David Smith is with us, and things are a little happier for David now. Here's his girlfriend Tiffany. And she's the mother of David's little daughter Savannah, and Savannah, who is 19 months old, is with us.

Tiffany, how'd you meet David?

TIFFANY MOSS, DAVID SMITH'S GIRLFRIEND: Worked with him at Winn- Dixie.

KING: You worked together?

MOSS: Yes.

KING: Love right away, or did it take a while, David?

SMITH: Took a while. But it went well.

KING: Did you feel any -- did it feel a little queasy to you, to know that what had happened to David previously?


KING: Didn't let it bother you?

MOSS: No. I just supported him and have tried to all these years. Just to be there for him.

KING: And this is Savannah, the result of this union. What's it like having a daughter?

SMITH: Awesome.

KING: Different, ain't it?

SMITH: It's different from two little boys. But it's a great thing.

KING: So she has two little half-brothers she'll never meet.


KING: Are you going to tell her the whole story when she grows up, David? SMITH: Yeah, I think. You know, just enough each time to satisfy her what she needs to know. You know, I'm not going to try to spill everything at once, but, yeah. Just a little bit each time. Just enough to give her enough to be satisfied.

KING: Well, hi, Savannah. Lakeworth, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Beautiful little girl, Mr. Smith.

SMITH: Thank you.

CALLER: I'd like to ask a question. Your feelings about your ex-wife appear to be normal regarding her punishment. I would think most people could feel that way. How do you feel about Russell Yates and his immediate forgiveness of his wife when she killed their children?

KING: Five of them. Good question.

SMITH: That's to me, Larry, that's entirely, you know, Russell's choice. I don't -- I'm not going -- I wouldn't dare try to say how Russell should feel toward his wife.

KING: Did you ever talk to him?

SMITH: No, I never have.

KING: He called you. So you're not going to make a judgment as to how he reacted?

SMITH: No. That's every man's call.

KING: Were you surprised?

SMITH: A little, but not very much, because, again, it's such a heavy burden to carry, Larry, that I know I can't judge him for the way he feels.

KING: Tiffany, with all you see about what's going on in the world, based on the opening part of this show, are you overly concerned about security and Savannah?

MOSS: Yes, I am. I think I have held her a little tighter in the past week, just because we were out shopping, and she likes to run away, and I hold on to her and don't want to let her go.

KING: You like seeing yourself. Don't you, Savannah? Kind of hip, huh? Show business!

That's the hardest part. Isn't it, David? How do we train a kid not to go to a stranger when their natural inclination is to go?

SMITH: Right. It's hard. It's a fear that you have to think about every day. And you know, like I said, ever since, you know, the Runnion case and everything, it has made me just even from losing Michael and Alex, Larry, to step it up a little bit more now to watch her that much closer.

KING: There is -- it's none of my business -- but I want to ask you, is one of the reasons you're not married, you're a little hesitant about marriage because of what you went through?

SMITH: Yes, yes. To be honest, yes, it is.

KING: Tiffany, do you understand that?

MOSS: I do. I can understand.

KING: I mean, look what he went through. But it's going to head that way. You'll get over that, too. Won't you?

SMITH: Yeah. In time.

KING: You want more children?

SMITH: I think so. But right now, just -- you know, it's -- I have to take it just this one and to grow with that, you know, I can't -- I can't get near the fire yet. Can't go too fast.

KING: You ever worry about the fear of giving too much love? You had so much love taken away from you?


KING: No? Doesn't? You -- 100 percent goes to Savannah.

SMITH: Yeah.

KING: And Tiffany gets a lot of love from you, right?.

SMITH: Yeah. Yeah.

KING: Do you feel it, Tiffany?

MOSS: I do.

KING: And you understand completely what David lives through?

MOSS: I do.

KING: Savannah...

SMITH: Sweet.

KING: So all of you live in where?

SMITH: Spartanburg, South Carolina.

KING: Spartanburg, South Carolina. I-95. Does I-95 go through Spartanburg?

SMITH: 85.

MOSS: 85.

KING: 85, right. I-95's on the coast; 85 goes through. You have got a great state and you have got a great little family here, David, and I hope everything works out.

You like daddy? You love daddy?

SMITH: Yeah. We're tight.

KING: You are? Savannah, you're daddy's girl? What? Thanks, David.

SMITH: See you later.

KING: Thanks for coming, Tiffany.

MOSS: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Savannah. Savannah, say goodbye.

SMITH: Say bye-bye.

MOSS: Bye-bye.

KING: Say bye-bye.

SMITH: You can say it.

KING: Star-struck. David Smith, Tiffany Moss and Savannah Smith. Thank God there is another Smith.

We'll come back and tell you about tomorrow night right after this.


KING: Tomorrow night, on LARRY KING LIVE, Pamela Anderson is here, and she says she's going to talk about everything, including Tommy. Pamela Anderson will be with us tomorrow night.




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