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Peterson Found Guilty

Aired November 13, 2004 - 07:30   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. and Iraqi forces continue their sweep through Falluja. But they expect to have only one area of that city under their control today. That's a big change from yesterday, when a top Marine said the U.S. and Iraqi forces had seized control of about 80 percent of the insurgents' stronghold. The troops are still confronting pockets of fighters in that town.
And in the West Bank town of Ramallah, mourners today are streaming past the burial site of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Many people, including Arafat's successors, have laid wreaths at his grave at the Palestinian headquarters. Arafat died Thursday in a Paris hospital.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige is apparently the next official to leave the Bush cabinet. This according to two senior administration officials who would not say whether President Bush planned to accept the resignation. Paige would be the third cabinet member to not serve in Bush's second term.

Stay with us, everyone.

Tony and I are back at the top of the hour with CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

But now on to CROSSFIRE.


Eight months after jury selection began, nine days after the panel began deliberating, word came down that a verdict had been reached. About an hour and a half later, Scott Peterson was pronounced guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and their unborn child.

On CROSSFIRE today, guest host Donna Brazile and I will be joined by a pair of attorneys with experience on opposite sides of the criminal courtroom for a detailed discussion of the Scott Peterson verdict.

But first, the best political briefing in television, CROSSFIRE'S "Political Alert."

DONNA BRAZILE, CO-HOST: Will George Bush actually follow through on his promise to be a uniter rather than a divider? Not so if his good friends on the radical right have anything to do with it. Bob Jones, president of the fundamentalist college that bears his name, offered this sage advice to the president in a recent letter: "Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise Christ."

Well, when it comes to hate-filled rhetoric of radical fundamentalism, clearly Islam doesn't have the monopoly.

CARLSON: I don't know. I mean I'm not defending Bob Jones as a man, but I don't think that was hate-filled. I mean I think it's true, a lot of people hate Bush because they don't like his religion. There's no doubt about it. I know a lot of people who don't like Bush because they don't like his religion and I think they're the bigots in this.

BRAZILE: I don't think it's about religion. I think this guy here is talking about payback. He wants George Bush to pony up and make sure that he followed through on all of his campaign promises, which means that the president will never be able to work with liberals or anybody else.

CARLSON: Well, I don't know, whose fault is that? I mean the majority of the country voted for Bush. They knew what they were voting for. He said pretty clearly what he stands for and they agreed with him.

BRAZILE: But there are 56 million other Americans who wanted to go in a new direction and perhaps George Bush...

CARLSON: That's the...

BRAZILE: ... should listen to them, as well.

CARLSON: That's the nature of a winner take all election.

BRAZILE: No, no.

CARLSON: But I don't, you know, George Bush isn't radical enough for my tastes most of the time.

Well, for decades, listeners have complained that National Public Radio is relentlessly liberal, even partisan. Among some conservatives, the network's drive time program is known half jokingly as "morning sedition." Officially, NPR has always denied charges of bias. But that may no longer be possible.

According to a researcher in California, FEC records show that at least half a dozen NPR employees, including a producer and an on air reporter, gave donations of up to $1,000 to John Kerry and the Democratic Party. None gave to Bush. Not a single dollar went to a Republican of any kind, not one.

Now, keep in mind that the majority of Americans voted for Bush last week, which means that the staff at NPR is sorely lacking in, yes, diversity. It does not look like America. It is not multicultural. It is, in other words, everything that NPR liberals oppose. Let's hope that NPR begins a rigorously enforced quota system to remedy this as soon as possible. And they ought to. BRAZILE: Now, look, nothing is wrong with a fair and...

CARLSON: Talk about lacking diversity.

BRAZILE: Nothing is wrong with the fair and balanced reporting that we get from NPR or any other place.

CARLSON: Well, wait a second, it doesn't bother you...

BRAZILE: No, it doesn't...

CARLSON: ... that there's no diversity there?

BRAZILE: It doesn't.

CARLSON: I thought we were for diversity.

BRAZILE: It doesn't...

CARLSON: I'm for diversity, Donna.

BRAZILE: It doesn't bother...

CARLSON: What are you?

BRAZILE: Well, it doesn't bother me that the NPR staff and others, you know, basically voted their conscience by giving money to somebody who shared their values. What's wrong with that?

CARLSON: Well, wait a second. Wait a second. This is a publicly funded news organization. Shouldn't you have some diversity? Isn't it good for its own sake?

BRAZILE: Oh, well, no. Not all the time.

More evidence is emerging of the incompetence of this administration when it comes to fighting terrorism. Young Americans continue to die in Iraq and Osama bin Laden continues to record videotapes. But according to today's "Washington Post," the former head of the CIA bin Laden unit has resigned from the agency in order to speak openly about the government's failure to understand how the threat of al Qaeda is spreading.

The agent reportedly believes that while bin Laden and his group were basically ignored, the war in Iraq has served to inflame anti- Americanism in the Middle East. So is anyone in the White House listening? Oops, I forgot, this present administration really doesn't make any mistakes.

CARLSON: Well, the CIA officer that you're referring to, whom I've interviewed, makes the point pretty clearly that Osama bin Laden hates us because of our support for Israel. Now, if that's something that you think that the president ought to take up and the Democratic Party ought to take up, that we ought to reassess our support for Israel -- and I don't think we should -- but that's his argument...

BRAZILE: But he also put...

CARLSON: And that's a fair argument.

BRAZILE: He also believes...

CARLSON: But he should just go ahead and say so.

BRAZILE: ... that we took our eye off the ball and allowed bin Laden to not only record more, you know, videotapes, but also for bin Laden to go and spread his hate and message all over the world.

CARLSON: Well, I don't think anybody argues that bin Laden is the problem. It's the people who follow bin Laden. And, you know, it is a fair argument that Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror and I think that's absolutely right. But if you're going to make that argument, you have to accept his other argument, which is that our policy is wrong. And I'd like to see you take that up.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm glad he's free now to speak up, which is another thing we should talk about.

CARLSON: All right.

Well, for decades, most of the movement on America's northern border has consisted of Canadians moving south. Since at least the 1970s, the majority of Canadian immigrants to this country have been either comedians -- Martin Short, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd -- or game show hosts -- Alex Trebek -- fleeing bad weather and high taxes. That's the impression, anyway.

But no more. Since the reelection of George W. Bush, thousands of angry American liberals -- and they're all angry, aren't they? -- have expressed interest in renouncing their citizenship and fleeing to Canada. A cluster of Web sites has sprung up to cater to the movement.

Randy Kisher (ph) of Vancouver, an immigration lawyer, plans a series of seminars on the West Coast next month to explain how it can be done.

So will large numbers of liberals actually be dumb enough to move to a country where not a single person can pronounce the word about? Yes, they probably will. Keep in mind, a lot of these people verdict for Al Gore.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all...

CARLSON: Renounce your citizenship? You're not going to do that, are you?

BRAZILE: Oh, it's too cold up there. I'm staying put.

But look, I think some of these people are complaining about the election are going there just to vacation for a couple of months and they'll be back in time for 2006...

CARLSON: To vacation in Canada? How demented would you have to be to vacation...

BRAZILE: Well, they're going to...

CARLSON: ... in Canada in the winter time?

BRAZILE: I understand they have great ski resorts. That's what they're doing. They're just chilling out. They'll come back for the 2006 elections.

CARLSON: I just think that's, I don't know, it says a lot. I'm all for them all moving to Canada. They can bring the sled dogs in the Congress and...

BRAZILE: Oh, no way. No way.


All right.

BRAZILE: We're staying put.

CARLSON: Next, attorneys who know all about prosecuting and defending big time court cases join us with their reaction to the verdict in the Scott Peterson murder trial.

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Joining us now for a discussion of the Scott Peterson verdict, former prosecutor Wendy Murphy and criminal defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who once defended Jack Kevorkian.



BRAZILE: Now, Geoffrey, are you surprised that the verdict came so quickly after the second juror was replaced on Wednesday?

FIEGER: I am only because, Donna, we can't tell exactly what's going on ever in the jury room. But what's become apparent is that the hold up was the former foreperson, the lawyer/doctor. Apparently there was a revolt. He was the guy who was going through all of the evidence. That jury apparently was ready to decide, probably a long time ago, and once he was replaced late Wednesday, they didn't deliberate yesterday. The floodgates broke open and Scott Peterson was convicted almost immediately.

So that's obviously what occurred in this case.

CARLSON: Wendy, what do you think of the effect of having a high profile lawyer like Mark Geragos in a trial like this? Does it help the defendant? Does it hurt him? WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No. It's an interesting question. I think it depends who the lawyer is. Certainly many of the jurors would have known him. He's been involved and representing Winona Ryder and Susan MacDougal. And, you know, he has a nice avuncular style. I mean I want to rip his head off at times. I've debated him and I disagree with him on most points. But he has a charming way with a jury.

And in the beginning of this case, remember, he was making them laugh. They were literally engaging with him in a way that I think many people predicted would be good for the defense. As it turns out, though, he started to rub them the wrong way. And whether he was a high profile lawyer or a low profile lawyer, at the end of the day, if the jury is rolling their eyes at you, that's not good for your client.

BRAZILE: But Geoffrey, where did the defense go wrong? I mean was it Mark Geragos' strategy or was it the evidence the prosecution presented?

FIEGER: Both. Geragos made impossible claims, Donna, at the very beginning of the case. He promised the jury that he would show them that Scott -- that Conner was born much later than the date of Laci's disappearance, a promise he could never keep. And, by the way, these are things that Geragos does with some regularity. He did a similar thing in the Winona Ryder case.

He also took this case to trial when he perhaps should have been pleading this case. The evidence truly, although the prosecution, I thought, was rather inept, especially at the very beginning of the case, the evidence in this case, although it was a circumstantial case, was overwhelming.

This is the type of case that could have been pled down to second degree and saved Scott Peterson's life. We know one thing absolutely, I don't care what anybody says, he's about to be sentenced to death. They found him guilty of first degree murder. That jury knows exactly what they're doing and they are going to, in the penalty phase now sentence him to death, unquestionably, and that is Geragos' mistake.

CARLSON: Well, Wendy, you've heard, that's pretty aggressive Monday morning quarterbacking for Mr. Fieger.

Do you think he's right? Does Geoffrey Fieger know what he's talking about? Should Geragos have done that?

MURPHY: Well, you know, it's a hard call. I mean Geragos clearly thought he had a chance at winning this case and a lot of people thought the same thing because, look, Scott Peterson looks like middle America's next door neighbor. He looks like the son of everybody that we all know. And it's difficult for a jury to get their head around the idea that a guy who looks like Scott Peterson could literally slaughter his pregnant wife, let alone on Christmas Eve, as she's about to give birth to their first born son. That's a pretty strong case to start with.

CARLSON: Well, I -- let me just say, I totally agree with that. I find it hard to believe, too. Apparently it's true.

Why do you think, quickly, what was the motive? I'm still confused as to why he would do something like that.

MURPHY: Well, let me just say, you know, there's a lot of mythology built into what I just said. The leading cause of death for pregnant women in this country is homicide. We don't like to hear it, but it's real. And --

FIEGER: By their husbands.

MURPHY: Well, by their husband or their significant other. I mean it's an ugly statistic, but we've got to start, you know, appreciating that so that we're not so riveted when a case like this happens, so much so that we just can't believe a guy like this could do it. A guy like Scott Peterson could do it. He did do it and he's not the only nice looking middle American guy who's ever killed his pregnant wife. It happens.

BRAZILE: Well, Geoffrey, if it's so common, then why all the attention on this case? What was the media outcry about? There's been so much media stories about this case.

FIEGER: Yes, well, it's unfortunately done. It isn't that unusual. But I think Wendy really hit it on the head. This is a guy who looks like everybody's son, who everybody in America would like to have a guy like this, at least how he appeared to be, marry their daughter. She was the picture of a young, happy, soon to be mother and I think America fell in love with her. And, also, there was no direct evidence. So it really was a whodunit.

But if you really want to examine it, when you heard -- that jury heard the tapes of Scott and Amber Frey and heard his demeanor while his wife was disappeared and while there were, for instance, searching for her and having vigils for her and he was lying to Amber Frey about where he was, his visage changed a lot.

BRAZILE: So you think he hurt himself?

FIEGER: Oh, my god, he hurt himself terribly, terribly. His own words hurt himself.

BRAZILE: How about all the media interviews?

FIEGER: Too many interviews.

BRAZILE: How about all those media -- I see.

CARLSON: Now, Wendy, what do you -- I mean if you all of a sudden were put in charge of this, in charge of the potential appeal, what would you do? Would you try to appeal? And on what grounds?

MURPHY: You know, tough to say. He got a very fair trial. That's what happens when you have a zillion dollar defense team on your side. You know, unfortunately lots of people on trial don't have the benefit of a million dollar defense team and they get fair trials, too, most of the time. But this guy got even more.

So what could he complain about? I think the only thing I've seen so far is some of these issues around the juror replacements, because it's highly unusual for jurors to be removed. The standard is very high. I have no doubt the judge went through the right hoops and hurdles to do it. But I have no doubt that's what Mark Geragos is angry about.

Look, I think Geragos was so angry when the JDMD, the foreperson, was bumped at the -- on Wednesday, I think that's one of the reasons he put the boat out there. It was sort of his way of thumbing his nose at the court and his kind of protest about what he thought was unfair about that. He wanted that guy to stay and there have been reports that that juror, or at least one of the jurors who's been removed, said if I had been allowed to stay, I would have hung this jury.

You know Mark Geragos is going to take advantage of that. He's going to put that into any appellate brief he files to the court.

CARLSON: Well, you just referred to this as a million dollar defense.

Who's paying Mark Geragos? Where is the money...

FIEGER: Nobody.

CARLSON: OK, so why is he doing this...

FIEGER: He did it for publicity.

CARLSON: ... and how would he profit from it?

FIEGER: Mark Geragos got paid a little bit of money by the Peterson family. They mortgaged their home. But they didn't pay -- he did this primarily for publicity. And, by the way, Tucker, he lost big because he had hoped to get the Michael Jackson case. Jackson fired him very early on. And believe me, this was a loss leader. And he lost big on this case.

CARLSON: It's a sick world, Geoffrey, isn't it?

FIEGER: No. He got a million dollar defense. If everybody could get that type of defense that Scott Peterson got, there'd be a lot less innocent people getting convicted. So I don't fault Geragos for doing it, but he did it for publicity. But that's not wrong.

BRAZILE: Wendy, when can we expect the sentence and how long and what's the next step?

MURPHY: Well, it's been reported that the sentencing phase will start on November 22, I believe, or immediately around or after Thanksgiving. I know the judge sent everybody home and wants them to be able to take a break for a while. You know, the interesting thing about the Thanksgiving time period is that jurors tend to be in this very light-hearted mood. They are very forgiving. They're thinking about the holidays. It can be a very good time for somebody to be sentenced.

And, look, all that we talked about with regard to who Scott Peterson is, the fact that he looks like middle America's next door neighbor will work to his advantage in a theatrical sense at sentencing. As much as the jurors hate what he did, I disagree with Geoffrey. I don't think they're going to put him to death. He's eligible, even though the jury found him guilty of first degree with regard to Laci and second degree with regard to Conner, he's still eligible for the death penalty. But there are going to be lots of people up there saying nice things about him. His mother, on oxygen, is going to be testifying, lots of family members sobbing on the stand. They're going to feel for this guy in a way that probably, you know, they didn't care about as much during the trial phase.

FIEGER: No. Not going to happen. And I can guarantee you why, because they would have found him guilty of second degree murder today and we would have ended the special circumstances trial and he would have been sentenced to life imprisonment. They found him guilty for one reason only -- they're going to sentence him to death.

MURPHY: I'd put 10 bucks on that against you, Geoffrey.


CARLSON: Only 10?

All right, we're going to take a commercial break.

I want you, Wendy, to consider whether you might want to bet more.

We'll be right back.

When we return, our audience gets an opportunity to tell you what they think about the Peterson verdict.

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The topic, the Scott Peterson verdict.

Still with us are former prosecutor Wendy Murphy and also criminal defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger.

We're going to go to our audience to find out what they think of Scott Peterson found guilty.



I'm Marianna (ph) from Las Vegas. I think it's really nice to see the American legal system functioning properly and in a relatively timely fashion and I think the verdict was appropriate and fair.

CARLSON: Are you as heartened, Geoffrey Fieger, by the verdict? Restore your faith in America?

FIEGER: No, it doesn't restore my faith in America. I had more trouble with the election than, Tucker, than I did with this verdict.

BRAZILE: That makes two of us.

FIEGER: But the fact of the matter is, is that the fact that somebody who's guilty gets convicted doesn't restore my faith. The problem is far more people who are not guilty get convicted every day that you don't hear about it. So people shouldn't think that this system is broken.

CARLSON: I know you're still made about the Jack Kevorkian thing, but that's another show.

BRAZILE: There you go.

MURPHY: But, you know...


MURPHY: But can I just say something? Because I think the public actually is quite cynical about the criminal justice system. Since O.J. Simpson, the public sensed that crazy things happen and that clearly guilty people go free through these shenanigans and dog and pony show tricks of the defense. That's real.

I mean there is a problem in our system.

FIEGER: No, there's not.

MURPHY: Fundamentally, in my opinion, it's because jurors are sometimes misled by shows like "CSI." They expect there to be fingerprints on pillowcases and DNA in every corner and that's just not reality. And I also think that, you know, in a case like this, where the evidence was so overwhelming, the fact that people even thought there might be an acquittal was really shocking to me and, you know, to me what was so good about this case was that it did, you know, play itself out on the world stage for us all to feel good now that actually guilty people, even if they're millionaires or have million dollar defenses, can be found guilty, as they should.

FIEGER: Nonsense.

CARLSON: All right.

BRAZILE: All right.

Yes, sir.

BYRON: Hi, I'm Byron from Los Angeles, California.

I'm just curios, with so much circumstantial evidence they reached a verdict so quickly.

FIEGER: Well, there was -- first of all, they didn't reach it that quickly. Most of these people have been in the jury room for over a week. And second of all, circumstantial evidence can be as powerful as direct evidence. Eyewitness testimony, frankly, is a lot more unreliable, in many cases, than circumstantial.

But in this case, what other evidence was there other than this guy did it? None whatsoever. And I thought the prosecutor finally connected the dots. This wasn't a case where the jury went off on a tangent. This was a case where this guy says he went fishing 90 miles from his home and then his wife and son's body pop up in the same place. Now that would make anybody else in the world guilty and it certainly made Scott Peterson guilty.

MURPHY: And keep in mind, you know, people think circumstantial evidence cases, somehow the phrase circumstantial evidence means it must be weak or it's harder for a jury. Almost all murder cases are circumstantial because the only real eyewitness is dead. And, you know, those cases are won all the time with far less evidence than this case.

Let's not forget the hair wrapped around a pair of pliers in a boat that Laci had never been on. You can't explain that away. Let's not forget Scott at the Mexican border, $15,000 in cash, newly died blonde hair, a goatee, fake I.D.s, camping equipment, water purifying equipment. What -- and he didn't make a single phone call to the authorities...

CARLSON: Oh, who's never done that? I mean come on.

MURPHY: ... to ask -- but he didn't even ask about the bodies that had washed up, which he knew would be that of his wife and unborn child. He didn't even ask anybody. He said he was a little too buys. You know, that's a slam dunk case.

FIEGER: That is awful. I agree with that.

BRAZILE: I agree.

Yes, sir?

JAMISON: I'm Jamison (ph) from Hartford.

And the jury was deadlocked for days and yet only six hours after replacing two jury members, they come back with a guilty verdict.

How is that grounds for appeal and how do you appeal that?

FIEGER: Well, the reason it's ground for appeal is that Wendy said earlier, it is unheard of to replace jurors during deliberation. And the reason for that is that if the juror committed misconduct or something untoward occurred during deliberation, it likely infected the whole jury. It's not something that you can disinfect the jury from. And I believe that's one of -- going to be one of Geragos' main points on appeal.

It is so unusual to have this happen. If he has got a strong point, we don't know what the evidentiary rulings were. They were all held in secret. But if he's got a strong point we know about, it's that one.

MURPHY: But, you know, we...

CARLSON: Wendy Murphy, is this going to taint the case, that the -- the fact that those jurors were dismissed?

MURPHY: Well, I think this is a really important point. And I think the public should understand something unique about California that we saw on display in this case, is that they have a special rule, a stitch rule, where if there is juror misconduct, the jurors are supposed to tell the judge about it. That's what they did, which is why the first juror was bumped.

I think the second juror, the JDMD, got bumped by his own volition. The reports are that he wanted to be removed, that he was frustrated and didn't feel comfortable there. And there may also be something about misconduct with him. I haven't heard the specifics.

But look, California is so irritated by the fact that a rogue juror or a potentially dumb juror can literally tie up a jury and render injustice to the public by voting the wrong way for the wrong reasons and relying on, for example, inadmissible evidence because they're doing their own investigations, that they came up a new rule there, the snitch rule, that lets judges monitor the process to some extent.

Other states need to take California's lead and do the same thing. That's a better way to get justice in this case.

CARLSON: And I bet they will.

We are, sadly, out of time.

Thank you, though, Wendy Murphy and Geoffrey Fieger.

We appreciate it.

FIEGER: Thanks, Tucker.

Thanks, Donna.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

MURPHY: Thanks.

BRAZILE: Thank you, Geoffrey.

Thank you, Wendy. CARLSON: Next, for a complete and utter change of pace, Arnold Schwarzenegger went to Japan and you just can't even believe what he brought in his carryon bag. We'll tell you when we return.

We'll be right back.



ELVIS PRESLEY: ... teddy bear, lead me anywhere. Oh let me be...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SINGER: Oh let him be. PRESLEY: Your teddy bear.


BRAZILE: He's no teddy bear. But Arnold Schwarzenegger's reception in Japan could certainly be termed warm and fuzzy. The California governor chose Japan for his first overseas trade mission. The movie star governor came bearing a bit of American culture. He presented Japan's prime minister with a framed picture of Elvis Presley.

For his part, the prime minister reportedly said Schwarzenegger is more popular than President Bush. Considering the president's image overseas, that's not saying much.

From the left, I'm Donna Brazile.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again Monday for yet more CROSSFIRE.

Have a great weekend.

See you then.


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