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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Scott Peterson Sentenced to Death; Rise and Fall of Bernard Kerik
Aired December 13, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The raw emotion displayed by three of the Peterson jurors this evening was absolutely gripping. They publicly shared their inner thoughts and feelings. It is the first glimpse of what they had been experiencing over the last six months, as they sat in judgment of Scott Peterson.
They ultimately decided that the gravity of his crime deserves a sentence of death, jurors who said their lives would be changed forever by this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG BERATLIS, PETERSON JUROR: Many sleepless nights because you want to make sure you make the right choice. You listen to it, you hear it all, and you can't talk to anybody. You can't bounce off. You know, you've got six months to bottle this up in you, and it's like -- like probably any of you trying to hold on to a secret, and you're sitting there, and you've got six months, but this secret is -- you know, it's a man's life, and you want to make sure you make the right decision.
STEVE CARDOSI, PETERSON JURY FOREMAN: Please don't get me wrong when we smile or we kind of chuckle at something. It's been very difficult for all of us, and I don't mean to make light over anything that has occurred here. This is very serious. This isn't a funny matter at all.
But, you know, it's -- emotionally, you know -- you don't know where you're going to be tomorrow. I can tell you where I am now, I mean, a little uptight and thankful I get to go home and have a semi- normal life again.
RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON JUROR: I'm an emotional wreck and have been. I've changed. I've changed. And I look at life a lot differently. And I hold my family close.
BERATLIS: The most difficult day was the day we found the verdict of guilty. Because I'm going to tell you what, it was a -- a lot of you were out there, the atmosphere. I -- I had to make a decision by the information I had. And I made that decision.
And people running around and clapping and screaming and all that, that -- that was not a happy event for anybody. I -- I was not happy. When we walked out of there, it wasn't a joyous occasion. This was -- this wasn't going to bring back people that are gone. This wasn't going to change that. NICE: No emotion, no anything. That spoke a thousand words. That was loud and clear. Today, the giggles at the table. Loud and clear. I heard enough from him.
BERATLIS: I would have liked to have heard something out of his mouth, yes, anything, a plea for his life or just his opinion on everything that went on in the last two years, but I never got that and I couldn't use that for any decision-making.
I didn't see much emotion at all. When I looked over there, I -- it was a blank stare, and I don't know why. I can't -- I couldn't read into that, but I didn't -- we'd see him laugh at certain situations and then sit there and shake his head as if in disbelief of what was going on.
That's what I saw.
CARDOSI: I did see emotions in him, most of which were anger. I mean, you could tell -- he didn't get upset and cry very often at all until the penalty phase. You saw a couple of tears coming down his face.
I still would have liked to see -- I don't know if remorse is the right word, but a little more expression of caring about his loss. I mean, if he was innocent, he -- he lost his wife and his child, and he didn't -- seem to faze him.
And, while that was going on -- they're looking for his wife and his child -- he's romancing a girlfriend. That's -- that doesn't make sense to me at all.
BERATLIS: I think it was freedom, and I don't think divorce was an option. I -- prior to that, I -- the why -- I did not know the why.
I know that -- you know, I don't think that Amber Frey was the issue. I think that this had been planned before Amber Frey had even gotten in the picture.
CARDOSI: I can't even fathom why somebody would kill somebody.
I mean, I can give you a canned answer. Maybe he was mad. Maybe he wanted freedom. Maybe he wanted -- you know, he was too scared to ask for a divorce, didn't want to let his family down.
I have no idea.
BERATLIS: I guess my analogy is this -- it would be easy for me to turn around and say that person over there did something bad, here's a gun, you shoot them. Now you make that decision. Is it easy? It's not easy. And people who sit there and can sit there and say, oh, I could do this or I could do that -- you know what? It's not easy. And that's what you've got to toy with every day.
You know, I don't care if it's in battle or whatever. That's a person's life. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Clearly a jury pool deeply affected by what they witnessed over the last six months.
Joining me now, Ted Rowlands, who was in the courtroom as the sentence was read. He was also covering the whole trial.
Describe to us what it was like in the courtroom when you heard the words death sentence.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it was, as you could imagine, very emotional inside the courtroom. It was silent. You could feel the emotion.
When the clerk read that they had come to the decision of death, Scott Peterson didn't flinch. He didn't make any sort of reaction physically. You couldn't see any reaction. And his family had the same sort of stoic reaction to it, as if they had been prepared for this. Obviously, the jury had asked for a couple of things a few hours before, which would have led one to believe they were leaning towards death.
I think they were prepared for it as much as they could be. And then from the Rocha family, no reaction as well. Obviously they were very cognizant of all of the reporters in there and didn't want to have any reaction. Afterwards, we heard from Laci Peterson's step- father in a very heartfelt way, saying it was a nightmare from the beginning and it continues to be a nightmare.
But the overall emotion, line -- the security was very intense -- was something that I'll never forget inside of the courtroom.
ZAHN: It was absolutely riveting for me to listen to these juries talk in such a heartfelt way about what they have endured, what they have witnessed. What were you surprised by when you heard them speak publicly for the first time?
ROWLANDS: Oh, clearly the emotion that they have with them and they're going to have to carry with them for the next few months, years, possibly the rest of their lives. You know, we just heard one of them talking about the scenario where this person's guilty. Here's the gun. You shoot them.
We weren't sure -- the press corps, we weren't sure if we were going to from one juror, zero jurors, what they would say. I think everybody underestimated the depth of this jury, especially these three folks that came out and talked to us about everything. And it was really heartfelt and it was fascinating to hear them sort of debriefed in unison, because they haven't been able to really talk about some of these issues for the past six months.
ZAHN: Thanks for being our eyes and ears there today, Ted Rowlands. Joining me now from Redwood City, California, someone who has been in the courtroom from the start of the Peterson case, courtroom sketch artist Vicki Behringer.
Always good to see you.
So, Vicki, when the jury entered the courtroom today, did you read anything into their expressions? You are someone who has made a career out of studying faces and what they project.
VICKI BEHRINGER, COURTROOM SKETCH ARTIST: Yes, I did. I could tell that they were upset and that they were crying. They had been crying.
I also saw juror No. 11 give a little wink to the Rocha family. So, therefore, it looked like the death sentence was what was going to come down.
ZAHN: You were constantly watching this jury. Did their expressions betray some obviously strong feelings earlier on in this trial?
BEHRINGER: I don't think so.
I think they showed their feelings quite a bit. They cried at the appropriate times. And they seemed deeply moved by this whole trial. Again, I couldn't -- I couldn't see all of them, but for the most part, they showed their emotions.
ZAHN: So what were the challenges for you to try to capture this in pen and ink?
BEHRINGER: Well, to try to get all of the emotions as quickly as possible because everyone has so many deadlines, and to get the likeness and yet the emotion that's going to in their faces. After a while, I had everyone memorized, and I just needed to put the emotion in their face.
And, of course, Scott was easy. He was hardly ever emotional. He just always stood straight ahead, except when he would smile at his family, when he would walk in or he was joking around with Geragos.
ZAHN: You have covered a lot of murder trials in your life. What was different about this one for you on a professional level and on an emotion level?
BEHRINGER: On a professional level, it was the longest one I've ever done. And I was there almost every single day. I think I missed one or two hearings back in Modesto. Everything else, I have been here every day for -- of this entire trial. So that was a bit exhausting.
ZAHN: Were you surprised by the sentence? BEHRINGER: Actually, not from this morning, I wasn't. Last week, I would have told you life for sure. But this morning, when they asked for the autopsy pictures, I knew at that point it was death.
ZAHN: Vicki Behringer, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate your time.
That leads us to our question of the day: Do you think Scott Peterson deserves the death penalty? Tell us what think at CNN.com/Paula. The results at the end of the hour.
Amber Frey was the other woman in the Peterson case. I'll be talking with her lawyer, the dynamic Gloria Allred, in just a moment. And there's still a lot more to come here tonight.
ZAHN (voice-over): Tonight, the rise and fall of Bernard Kerik. From high school dropout and New York beat colleague to 9/11 hero.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolve he felt that morning will guide him every day on his job.
ZAHN: To disgraced ex-Cabinet nominee.
BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I became aware of what I thought might be a problem in some tax filings on a housekeeper.
ZAHN: Why didn't the White House see this one coming?
And whatever happened to Saddam Hussein?
PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: We got him.
ZAHN: One year after he was pulled from his spider hole, we'll relive the historic moment with the Iraqi American who pulled him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told him, put your head up. And it was like one hand. I said, let me see your other hand. And he did this. I said, no, both hand up.
ZAHN: All of that and more tonight on PAULA ZAHN NOW.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people of the state of California vs. Scott Peterson. We the jury in the above entitled cause fix the penalty at death, dated December 13, 2004, Foreperson No. 6.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: Welcome back.
The verdict by Scott Peterson's jury being read by the court clerk.
Let's go back to the courthouse in Redwood City, California.
Joining us now, Gloria Allred, the attorney for Amber Frey, the other woman who had a relationship with Scott Peterson and testified against him during the trial.
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR AMBER FREY: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: I understand you've spoken with Amber. We know from hearing juries -- the jurors talk for the first time tonight, her testimony obviously had impact on their decision for the death penalty. How does she view that decision that she's partly for this decision?
ALLRED: Well, it's certainly an emotional day for her, Paula.
And she knows that she did the right thing by coming forward and then cooperating with law enforcement had when they asked her to assist them by tape recording telephone calls with Scott after Laci disappeared. And I think those tape recordings were very important, because, on them, we heard Scott Peterson acknowledging to Amber that he had said to her before Laci ever went missing that he had lost his wife and these would be the first holidays without her.
We also know that one of those many telephone calls was made by Scott at the vigil or right before the vigil for his missing pregnant wife. And rather than feeling anything or expressing any feelings about the fact that it had been less than a week since his wife went missing, he's on the phone with Amber, his girlfriend, talking romantic talk, talking pillow talk. I think that was important.
And when they heard all of the telephone calls that he made to her, I think they could understand that he was saying he wanted a future with Amber. He wanted to be with her forever. Whether he really meant it or not, the bottom line is, he wanted freedom from Laci and from being a parent, which is what he was about to be. He had said to Amber on those tapes that, if he were with Amber, he didn't need and didn't want to have a biological child.
ZAHN: All right, so...
ALLRED: I think that freedom was very important.
ZAHN: All right, so you're basically saying that your client's testimony was critical to the jury's understanding what you describe is the real story here. But you still didn't answer question. Did Amber Frey or does Amber Frey want Scott Peterson to die?
ALLRED: She has felt, Paula, that it wasn't appropriate for her to say whether or not or not she thought that Scott Peterson should get the death penalty, because she thought that decision should be made by the jury, only based on the evidence that was presented in the courtroom.
And despite published reports that the defense was thinking of calling her or was going it call her in the death penalty phase, they never did. And I always said, I didn't think that they would. So she's not yet expressed an opinion on the death penalty. But her thoughts and prayers are with Laci, with Conner, with the family of the murder victim.
And she also understands that Scott Peterson's actions have had a ripple effect on his own family and also on her family.
ZAHN: But if Amber Frey hadn't testified, would Scott Peterson be facing the death penalty tonight?
ALLRED: I guess that's for the jury to say. I have to think that she has been extremely important in all of this. Law enforcement has consistently said to me, they thought that she was an extremely important part of this puzzle.
And I think that she was, too. And she did what she did at great risk of harm to herself. We know that on the day that he was arrested, he had a MapQuest map with driving instructions to Amber Frey's workplace. In that car, he also had a shovel. He had knives. He had rope. What was he going to do with them? What was he going to do with her? I don't know. But she certainly took great risks for justice. And I'm very proud of her that she did.
ZAHN: Gloria Allred, thank you for joining us tonight.
Joining me now, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.
It is interesting thinking about what Gloria just had to say, because one juror tonight, as he talked publicly, basically said he thinks this death plan was hatched before Amber came into the picture. Is that interesting to you? Does that mean anything to you?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, what was so fascinating about what I thought was a riveting presentation by those jurors is that they were intelligent. They were passionate. They were serious. They were heartfelt. And every chance they could, they took the most incriminating view of Scott Peterson's behavior.
They detested this guy. They just were repulsed by him. So, that was an example, the one you cited, of them thinking, this is a guy who was criminal top to bottom.
ZAHN: It was also interesting to hear how every single one of those jurors who spoke publicly said that this was a guy who sat there passionless. They looked into his eyes and they saw nothing. You're a defense attorney. What did Geragos do wrong? How do you advise your client to look before a jury?
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I am sorry. You don't judge the person on the way they sit in the courtroom. He didn't testify. Yet they based some of their opinions on his nuances, the way he didn't smile, the way he did smile, the way he giggled.
ZAHN: Oh, come on. Wouldn't that bother you if you see this guy giggling and he hasn't spoken?
SHERMAN: Well, is he really giggling or is he nervous? He had a smile on yesterday -- or was it this morning? That doesn't mean he's mocking them.
If he testifies, you judge his conduct on the witness stand, his demeanor and what he says. If he has demonstrated conduct such as we all know in this case, you judge him on that. But you don't judge him on what his demeanor is on the courtroom. He's not testifying.
ZAHN: Mickey, you can't tell me over the years and representing the people you have represented, that you have never advised them on how to have effective demeanor in the courtroom.
SHERMAN: For that very reason.
ZAHN: You're a prosecutor.
SHERMAN: To the extent that you can tell the person, don't smile. Don't laugh. If I make jokes, don't laugh at them. Don't mock the person. When a person is on the witness stand that you disagree with, don't shake your head and make believe he is an idiot.
TOOBIN: But what was so chilling about what they said was, they followed the advice -- I mean, Scott Peterson followed the advice that most defense attorneys give, which is, be expressionless. Don't react. And they held it against him.
SHERMAN: It might have been better if he was a little more emotional.
ZAHN: It seemed to me they also held against him that he did not testify. Is that fair, Mickey?
SHERMAN: The way the jurors said it, it is probably within the bounds of no big problems. We would have liked to have heard him testify. I would like to win the lottery. It's not, he didn't testify; therefore, he's guilty.
ZAHN: But implicit in that wasn't the suggestion that this right to self-incrimination sort of went out the window?
Every jury is instructed that you can't hold it against the defendant that he doesn't take the stand. And the folklore among trial lawyers is that juries basically ignore that.
TOOBIN: And today was proof that they do ignore it.
ZAHN: But you didn't have a problem with what you heard from these jurors today?
SHERMAN: I did. And, by the way, they did say that Amber Frey did not play a part.
ZAHN: Well, one juror said that.
SHERMAN: Well, he was the most articulate, I think.
What bothered me -- and they were -- I will tell you, these people were very good.
ZAHN: I was impressed by how thoughtful they were.
ZAHN: It's not easy to come out and talk publicly about sentencing some guy to death.
SHERMAN: ... the media whores and that they would be -- say something inappropriate.
But, no, they really said the right things. The only thing that bothers me is that so much their decisions seemed to be based upon the post-crime conduct, not that he killed her, but what a piece of garbage he was after he killed her, the way he held everyone, stringed them along trying to make believe he didn't know anything.
ZAHN: But aren't those cues to someone's character?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. They are.
And the fact that he was not just having an affair, but talking pillow talk, as Gloria Allred said, to this woman from the vigil for his missing wife, that is significant.
SHERMAN: Just like you said, they are clues to his character. His character's not on trial.
It's whether or not he committed this crime. That's what's on trial. And then the death penalty is whether or not he should be executed.
ZAHN: Quick answer to this. Are you surprised by the death penalty?
SHERMAN: No, not over the last couple of days. I thought at the very beginning, it was going to be life. But, as they hung out there and certainly after the evidence that they wanted to see this morning, it looked pretty bad.
ZAHN: All right. But 10 people have been executed in California since, what, 1978? So what are the chances that he will be killed or he will die as an old man?
TOOBIN: He is now number 642 on line. They are executing people at a rate of less than one a year. It's overwhelmingly likely that he will die of old age rather than be executed.
ZAHN: Gentlemen, thank you for both of your views, defense attorney, former prosecutor. You got it all right here.
ZAHN: If Scott Peterson's conviction and death sentence are upheld, he will spend the rest of his life on death row at California's San Quentin, prison. KTVU reporter Rob Roth was allowed a rare look inside the prison last year.
He joins me from San Francisco.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
Describe to us what you saw. What do the cells look like?
ROB ROTH, KTVU REPORTER: Paula, it's dreary. It's extremely depressing, almost like a tenement building.
The thing that got me first was the smell. It's that combination of mold and must and disinfectant. Ceiling tiles are falling from the ceiling. You see water marks everywhere. The place is basically falling apart. It was built for about a tenth of the population it has now. The prisoners are -- the inmates are kept in very small cells. I believe they're something like 5-by-9, concrete.
They sleep on a very thin mattress on a concrete slab. And there is a commode. The bars are like this perforated metal. They're allowed out for about an hour, an hour a day on to the yard. But even the yard is depressing. It's concrete. You don't see a blade of grass anywhere. And, ironically, all of this is in Marin County, one of the most beautiful counties in California. It's about 25 miles north of San Francisco in a town called San Rafael. And it's just a very, very gloomy place.
ZAHN: Rob, you had the opportunity to talk with a number of hardened criminals. Give us a sense of how someone, like Scott Peterson, being convicted of what he's been convicted of, not only the killing of his wife, but his unborn son, how he might be treated.
ROTH: Well, first of all, he's going to be high profile. And so I think there is going to be have to be some special precautions for him, as there are with other high-profile criminals.
The other thing is that most of the inmates on death row have been through the prison system before, committed other crimes. And they've got that sort of hardened jail demeanor, whereas Scott Peterson is coming basically from suburbia to death row. And that's quite a leap. I think his life is going to change dramatically in the next few days.
ZAHN: Rob Roth, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
ZAHN: A first look inside of San Quentin through his reporting.
There was a verdict in another sensational trial today. A New York jury convicted electrician Daniel Pelosi of second-degree murder in the 2001 bludgeoning death of millionaire Ted Ammon. Pelosi initially became a suspect because of his romance with the victim's estranged wife, Generosa Ammon, who inherited half of her husband's fortune, married Pelosi three months after the killing and died of cancer last year.
When I interviewed Pelosi in November last year before his arrest, of course, he told me he didn't do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL PELOSI, DEFENDANT: For the record, I did not murder Ted Ammon, nor did I have any involvement in what happened to Ted Ammon.
ZAHN: Did your ex-wife, Generosa, have going to do with the murder of Ted Ammon?
PELOSI: Not that I know of. Come on, it's a perfect movie. It's a perfect movie. "Columbo" has a scene on this. Look -- from the outside, look in. I mean, I look in. At first, yes.
ZAHN: You have to admit it looks pretty good.
PELOSI: it looks bad. Here's the blue -- here's the regular guy out on Long Island, hooks up with a rich woman who is getting a divorce. The husband dies. I ain't the only guy out there that has ever hooked up with a rich woman. There's 10,000 guys out there in this world that have hooked up with rich women, where their husbands don't die, you know?
ZAHN: What did you think of Ted Ammon? Did you hate him?
PELOSI: Honestly, I had no resentments with Ted Ammon whatsoever. The guy never did anything wrong to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Again, a jury today convicted Daniel Pelosi of second- degree murder. When he is sentenced next month, he could get 25 years to life in prison.
And still waiting to go on trial, Saddam Hussein. It has been a year since he was found. Next, we'll relive the moment of his capture with the Iraqi American who pulled him out of that rat's nest.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
It has been another day of deadly violence in Iraq. A car bomb exploded just outside the Green Zone in central Baghdad, killing at least eight people, wounding more than a dozen. A second bomb blew up in another part of Baghdad, wounding three U.S. soldiers, all of this on the one-year anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein. He managed to elude U.S. troops for nine months. He remains in the custody of U.S. forces for security reasons.
But, back on June 30, Iraq's interim government took legal control of his case. The following day he appeared in court, Saddam Hussein the defendant. He is said to be spending some of his time gardening. And, in September, he had an operation for a hernia problem. It is unclear when his trial will begin. But today, Iraq's foreign minister would only say it will be sometime after the January 30 elections. One man who helped pull the ex-dictator out of that spider hole is an Iraqi-American who fledged Saddam's regime in 1991. He was a translator for U.S. special forces, and he spoke with us last summer. Listen now to Samir's story.
SAMIR, HELPED CAPTURE SADDAM HUSSEIN: On December 15, we knew we had found, Saddam, is there in that farm, somewhere. Hidden in that farm somewhere. We had his bodyguard. He's the one we were looking for. Because we knew he lead to Saddam and we got in that farm about 8:00 p.m., on Saturday night. The forces went inside. They searched the whole farm. There's no sign of Saddam. The guy show us exactly where the bunker is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bodyguard showed you where the bunker was?
SAMIR: Yes. He said -- point with his finger. He said, check in here. It's really hard to see where the bunker is. It is covered with dirt. The hole, it can't be. Especially when you think about looking for Saddam Hussein the dictator and he started yelling inside. And they said, Samir, come talk to him. Tell him to come out and he started saying, don't shoot. Don't kill me. Don't shoot. They ask me to tell him, to ask him, put your hands up. We want to see your hand. I told him, put your hand up. And it was like, one hand. I said, let me see your other hand. And he did this. I said, no, both hand up.
When he stick both hand up, and I reached him. And I grabbed him. I grabbed him. I was like, I'm not going to let him go but these guys are like, they didn't know what I did. I was like in the hole. They pulled me back. And they were so close to the -- they saw -- everyone got a piece of Saddam. We pulled him out. I look at him. I knew that Saddam. From his face. That was Saddam, and I told them, this is Saddam. They didn't believe me at first. They said, ask him his name. I said this is Saddam. They said, no, ask him! And I ask him, what's your name? He said, first, he said ah. I said, what's your name? And he said, I'm Saddam. And then Saddam, what? I had to really, like, yell at him and stuff. He said, I'm Saddam Hussein. And he called me a traitor, a spy, and he make me really upset and I had to punch him. I was so angry. I don't know, really, punch him a couple of times in the face. Grabbed him from his beard, and they told me to stop. That's enough. They said, you didn't win the war. He said, you didn't win the war. He said, you didn't win the war. The war's not over. We told him that. The war is over!
ZAHN: Samir spoke with our Ron Young, a CNN special contributor. Samir tells us he plans on heading back to Iraq soon, where he still has family in the city of Nazaria (ph).
Coming up next, we move on to our security watch in the downfall of the man the president chose to safeguard our security. What cost Bernard Kerik the job, and how could the White House miss all of the signs on his record?
ZAHN: The help of wanted sign is back up in the department of homeland security and tonight our CNN security watch looks at why Bernard Kerik's nomination to run the agency went down the drain.
(voice-over): Bernard Kerik's rapid rise won praise, raised eyebrows and raised questions. But he did have the confidence of President Bush, and that was what mattered. The president put Kerik in charge of rebuilding Iraq's police and security forces. He was at president's side during the re-election campaign. And was nominated to be homeland security secretary.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He knew the faces of the rescuers who rushed toward danger. He attended the funeral of the officers who didn't come back. Bernie Kerik understands the duties that came to America on September 11.
ZAHN: But questions about Kerik's financial, professional, and personal conduct kept multiplying. A confirmation hearing, he likely would have been asked about reports of unpaid condominium bills and a multimillion windfall on stock options. Kerik was once fined by using police detectives for research of a book. Just last week, Kerik testified in a suit involving a former subordinate's allegation of an affair. Last Friday, only a week after being nominated, Kerik surprised everyone by withdrawing from consideration.
BERNARD KERIK, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY NOMINEE: I became aware of what I thought may be a problem in some tax filings, on a housekeeper, a nanny that I had working for us in my home with my children. I came to realize that, in addition to some of the tax issues that I thought I may have there may have been a question with regard to her legal status in this country.
ZAHN: It was a stumble and a carefully-built career as a strong- willed no nonsense reformer.
KERIK: It's a difficult time, and, you know, if you want to attack me, attack me. Don't attack my family. You know? Chase people down the street in cars by my house. I mean, that stuff is unnecessary.
ZAHN: Kerik rose from high school dropout to New York City police detective. And then the city's correction's chief. Finally, it's police commissioner. His rise took place under the watchful eye of Rudy Giuliani. They share a consulting business. In an administration that places a premium on loyalty and not embarrassing the boss, Kerik's fall has Giuliani defending his own relationship with President Bush.
RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: He's very understanding. He understands what happened. He appreciates the fact that this came up, as he regarded earlier in the process, and that didn't come out during a confirmation hearing.
ZAHN: The Bush administration is also getting questions about how thoroughly it checks the backgrounds of its nominees.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We go through a pretty detailed questioning period with nominees and a lot of independent research, and we look through all of the public records as well.
Research you can bet will be extra diligent when it comes to picking Kerik's replacement.
ZAHN: And joining me from her home state of Maine is Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins. She chairs the governmental affairs committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security.
Welcome, good to see you.
REP. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Thank you.
ZAHN: How much of a black eye is this for the Bush administration to have this Kerik nomination go down at this stage? COLLINS: I don't think it's a black eye for the administration at all.
I'm very familiar with the vetting process that the White House uses in screening nominees. I am confident that the standard questions were asked of Mr. Kerik, as they are any nominee. Questions about the employment of domestic workers, questions about any lawsuits or other legal disputes. And questions about financial matters.
I can only conclude that Mr. Kerik did not answer those questions as fully as he perhaps should have.
ZAHN: So you think he intentionally misled his interviewers?
COLLINS: I don't think he intentionally misled the White House counsel's office. I think that perhaps he didn't take the questions quite as seriously as he should have, and that it appears in the case of the nanny, that the facts of the situation did not become clear to him, until he was doing a further in-depth review of his financial statements later in the process.
ZAHN: But the fact remains, Senator, a lot of what is being talked about today are allegations that anybody could have found, if you just Googled him. Why didn't the White House see this stuff?
COLLINS: Well, the White House at this stage of the process relies heavily on the representations made by the nominee. And the White House may have been aware of some of these issues, but felt perhaps that they weren't disqualifying. I don't know. I wasn't there.
But I'm certain that had the White House known of the nonpayment of payroll taxes, and also the possible employment of an individual who was here illegally, that those would have been disqualifying, particularly since this is the department with responsibility for our immigration laws.
ZAHN: But critics of the White House vetting process say this is the result of a White House that is overly protective of secretiveness, a White House that doesn't take into account dissenting point of view.
Do you think there is any truth to that criticism?
COLLINS: Well, I really don't. Let's look at the fact.
This White House has had a very good record with its nominees getting confirmed by the full Senate, and that shows me that the vetting process, in general, has served the president well and that it's been a thorough one.
We have to recognize that the vetting process of the White House is different from the full background check that is later performed by the FBI once the nomination is made to the Senate.
And those kinds of reviews, the FBI check, have not revealed serious problems with the administration's nominees in the past. And I think that suggests that the initial screening done by the White House has been an effective one.
ZAHN: Senator Susan Collins, thanks so much for your time.
COLLINS: Thank you.
ZAHN: Coming up next, what the Democrats are saying about Kerik's downfall and the White House.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
We continue tonight's, "CNN Security Watch" with the Democratic perspective on the Department of Homeland Security and some of the questions raised by Bernard Kerik's withdrawal as the nominee to head this vital agency.
With me now, Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey.
SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Hello.
ZAHN: Always good to see you. Welcome, sir.
Your Republican colleague Susan Collins just said that the responsibility for this vetting disaster rests solely on Bernard Kerik's shoulders. Whose fault do you think it is?
CORZINE: Well, I don't -- I wouldn't agree with that. I think Susan's done a great job on a whole bunch of things, but on this judgment, it sounds like she's providing political cover for the White House.
I think there -- there needs to be serious questioning of individuals about a whole host of topics before you actually come out with these nominations.
And for someone who's going to be in -- responsible for immigration services in the country, I think one of the obvious things to make sure to be very secure about is that that individual has complied with the immigration laws.
ZAHN: If this stuff isn't new, how is it that the White House missed it?
CORZINE: Well, I don't -- I think this is the case where they were so intrigued with sort of the panache of this nomination and -- and sort of the almost halo effect of post-9/11 efforts of Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Kerik, rightfully so, with regard to the 9/11 tragedy, that they were willing to turn a blind eye on a lot of other things.
And maybe they accepted Mayor Giuliani's assertions carte blanche. But I think there needs to be, like there is a rule of law, you need a discipline with regard to nominations that's very thorough and very complete, to make sure that you're going to have to have people who are going it stand up to the scrutiny that obviously comes with the nominating process.
ZAHN: Some critics of the White House have suggested today that this happened because this White House values privacy so much, doesn't want leaks, and that it also refuses to listen to opposing point of views. How much of this has to do with that?
CORZINE: Well, I'm -- I'm certainly one that believes that this White House is very ideological and stubborn is the word I would use. When it has an opinion, it's not really interested in having a dialogue about changing these things that they -- they've set into motion.
And so that makes it very hard when they have a fixed view, they have confidence in the suggestions that have come from whoever they're taking advice from, and they get fixed on a view. And I think that can be a problem.
ZAHN: And finally tonight, you just highlighted some of Bernie Kerik's heroism in the wake of 9/11. Are you personally saddened that this withdrawal, this nomination has come to this?
CORZINE: Well, I am disappointed. I'm disappointed, because this is a New Jersey citizen, who I think acted heroically at a time of stress of our nation. He volunteered to go to Iraq to try to set up some of the security forces.
And I also am disappointed because I think he would have understood a principle that this administration has failed in, the Department of Homeland Security, is to make our allocation of resources on threat basis, as opposed to political basis. And I think Mr. Kerik would have -- have accepted that view based on his own personal experience.
ZAHN: Senator Jon Corzine, thanks for your time tonight.
CORZINE: Have a good evening, Paula.
ZAHN: You, too.
And we hope you'll stay tuned to CNN for the most reliable news about your personal security.
We're going to turn our eyes to the sky next and the end of an era at NASA. An era that moved from the despair of the Columbia disaster to dreams for the future of a return to the moon and beyond.
ZAHN: The man who has led NASA for the past three years is stepping down. Sean O'Keefe was originally expected to be a short-term leader, assigned to get NASA's budget in order, but that all changed when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in midair.
Here's Miles O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CO-HOST, "LIVE FROM" (voice-over): Sean O'Keefe is not a rocket scientist. And he makes no bones about it.
SEAN O'KEEFE, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: My oldest son, his response to this -- he's 12 years old -- said, "Gee, I thought you had to be really smart to be in that job!"
O'BRIEN: All joking aside, this career public servant, beltway operator and two generation Bush loyalist came to NASA from the White House budget office with a fairly down-to-earth charter: explore the costs and launch some new accounting.
(on camera) When people call you bean counter, are those fighting words?
O'KEEFE: I don't know.
O'BRIEN: But the bean counter's equation changed in seven heartbeats on February 1, 2003. One year into his tenure, O'Keefe was dealing with tragedy, the shuttle Columbia and her crew of seven lost on reentry.
O'KEEFE: While we're filled with sorrow now, there's so much about these historic and heroic astronauts for us to be grateful of.
O'BRIEN: Many at NASA were grateful O'Keefe was there in the wake of the disaster. He left the doors open, kept the public informed, offered genuine empathy and fully embraced the accident investigation.
KEITH COWING, NASAWATCH.COM: His reaction to a lot of this is just extremely honest and simple, and I think that helped the agency, you know, climb out of that problem and move onto where it is now.
O'BRIEN: It is now an agency with a budget increase, with success on mars and around Saturn, and a lofty goal to send humans back to the Moon, and onto the red planet.
COWING: They have a presidential mandate to get back to the stuff that the agency is best at doing. And a lot of people are feeling that can-do attitude again.
O'BRIEN: Now, Paula, NASA got a good dose from Congress of money, more than $16 billion, but what lies ahead are about 25 missions to finish the International Space Station. So the question is, at $500 million per launch of a shuttle, will there be enough money to fly the shuttle out safely and still get to Mars?
ZAHN: That's a good question about a very ambitious agenda.
And what a utility player you are tonight, Mr. Miles. You're filling in for Aaron Brown. What are you going to do?
O'BRIEN: I'm trying to keep up with Wolf Blitzer on being on the air here.
ZAHN: The iron man of television?
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.
Tonight on "AARON BROWN," we're going it talk about the subject of scrounging. It's part of military myth and reality.
In the case of war, what do you do when you don't have enough parts? Well, you appropriate things, right? Well, in some cases, it has landed people in courts-martial, and we'll talk to such person tonight at 10 Eastern.
ZAHN: Look forward Miles. And for the record, I like both of you, you and the "Wolf man."
O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you.
ZAHN: Have a good show.
The result of our question of the day, coming up next.
ZAHN: And we're back now with the results of our question of the day. We asked you if Scott Peterson deserves the death penalty. Sixty-two percent of you said yes; 38 percent said no.
Remember, this is not a scientific poll, just a feel for what our web site visitors think.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate your being with us. Tomorrow, the disturbing results of a CNN investigation into the drug meant to protect American troops from an anthrax attack. Wait till you hear how the drug is really impacting soldiers.
"LARRY KING LIVE" is next with more on the Scott Peterson case and the decision of the jury to give him the death penalty.
Again, thanks for dropping by here tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Good night.
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