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Election 2000: Legal Arguments Continue in Leon County Circuit Court

Aired December 3, 2000 - 8:54 p.m. ET


STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Judge N. Sanders Sauls announcing a short break during closing arguments in this long hearing -- two-day hearing -- into Vice President Gore's contest of the Florida election results. Let's turn now to Roger Cossack, who has joined us for some analysis on what we have been hearing.

Roger, this was the attorney for Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, basically shooting down just about every argument that the Gore team brought.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. This man was not going to leave anything standing. He should have had a machine gun to better do the spraying. That's what lawyers do, and that's what lawyers should do. They make the best and the most convincing arguments they know how. They went to get this judge to let him know that there's really no argument.

Just remember, the Gore team has uphill battle and as articulate and as good as David Boies was to, you know, to make his in points. You know, they come right back and they say, judge, look, this is an uphill battle. They have prove to you that there were legal votes that weren't counted and they have to prove to you that it would have a significant difference if you went back and counted these votes.

And that's why you heard from statisticians and that's why you heard from people who talk about, you know, plastic and rubber and why chads build up and why chads don't build up and why you heard all this testimony. And if this judge isn't convinced, you know, this could be the end of this lawsuit at least for here. And then, of course, we know there'll be an appeal.

FRAZIER: One of the things that struck me, Roger, to the non-law instructed here was that Joseph Klock, the counsel to the Florida secretary of state, said that under his reading of the Florida statutes that if you want file a challenge or a contest you have to do that in all 67 counties. He made it sound as if the Gore team had just missed out on some administrative matters like getting down to the courthouse on time.

COSSACK: Yes, he did and you, know, I'm not sure that -- that actually was a rather new and novel argument to me. I think that what the real -- the thrust of the statute is is what I've just told you. There seems to be one operative sentence in there. It says have there been illegal votes that were counted or legal votes that weren't counted and I think the next question is, you know, identify those areas where you believe -- that you believe there were legal votes that weren't counted. Identify those areas where you believe they weren't counted and if you only believe they've counted in couple or three different counties, then those are the ones you identify.

Now, I suppose on a abundance of caution you could say everywhere, but remember, there's is an issue where time plays an important role and I think they want to narrow the issues as much as they possibly could.

FRAZIER: Roger, thanks for joining us here. Please stand by for continuing insight into this. We're going to turn now, though, to some other experts. Let's go to Joie.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Stephen, now we have standing by outside the Tallahassee courthouse CNN's Kate Snow, who's been watching all the proceedings there.

Kate, what have you learned?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm not an expert, Joie, but I feel like I could go to law school after this. I can tell you that everyone's taken less team than the judge had given them so far. David Boies closing with his closing argument about 40 minutes long. About the same length of time for Barry Richard, attorney for Governor Bush, and then Joe Klock -- Joseph Klock, representing the Florida secretary of state about 23 minutes, just short of his 30-minute window. So, things are moving along at a pretty quick pace.

Joining me, David Cardwell. He's been with us all day here today. David Boies, you pointed out, had no notes. He stood up there, did it off the cuff. How do you think he did?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure I'm not sure I'd describe it as off the cuff, I think he was probably very well prepared. I thought he did an excellent job. He did a very good job of explaining his case in terms that are easily understandable. He had a good pace to it. He went through it very methodically. And I'm sure anyone that would listen to the entire argument from David Boies at the end said, oh, this is winner for them. Then Barry Richard got up -- a very strong advocate -- delivered a just excellent closing argument and at the end of that he said, well, now I'm not so sure. They're both good. They both seemed to have hit on the same points with exactly opposite conclusions.

SNOW: Both of them talking about -- David Boies saying you have the power to decided this; Barry Richard saying you don't have the power to decide this. Both of them talking about voter error. One saying yes, clearly, it does matter. The other saying no, it doesn't matter.

CARDWELL: They're coming from two different directions at the same issues, but very definitely, the Gore side needs the court to think, I've got a lot of power here. I can exercise that. The Bush side is saying, no, you are reviewing what canvassing boards have done. There's no discretion. You should say so and throw out the case.

SNOW: One other point that David had made to me earlier was that the secretary of state's attorney, Mr. Klock, didn't really need to speak at all and yet there he was up there speaking for 23 minutes. You know, he could've just stood up and said, look, we did our job. We certified these election results last Sunday like we were asked to do. But instead he gave another explanation. So, we'll look for more when come back from the counties themselves -- Palm Beach County, Nassau County and Miami-Dade County. That's what we expect to happen next.

Back to you, Stephen.

CHEN: All right, Kate Snow for us in Tallahassee, Florida as well with David Cardwell. We're going to take a break here and continue our coverage. The court is taking a break as well. This is first time we're actually seen the court look this clear. The court's taking a break for another six minutes or so, and we'll continue our coverage here on CNN after the break.


FRAZIER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of this rare Sunday hearing of a Florida circuit court.

CHEN: Right, in Leon County in Tallahassee, Florida, a session that wasn't supposed to take all day but now has stretched into a twelfth hour on a Sunday, not only an unusual session, an unusually long session down there before Judge N. Sanders Sauls.

Joining us on the telephone line is CNN's Gary Tuchman, who's been in the courtroom throughout much of this day.

Gary, what are you hearing now? We some of the folks coming back into the courtroom on this break.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joie. You just touched upon it.

The 100 of us or so in this courtroom have now been here 12 hours today. And no break has been longer than 30 minutes. That means 21 hours over this weekend of court testimony for this very important case.

I was just talking to Bush attorneys, to Gore attorneys, and to Joe Klock, the attorney for the secretary of state. It probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that they all think they did very well.

The Bush attorneys think their side's closing argument was creative and straightforward. The Gore attorneys say their closing argument was compelling and clear. And Joe Klock says he thought he did a good job also.

I asked him what the Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who almost everyone seems to know these days, was she watching on television as he addressed her concerns. He tells me he told her to take it easy and not watch for a while, to relax a little bit. So, according to Joe Klock, he didn't think his client was watching.

What we have left now, Nassau County's attorney is going to speak for about 15 minutes. That's what he's scheduled for regarding claims that there was some fraud in his county.

And the interveners, the lawyers representing common citizens, will get about 40 minutes. And then the Gore side, since they brought the complaint, gets the final word. They will get 30 minutes for their final closing argument.

And then this case will be history. The main question we want to know, and we still don't know because the judge has not commented about it, when will he issue his ruling about whether he will have the recount, and if he does how he will do it, what standards will he meet? We don't know if that will be tonight or tomorrow.

But we are sure to find out when the closing arguments come to an end. We figure he'll tell us by then. The judge is coming in as we speak.

CHEN: All right. We see the folks there in the courtroom stepping into position.

Gary, if you have another moment here, I just wanted to ask about how these attorneys were able to prepare their closing arguments. Have they been in the courtroom the whole time? Did they get to go out and take a break and collect their thoughts at all?

TUCHMAN: They are going in the courtroom to collect their thoughts. But, Joie, I'll tell you one thing, I have to hang up now because the phone is not allowed to be on when the judge is in here.

CHEN: All right, thank you very much, Gary Tuchman, in the courtroom there in Tallahassee. Reporting till the last moment.

Judge N. Sanders Sauls apparently back into position. The attorneys are getting ready to do their bit. We have heard, as Gary said, from the lawyers from both the Gore and Bush sides as well as representing the Secretary of State Katherine Harris there in Florida, all speaking in their closing arguments.

We're also now going to hear from representatives from some of the counties involved, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade Counties, Nassau County as well, all speaking, having their turn as well to wrap up their thoughts and their arguments before Judge Sauls before he comes to a decision. And I add, and as Gary pointed out, there will be some opportunity for rebuttal.

The witnesses completed their turn earlier in the evening, a session that we actually thought was not going to go all day. Yesterday, we had heard that the judge did not want to have the whole thing last longer than 12 hours. Clearly now it has gone past 21, and it is still going.

CNN's Brian Cabell is outside the courthouse.

As they get ready for the session to begin again, Brian, a quick word from you.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Judge Sanders Sauls, of course, wanted to finish this up in 12 hours. As Gary says, it's gone some 21 hours. And we'll probably have another two hours ahead of us.

We heard him get a little impatient, a little irritable, earlier this evening. But he clearly can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He has said that all along. And he's said he wants to speed things up.

And now clearly we've got maybe no more than two hours to go. We've heard from dueling statisticians. We've heard from dueling voting machine experts.

And now it will be up to Judge Sanders Sauls, an independent minded and conservative Democrat is how he's been described. He will have to make the decision. And there is an expectation that he may come back with a ruling as early as tomorrow after they finish up around 11:00 tonight.

Back to you.

CHEN: All right, we'll go back in the courtroom now. The attorney for Nassau County is at the podium speaking before Judge Sauls.

Let's listen.




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