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Legal Analysis With Lisa Bloom

Aired August 18, 2003 - 19:38   ET


I want to get back to a couple of topics that we touched on earlier this evening. We talked about the ruling in the Scott Peterson case concerning cameras in the courtroom and about the tapes of a Baylor University coach that have come to light as part of the investigation into the murder of Baylor Student Patrick Dennehy.

We wanted to get a firm grip on the legal aspects of these two developments, so we have with us Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom.

Lisa, good to see you. Good to have you here with us.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Good to be with you.

KAGAN: Let's talk this disturbing situation in Waco, Texas and that Coach Dave Bloom (ph) and the investigation into what happened with Patrick Dennehy in that murder investigation. These tapes have surfaced that were, I guess, were made by the assistant coach, where Coach Bliss is allegedly trying to smear the name of Patrick Dennehy in the hopes of perhaps saving his image and his job as coach.

I want to take an excerpt, put it up on the screen, of one of the things the coach allegedly said either to the assistant coach or the to students where he says, "I think the thing we want to do -- and you think about this -- if there's a way we can create the perception that Pat may have been a dealer. Even if we had had to kind of make some things look a little better than they are, they can save us."

BLOOM: Oops. Yes.Dave Bliss, not so blissed out today once this becomes public.

Two possible charges could be leveled against him, obstruction of justice, witness tampering. Both those are very serious charges.

Think about Martha Stewart. She was indicted for obstruction of justice, not criminally for the insider trading charges. It wasn't the crime, it was the cover-up. Prosecutors do no like this kind of activity, people interfering with a ongoing police investigation, especially a murder investigation. So this could be very serious for Bliss.

KAGAN: Right. And you're going to the idea that the cover-up can be worse than the crime. In Martha Stewart, I can see that point. Here, though, we're talking about murder. This is a separate investigation looking to see how this college program was running, if there was any alllegations of wrongdoing there. Could it perhaps just be a coach trying to save his job?

BLOOM: Well, it could be, but it still doesn't look good if you're trying to do a murder investigation.

Now what he's doing is really defaming the dead by saying that Dennehy was a drug dealer. Now Dennehy may or may not have had any involvement in that. We don't know at this point. But to imply that and try to get others to spread around a false story is clearly obstruction of justice and something that's going to be frowned upon by law enforcement.

KAGAN: Let's onto California and the Scott Peterson case. The judge there deciding there will not be cameras in the courtroom for the preliminary hearing. The significance of the ruling?

BLOOM: Well, I think ti's certainly going to be good for the defense, because what a prelim is is when the prosecution lays out all the evidence that they have against Scott Peterson. The whole prelim is designed to make him look bad. So keeping cameras out of that courtroom is going to help the defense.

But have I to disagree with what the judge decided. He was trying to be sensitive to the victims' families. They didn't want cameras in the courtroom. That's understandable.

But the bigger picture is is that in this country, we don't have secret trials. We don't have hidden back door proceedings.

KAGAN: Well, the media is going to be in there. And you know, some people are going to listen to you and say, Well, of course you want cameras in courtroom. You work for a network that relies on having cameras in the courtoom.

BLOOM: Well, that is true and I do work for Court TV. But we -- you know, we cover thousands of trials. We are in the other Peterson hearing this week, the Michael Peterson case, where the victim's family also were probably very sensitive about cameras being in. But once they're in, the victims' family members come and give interviews and , you know, air their grievances and talk about issues that are of concern to them. And we see that over and over again on Court TV.

This is a case with enormous interest to the public. The pencil reporters, the print reporters, they're in. We should be able to bring in our tools of the trade, cameras, microphones, let everyone see firsthand what's going on.

KAGAN: The ongoing debate on whether cameras should be in the courtroom.

Of course, this is a step-by-step process. This is just the preliminary hearing, the purpose of which is to decide if there's even a trial.

BLOOM: That's right. KAGAN: So the idea of whether there would be cameras in the courtroom for the trial -- too early...

BLOOM: Well, it doesn't look likely. If Judge Girolami doesn't let cameras in for the prelim, he's probably not going to let them in for the trial, unless he has change of heart, unless he hears my words and decides otherwise.

KAGAN: Unless he hears the cry from Lisa Bloom from Court TV.

Lisa, thank you for your insight. Appreciate it. Good to see you, as always.

BLOOM: You too.


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