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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Arrest Made in Hudson Murders; New Leads in Anchorwoman Murder
Aired December 1, 2008 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, the parents of murdered Arkansas anchorwoman Anne Pressly speak out. They now say their beautiful daughter was sexually assaulted during the vicious attack. But why didn`t police tell the public a rapist was on the loose?
Another shocker: the man arrested and charged with Pressly`s murder is a suspect in a rape back in April. Could Pressly`s horrific murder been prevented? And is it a hate crime? We`ll dig deep and take your calls.
Plus, a slap on the wrist for the woman who used a fake MySpace page to provoke the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier. But should Lori Drew have been convicted of more than computer fraud? Megan`s mom, Tina Meier, joins me with her side of this tragic tale.
And new details on the case of the 8-year-old boy who allegedly shot and killed his dad and his dad`s friend. The boy reportedly kept a spanking journal in which he vowed to put an end to the punishment. You won`t believe how many spankings he says he endured. Did abuse pay a role in this horrific story? We`ll take your calls.
Those issues and more tonight.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll have the very latest details on the murder of Arkansas anchorwoman Anne Pressly in just a moment. But first, we have breaking news to bring you tonight.
Chicago police have finally arrested the estranged brother-in-law of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson for the murders of Hudson`s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew. He has long been the only suspect.
William Balfour was already behind bars for a parole violation. He has been released to Chicago police detectives and is awaiting formal charges in that triple murder.
For the very latest, I am joined by Michael Walters, assignment manager for TMZ. He`s been covering this case from the very beginning.
Mike, do we have any idea what piece of evidence finally gave cops the confidence to arrest this dirt bag for triple murder, since we have been talking about him for weeks now?
MICHAEL WALTERS, ASSIGNMENT MANAGER, TMZ: Yes. You know what? I don`t think it is a shocker either, just like you said. New evidence, no. We`re being told that it`s based on the previous evidence that they have.
And I remember last time we talked, Jane, they were trying to line up the ducks in a row. This is a very public case. There`s a celebrity involved. Remember, they have a gun. They have forensics.
And just a month ago there was a hearing where a girlfriend came forward and said that he had a gun that looked like the gun that they found, so they line up the ducks, and they pulled the trigger.
And right now basically William is being -- he was transported. He`s awaiting formal charges, like you said. And I think, you know what? It`s not a shocker. You know, I think they knew they had the right guy all along. I don`t want to convict him yet, but...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what`s a shocker is how long they took them to get to this point. And I was absolutely flummoxed to read in a newspaper that quotes a source as saying, well, the case against this guy is largely circumstantial. Hello.
We`ve got two crime scenes, one the house where two people were killed, one the SUV where a young child was killed. We`ve got the murder weapon recovered. I would think that would be fertile ground for a whole lot of forensics: blood spatter, footprints, tires. I mean, why circumstantial?
WALTERS: Well, you know, you`re right. You`re absolutely right. I mean, in this case it`s not. It`s basically that they had what they needed, but they needed to grab it. They needed to line it up. They needed to get the ducks in the row. They needed to make sure that the evidence and the forensics matched what they thought might have happened.
And, you`re right. They have two scenes. They have physical evidence. They have the gun. They have the shell casings. They have a witness, a person who actually spoke with him who -- and also saw a gun in his possession.
So, yes, I mean, I just think that Chicago P.D. didn`t take their time, but they definitely were diligent to make sure they had the right person, the right information and it was all correct before...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Like what about the possibility of some sort of accomplice? We have heard something about a getaway driver?
WALTERS: Yes, that`s a good point. When this story broke, us at TMZ, we spoke to some neighbors who said, actually, that they either saw -- and some thought that there was somebody else there, that there was two cars. The Chicago P.D. did confirm that they were looking into that.
But, yes, I mean, that might be another reason why it took a little longer, if they wanted to make sure. You know, they`re charging somebody with triple homicide here. This is a very, very bad, horrific crime that`s been committed. They don`t want to rush into it...
WALTERS: And make sure they have everybody that they need that was involved.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: He certainly had a motive, Mike. Apparently, he had been fighting with his family. And two of the people who were killed had thrown him out of the house.
WALTERS: Right. I mean, what we were told right in the beginning was that it was domestic related, that he had had a relationship with the family that had gone bad. Him and Julia were having problems.
I mean, it`s so funny. If you look at the sound bite or you listen to it, when you know, CNN or some other people got his mom, she was like, well, he had two girlfriends. It`s like, well, if he had two girlfriends and he was married to Julia, there`s always...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s a big problem.
WALTERS: Big problem.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike, great job as always. Thank you so much for keeping us up to date on that horrible, horrible case.
WALTERS: No problem.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Talk to you soon.
WALTERS: OK, great.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Also tonight, a huge break in the Anne Pressly murder case. The popular Arkansas anchorwoman was found brutally beaten in her home in October. Now police have arrested a man and charged him with murdering her.
During an appearance this morning on "The Today Show," Pressly`s parents indicated their daughter had been sexually assaulted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATTI CANNADY, MOTHER OF ANNE PRESSLY: This monster stole my daughter`s innocence. He took her life. He took her identity. He took -- he took our lives. Our lives have radically changed as a result of what`s happened to Anne.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The man accused of this horrific crime is 28-year-old Curtis Vance. Little Rock police say DNA evidence puts Vance at the crime scene. Vance, of course, denies involvement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re a monster.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can`t wait to see you in prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There he goes. Another perp walk.
This isn`t the suspect`s first brush with the law. Vance has also now been charged with the rape of a schoolteacher last April, and he was on police radar for loitering around homes.
So here is my issue tonight. Why was Vance out on the streets if he allegedly raped a woman last April? That is almost eight months ago. Shouldn`t he have been in jail and therefore unable to wander into Anne Pressly`s house and allegedly brutally assault and kill her?
This is another example of the very slow wheels of justice and the failure to vigorously pursue an April rape case in a very small town where both the victim and the alleged perpetrator both lived. It appeared cops only connected the dots in the first rape after Pressly`s murder.
Tonight, I want to know what you think about this. Give me a call: 1- 877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297, with your questions and comments. I certainly -- I`m fired up about this. This makes me sick to my stomach, and I have a lot of questions on this case.
So let`s bring in Dana Bradley, a local reporter with KARN news radio. She has been covering this case from the outset.
Dana, thank you so much for joining us. I know you were friends with the victim. This has got to be very tough for you. What is the very latest?
DANA BRADLEY, KARN REPORTER: Well, just coming -- piggybacking on what you said, in April of this year, actually everything just came together. The rape happened in April of the young -- the school teacher in Marianna. And there was DNA taken at that incident.
That DNA just got back the week of Thanksgiving. Whenever the police officers got the DNA back, it matched the -- it matched Vance`s DNA so saying, he did commit that rape. But it also sent off a light bulb in the crime lab, because it matched the DNA of Anne Pressly`s case.
So it`s not that it really took them so long to put this together. It`s just it took the DNA long enough to come back to...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But why did it take the DNA so long to come back? I don`t necessarily buy -- I understand what you`re saying and that was a very good explanation. But I don`t believe it has to take that long for DNA to come back.
And that`s what I`m talking about is priorities. If there is a rapist on the loose in a small town, that should be priority No. 1. Let`s get that DNA back, because had they gotten that DNA back earlier, the Pressly murder might not have occurred.
Now, her dad`s not convinced that he`s getting the whole story. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUY CANNADY, FATHER OF ANNE PRESSLY: It`s just unbelievable that a random robbery like this would involve the brutal slaying of Anne in this way. There just seems to be a lot more to the whole story than just a robbery gone bad.
The police are treating this as a homicide. But there are a lot of evidence -- a lot of forensics that -- that indicate that there was more to it than just the assault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow, those parents, so courageous, and the grace that they are showing just absolutely astounds them and impresses me so much.
Now, the dad, you heard him, he thinks there`s more here than just a robbery gone bad, alluding to sexual assault. Police haven`t commented on that yet. Why not?
Dana, if she was raped, that means since her attack on October 20, a rapist would have been on the loose. Isn`t that a public safety issue that we all should have known about? Because in a way, having a rapist/murderer on the loose is a lot more terrifying for women than simply a murderer.
BRADLEY: That`s a question that is still going through my head, too. Because things leaked that she could have been sexually assaulted, but it was never officially told to us, not even by the Little Rock Police Department. We found this out from Anne`s mother.
So why did they keep that information to themselves? We really don`t know. I think it might have just been to kind of save her name, you know, so we wouldn`t want to think that something this bad happened to Anne, that she was sexually assaulted. But if the Little Rock police, they have not come out and said, "Hey, this is what happened." We heard it from her mother.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but ironically, it was the parents who came out and told the whole story. Dana, thank you for your reporting. Stay right there. Don`t go anywhere. I`ve got to take a very quick break.
I`m going to be back taking your calls when we come back in 30 seconds.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re talking about Arkansas anchorwoman Anne Pressly`s horrific murder with reporter Dana Bradley and our panel, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a.k.a. Dr. Judy, a clinical psychologist, and Laura Brevetti, a former federal prosecutor who has prosecuted sex crimes and domestic violence cases.
Laura, I want to start with you. Something doesn`t add up to me. They determined the DNA from the Pressly crime scene was the same DNA from an unsolved April rape in another town called Marianna. The Little Rock cops reportedly called Marianna police and said, "Hey, do you have any kind of a suspect who could have done the Pressly murder?"
Then the Marianna sergeant is quoted as telling them about a guy running around, getting into burglaries, going into people`s yards, hanging around. That guy was Curtis Vance.
So, my question: why didn`t they pick him up on the April rape a long time ago if they thought he was that suspicious?
LAURA BREVETTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, you bring up an excellent point. It is clear that the local police at Marianna, I guess they`re trying to do the best they can, but it shows how poorly things are done there. It`s seven months it took to analyze DNA. Seven months.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Should it take that long?
BREVETTI: No. It does take that long, but it shouldn`t take that long. It shows what a low priority rape cases have in this country.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s what we`ve got to change, Dr. Judy Kuriansky. We`ve got -- we women have to stand up and say, "Doctor (ph), enough. We are not taking it anymore." Like the movie "Network," we`re mad as hell and we`re not going to take it anymore.
Because, had they gotten that DNA back sooner, this anchorwoman, this beautiful, young, innocent, well-behaved, hard-working woman, wouldn`t have died this horrific death. And it just make me sick to think of her mother coming in and seeing her battered body and her broken face with bones sticking out everywhere. I mean, if you read the details of this case, it is nauseating.
DR. JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It is, Jane. It is nauseating and is also quite frightening for women to know this may be why sometimes authorities keep these things quiet until they absolutely know, because it`s terrifying.
What is really, really upsetting about it is when you don`t know when it could happen. The schoolteacher was raped in -- seven months later in one town, Marianna, 90 mile s away is the next town where this lovely anchorwoman is found possibly raped and then brutally murdered.
So psychologically, when things happen and you know they`re reasonable or you can put them together, then people don`t get as panic-stricken as we get now when they`re random and can`t be controlled.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The phone lines lighting up over this case. People are horrified and outraged.
Amber from Arkansas, your thought or question, ma`am.
Amber, are you there? Hello?
CALLER: Hi. My name is Amber, and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. And I just wanted to comment that we kind of have a jail problem here in Arkansas. The jails are full. So it`s kind of like a catch and release kind of thing. So you can, like, get caught, like, eight times doing vicious crimes, and they pretty much let you right back out.
The same thing happened in my neighborhood just recently. They let some guy that had, like, horrible felonies. And he went in some guy`s house, and he managed to get shot.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I think you raise an excellent point. Laura Brevetti, we have so many people locked up on -- on things like drug charges, nonviolent crimes. I mean, don`t we have to reorder our priorities here? Instead of just sticking somebody away because they did - - I don`t know -- cocaine one night, maybe we should get people who are raping women.
BREVETTI: We need people who have brains and intelligence to study this and stop with this nonsense about nonviolent criminals occupying jails when we have serious crimes, as we can see, home invasions. And people are not being caught because of overcrowded and poor police work. That`s outrageous.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s just -- it makes me crazy, because I think that it`s about women standing up, all of us women here and saying, no, we`re not going to take this.
I`m going to ask my panel to stay right there. We`ve got to take a very quick break. I want to know what you think about this brutal killing and the war on women. Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. And tell me your thoughts on this stunning new developments in the murder of Anne Pressly.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Arkansas anchorwoman Anne Pressly was beaten to death in her home six weeks ago. Now her parents indicate she was sexually assaulted. Police have arrested 28-year-old Curtis Vance and charged him with murder.
Back with me now, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a.k.a. Dr. Judy, clinical psychologist, and Laura Brevetti, former federal prosecutor, who has prosecuted sex crimes and domestic violence and reporter from the area, Dana Bradley.
You know, people are really, really upset about this. All across the world, I believe. We got a call from Oregon.
Albert, what is your thought or question, sir?
CALLER: Well, I don`t think they should be putting the DNA cases on the back burner. I think that they should find a way to fund so we cannot have this happen again and have people`s lives in jeopardy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Dr. Judy Kuriansky, I think that, politically, if any politicians are watching tonight, what -- you know, we`re talking about change. We talked about a whole new way of doing business. Well, you know what? Change needs to come to the criminal justice system. And rape has to be moved right up there to priority No. 1 along with murder.
KURIANSKY: I agree with you so much because there are so many rapes. And also, Jane, even though rape involves, obviously, a sex act, it is not actually a -- sex that is motivating it. It is tremendous hate. And it is tremendous violence that is often connected with drug use.
When you think about what this man, who attacked and murdered this beautiful young woman, did: bashed her head in, smashed her face beyond recognition. So painful for a mother or anyone, and certainly for her mother to discover. The point is the hate that is behind this, the anger, the viciousness...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what is...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because it was a robbery, a random robbery, but when you have sexual assault. Dana Bradley, have they changed their statement about the motive here? And have they charged this guy with sexual assault?
BRADLEY: No. They haven`t -- the police department have not changed their motive. And the mother and father believe that there`s more to it than just a random robbery.
And just -- you know, I think they know a lot more than we know as the general public and as reporters, because they`ve actually been there, face to face throughout this process, talking with the police detectives and things like that, too. So -- but the Little Rock police, they have not changed their motive. They`re still saying a random robbery.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just don`t understand, you know, how we can just ignore one aspect of the case: namely, if she was sexually assaulted. We`ll get to that in a second.
Stay right there. We`ve got to take a quick break. More of your calls coming up.
Plus, the 8-year-old Arizona boy charged with killing his dad now claims he was abused. When you combine child abuse with our gun culture, you get tragedy. At least that`s what I think. We`re going to uncover that case in a second.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re back, continuing our discussion on the breaking news in Anne Pressly`s murder case. Here is what Pressly`s mother had to say about her daughter`s injuries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P. CANNADY: Six weeks ago this morning I found my daughter beyond recognition with every bone in her face broken, her nose broken, her jaw pulverized so badly that the bone had come out of it. I actually thought that her throat had possibly been cut. But that was possibly the first knockout punch. Her entire skull had numerous fractures, from which she suffered a massive stroke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m sorry. That`s no random robbery. That was a vicious, sadistic beating. And I`d like to know what`s really behind it, especially if, as the parents say, there was sexual assault involved.
Robert, Arkansas, your thought or question, sir.
CALLER: Well, I`d like to say, Jane, that I am outraged. I live in the same neighborhood as Anne did, less than a mile from her house. I heard the ambulances and the fire trucks go by at 4:30 that morning. And then as details came out during the day, it just -- it was hideous. It was unbelievable. And the outrage and the helplessness that we all felt, it was as if a pall had fallen over the city.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now what do you think? We`re talking about motive, and, you know, the police have said this was a random robbery gone bad. And they believe that he may have followed her back and then she woke up and then, once she woke up, he decided to attack her further, allegedly. Does that make sense to you?
BREVETTI: There are a variety of motives that this perpetrator had. They`re all brutal. It`s all a hate crime. It`s all so very hard to hear, what happened to that poor woman. It is so sad and so heart breaking.
It doesn`t really make that much difference what primary motive he had. He`s a home invader that should have been caught months before. The people of Little Rock and the surrounding areas should be up in arms.
Our priorities are screwed up. We spend millions of dollars to prosecute Martha Stewart and not enough money to prosecute DNA and analyze it to prosecute brutal rapists.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you there. But I have to say that I disagree with you that the motive doesn`t count.
Dr. Judy Kuriansky, if we want to stop stuff like this from happening, we`ve got to understand the why. The why is everything. Once we understand the why, then we can deal with it, right?
KURIANSKY: Well, exactly. And the why has to do with hate. And that`s really what the problem is, the frustration. My fear is, Jane, that with the recession that has today been formally announced, that we`ll have more of this, because people are frustrated, angry, and looking for outlets for that frustration and anger. So hold on tight and I`m glad you`re talking about this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Dana, we`re going give you the last word. The community, are they at least relieved that somebody has been arrested?
BRADLEY: They are relieved. But you still hear -- you still hear people who, they want the full story. We do want to know the motive. We do want to know why. We just want to know why did this have to happen? Was it random?
There are so many questions out there that are unanswered. And we`re all just waiting for the trial to happen so we can get the facts.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Thank you so much, Dana. Again, I know it`s tough for you, because you were friends with Anne.
This is sick. And, again, we as women, women at home watching and people who love women -- parents, husbands -- need to stand up and say no more. Get the DNA in faster.
The 8-year-old Arizona boy charged with double homicide may have been keeping a tally of his many spankings. I`m going to take your calls on that case after the break. Stay right there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: An 8-year-old allegedly shoots and kills his dad and his dad`s friend. Now new details emerge. The boy reportedly kept a journal in which he vows to put an end to being spanked by his father. Plus, his grandmother says she quote, "knew he would do it" adding they were too hard on him.
So what do you think? Give us a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877- 586-7297.
The nation`s first criminal case of cyber bullying has come to an end. A jury found 49-year-old Lori Drew guilty of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud in helping to create a fictitious boy to flirt with 13-year- old Megan Meier and then dump her.
The jury rejected a more severe felony charge. Each of the misdemeanor convictions is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Meier took her own life after the online taunting. Her mom, Tina, will ask the court for the maximum penalty for Lori Drew.
Tina Meier not alone in her grief; more than 4,000 teenagers and young adults commit suicide every year. And unfortunately the Internet has offered a frightening outlet for suicidal teens looking for tips, methods and recipes for lethal concoctions.
Suzanne Gonzalez was just 19 years old when she took her own life. Look at that beautiful girl right there, after joining an online suicide group for suicidal youth. It was only after reading posts on the alternative suicide holiday website that her parents realized where Suzanne had gotten the tools to take her own life.
Suzanne`s parents, Mike and Mary Gonzalez, join me now for their very first live interview.
First of all, thank you so much for having the courage to come on our show and talk about something that has to be so horribly painful for you. I know it probably took a lot but I thank you. You learned of your daughter`s death from an e-mail. Is that possible?
MIKE GONZALEZ, FATHER OF SUZANNE GONZALEZ: That`s correct. First word we heard about it was a friend calling saying that Suzanne was missing and there was a suicide note on e-mail. And my wife checked our computer and the e-mail was there.
Now, let me ask you this question, Mary. Your daughter is smiling in all of these photos. She seems very happy. She`s got a big smile, but yet apparently she was profoundly depressed. What`s striking about all these photos is that she was smiling so intensely.
MARY GONZALEZ, MOTHER OF SUZANNE GONZALEZ: Suzanne was very bubbly, just with an infectious smile. Apparently she had a great talent for hiding her depression from everyone. She didn`t share it with anyone.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now this is a very big warning for parents because I think our stereotypical notions of what depressed looks like are completely phony, they are based on the movies. And a lot of times a kid can be smiling and going off and the parent has absolutely no idea that they are suffering from depression.
Mike, would you say that kind of summed it up for you or were you aware and grappling with her depression as a family member?
MIKE GONZALEZ: No. We were not aware at all that she was suffering from depression. It was -- she hid it completely from us when she was home and when we talked to her on the phone or on the Internet because she was 3,000 miles away from California in Florida going to college.
So we tried to keep tabs on her, keep the communication going, but --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So she wasn`t living at home at the time?
MIKE GONZALEZ: No, she was away at college.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. So she was a young student at college, which is a very tough time when you`re young and it is your first year away from home. Your daughter`s death is the 14th reported confirmed suicide associated with this particular online site that gives instructions. Do you want the authorities to come in and make this illegal, Mary?
MARY GONZALEZ: Absolutely. Mike, take it from here.
MIKE GONZALEZ: I have to clarify. Suzanne`s death was the 14th confirmed success as they call it at this group. It is now -- the count is now up to about double that, about 28.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh my God.
MIKE GONZALEZ: And they get away with it because there are no laws that deal with this situation. And they boast about how they can get away with helping people kill themselves because no one can touch them.
So we`ve been working the legal system through our Congressman, Wally Herger to make a bill and get it into Congress so we can get it passed and make it an illegal act to help somebody kill themselves over the Internet.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we do need some regulation. I mean, it is the Wild West on the Internet. And anything can happen.
Mike and Mary, I want to thank you and I hope that your tragedy is redeemed in the sense that you`re helping other people avoid a similar tragedy. Thank you for all your great work.
MIKE GONZALEZ: Thank you very much for having us.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, thank you for being here.
We have more tragedy unfortunately to tell you about tonight in the case of the 8-year-old Arizona boy accused of the double murder of his dad and his dad`s friend. He may have been keeping a ledger where he added up all his spankings. The boy told Child Protective Services that when he got to 1,000 spankings that would be his limit.
He also said he had been spanked five times the night before the shooting by his stepmother on orders from his father because he did not bring home school papers. If that`s true that would make for a very dysfunctional household.
It is unthinkable that an 8-year-old could be capable of a double homicide, but two people who were not surprised, his own grandparents. His grandmother telling police quote, "I had the feeling he did it. If any 8- year-old boy is capable of doing this, it`s him," end quote, what? That`s his grandmother. She added that they were too hard on the boy.
So the question tonight, did the spankings he allegedly endured amount to child abuse? If that`s true, if he did experience those spankings, should he even be charged with anything? Give me a call right now, 1-877- JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877-586-7297.
Now, joining me now to discuss all of this, Monica Lindstrom, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney; Gail Saltz, clinical professor of psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Nicole Deborde, former district attorney.
Nicole, this is a very complex case. Because first of all, there is no evidence that the other man killed who rented a room at the home had any negative interactions with this child at all. But as far as the dad who was shot dead, if the father was abusive in disciplining this child, could that make it justifiable homicide or even self-defense?
NICOLE DEBORDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it`s possible the child could have viewed his circumstances one where he needed to exercise self-defense but that really puts into place a whole lot of thought and consideration that we really just don`t know whether or not this child had the capability of possessing at this point.
And I think that it`s going to be really important to see what the mental health evaluations show.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think this case has so many parallels to another famous case; the Cody Posey case. He is the youngster who gunned down his father, his stepmother and his stepsister. Now in court, there was a whole lot of testimony from ranch hands about how the father had severely disciplined the boy with beatings and whippings.
Another commonality between the Cody case and the 8-year-old boy is that they were both living with their stepmothers. In the Cody Posey case there was tension, a lot of tension around that issue.
Now, sometimes it is uncomfortable for the stepchild because he`s a reminder of the first wife and that can create a very ugly dynamic. I am not saying at all that there was any tension between the 8-year-old boy and his stepmother, but isn`t that a common family dynamic, Gail?
DR. GAIL SALTZ, CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR PSYCHIATRY: Absolutely. I mean look, they don`t make movies about wicked stepmothers for nothing. These are stories because they are common themes. And once the stepmother is there, it represents for a kid that his actual biological parents are not going to get back together.
And there can be a lot of hurt obviously but also a lot of anger about that because that`s the family of origin, that`s the perfect scenario. And for a child whose mother has lost custody, because this child`s mother did not have custody, which is unusual, there must have been some unusual circumstances which probably were painful for this kid.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I want to say that we have tried to reach out to the stepmother. And in this case we were unable to reach her. But we want to hear all sides. We would love to hear from her or her attorney.
We realize that there was a gag order in this case. But, again, we are not pointing the fingers at anyone. We are just learning more.
But I have to say, Nicole Deborde, there is two interesting developments that strike me as very fascinating.
One, prosecutors say they`re seeking to dismiss the murder count in connection with the dad. Ok, even though they want the option of filing it down the future if they want to, but the prosecution is also offering this child a plea deal. An 8-year-old child being offered a plea deal, that doesn`t make any sense to me.
DEBORDE: Well, it doesn`t make any sense under these circumstances right now, especially because they haven`t had a chance to evaluate him to determine whether or not he`s even competent to understand the court proceedings. And I think the attorney for the child has spoken wisely when he said look I can`t respond to this at all because I don`t even know if I can consult with this child to determine whether he understands what we`re looking at.
Monica Lindstrom, isn`t it ridiculous to file any kind of charges against an 8-year-old child?
MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, we`d like to think that it`s ridiculous but unfortunately it has happened. And the prosecutors in this case have done that. And this entire case really hinges on the results of those mental evaluations.
Whether it is going to go to trial, which I find unlikely or whether he`s going to take that plea offer, all hinges on whether he`s competent to stand trial and competent to enter into that plea.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What does competent mean with an 8-year-old child, though?
LINDSTROM: He basically has to understand the charges against him, the court proceedings, and what is happening to him and that`s difficult.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we`ve got to leave it right there. But I mean, how does an 8-year-old understand any of that?
Ladies, stay right there, we`re going to continue our conversation and take your calls on this astounding case in just a bit. Call 1-877-JVM- SAYS; that`s 1-877-586-7297. Tell me what you think this boy did. Did he answer violence with violence?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re back discussing the truly horrific case of the 8-year-old Arizona-boy accused of killing his father and another man. I want to hear what you think of the latest developments in this case. Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297.
But first, back with my panel, Monica Lindstrom, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney; Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Nicole Deborde, former district attorney. The lines are lighting up.
JVM: Dee in Arizona, your thought or question, ma`am.
DEE, CALLER FROM ARIZONA: I`m calling because I`m also a survivor of abuse when I was a child. And I would like to know what is the difference between one child who thinks about it and doesn`t do it, and one who acts on it?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we have to go to Gail Saltz for that. Why do some children respond to alleged beatings with violence?
GAIL SALTZ, CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR PSYCHIATRY: Yes, well, you know, a lot of viewers aren`t going to like hearing this because a lot of people do spank. But I would tell you as a psychiatrist that spanking or hitting of any form is really a lousy form of discipline because all it does is teach you violence as a solution, which, of course, it isn`t. So you see kids who have been abused basically grow up to be parents who abuse or abuse their spouse or kids who then go off and bully and hit someone on the playground.
And so it really -- it doesn`t teach them anything, but to be a violent person, to be aggressive, to be a hitter. Now some kids, it depends on their psychic makeup, will turn in on themselves and become very self-destructive people and others will turn that anger outward and try to, you know, take it out on somebody else. It is called identification with the aggressor; it is basically identifying with the powerful one and trying to be that yourself. And that is a defense mechanism to deal with repeatedly being hit or abused.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yeah. This raises the whole issue about corporal punishment. I believe that corporal punishment, which is a fancy way of saying spanking and beatings, is child abuse and studies agree with what you just said that basically it creates anti-social aggressive behavior on the child. The only good thing about it, it does improve -- what does it say, increased immediate compliance, basically, the kid does what you say when you beat them up out of fear.
SALTZ: But long term, that is not a solution; but there are solutions. There are good solutions.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course, of course. Penny from California, your thought or question.
PENNY, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: I can count on one hand how many spankings I had in my life, first of all. And, secondly, I understand that 95 percent of prison inmates are abused children. Maybe if we could stop child abuse, we could stop crime.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I love what you had to say.
Nicole Deborde, there is a connection between all of this. As our psychiatrist just said, if you are beaten as a child, you grow up, nine times out of ten to beat your own child.
NICOLE DEBORDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Sure. The question becomes, you know, how do you learn to delineate between what is appropriate discipline and what isn`t appropriate discipline and most states have statutes allowing for parents to choose what that is to a degree.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s right. Unfortunately.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is five spankings in one night over not doing some homework assignment, Monica Lindstrom, is that child abuse? Can that be used as a defense?
MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It could be. And that`s one of the things that the doctors are looking at in these mental evaluations. They`re looking at whether he was abused, the extent of the abuse, and whether five spankings the night before could have triggered this type of reaction.
We might never know the results of the mental evaluations, but we will know whether they decide whether he`s incompetent to stand trial or not. That`s where the issue of the abuse might come in.
Charlisa from Oregon, your thought or question, ma`am.
CHARLISA, CALLER FROM OREGON: I do firmly believe in discipline for children. However I do believe there is a very strong line between disciplining a child and abusing a child. And I do believe that --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you believe in spanking?
CHARLISA: Yes, I do. Actually, it is a form of discipline whenever it is absolutely necessary. And I know that I come from an old school way of thinking which a lot of people do, however, I do and -- I was also raised with the difference between spanking as a discipline and being abused.
I do have people in my family that were abused and there is a strong line. However, I just feel like it is very sad that this was a course of action this child had to take. But I also think that a lot of people need to bring attention to the fact that why is it that at the age of 8 he was taught and was knowledgeable on how to handle a gun.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And he taught to kill. He was also taught how to shoot prairie dogs.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You have a convergence of what I would say is quite possibly -- I would say we have to look at -- bad parenting. If you`re over-disciplining your child at the same time you`re teaching them how to use a loaded weapon, you know, I have tremendous sympathy for the victims in this case, but that`s -- isn`t that a really bad combination, Gail?
SALTZ: It`s the perfect storm.
You got kids today, first of all who are being very desensitized to violent behavior. They`re playing violent video games, they`re watching violent programs so they see people effectively being killed all the time like no big deal. An 8-year-old doesn`t necessarily understand that death is permanent.
And then you have a parent who is hitting the child. By the way, it is not just hitting as in painful, it is spanking as in shaming, humiliating. Now you have a kid who is being on a regular basis humiliated, feels maybe he has no place to go, and then he`s taught how to use guns, how to kill things and, P.S., guns are now available around him; this is a perfect storm situation.
Unfortunately, it`s not all that unusual to have that perfect storm.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yeah. I mean, it`s unusual for an 8-year-old boy to kill a parent. That`s very unusual.
SALTZ: That`s very unusual.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But all of the other things --
SALTZ: It can happen. And let me say to the caller that, you know, disciplining by time-outs and other things, there are -- I agree with you; you must discipline.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to go. There are other ways to discipline. Ladies, I want to pause our conversation. We`re going to have more of your calls in just a bit.
But first, why am I holding these? It`s a green alert! That`s right. We tackle all sorts of issues here, including how we can all be part of the solution to global warming. So we`re going to give you some tips to help you reduce your carbon foot prints.
This one is really simple. Take these plastic utensils. This is one week`s supply. Why not take a real knife, fork and spoon from home and bring it to work instead. These last a lifetime, and they don`t cause any environmental wreckage. It`s so easy to be green. Try it.
I`ll be back with more of your calls on the other case, the case of this 8-year-old boy in a second.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Back with Monica Lindstrom, Nicole Deborde and Gail Saltz; taking your calls in the case of the 8-year-old boy accused of shooting his father and another man.
Gail from Missouri, what is your question or thought, ma`am?
GAIL, CALLER FROM MISSOURI: Yes Jane, my question was, is there going to be child endangerment charges against the grandmother for knowing that this abuse was going on?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent. Nicole Deborde, you know, the grandma said basically something like this could have happened, they were too hard on him.
DEBORDE: It really kind on depends on exactly what she means by that. What did she witness, what did she see? Did she make a report if she witnessed child abuse? Those are excellent questions, and unfortunately there may be some liability here. It really depends on the severity of the potential abuse that she may have witnessed. And if it was severe, there could be liability from a criminal standpoint.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I think we al know that some of the worst abuse happens beyond closed doors, families that look perfect -- darn-near perfect on the outside sometimes have toxic abuse secrets on the inside.
Charlene in Mississippi, your question or thought, ma`am.
CHARLENE, CALLER FROM MISSISSIPPI: Yes, I was just wondering about the grandmother. She said she knew something likes this was going to happen. And just I was wondering, why do people always wait until something happens before they actually decide to do something about it?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yeah, Monica Lindstrom, we see so many cases that could be avoided, if somebody just speaks out and says, hey, child protective services, you know, do something.
LINDSTROM: Well, first of all, I don`t think anybody wants to believe that something bad was going to happen. The grandmother in this case, even if she thought he was capable or if she thought the parents were too hard on him, she doesn`t want to believe that her grandson would do something like this. I mean, who would?
So that probably stopped her from saying anything. And another reason is, a lot of people say it`s none of my business. I don`t want to get involved.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: When it`s a grandparent, it`s your business.
Gail Saltz, final word. This is a cautionary tale, is it not?
SALTZ: It absolutely is. I hope parents will think about, you know, the hitting issue, and really if that`s the best. I hope they`ll think about guns, and how they introduce children to them. And I think that they should keep in mind that, you know, young children don`t necessarily understand death and its permanence.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And also, if you want non-violence, practice non- violence.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don`t bring violence into the home with guns or spanking and then expect everything to be peaceful. Because it`s a karma cycle, and it comes back in one way, shape or form. Thank you, Monica, Nicole and Gail. What a sad case.
We`re going to be back in just a minute with a lot more.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight: William Balfour, the estranged brother-in-law of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has been arrested in connection with the triple murder of Hudson`s family. I will have a lot more on this story tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
And now that there is a suspect in the Anne Pressly murder, I`m going to be staying on top of that case and following every single development. It`s the latest front in the war on women.
And as always, I will be taking your calls. But first, let`s check out what Nancy Grace is covering tonight. Hi, Nancy.