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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
O.J. Sentenced to 15 Years; What`s the Relationship Between Gun Laws and Murder in America?
Aired December 5, 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, O.J. Simpson sentenced to 15 years in prison for robbery and kidnapping.
FRED GOLDMAN, RON GOLDMAN`S FATHER: He`s going to be where he belongs, with others of his kind. Then he can complain there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Has justice finally been served?
Plus, a special ISSUES investigation. Murder in America. From the brutal killing of a New York City co-ed to Hollywood millionaire Phil Specter. Allegations of murder fill the headlines in this country. America is the murder capital of the developed world. One reason? We`re armed to the teeth, with one gun for almost every man, woman and child. Tonight we`ll search for real solutions to this nightmare.
All this, and more in a special ISSUES investigation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Nearly six years ago actress Lana Clarkson was found dead in Hollywood mogul Phil Specter`s home. Specter is now back on trial for her murder after the first jury deadlocked.
And the search for Stacy Peterson continues. Should people name her ex-cop husband a suspect in her very suspicious disappearance? I`ll update you on this and other high-profile cases in just a bit.
But first, O.J. Simpson is in jail. A Las Vegas jury convicted Simpson of armed robbery and kidnapping charges in October. Before the judge passed sentence, Simpson literally begged -- begged -- for mercy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON, CONVICTED OF ARMED ROBBERY: I wasn`t there to hurt anybody. I just wanted my personal things. And I realize that was stupid of me. I am sorry. I didn`t mean to steal anything from anybody. And I didn`t know I was doing anything illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But his pleas and fighting back tears fell on deaf ears. Here is Judge Jackie Glass passing the sentence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE JACKIE GLASS, CLARK COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: Count five, the first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, a fixed term of 15 years, parole eligibility beginning after five years, with a consecutive 12 to 72. That will run concurrent to count four.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So when all 12 counts were added up, Simpson will serve 15 years, with a possibility of parole after 9.
The stunning development of the drama that is O.J. Simpson stem from a September 2007 incident in a Las Vegas hotel room. Simpson and five others stormed that room and took sports memorabilia from a couple of dealers. The dealers were threatened and held at gunpoint.
Simpson claims the memorabilia was stolen from him. All he was doing, he said, was simply getting his stuff back. The bizarre encounter was secretly audio taped, revealing Simpson`s confrontation with the collectors.
Simpson has always denied any wrongdoing. He says he was set up. His attorneys are appealing.
It`s been 13 years since the former NFL star was acquitted of the brutal murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman. I`m sure many are thinking that O.J. Simpson finally got even a little of what he deserves.
With me, Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney; Wendy Murphy, a federal prosecutor, author of "And Justice for Some" and law professor at the New England School of Law; and Dr. Casey Jordan, professor at the Division of Justice and Law Administration at Western Connecticut State University and a criminologist.
You know, I have to start with you, Wendy Murphy. There were a lot of speeches given in court as the sentence was handed down. The judge insisted this had absolutely nothing to do with the acquittal of O.J. Simpson in 1995. Did she really need to say that? Or was that a case of "doth protest too loudly"? Was that the giant elephant in the room the whole time?
WENDY MURPHY, LAW PROFESSOR: Right. You know, you knew she was worrying whether people might feel that way, so she said it. But I thought it had that Shakespearean quality, too. Why mention it if it isn`t relevant and it isn`t in your mind, Judge?
On the other hand, you know, call me a sadist, Jane. Wow, did I feel gleeful, delighted even, to watch him blubbering and begging. I mean, the arrogance that has been on that face, pasted on that face for I don`t know how many years, and forced upon us. You know, it was just wonderful to watch him not have that smug face once.
But I have to say, and I`m no fan of O.J. I write about him in my book. I`d love to smack the guy in the head. I don`t like the guy. But I think this is a heavy-handed sentence. This was a bit of a goofy crime. You know, if there hadn`t even been gun -- one gun there, we wouldn`t be talking about this case. He wouldn`t have been prosecuted. He`d be facing no prison time at all.
I get the feeling that there was a thumb on the scale, because of the unjust acquittal. It makes me a little queasy. As an officer of the court, I care about fairness. You don`t overdo it just because you feel bad about something that happened in the past. That`s just how I feel.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I`m not so much concerned about O.J. Simpson, but his co-defendant, who doesn`t have a history of crime, who seemed to be a relatively decent person up until this time, he`s going away for a long time, too.
Jayne Weintraub, the number of lives and families that have been destroyed by this idiotic, even since his attorney admits, stupid move, for him to go into this hotel room and try to reclaim what he said was his property, is absolutely astounding. This guy is destroyed, the co- defendant of O.J. Simpson.
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don`t know that this guy, meaning O.J., destroyed it himself. I mean, we have to take a step back. And Wendy`s right.
MURPHY: Say that again, Jayne. I love when you say that.
WEINTRAUB: Wendy is right is because it is the glee that everyone celebrated when the judge imposed such a heavy sentence. The punishment does not fit the crime here. This was a case of selective prosecution. The prosecutors overcharged, double charged and triple charged.
For example, if he was charged with armed robbery and going to be sentenced to 15 years, a lesser included offense of that armed robbery would be the burglary. So you wouldn`t have the burglary. But he got sentenced anyway on the burglary to another few years.
Underneath that you have the aggravated battery. Again, another crime tacked on consecutively for no reason. It is a case of throwing the kitchen sink. Let`s get this guy while we can. And that is just unfair in our system.
This case is coming back, in my mind. There is no doubt the juror misconduct will absolutely steer the case back to Las Vegas. And I hope by that time Judge Glass will be removed and not be able to hear the case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. That`s pretty harsh. I mean, let`s face it: even though O.J. Simpson`s attorneys have repeatedly said because he is one of the most hated men in America, because he was acquitted, many believe he should have been found guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.
WEINTRAUB: The jurors said that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Beg your pardon?
WEINTRAUB: Jurors had the nerve to say that. After the juror -- and I believe it was the foreman who put in his questionnaire, he would not -- and he gave his word in an affidavit -- he would not consider the Nicole Simpson murder case in his deliberations.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. There are so many issues to get here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to discuss whether or not an appeal might be successful. But first, let`s go to the family of Ron Goldman, Nicole Brown Simpson`s friend who was murdered. They have been rolled over the burning coals since losing their son. This was a very important sentence for them.
Here`s what the Goldmans said about all of this. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
F. GOLDMAN: He committed a crime. He did it with guns. And he`s going to be where he belongs, with others of his kind. Then he can complain there.
KIM GOLDMAN, SISTER OF RON GOLDMAN: The time that he is not out causing havoc and reminding us of the pain that he caused us 14 years ago, is an amazing feeling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is this verdict, Dr. Casey Jordan, some sort of closure for this family, that has been so horribly tortured for 13 years now?
DR. CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: I think it might give them some solace. But I have to say, I am not at all convinced the sentence reflects a backlash against this earlier crime of which he was acquitted.
I can tell you that, yes, the family`s going to get some satisfaction simply to know that he`s being put away for a minimum of nine years. But I mean, the criminal law is very clear in this case. And the judge could hand down a sentence that she did. I think he could have actually been given a sentence up to life. And there was a middle of the road compromise there.
And was she perhaps taking the -- the public attitude and the perceptions of the Goldman family into consideration? I don`t know. And I think it`s really out of line for us to assume that the sentence reflects some kind of penalty for the earlier crime of which he was acquitted.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You make a very good point, Doctor. Wendy Murphy, this was below the recommendation. The recommendation was for 18 years. And they were sentenced to 15 years. So some might say, hey, she could have given them life, which would have really been, well, obviously the maximum, and many would say that would have been payback.
MURPHY: Yes. But somebody else would say the recommendation was way high.
Look, you don`t compare it to what the potential penalty could have been. You compare it to what other similarly situated defendants get when they make the similarly slightly goofy commission of armed robbery. And I guarantee you, the lawyers that are representing Simpson will argue that there`s something inherently unfair about this, and they`re going to do it by comparing and contrasting the way other similar types of defendants got either probation or, for a first-time robbery, four years, five years. They`re going to be able to show a disparity.
The problem is, you can`t then say, and the judge, therefore, violated his constitutional rights. Because remember, she was the one going out of her way, saying, "I don`t want anyone in this courtroom talking about that crime from the past.: She really did clean the courtroom of any kind of prejudice in that regard. The problem is...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it doesn`t mean necessarily anybody believes it. I`m going to ask all of you to stay right there. We`re going to have a lot more debate on the O.J. sentencing in just a bit.
Plus, almost three years ago, 24-year-old Imette St. Guillen was brutally raped and murdered. I`ll tell you why the man accused of kidnapping and killing her is still awaiting trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMPSON: So I`m sorry. I`m sorry for all of it. All the other guys, except Mr. Stewart, volunteered. They wanted to go. Mr. Stewart is the only person that I asked, would he come to help me. All the rest of them, when they found out, they volunteered: "Come on, let us go." One of them wanted to be the security guy, and claimed he was a security guy. But I didn`t mean to hurt anybody, and I didn`t mean to steal from anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was O.J. Simpson, speaking before he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. Was justice served? Were Simpson`s actions just another piece of our culture, awash in violence and guns?
Back with me, Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney; Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor and author of "And Justice for Some" and law professor at the New England School of Law; and Dr. Casey Jordan, a criminologist.
Now, I have to say, I have absolutely no sympathy for O.J. Simpson. His attorney said repeatedly today that there is spillover from the 1995 acquittal.
But let`s face it: since then, 13 years ago, O.J. Simpson has not kept a low profile. He has done everything under the sun to remind Americans of why they hate him.
In 2000 -- well, gee, we have a whole list of things that goes on and on and on. 2001, there was a road rage incident. He was charged with misdemeanor first-degree battery.
2002, he speeds his power boat through a Florida manatee zone.
2003, Simpson`s daughter calls 911, crying after having an argument with her dad.
2004, the judge orders Simpson to pay $25,000 for stealing satellite TV signals.
And in 2005, Simpson`s neighbor alleges he was attacked by Simpson`s girlfriend at Simpson`s home.
I mean, the list goes on and on. And the capper, of course, Wendy Murphy, is the book, "If I Did It," which -- in which he hypothetically explains how he could have killed Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, had he done it. Now, please, do you want to have a fair trial? Don`t behave in this manner.
MURPHY: Yes. Try not to confess in print, right before you commit an armed robbery.
No. Like I said, Jane, people are happy that he is suffering, because he deserves to suffer, and we all want to wring his neck. But the legal system is supposed to be better than the rest of us animals. You know, the fact that we feel like that doesn`t mean the law should indulge us. That`s what I worry about.
As an officer of the court, as much as I hate the guy, I think the law should rise above it. And I would have been just as proud if the judge had said, "You know, you`re a bum; you`re a creep; you`re arrogant. And you know, we may even think you killed people and got away with it. But I`m only sentencing you on this goofy crime." I would have been proud of the judge. I don`t think she did the right thing, and I hate the guy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jayne Weintraub, what is the basis for an appeal here? Is it the idea that the entire proceeding was prejudiced by the 1995 case?
WEINTRAUB: That`s one ground that will come in over and over again, because even as the judge was sentencing O.J., she herself referenced the little bit of tape that said something about he didn`t want the Goldmans getting, you know, a piece of the property. There was no reason for that. The probative value far, far was outweighed by the prejudice, that having the murder case come into this Las Vegas case caused whatsoever. No. 1.
No. 2, people, the jurors misrepresented their feelings. They didn`t tell the truth in the affidavits. The jury system has to be better than that. The jury system has to rise above. The foreman wrote that he would not consider it, and then after the verdict in an interview, he told Beth Caras (ph), "I don`t care if the guy gets life. He deserves it for what he did to Nicole Simpson."
It`s got to come back. The case has got to come back.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just say this, though. Simpson also mishandled even this crazy situation. You know, he insisted he had no gun and was not aware that anyone else brought a gun. But one of his accomplices in the incident, Michael McClinton, said this. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MCCLINTON, ACCOMPLICE IN SIMPSON ROBBERY: He was telling me that there was no guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You knew differently, didn`t you?
MCCLINTON: Yes, I knew differently, because I had a gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he asked you to bring a gun?
MCCLINTON: He did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Essentially, this entire case has been caught on tape. And the judge made a point of that.
WEINTRAUB: You know, this crime was practically manufactured by the, quote, victims, who are not exactly clean victims.
You know, the chief of police of St. Louis last night made a public cry for people to band together, to take down people who were robbing, or hijacking people in the street, and using weapons. This is an armed robbery, only because the prosecutor said so. This is a case where everybody knows...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Not really, not really. There were guns. They went in there.
WEINTRAUB: There was one guy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: They went in there; they threatened people. And you`re not allowed to take back things that you think are your own property in that manner.
And O.J. Simpson`s attorney, defense attorney admitted that he had violated the law. He said it was stupidity. But stupidity is no defense against breaking the law. Wendy Murphy?
MURPHY: Believe me, he knew exactly what he was doing. And he lied about the gun. And he got caught. Look, there`s no question it was an armed robbery. There`s really no question it was a kidnapping. If you hold somebody in a hotel room against their will, that`s a kidnapping. It`s not the worst kind of kidnapping, but he is clearly guilty.
The question is, in the matter of discretion, what`s the right punishment? For this guy, you know, look, I don`t think he`s going to win on appeal. But there are going to be good people out there saying he got a tougher sentence than he would have had he not been O.J. Simpson.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ninety percent of America is happy about this, I can tell you that.
MURPHY: That`s true.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I haven`t seen any kind of studies or polls. But I could make that educated guess. Dr. Casey Jordan, criminologist, why do you think O.J. Simpson did this to himself? I mean, there is a school of thought that says subconsciously he wanted to get punished.
JORDAN: Well, it`s not that he wanted to, but he used his rational choice. Assuming he got away with murder the first time, which I think 95 percent of Americans do believe, he developed what I call a confabulation between denial and delusion. And he actually believes, self -- brainwashed himself in the interest of self-preservation that he really didn`t do it. And he convinced a jury that he didn`t do it, so he must not have done it. And he conducted himself from then on as if he had never done it.
And this really developed into a behavior pattern where he thought he was above the law. Anger management issues that he`s had for years and years and years, even before the alleged murder. And a long pattern that you just went over over the years. And it resulted in a psychology in which he perceived himself as Teflon coated, above the law. The law does not apply to him.
He got himself into this hot water. He`s been in civil court before. He knows you can go to civil court if you have a dispute with somebody.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Let me just say this. We have to end it right there. But I will say that I have an unpopular school of thought that O.J. Simpson is trying to punish himself out of the guilt, and the big elephant in the room being that he knows that everybody else knows what he did. And he can`t stand himself. And his biggest prison is living in his own skin. That`s my theory.
Wendy, stay right there. Jayne, Casey, thank you so very much.
On April 16, 2007, one student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. It remains the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.
But I will tell you if it could have been prevented, as our investigation of murder in America continues.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: As we continue our investigation into murder in America, I want to remember Virginia Tech massacre of April 16, 2007. One student, one student killed 32 people. Thirty-two people. And wounded countless others. The shooter finished his rampage by committing suicide. This remains the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.
But could it have been prevented? The killer had a history of mental illness and yet had no problem obtaining two semiautomatic firearms.
Back with me again is my panel: Wendy Murphy, Larry Pratt and Daniel Vice.
Now, Wendy, I don`t think this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they talked about the right to bear arms. They didn`t know from semiautomatic weapons, where you can kill lots of people in a short period of time.
MURPHY: Yes, and there`s no question that there`s been an overuse of the Second Amendment as some kind of absolute authority to use any weapon you can create. That`s silliness.
But you know, Jane, I don`t like guns. I don`t even know anybody who owns a gun. So I`m not in that camp. But I`ve gotten to a kind of desperate point when it comes to representing, particularly women victims of violence. That over and over again, they are faced with the most horrific of family circumstances where the perpetrator has a gun, and the court system keeps sending him home saying, "Oh, well, you beat your wife, we treat it like shoplifting," and she doesn`t have a gun.
I sort of said, stop giving her a restraining order; give her a gun so you have domestic detente, you know. He`s not going to kill her if he thinks she might kill him first. But I`ve gotten that desperate. I don`t like guns, but we have gotten to that point when it comes to violence against women. I`m sorry to say.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. Well, I am right there with you in terms of violence against women. Ninety percent of murders are perpetrated by males.
So Daniel Vice, what`s the answer? Only allow women to carry guns? Or...
MURPHY: That would be good.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to provide some way for women to defend themselves in this culture of violence where they`re so often targeted.
DANIEL VICE, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: The answer is that we need sanity in our gun laws. We need to stop making it so easy for dangerous people, for convicted wife beaters, for felons and criminals and children to get their hands on guns.
And we`ve seen what works. We have hope. For example, after the Virginia Tech shootings, we passed the first major gun control law in more than a decade. The gun lobby, unfortunately, got owners of America to oppose it. It was just to require mental health records be sent to the background check system.
Why do we still sell assault weapons with these high-capacity magazines that the Virginia Tech shooter had?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me give Larry -- Larry, weigh in. Because I don`t think we`re saying no guns in America. We`re saying there are some crazy cases like 8-year-olds with guns, like psychopaths with semiautomatics. We`ve got to get a handle on these.
VICE: Why are you still opposing background checks on all gun sales?
LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: That question was directed to me. The problem that -- one of the problems that we have that we`ve never addressed is the elephant in the room, is that we continue to insist that we have gun-free zones.
Happily, there was not a gun-free zone when a wannabe mass murderer went into the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last winter, last Christmastime. He was met by the 25 folks in that church that are part of their security detail. These are people that are members of the church, have concealed carry permits. And one of them was able to gun him down.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
PRATT: And he was dead within 30 seconds. The killer had 11 minutes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. I hear your theme. I understand your theme. We`ve got more stories. You can weigh in in a second. Stacey Peterson, that case coming up. Went missing over a year ago. What`s happening there?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a special ISSUES investigation of murder in America. We`ll look at the slow wheels of justice in some of America`s most infamous killings. From the brutal murder of a pretty New York graduate student to a case against the Hollywood music mogul, Phil Specter. I`ll try to find out what really happened and why justice hasn`t been served. It`s a special ISSUES investigation, murder in America.
24-year-old Imette St. Guillen`s nude body was found dumped in a desolate Brooklyn neighborhood, just beyond a New York City highway. She had been raped, sodomized and brutally murdered by suffocation. Her head wrapped in packing tape.
That was almost three years ago. Three years ago. The man accused of kidnapping and killing her is still awaiting trial.
It took a jury less than three hours to find Darryl Littlejohn guilty of abducting another young woman; 19-year-old Chaney Woodward. He faces 25 years for that conviction.
But he`s still awaiting trial three years later in connection with the horrific first-degree murder of Imette St. Guillen.
Former prosecutor Wendy Murphy with me again. She`s joined by Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney and Gregory Skordas, the former chief deputy of the Salt Lake County attorney`s office.
Gregory, as you just heard, it`s been almost three years since Imette St. Guillen`s horrific murder, stomach churning. Attorneys describe by homicide investigators is one of the most gruesome they`ve ever seen. Why is Darryl Littlejohn still not brought to justice?
GREGORY SKORDAS, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I suppose in deference to the prosecutors in that state, they did bring him to justice in the lesser crime that you just described. That is, the prior incident.
And so they`ve had the opportunity to hold him in custody while they wait and investigate and put together this murder case that they ultimately hope will put him into custody for the rest of his life.
So while justice hasn`t been served immediately on that homicide case, he`s not going anywhere. He`s sitting in detention. He`s sitting in jail and will be for, like you just said, 25 years while they make sure that this murder case is rock solid. And I`m assuming that`s what the state is doing in that case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, he`s not going anywhere. But neither is Imette St. Guillen`s family. They are stuck without any closure.
And that`s what`s so upsetting about this, Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney. And there`s tons of circumstantial evidence in this case. He escorted her out of the bar. His phone records show he was within a mile of the remote location where her body was dumped. He has a long rap sheet. He`s been in and out of prison for years. He has this previous case.
I mean, how much more do you need?
DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Jane, I have to tell you, if I were defending him in this upcoming murder case, I would be concerned. And I know it seems like it`s taken a long time, but those of us that defend these cases are fearful of a methodical prosecution. And here they`ve done what they need to do, and that is, get a conviction on the similar crime.
You know, when you look at the location, and the modus operandi, they`re so similar, that now they`re going to eventually begin this trial, having in evidence, this conviction in Queens, New York, of another college student. I have to tell you, it`s a devastating blow to the defense. I know it`s taken awhile, but from a defense perspective, this is not good news.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy Murphy is it that sometimes DNA can work for you, and sometimes it can work against you? While there`s plenty of evidence here, carpet fibers linked to Littlejohn, some DNA, for example, under the victim`s fingernails, did not match his. Some DNA stains where inconclusive, could that be holding it up?
WENDY MURHPY, FORMER POSECUTOR: It is what it is. I don`t know why you have to take three years to figure out how to explain that to a jury. No.
Look, the family needs closure. There`s a reason in every state in this country, victims, including the family of a homicide victim, have a right to a speedy trial. It`s just so disrespected and un-enforced; families go through hell as if they don`t count.
Look, there`s a constitutional right to a speedy trial for the defendant. But we all know that`s a joke. And by the way, I write about this case, Imette St. Guillen`s case in my book.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve written about it, too, in my book.
MURPHY: The constitutional right for a speedy trial, all defense attorneys really want is for the cases to be delayed until all the witnesses drop dead.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh yes exactly. I have to say, in my book, "Secrets can be Murder" I wrote about this case. And it was the most horrific case I think I`ve ever covered in terms of a gruesome, brutal rape and murder, especially the horrific fact that this poor woman`s face was wrapped in packing tape.
MURPHY: And by the way, Jane, why didn`t they charge it as a hate crime. He cut her breasts and her vagina. He treated her like trash, cut her hair. Why is that not charged as a hate crime?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think it`s an excellent question. And you know I think we need to look, you`re a former prosecutor, Greg, we need to look at not just putting this guy away, but preventing future Darryl Littlejohns from becoming the people that they become.
Prevention, we need to stop just locking people up in jail and saying, well, that takes care of that problem, because somebody else comes along and does something even worse. This guy had been in and out of jail for years. He was first sent to jail when he was only a teenager.
That`s when he became emotionally stunted, according to the psychiatrists I talked to. That`s why he sometimes used cartoon names, names out of comic books, because he was trapped in his adolescence. I mean, why can`t we get to these high-risk kids before they become violent?
SKORDAS: Usually we do. And sometimes people slip through the cracks. And that`s not much of a consolation for the family.
But this man is about to serve 25 years in prison for a crime unrelated to this. He will ultimately be brought to justice for this crime. And he`ll have the burden, as my colleague just said, of having the other conviction be made known to the jury. His prior similar act be made known to the jury so that his defense counsel and he himself will have a very, very difficult time convincing a jury that he`s not guilty of this crime.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew --
SKORDAS: And I think that what you`ll get, ultimately, is a message to others, a message to people that society`s not going to put up with this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t think that message is getting across, Drew. We cover these stories day in and day out. Year after year and it doesn`t seem to stop people from resorting to horrific violence. So many -- just some of the cases that we`ve covered tonight, of the parolees who go on to commit more serious crimes, were supposed to go to anger management classes.
I`ve made this suggestion before, Drew, I think there should be anger management taught in the elementary schools. I think there should be violence prevention. And basically peaceful conflict resolution taught in schools. That`s more important than long division right now.
FINDLING: Jane, I can`t agree more. I think it`s a time to get to people; it`s in their youth because here`s what we learned. If we wait too late does it really mean anything? We`ve eliminated parole in the federal system. Has that stopped the commission of federal crimes? The answer is absolutely no.
We`ve seen federal crimes go out of control during the eight years of a so- called conservative administration with no parole. So parole has nothing to do with it. It means nothing. You`re not going to get paroled and commit more crimes. If you`re going to commit crimes, you`re going to commit crimes.
I think you`re absolutely right, get these people when they`re children, and then we`ll have a little bit of a different society.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy Murphy, you`re a former prosecutor, but you`re also a mom, you`re also a person I think who is very in touch with society. You know, why is it -- look, I`ve been in therapy for many years. I`m in a 12- step program because I`m a sober person.
I am not flying blind because of my -- the luck that I`ve had learning some tools to avoid conflict. Why can`t we teach some of these fantastic tools to kids so that they don`t have to get to the point where they resolve their differences with guns or resolve their anger with committing a horrific crime like this?
MURPHY: Yes. You know, Jane, the simple answer, and this is way too simple, is that we`re not spending the right amount of money on prevention and early intervention because it`s cheaper not to. It`s cheaper to put your finger in the dike.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s not cheaper because prosecuting this guy, and feeding him and housing him in prison for the rest of his life if he`s convicted of the second crime is going to be very, very costly.
MURPHY: Yes. You took the words out of my mouth. What I was going to say was, it seems cheaper in the short run, but we know that the long- term costs are huge. I`m a very big fan of more money in terms of early intervention programs. No question, we`re not spending close to enough money.
But here`s another thing. If a guy slips through the cracks and it will always happen, that somebody will slip through, even if we spend all the right amount of money on prevention, someone will slip through. And then can we not talk about prevention? Because it`s a little too late. Once this woman died, it`s too late to talk about Darryl Littlejohn`s prevention problems.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I agree and I disagree. I understand what you`re saying. We`ve got to prosecute this guy to the fullest extent of the law. And I am outraged, I mean, you and I both wrote books, the books already in paperback, and this guy still hasn`t been brought to justice.
MURPHY: And it`s a good book.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I thought it was -- thank you. And yours is, too.
But what I`m saying is, is that we can`t just repeat insanity is doing the same thing other and over again and expecting a different result. America needs to shift its entire focus on how it deals with crimes by focusing a lot more money on prevention even if we go to something which I`ve been accused of being flaky for suggesting, group therapy in public schools.
Now, stay right there, everyone. We`ve got another extraordinary case coming up.
Legendary music producer Phil Specter facing a retrial for murdering an actress. I`ll take a look at this case and other high-profile murders that still after years have no answers, no justice. Right after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phillip did not shoot this woman. He did not force a gun in this woman`s mouth. And he didn`t do it. That`s what the evidence will show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, will it? It`s been nearly six years since the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. She was found shot to death while in music producer, Phil Specter`s, Los Angeles castle, yes castle. The infamous Specter was accused of murder but the case ended in a mistrial in 2007.
Now Specter is in the middle of a retrial for second-degree murder. The 68- year-old faces a minimum of 18 years in prison if convicted of second- degree murder. He contends Clarkson, age 40, shot herself while in his ornate mansion.
A jury dead locked on his guilt last year after a five-month-long trial. I`m joined once again by Wendy Murphy and Drew Findling and Gregory Skordas.
Let`s start with you Gregory. As a former prosecutor, when it`s a high- profile suspect who also happens to be very wealthy, it really seems like these trials can be dragged out forever with all sorts of maneuvers. He switched attorneys multiple times. He`s gotten a lot of delays. Can a rich person play the system?
SKORDAS: Of course, and I`d be remiss if I said anything other than that. Because a rich person can, as you indicated, change gears, can hire a different attorney, can hire more attorneys, can hire more aggressive attorneys. And the public defenders throughout the state or throughout the country are wonderful, and they do great work, but they`re very, very overburdened. They don`t have the time to do the gyrations and motions and speculations and get fired and rehired and changed like private attorneys can. So in some respects, he does have that benefit.
He also has the benefit of being rich and being able to post bail. So he`s out. A poor person would be sitting in custody awaiting trial. And awaiting trial, they`re going to want their trial to go forward much quicker while they`re in custody. A man who`s free can drag it on.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We talked about the 8-year-old who is behind bars. An 8- year-old boy behind bars, who was accused of shooting to death one to two people. And yet Phil Specter has never spent a night in jail, Drew Findling. And not only that, he was able to hire a dream team of experts, including Dr. Henry Lee, the famous Dr. Henry Lee and the famous Dr. Michael Baden to testify. Rich guys get to hire these experts that cost a ton, and that helps them as well.
FINDLING: Let me say this, and that is, I don`t care how rich you are, you`ll never outspend the government. When you try a major case with the federal government or a state, they can bring in any expert they want. So that just evens the playing field.
I think what we`re really talking about here is the state of California. Because every time there`s an actor getting arrested, whether it be O.J., Michael Jackson, or anybody else in California, these cases take forever. I think California justice system needs to take a long, hard look at itself. Because let me make you one little bet, and that is, any of these cases in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, they`re two weeks and you`re done because we take care of business here.
Everything there lasts forever. We always remember that O.J. Simpson had a three-week preliminary hearing. You would be done with that here in 30 minutes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whatever happened, Wendy Murphy, to justice being blind? If you`re a celebrity, if you`re rich, you can play the system. Is that the way America is supposed to work?
MURPHY: Justice is not blind. Justice is a little dumb sometimes, but definitely not blind. You definitely get a better shake if you`re wealthy. And that`s unfortunate. It`s a necessary evil, I suppose, that you have to indulge tactics that make you sick sometimes, and judges get stuck.
Because if you say, I don`t think you should be able to change your lawyer, if a judge says I think the case should go to trial right now, I don`t care that you want to hire a new lawyer, and the guy`s convicted and he files an appeal and the appellate court says, that`s not fair, that`s not due process. If he had the means he should have been allowed to make that choice. The right to counsel of choice is constitutionally protected.
But you know what, it makes people crazy. It makes people absolutely crazy that because you`re rich, you cannot only change lawyers four times - - Robert Blake did it -- four lawyers in four years, which hurts the prosecution`s case. But then you can spend money on experts to do smoke and mirrors, dog and pony shows all over the place. So the jury has no idea what end is up.
There`s a constitutional right to a fair trial. There`s no constitutional right to do smoke and mirrors and delay tactics until the case becomes a mess. That`s what`s wrong with our justice system.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s really sad is I go into these courtrooms waiting for the famous case and I get there a little early and watch all the non-famous people. The system moves at light speed, Greg. These people, bing, bing, bing, it`s happening so fast you can`t keep track.
A lot of times these people may have a language barrier. The public defender -- it`s so fast.
Then the famous person comes in, and it slows down. Now, those poor people who are not famous, who aren`t rich, don`t know what the hell hit them when they get sent away to the slammer for years. There`s something wrong with our system.
SKORDAS: Well, maybe there is and maybe there isn`t. I think our public defender system works very, very well. They are burdened. The courts are burdened. We can`t spend five months on every trial. Unfortunately we end up doing that on the rich. Unfortunately we end up doing that in southern California more than we do the rest of the country combined.
The public defenders do a very, very good job. We have interpreters for people. I`m not going to sit here and say that justice is fair throughout. But I will say that even the poor and even those that don`t understand our system or our language are treated pretty fairly. And our constitution only provides that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. We`re just getting to so many different issues here.
Drew, as we wrap up this case, the victim was put through the wringer. She was maligned. There were articles that alleged that she had been a call girl. They got a former friend who was not much of a friend to testify and say, oh, she was suicidal.
You know, this woman has been victimized, not once, but twice. Now, three times. And her family continues to have to wait through this humiliating saga. I mean, this is outrageous.
FINDLING: Well, unfortunately, the case did go to trial. We`re not talking about a situation where it didn`t go to trial. It went to trial.
It was 10-2 for guilty, there are unanimous verdicts. And as long as the law allows them to pursue a certain area, and it`s relevant, they`re going to get into it. It`s just the unfortunate reality. But let us not forget, this already did go to trial and they didn`t get a conviction.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s see what happens in the retrial. I will say, time works against the victim. Hang tight.
Over a year ago, Stacy Peterson went missing, and police still haven`t recovered her body. I`ll tell you why her ex-cop husband is the prime suspect when our "Murder in America" special continues.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve all seen the footage of ex-cop Drew Peterson harassing the media outside his home. The death of his third wife, Kathleen, was ruled as a homicide this year. The 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, remains a mystery.
The bigger mystery is that the 54-year-old Peterson has not been charged in this either case.
Back with Wendy Murphy, Drew Findling and Greg Skordas.
Wendy, they determined wife number three was murdered but haven`t charged him with it. Wife number four has been missing more than a year. No charges there, either. Why not?
MURPHY: You know, this is a real head scratcher, because this is a guy who you just want to reach right through the television and grab him by neck and bang his head on a wall. If arrogance could be a crime, I think he would be arrested for that.
I don`t know what evidence they don`t have. It seems simple. But I think if they had a case, they would go after him, because they don`t like this guy, that`s pretty clear.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Drew Findling, what`s fascinating is there a new bill based on this case. Some people even call it the Drew Peterson law. Basically it says if you kill a witness to prevent them from testifying against you then previous statements they make to others can be used as evidence where normally it would be considered and challenged as hearsay.
And that is because, according to the reports, and, again, this man hasn`t been charged with anything, much less convicted, so he deserves the presumption of innocence. But according to the report, some people have said that the missing wife, Stacy, had told them that he had acknowledged a role in wife number three`s death.
FINDLING: Yes. We call that in the law "manifest necessity." Fancy words for, you really need to get the hearsay in, because it`s normally not admissible. And that`s what we`re dealing with here. Apparently she told a priest or a minister, hey, he told me he killed his third wife, and they want to get that in. And every other statement that he may have made to her that she shared with others. That`s problematic, that they`re trying to do that to get this in.
But, you know, the bottom line is, again, I try cases for a living. I get worried when they`re taking they`re time. When they`re taking they`re time, it means they`re not rushing, and they`re fastidiously putting their case together and they`re going for the conviction.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Greg, we`ve got about ten seconds. Final thought, where does our justice system stand? Totally messed up or not?
SKORDAS: I love our justice system, and I will go to my grave with that. I think that there are some flaws. I think cases take a long time, but we`re doing a very, very good job in this country, maybe better than any other country in the world.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And with that, we`ve got to leave it right there but I would like to thank our panel for their terrific insights this evening.
I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell. Don`t forget to check in every night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for more real "ISSUES."
Have a great night.