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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Defense Fights to Keep Casey Photos, Video out of Court; Search Continues for Three Men Lost at Sea
Aired March 2, 2009 - 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, breaking news in the Caylee Anthony murder case. A pivotal day as mom, Casey, is back in court. Her lawyers pulling out all the stops, trying to put a gag order on more salacious and potentially embarrassing photos of Casey partying with friends.
And they want to block release of the intense secret video of Casey`s prison meltdown, when she heard news that remains were found near the Anthony home before the body was identified as little Caylee.
Plus, we`ll have the video everyone was fighting for. We`ll show you and debate Lee Anthony`s hotly-contested deposition. What did he say? How will it affect his sister`s murder trial?
And stunning developments in the search for little Haleigh Cummings. Have cops hit a dead end? Frustration mounted over the weekend as they told the family they have no clues on Haleigh`s whereabouts. Then, "Leave my son Ron alone." That`s the message from Haleigh`s grandfather.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the accusations about my son, they need to leave that alone.
I`ll have the very latest on the frantic search for little Haleigh.
Plus, shocking reports that superstar Rihanna is back together with Chris Brown after he allegedly gave her a savage beating just before the Grammys. Brown reportedly called Rihanna on her 21st birthday to apologize. What is Rihanna thinking? I`ll examine the details and see if this is a celebrity case of battered women syndrome.
ISSUES starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight in the Caylee Anthony murder case. For the first time in more than a month, Casey Anthony appeared in court today, minus the bun in her hair, but plus her parents, Cindy and George.
The biggest news out of the proceedings: a trial date has now been set. Casey`s murder trial, tentatively set to begin October 12. Also, Casey`s attorney, Jose Baez, fought ferociously to block potentially damaging pictures and video of his client from being released to the public. At issue: thousands of images taken from Casey`s Photobucket account. Many of them are said to be quite embarrassing.
Also, a tug of war over the shocking video of Casey allegedly hyperventilating when she heard remains were found near her parents` home. Could this video be used as evidence in the upcoming trial?
So many questions today, including why were cameras only permitted to shoot Casey from the back? We only saw her face as she exited the courtroom. Was it a legal maneuver by the defense?
Of course, I will be taking your calls. But first, let`s go straight to my panel: Anita Kaye, criminal defense attorney and former district attorney; plus Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney; as well as Thomas Luka, the attorney for Lee Anthony; Terry Lyles, clinical psychologist; and Bob Keeling, a reporter with CNN affiliate WESH.
Bob, you were in court today. What did the judge decide?
BOB KEELING, REPORTER, WESH: Well, the judge did not make a decision on the -- on the images you were talking about from that Photobucket image- sharing Web site that Jose Baez says there`s hundreds, perhaps thousands of these pictures that were uploaded that he believes shows Casey in a very unflattering light. But his argument was that these were taken more than a year before Caylee`s disappearance.
Now, in the other thing, on the other legal issue at hand, that jail video. He is going to give Jose Baez the right to view that video. And then 15 days after he looks at it, he`ll give him a chance to figure out if he wants to file an objection to that video and try to keep it out or not, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Anita Kaye, why didn`t he look at the video before going to court? Isn`t this rather premature? He hasn`t even seen the tape.
ANITA KAYE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, good question. I don`t know what the rules are down there in Florida, if perhaps he couldn`t get his hands on the tape, so he had to go into court first and try to ask that we not see the video and then somehow get the video. But yes, he should know what`s on it before he starts asking if it`s good or bad for his client.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let`s take a look back at the evolution of Casey in court. Now, you may remember when she was first called into court, Casey showed up in prison garb, a loose-fitted blue jumpsuit. That`s her. There she is in that prison garb, all right? That was back on January 8.
Now, the second time she changed her look altogether. The second time, there she is. Showed up in court. She`s wearing a gray blazer, very conservative. And see that gigantic bun? In fact, some were absolutely convinced that was a hair piece. I even wondered if her very famous attorney, Linda Kenney-Baden, had a hand in that hairstyle.
Now, let`s take a look at today. Today, she showed up in a brightly- colored blue shirt with her hair flowing, bun nowhere to be found.
So Terry Lyles, as a psychologist, what do you make of the evolution of Casey in court?
TERRY LYLES, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think they`re trying to do some damage control and image consulting, which is, I think, a proper and ongoing thing. And the attorneys can speak to that, as well.
But you know, she has a lot of issues that obviously have now become public domain, including these photos and now this video. And I think they`re constantly trying to paint her as, you know, a mother, as someone who`s friendly.
But, you know, her demeanor must be such that it really is going to show something that maybe the world isn`t really wanting to see. And...
LYLES: ... if they do it well enough, maybe they`ll pull it off.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew Findling, this was my take on it. I think that the last time she showed up in court with the bun and the gray jacket, it was over the top. In other words, it was almost a caricature of somebody trying to look conservative. And that they decided, "You know, that`s really over the top. We`re going to pull it back."
And now she looks kind of like a teenager, sort of the picture of young innocence.
DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, absolutely. Look, you have to be concerned about the appearance of your client. Because you know that, whether or not anybody is watching it on a particular TV show, on a particular station, what you`re really concerned about is the potential jurors.
And you want the potential jurors to see her in the light that`s going to prove most favorable during the course of her trial. And clearly, a natural look and a youthful look is going to behoove her more than the parochial look she had a while back.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, all of this, again, subject to tremendous scrutiny, and it`s a big decision. Ever little decision, what she`s going to wear. We may not be able to analyze the changing look of Casey Anthony as much as we did before, given the horrible back-of-the-head camera angle today.
My question: did Jose Baez wrangle that concession from the court? Listen to what he said today about cameras in the courtroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE BAEZ, CASEY ANTHONY`S ATTORNEY: During the last court appearance that we had, there was -- there was at the time -- there is not one now, but there was a camera in the jury box, at which time throughout the proceeding, they attempted to zoom in several times on my client`s notes. We would just ask that, if we`re going to have cameras in the courtroom, that they respect the attorney/client communication.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. I`ve been a reporter in court, wrangling with the clerk to get a good position. I know the court has a lot of discretion. So what does it tell you, Thomas Luka, about the message the court is sending with this terrible camera angle today?
THOMAS LUKA, ATTORNEY FOR LEE ANTHONY: I don`t know if they`re sending any message. I think what`s clear, though, is that it appears that Jose Baez may be losing the forest -- or, yes, losing the forest for the trees.
I think that it doesn`t really matter what angle his client is shot from. I think the important thing is she -- is that she looks serious and appears to be interested and obviously concerned about the proceedings, which sometimes in the -- in the past has not been the case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think I agree with you. And maybe I`ll bring this back to Anita Kaye. There have been legal observers who say that Jose Baez is so focused on the superficial issues like camera angle and what his client might be wearing or whether we focus in on whether his client is dressed a certain way that he is losing the big picture, which is you`ve got to set up your case. And that`s really what he should be focusing on.
KAYE: Right. And Jane, we don`t know. Maybe he is doing that, because he does need to spend 100 percent of his time focusing on the defense of Casey Anthony.
But the other thing is, while we may think these are small things, I actually agree with perhaps what he`s doing. Because here`s the thing. Every time she`s on the camera, we all analyze her. We all see, did she react appropriately? We discuss what she`s wearing. That`s what we do. That`s human nature.
So if he can take that focus off of her a little bit, once again, as Drew pointed out, everybody that`s watching, potential jurors.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and Terry Lyles, we`re looking at Cindy and George in court today. There you see she`s dressed in red, and she seems to be wearing a green button. And there is George, both of them looking very polished and very calm. I think this is actually wonderful for them to be doing this. What is your take?
LYLES: I agree with the other experts, as well, that you know, this whole psychology in the courtroom and everyone is analyzing and critiquing every movement of this whole case. And I think her parents being there with the past history that we`ve talked about multiple times on this show, it`s good for her parents to be there to support her and for her to know that they`re there and that they`re showing support for each other and for the common good of what is happening. This is all about -- obviously about...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it might be good therapy for them, too.
Bob Keeling, what about this October 12 trial date? Was that a shocker in court? Because everybody was predicting this won`t happen until next year.
KEELING: Yes, I think that`s a little bit ambitious, Jane, that it`s even going to go then. You know, the prosecution said they expect to take about four weeks to put this trial on, but with all of the motions and all of the other legal wrangling, it`s probably going to take longer than that. So if they even get it done before the end of the year, that would be a surprise to me.
I wanted to answer one of your other questions, if I could, also. The state said that they gave Jose Baez the opportunity to look at that jailhouse video, but his concern was, if he got it, then by Florida law it would become a public record, and it would have to be released to everyone else. So he wanted to be very cautious with how he dealt with that issue.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So maybe a good legal maneuver on his part. Absolutely.
Everybody hang tight. So much more to cover on these stunning developments in the Caylee Anthony case. Do you think the party pictures could make or break Casey`s defense? We`re going to get into that. Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. And let me know.
In other news, a dramatic and frantic search continues for three men, including two NFL players, still missing off the Florida coast. A fourth man was miraculously rescued this afternoon. The latest stunning developments in the search for survivors in just a bit.
But first, more of Lee Anthony speaking under oath, describing his role in the search for answers in Caylee`s death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY`S BROTHER: I don`t believe that I`ve been on a wild goose hunt. I believe that there`s probably more information that I could be given, whether it`s being withheld from me on purpose or she just doesn`t know to share it or what`s relevant to share or that someone else hasn`t shared something with me. But I do believe that there`s truth to a lot of what I`ve -- I`ve been told, so I follow it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Developments coming in fast and furious in the Caylee Anthony murder case. We learned today that Casey`s trial is set to begin October 12. That as courtroom skirmishes escalate over whether you and me, the public and the press, get to see more embarrassing photos and potentially damaging video of Casey Anthony.
The phone lines lighting up. Linda in Texas, your question or thought, ma`am.
CALLER: Yes, hi. I have a question. If the judge does -- does not allow the tapes that Baez and Casey are trying to keep out, can he then put a stipulation on them selling any kind of videos?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: On selling the videos? Interesting. Drew Findling, do you want to take a crack at that?
FINDLING: I think if they`re fortunate enough to keep that tape out, they`re going to be far from worrying about selling it. They`re going to bury it and put a monument over it. They don`t want that getting out to the media or to the public whatsoever. This is a very important issue for them.
I think they`ve got a great argument ahead of them. And that kind of leads to -- you know, we talked about last week, Jane, that it needs to be attacked on her right to counsel and that -- that they knew she was represented when they put her in that situation of the reaction. It was a stupid move by law enforcement. It`s got to be held in chagrin by the prosecutors.
Apparently, Baez took the right strategy, which is to say they knew she was represented by counsel. He`s got a great argument. If he wins, no selling it. Just celebrating.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t know, Anita Kaye. I think it might be a great strategy. You`ve got her on tape hyperventilating when they announce that remains were found near the parents` home. We don`t know at that point that those are Caylee`s remains. There have been other sightings where she didn`t have, reportedly, any reaction whatsoever. They`re arguing consciousness of guilt.
KAYE: Right. As a prosecutor, absolutely. That`s what I would have argued. Consciousness of guilt. But it`s all about the spin. Because if, in fact, she is learning about this and this could be her child`s remains, what mother wouldn`t start to hyperventilate?
FINDLING: But when you`re defending, Jane, you can`t run the risk that the other side is going to use it to their advantage, particularly when it`s just so ridiculously pursued by law enforcement here.
KAYE: But if it comes in, you`ve got to put the spin on it.
FINDLING: Oh, absolutely. No, I agree.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Karen in Pennsylvania, question or thought, ma`am?
CALLER: Hi, Jane.
CALLER: My question is, don`t you think that George and Cindy Anthony are constantly losing credibility with the American people? Because as of Friday, they weren`t mentally capable enough to go to a deposition, but there they are in court, watching their daughter today.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Well, I think it`s a very, very interesting question. Thomas Luka, you`re the attorney for Lee Anthony, the son of these two people. What do you say? Bad move on their part in the sense that he said that he was too weak to do a deposition?
LUKA: Well, again, I can`t speak to the Anthonys` mental health at this time, but what I can tell you is they have been trying to contact Casey several times since before Caylee`s remains were found in December.
Keep in mind: they haven`t seen or talked to their daughter since November. So by them being in court today, that might just be a show of solidarity or, as someone else pointed out, kind of reaching out a hand to say, hey, can we maybe have contact with you again?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I want to talk about the whole issue of these photos. The judge hasn`t ruled on these photos yet. One of Jose Baez`s major arguments was over the Casey Anthony doll.
One of the more embarrassing photos of Casey that has already been released was, and take a look at that one. That`s -- that`s a pretty embarrassing one there. But it`s the one where she`s dressed in an American flag. Somebody then made a doll based on that photo. And apparently, she`s only dressed in an American flag, because it was Anything But Clothes party.
Now, the doll was -- they tried to sell it on eBay, essentially. Jose Baez pointed out the doll in his motion, claiming this is exactly the type of thing that hurts a fair trial for Casey.
But my question to Terry Lyles, do you think he`s actually bringing more attention to these embarrassing photos by filing this motion? Now we`re all talking about the photo again.
LYLES: You know, Jane, that`s the first thing I thought of, because I mean, these photos are already out there. Anybody can already look at them and make their own determination. It`s almost like he`s trying to do that. But again, I don`t want to get into his mind from a legal side, but from a psychological standpoint, it sounds as if he may be trying to create this diversion. It looks like he`s more afraid of the video than he is of the photos.
And back to the video for a second, I don`t know that that did make her look bad.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let me go back to Bob Keeling. You were in the courtroom. It was a little confusing. There are thousands of photos. Some of them have been out there, like this Anything But Clothes American flag photo, but are there other photos that have not been seen that he`s worried about that could be even more embarrassing?
KEELING: Well, that`s what Baez is arguing. He`s saying there could be as many as a couple of thousand. Now, there was an attorney for the local newspaper here, as well, saying, "We`ve downloaded many, many photos that we haven`t yet released. And we believe that they are part of the public domain."
But Baez is arguing these photos came a year before Caylee even went missing. And what`s interesting is some of the photos you`re talking about, you know, the Anything But Clothes party, came while Caylee was missing. And you have to wonder, are those more embarrassing than -- than ones that would have been before the little girl went missing?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I think there`s been so much debate. I`ve heard reports that the Anything But Clothes party was slightly before, like May 28, just before little Caylee went missing, but I`ve heard other reports that that party was during the time. And I don`t have a definitive answer to that.
FINDLING: Well, Jane, that`s going to be part of the legal foundation. And that`s going to be on the prosecution to prove. Clearly, anything from before she was missing is not going to be admissible, and it would be stupid for prosecutors to risk their trial, having tried two times to get it in.
I think there`s two issues here. One, you know, you can`t second- guess the attempt to keep evidence out. Every criminal defense attorney in the country would try to keep them out. But more importantly, you know, it`s going to go back to accessing (ph). The pictures that were taken while she was missing, partying, it`s going to go back to marrying the stupid defense with the babysitter. And I know that`s been my theme over and over again.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes. That`s -- you know...
FINDLING: When you marry yourself to that defense, you`ve got a problem.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are right, drew. That is the toughest part of this defense. They`ve already married themselves to this crazy Zanny the nanny story.
Thank you so much to my excellent panel. More on the Caylee Anthony case in just a bit.
Coming up, the frantic search continues for three men, two of whom are NFL players lost at sea off the coast of Florida. That after their boat overturned on Saturday. Just hours ago, a fourth man pulled to safety in a dramatic rescue caught on camera. I will have the latest details on the search for the others.
And you will not believe the latest reports in the Rihanna-Chris Brown saga, less than a month after he allegedly pummeled her. Are they back together again? Find out next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REBEKAH COOPER, WIFE OF MARQUIS COOPER: Feels like my greatest fear is coming true. Doesn`t feel real. I`m just waiting for a phone call. And very, very hopeful that Marquis and all of his friends are safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A wife`s nightmare comes true as the desperate search continues for her missing husband, NFL player Marquis Cooper, lost at sea.
Cooper and three friends, including NFL player Corey Smith, plus former college players Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler, went out for a routine fishing trip early Saturday morning. The Coast Guard began a massive search early Sunday.
Miraculously, earlier today, searchers found the capsized boat, and one survivor, Nick Schuyler, was clinging to the small fishing boat for dear life. With his three friends still missing, Schuyler was only able to say the boat had been capsized by an enormous wave.
Joining us now with the very latest is CNN Miami bureau chief John Zarrella.
John, take us through this really dramatic series of events.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about it, Jane. We know the worst part about it is now you`re going on the third night that these men have been in the water. The boat, according to Schuyler, capsized sometime on Saturday evening. Saturday night, Sunday night, now Monday night. Temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, 62-degree waters. You`ve got hypothermia setting in.
The Coast Guard is saying it is becoming more and more imperative that they find these men and find them quickly because of the length of time they have been in the water.
It was this afternoon when Schuyler was found clinging to the boat. In fact, he was sitting on top of it. Some of the pictures that that Coast Guard released show him sitting on the boat, wearing a yellow rain coat and a red life vest. It is believed that the other men that were with him may well have also been wearing life vests. But somewhere along the line, they did not end up hanging onto the boat, that they somehow lost hold of the boat.
Now, when his mother heard about the fact that he had been rescued, she said she collapsed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA SCHUYLER, NICK SCHUYLER`S MOTHER: I saw it on the bottom of the TV, said one person clinging. They found one person clinging to the -- to the boat. And about five minutes later, the captain called me and was confirmed it was Nick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How excited were you that you knew it was your son?
SCHUYLER: I passed out. I went down. We`re ecstatic. We couldn`t have asked for a better ending for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: When we talked to the Coast Guard a little bit ago, they told us that, in fact, given the position of where they found the boat, about 35 miles off of Tampa Bay, then given the current, they believe that the men, the three men that are still in the water, would have drifted to the southeast towards the coastline.
So, Jane, they`ve been able to narrow the search from what was 16,000 square miles down to about 3,500 square miles. But that`s still a whole heck of a lot of water to be searching.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was there any distress signal, any attempt at a cell phone? How did this wave come out of nowhere and just knock over this boat?
ZARRELLA: Well, that`s the question the Coast Guard is trying to get answers to. There was no distress signal given. The men, according to Schuyler, said they were anchored when they were hit by a rogue wave.
Well, we know that there were increasingly bad weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico from the same front, the same system that brought all that snow to the northeast, brought 10-, 12-, 14-foot waves into the Gulf of Mexico during the time frame when they would have been collapsed on Saturday night -- Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much for that update. And boy, our thoughts and prayers are with those missing players.
Coming up, I`ll have a recap of the Casey case, in a moment.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news in the Caylee Anthony murder case. A pivotal day as mom Casey goes back to court; her lawyers pulling out al the stops trying to put a gag order on more salacious party photos. I`ll have the very latest details.
Plus, shocking reports that Rihanna is back together with Chris Brown less than a month after he allegedly gave her a brutal beating. Brown reportedly called Rihanna on her 21st birthday to apologize. I`ll try to find out what the heck Rihanna is thinking.
More on Rihanna in just moments, but first, back to the Breaking News in the Caylee Anthony murder case. Mom Casey in court today with her attorney Jose Baez, attempting to block the release of potentially damaging photos and video.
I am back discussing all of this with Anita Kay, criminal defense attorney, and former district attorney as well and Bob Kealing, a reporter with CNN affiliate WESH.
Bob Kealing, you were in the courtroom today. And I know as a reporter when I`m in the courtroom, sometimes things are very different than they appear on television. What were some of the things that popped out at you in terms of what happened in court today?
BOB KEALING, CNN AFFILIATE WESH, REPORTER: Well, I wanted to watch the exchange very closely between Casey and her parents because this is the first time Casey had seen her folks and vice versa in almost five months. And a lot had happened in that time.
When Casey was brought out at the beginning, George and Cindy were already there sitting in the front row. They were allowed to get in a little bit early. And she gave just a little bit of a faint smile, but not a lot of emotion there.
But at the end of the hearing, just as she`s getting up, she did mouth the words, I love you, to her parents. And it was interesting, too, because George was actually wearing a Caylee button on his shirt.
And after the hearing, the Anthonys went out with their attorney, and did not say a word. And that`s certainly different from previous occasions.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, on Friday, Casey`s brother, Lee, was questioned in the Zenaida Gonzalez deposition. She`s remembered as the woman who says Casey Anthony ruined her life by connecting her to the little girl`s disappearance with some Zanny the nanny issue. Listen to Lee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MORGAN, ZENAIDA GONZALEZ`S ATTORNEY: Were you surprised when you heard her say that she`s with this person, Zenaida Gonzalez? Did that come as a surprise to you?
LEE ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY`S BROTHER: I would hope that she would have her with somebody or thought she had her with somebody. So, no, I would not be surprised if she told me -- she could have told me that she was with anybody, you know, at that point.
MORGAN: Was it your impression that night that she was making it up or did you believe that to be true?
L. ANTHONY: To this day, I believe everything that my sister tells me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Anita Kay, to this day he believes everything that his sister tells him. This is a woman who has been pretty well-documented as a pathological liar.
ANITA KAY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely, Jane. So is he a liar? And he believes everything she says? I mean, what`s going on there? We`ve kind of always questioned what`s going on with Lee. Certainly we want to give him the benefit of the doubt. We want to believe him. He`s standing by his sister.
But does he really think she`s telling the truth after all that`s happened? That`s what I can`t understand.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bob Kealing, there were two reports that Casey reportedly gave about Zanny the nanny. The first, June 9th, she said she dropped little Caylee off at the Sawgrass Apartments. Then, when that turned out to be -- documented to be a lie because Caylee was later spotted June 15th, Father`s Day, with her great-grandfather, then a new story emerged that Zanny the nanny took the child at Blanchard Park.
Is that correct and how is the defense reconciling those two totally different stories?
KEALING: Well, yes, what`s happening is Casey`s parents -- Casey is just saying they had the date wrong. And they talked about Caylee being dropped off at that later date on June 15th or 16th. What`s so interesting coming back from Lee`s deposition, is he said that in August when Casey got out on bond, she told him, I lied to the police.
That actually Zanny -- Zenaida Gonzalez took Caylee essentially by force at Blanchard Park. And during this cross examination, if you will, in this deposition, Lee said he admitted he didn`t go to the police with that new information. And he told his parents and he said they didn`t go to the police with that new information.
So you certainly have to wonder if they were doubting the correctness of that story, given the fact that they got a whole new version of events after she got out of jail in August.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely, and I do think that all of this is going to play out in the criminal trial in some way, shape, or form. I don`t know exactly how, but that stuff is going to reflect on the criminal case, I believe.
Bob, thank you so much for joining me tonight. And please come back soon.
Anita, hold on just a second. I want to change gears to dramatic developments in the search for 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings.
Little Haleigh missing now for three weeks and authorities admitting they are no closer to finding her than on day one. Despite an extensive search that caused cadaver dogs to hit on a dumpster near the home, cops now tell Haleigh`s family they have no clues on the little girl`s whereabouts.
No clues. In desperation, they are focusing on a birthmark on the left side of her face. I don`t know if you can see it there. It`s just right near her ear. There`s that little mark it looks like a peanut. And they are hoping and praying that somebody will spot that distinctive feature.
Plus, Haleigh`s grandfather, Lester Cummings, spoke out for the first time defending his son, Ron, and begging the public to focus on finding his granddaughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER CUMMINGS, HALEIGH`S GRANDFATHER: All the accusations about my son, you know, they need to leave that alone. You hear me? It`s all about my granddaughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: In a new twist, the lone eyewitness to the abduction, Haleigh`s little brother and his mother, Crystal Sheffield, reportedly told Geraldo Rivera that a black man in squeaky shoes dressed in black took his big sister.
Previously the reports were that the child simply saw an unidentified man dressed in black. So there is a distinction there, so many issues.
And let`s go back to attorneys Drew Findling and Anita Kay. Three weeks after the fact, a 4-year-old -- and he was three at the time, he just turned four -- is providing possibly new clues to the identity of the alleged kidnapper.
Let me ask you, Drew, how credible is this information? And if it is credible, why didn`t we hear it a long time ago? This child has been missing three weeks.
DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I just -- unfortunately I don`t put a whole lot of credibility in it. And I`ve been involved in trials for over two decades that you have children three, four, or even five years old to testify.
And with the passage of time and even with their own maturation in a matter of weeks and months, proportionally to their age they just change, they neurologically change. They cognitively change. It`s just going to be really difficult to rely with specificity on this child.
And we`re seeing that already because law enforcement is trying to do their job and then we have Geraldo butting in and creating conflict. So there you go. I just don`t think it`s real credible.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you concerned, Anita Kay, at all that suddenly the description has changed to a black man? When we`re three weeks into this case and it`s supposedly coming from a child but there`s apparently the adult, meaning the mom, involved? What do you make of it?
KAY: It`s so hard. I agree with Drew, when you`ve got 3-year-old, 4- year-old children they`re so impressionable anyway that if you ask them a question, now you say he was in black, was he black? I mean, there`s so many ways that a child could now say it`s a black man. And yet they`re still talking about someone who is wearing black.
When you`re talking about a little child, you need to be real careful. Now, I don`t know if at three, he told his mom it`s a black man. And did he say that right when Haleigh went missing? That`s something different.
But when you have such a small child, this is not who we want to have all our information relied on. But the police it seems like they`ve got nowhere to go.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s actually shocking. I mean, the shocking twist over the weekend, cops gave the Cummings family little hope of finding Haleigh --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- telling Haleigh`s maternal grandmother they have no clues. Let`s listen to what Marie Griffis said about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE GRIFFIS, HALEIGH`S MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER: He said they just haven`t found anything. He said it`s -- it`s nothing. No DNA evidence, no evidence of any kind. That`s why they turned the house back over. He said they went through that house six or seven times and he personally was in there twice when the house was sifted through and there`s nothing, nothing at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew Findling, how is that really possible that they have absolutely no clues? Almost 2,000 leads have been called in. They had cadaver dogs hit on this dumpster last week. They say that led to nothing, that that was a false positive.
I don`t know. Do you believe it or do you think it`s a strategy?
FINDLING: Well, I -- I think it is possible. And I think the quicker that they get federal authorities into the investigation, I mean, and really throw them in, the better off they`ll be.
But time is of the essence in these investigations. And I will say one thing, that I hope that this case is a springboard for debate about in the future. And that is, if you remember, I believe there were 58 people in the, what, five square miles on the sexual registry when this began.
Now remember, Jane, it`s always a topic of debate. Included in that are going to be 17-year-olds that had 14-year-old girlfriends and domestic fights between husbands and wives that wound up being on the registry.
That`s a distraction for law enforcement.
FINDLING: That`s -- that is many, perhaps dozens of people that they wasted time investigating as opposed to people on that registry in the nearby vicinity that have been known for abducting children and molesting small children.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Anita Kay, we`ll have a couple of seconds, the grandfather is angry that people are focusing on his son`s arrest record which includes drugs, although he`s never convicted of any kind of a drug case.
But with this vacuum and with authorities saying they are not eliminating anyone as a suspect, isn`t it reasonable to look at everything because you really don`t want to have any -- you don`t want to leave any stone unturned.
KAY: Absolutely, Jane. I mean the thing is, people don`t just disappear without any clues. They just don`t. So there`s got to be something. Perhaps they need to get the Feds in like you mentioned earlier.
And the son, if he had nothing to do with his daughter`s disappearance, he`ll welcome the scrutiny. It`s going to clear him of anything.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and let me just say this he was at work when his daughter was taken.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And his alibi is firm. We want to emphasize that. Drew and Jennifer, thank you so much.
Coming up, Rihanna does what some say is absolutely unthinkable. Less than a month after boyfriend Chris Brown allegedly beat her, she`s gotten back together with him reportedly. And I`m going to try to find out what the heck she`s thinking, next.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ll have the stunning reports on Rihanna`s reconciliation with Chris Brown after he allegedly beat her.
But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: shocking news in the case of the co-ed killer, Amanda Knox. Foxy Knoxy on trial for murdering her roommate in Italy allegedly during a drug-fueled sex game -- gruesome new details emerging about the crime scene.
Cops walked into a room with blood spattered on the walls and the floor. The victim, Meredith Kercher, was lying in a pool of her own blood and near her body was allegedly a bloody shoeprint, compatible with Knox`s shoe size.
Meantime, Knox clashing with police in court claiming she was mistreated and hit in the head during interrogations. Cops are denying her claims saying she was more interested in her boyfriend than in her own roommate`s death.
According to authorities, she was even doing splits and cartwheels while waiting to be questioned. Is that possible? Gymnastics may not be the best way to prove your innocence.
That is tonight`s "Top of the Block."
Moving now to what some are calling an appalling twist in one of the most disturbing stories to come out of the entertainment world. Just weeks ago, this photo was posted on TMZ showing a massively bruised and battered victim of domestic violence.
Although it has never been officially confirmed, the face is unmistakably that of pop music superstar, Rihanna. Her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, is alleged to be the man responsible for this.
And now "People" magazine is reporting that all is forgiven. That`s right, "People" magazine says, Rihanna has actually gone back to Chris Brown. Brown is scheduled to be in court this week to face arraignment, but given the shocking development, will this case even go forward? And more important is Rihanna still at risk?
A lot to discuss and I want to hear from you. But first, straight to my panel: Carlos Diaz, correspondent for "Extra" and Jennifer Hartstein, clinical psychologist and Lisa Bloom, an anchor on the legal network, "In Session."
Lisa, how is the shocking and sudden apparent makeup going to effect the criminal case against Chris Brown?
LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR OF "IN SESSION": Well, it will probably destroy the case. Now, let me be clear, the district attorney can prosecute him for domestic violence even if she no longer wants to cooperate. There is precedent for that. That has been done. They could get a conviction even if she does not want to testify.
But as a practical matter for the L.A. DA to bring a case against a big celebrity like Chris Brown without Rihanna`s cooperation, forget it. I think the case will be over.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Carlos, I understand Diddy, also known as Sean Diddy Combes, --
CARLOS DIAZ, "EXTRA" CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- had something to do with this reconciliation.
DIAZ: Yes, he provided his house on Star Island in Miami, in the Miami area for the two to kind of reconnect, if you will. And there are several photos and video of Chris Brown jet skiing without a care in the world around Star Island this weekend.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`ve got to go to the shrink on this one -- Jennifer Hartstein, it`s been less than a month.
JENNIFER HARTSTEIN, CLINICAL PATHOLOGIST: Right.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this woman has now forgiven -- even though the entire world is appalled at the photo of her battered and beaten face. I mean, has she become a poster child for battered women syndrome?
HARTSTEIN: To a certain degree, yes. Unfortunately this happens more than it doesn`t. And more women go back to their abusers than don`t. And what happens is there is this sense of guilt or obligation of who maybe this time it will be different and maybe this time he`s changed his ways.
And it`s unfortunate that she may be doing this. And they are young. And we forget that she`s only 21 years old. He`s 19. And there is still that teenage love thing happening for them.
So it`s unfortunate that they are so famous we forget that they are also very, very young people. And she may be getting ill-advised to go back. And her -- people are saying it`s a bad idea. But it is a poster child for battered woman in a lot of ways, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Lisa Bloom, I know you`re a parent.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re probably appalled about this, as am I. I mean, this is a young woman, and look, she`s beautiful, and she`s incredibly talented. I sympathize with her, but I also think that she does have a responsibility to realize this sends a terrible message to boys and girls about what to expect in male/female relationships.
BLOOM: This is the moment that we talk to our kids and we say some people are positive role models and some people are negative. Rihanna is gorgeous and she`s phenomenally-talented as a musician, but she is a negative role model for what women should do if they are battered or abused by their boyfriends. I mean, make no mistake, he`s accused of punching her in the face. He`s accused of brutally beating her.
And by the way, would Diddy and Kanye West be so forgiving if someone punched them in the face, or are they only forgiving if it`s a woman who`s punched in the face? I mean this is a very sad situation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll get the guy who is on the panel in on this. Carlos Diaz, I understand Chris Brown is going to anger management classes, but I heard that his PR person suggested it.
DIAZ: Well, yes. And let`s make one thing clear by the way. Jane, you and I we agree on nothing, ever.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, true.
DIAZ: But I completely agree with you on this instance. I mean, that domestic violence is one of the most hideous crimes out there. If a man ever hits a woman, there`s no reason or -- there`s just no excuse for the woman to go back and it`s the terrible situation.
But you`re right. Chris Brown tried to do the good PR thing and, you know, do the whole anger management course thing.
There`s also another aspect here. So many young girls look up to Rihanna. And you know, if you say -- well, Rihanna took Chris Brown back. So maybe I can take my boyfriend back. No, don`t do that. This is wrong. And this is just is a sad, sad chapter in an already sad story.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It sure is. Rihanna`s dad Ronald Fenty spoke to "People" magazine about his daughter`s reunion with her allege abuser quote, "Whatever road she chooses, I`m behind her."
Do you agree with this Jennifer Hartstein that dad should be in favor of this quick forgiveness? Let`s face it people can change, but not after three weeks.
JENNIFER HARTSTEIN: Not after three weeks. And anger management, to be truthful, isn`t going to do it. He needs to do a lot more than that.
I think we`re all in agreement that this is an incredibly egregious crime. And it`s sad -- what`s so sad is that Rihanna is not alone in being someone who goes back. While we can say there`s no excuse, the fact is that she on some level is probably even blaming herself, which is the real unfortunate truth.
It`s an opportunity for the media and for everyone who puts them as role models to explain how to get help when you`re being abused; how to find opportunities to talk to somebody. Because I think it`s a big piece that`s being missed.
We`re talking about how Chris Brown`s career can be destroyed. Now he`s this horrible person. But what can kids do because more teenagers are having this happen than not.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Guess what? We`re going to have a lot of calls. They`re piling up. We`re going to get to them next.
Stay right there. Back with more on the Rihanna-Chris Brown soap opera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIHANNA, SINGER: We`re role models, not only by our music, but by our style. We have to keep up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was beautiful Rihanna on the Red Carpet at a Baby Phat fashion show back in 2006. Notice what she said about celebrities being role models.
Back with my panel and your calls on the shocking reunion of pop superstars Chris Brown and Rihanna. Pamela, North Carolina, thanks for your patience, your question or thought, ma`am?
PAMELA, NORTH CAROLINA: Hi, Jane. I enjoy your show.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.
PAMELA: First of all, I am a victim, former victim of domestic violence of a past marriage. And I don`t care at what age, whether he`s a celebrity or not, he should not get a pass on this. The only reason he`s doing this is because of his career. It`s a career move.
You know, her father is making that kind of comment. It`s giving him an okay to treat his daughter any way he pleases. And does that give the prosecutors a reason to dismiss this without her testifying?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, well, let`s go to Lisa Bloom on that.
BLOOM: The prosecutors need her as a witness. She fully cooperated at the time that he was arrested, which I assume means she gave them a full and complete statement. She submitted to the pictures; I`m sure there`s a lot more pictures than the one that was released.
I think they have enough to go forward. And who knows whatever evidence there might be. But the L.A. district attorneys are not going to go after a big high-profile celebrity without a solid complaining witness. They`ve lost too many cases. I just don`t think it`s going to happen without her.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pippy, in New York, question or thought?
PIPPY, NEW YORK: I have a thought. I`m a mother of a daughter. I feel that publicity for young women who are in the spotlight all the time to have their faces battered on TV by their boyfriends sends a very bad message to our girls.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, it absolutely does. You know, the worst part about that, Carlos Diaz, is that there were reports that some young girls were saying, "Hey, maybe she -- maybe she brought it on herself." That`s just self-hatred.
DIAZ: And the funny thing is when that photo came out, I said to people in the "Extra" newsroom, well, this is great this photo came out because it will allow Rihanna not to go back to Chris Brown and women were appalled. They said she`ll never go back. I said, just watch. Watch. In a moment of weakness.
Now she may regret this photo coming out. This photo is the one thing that she can`t escape from. She can`t say, he didn`t really beat me. Look at the photo. Yes, he did.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And they`re all doing this in part to resuscitate their careers and move on. But I think it`s boomeranging and having the exact opposite effect and it could actually damage both of their careers even more.
We`ve got to leave it right there. Lisa, Jennifer, Carlos thanks so much for joining me.
I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell. You`re watching "Issues" on HLN.