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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Cases that Changed America
Aired March 6, 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, an ISSUES special presentation: "Cases that Changed America." For the next hour, I`ll examine high-profile trials that, for better or for worse, forever altered America`s justice system.
From the spectacle of the Michael Jackson molestation trial, where he was found not guilty on all counts. The media circus outside the courtroom as bizarre as the twists and turns on the witness stand. I`ll analyze how celebrity complicates cases in this 24/7 news culture and whether a different standard of justice applies to stars.
To trials that create celebrity. Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife, but before he was sentenced to death in 2006, he became a pop culture phenomenon. This strange case showed us that a horrific crime in Anytown, USA, can grip the entire nation.
Plus, we`ll look at the most infamous celebrity trial of them all: O.J. Simpson`s double murder trial. All the evidence pointed to Simpson in the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman, but O.J. was amazingly acquitted. The case ushered in the era of legal television, key players becoming stars in their own right and dream team attorneys. And as DNA evidence made its big-time debut, Americans learned just how flawed our justice system was, and still is.
This ISSUES special presentation starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, an ISSUES special presentation: "Cases that Changed America." Three unique cases, one similar result: they altered the way we view our justice system forever.
The spectacular and bizarre atmosphere surrounding the Michael Jackson molestation trial is where I want to begin tonight. Prosecutors charged Jackson with molesting a 13-year-old boy. They claimed the King of Pop gave the boy alcohol, or "Jesus juice," as he called it, and conspired to hold him and his family against their will. He was found not guilty on all charges.
After the stunning verdict, many said Jackson`s celebrity status was a huge factor in this case.
Joining me now, my incredible expert panel. Also, dear friends all. Diane Dimond, journalist and syndicated columnist whose pieces can be seen at her Web site, DianeDimond.net. She is also the author of "Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case." And Aphrodite Jones, author of "Michael Jackson Conspiracy." Plus, Lisa Bloom, an anchor on the legal network, In Session.
Lisa, what do you believe are the biggest lessons we can learn from the Michael Jackson trial?
LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, IN SESSION: There`s no question that his celebrity status is what led to his acquittal in part, because we know from some of the jurors who were interviewed afterwards that back in the jury room during the deliberations, some of the jurors said, "We can`t convict my Michael. Not my Michael. My Michael could not have done this."
You know, we have celebrity culture in this country that`s almost like royalty. There are certain people who are above the law, and I think in the Michael Jackson case, his celebrity status is what put it over the top. Yes, there were other factors, but none as big as the celebrity factor.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but Aphrodite Jones, I have to say that I sat there along with you and Diane, and the conspiracy aspect of this case made my head explode. I couldn`t make head or tails of it. They`re keeping the whole family hostage. Meanwhile, they`re getting waxes and they`re going on shopping sprees. It was convoluted, and some said it just didn`t make sense.
APHRODITE JONES, AUTHOR, "MICHAEL JACKSON CONSPIRACY": It did not make sense.
First of all, to charge Michael Jackson with conspiracy to hold a family hostage when, in fact, they were using his money and his limos and his Rolls Royces to travel around? It`s bizarre.
The idea that -- I disagree with Lisa in that the jury perhaps had some fascination, certainly, with Michael`s celebrity status, but remember these people were looking at evidence that, for all intents and purposes, showed us at the end of the day that the Arviso family, the accuser`s family, seemed to take the playbook from Jordy Chandler`s lawsuit and follow suit.
There really was conflicting testimony from the key witnesses: that`s the accuser and his brother. There really was no absolute evidence that Jackson did ply anybody with alcohol.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, I want to bring it down to what we`re learning from this case. Diane Dimond, you covered it extensively. You wrote about it in your book. Where did the prosecution go wrong?
DIANE DIMOND, JOURNALIST/SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think they made it too complicated, Jane. I completely agree with you. You and I sat in that courtroom along with Aphrodite and a whole lot of other reporters. And there were times during that 4 1/2 months that we`d look at each other and go, "Huh? Why are they spending so much time on the phone bills?"
Why -- why did they make this seemingly simple story -- this kid was allegedly molested by this man -- into such a complicated thing? I never could figure it out. And I think that`s one reason he was acquitted.
BLOOM: Jane -- Jane one very important point to respond to Aphrodite, throughout the trial, before the trial, after the trial, everybody said this 13-year-old accuser is in it for the money.
BLOOM: Unlike Jordy Chandler, the previous child, he never filed a civil suit before, during, and now even years afterwards. He has never asked for one dime. And that -- that was proven to be completely false.
JONES: Yes, but, you know, Jane, wait a minute.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me move on, because there`s so much to cover here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Jackson case, we were there, a circus often turning a serious child molestation case into what felt like a Las Vegas act with Jackson as the ringmaster. I`m sure you`ll remember Jackson hopping on the roof of his SUV. We`re going to see it over and over today, playing to the crowd, looking for all the world like he was on stage at Madison Square Garden. There he is. I was there at that moment. It was crazy.
DIMOND: That was on arraignment day. Do you remember that, Jane? That was on arraignment day when you`re going into court to hear the charges against you and that`s what he did.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And not to be outdone, his own family got in on the theatrics. I`m sure you remember this, guys. They arrived at the trial, all dressed in matching white outfits as a sign of solidarity.
Now, as I watch this, covering the case in the courtroom along with you guys, it seemed to me that Michael Jackson was fighting back in a way that no defendant had ever done before, using psychology and emotion. Diane, it was almost that he was taking the skills that he learned on stage and applying it to the legal arena.
DIMOND: His father made sure that he was a showman from the age of, what, 6 years old. To me, the jumping on the SUV was a -- I was agape at that. But it was "pajama drama day" that really did it for me.
Everybody remembers Michael Jackson was late for court. There was an arrest warrant issued for him that day. He was at a hospital complaining of back pain. And he comes to court in his pajamas.
But what nobody ever mentions is that`s the day that the young boy was going to spend his first full day on the stand testifying to these very, very serious charges. What did the jury do, Jane? You saw it. Aphrodite, you saw it. The jury was transfixed on Michael Jackson sitting five feet away from them in his pajamas, looking like he was in pain and disheveled.
JONES: Wait a minute. Diane, we saw that, but remember, from the waist up, you only saw Jackson in his -- his jacket, blazer.
DIMOND: He had on blue pajamas with clouds on them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The blue pajama bottoms. You have to see them right there.
DIMOND: Come on.
JONES: I was told by the jury foreman that he honestly did not know that those were pajamas until after the fact.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, whatever. You would think his team could have brought him some trousers to wear.
BLOOM: But you know who could see it? The accuser, when he was testifying, he could see those pajamas. I`m sure it was distracting to him. And part of what he testified about was, part of the molestation was afterwards Michael Jackson asked him to put on his pajama pants.
JONES: Well, that was bizarre, clearly bingo (ph). But if Jackson was trying to detract from that testimony of pajamas, don`t you think he wouldn`t have worn the pajamas? I just think it was Jackson being Jackson, not feeling well, not being disheveled.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s part of the show.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It threw the kid off the game. It was a crucial day, and it threw the kid off his game. Let`s face it. I mean, there was no accident there, I don`t think. But who knows? Who could say for sure? Some say it`s a lot harder to convict a celebrity of a serious crime.
Now, was the D.A. in this case, Tom Sneddon, over-confident? Listen to just one of the comments he made during the trial. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM SNEDDON, PROSECUTOR IN JACKSON CASE: Thank you for coming to Santa Barbara. I hope that you all stay long and spend lots of money, because we need your sales tax to support our offices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tom Sneddon later apologized for that, but he has more than 30 years of experience in prosecution. He seemed to believe, Lisa Bloom, this was an open-and-shut case. There is no open-and-shut case.
BLOOM: Right. Well, I never cared that he made a joke about come and spend money and we`ll get some sales tax. I mean, please. Obviously, it was just a folksy little joke. He clearly was over-confident, though, in the prosecution of his case, because he lost the case. He lost the entire case. And I think D.A.`s have learned from this not to make pretrial statements, just try your case in the courtroom. This is something I think has educated people across the country, frankly.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are those who believe Michael Jackson`s celebrity really complicated everything. And here`s the best example, perhaps. His ex-wife was, on the surface, a prosecution witness. We all remember this. But when she took the stand, she pulled the rug right out from under the prosecution and called Michael Jackson a loving and caring father. Prosecutors were stunned.
Then there was defense witness, one-time child star Macauley Culkin. He painted a portrait of Jackson as innocent, sincere. His testimony more compelling than others, because he was a child star.
The impact of all of this, Diane, celebrity on this case?
DIMOND: You know, there is not a human being on the planet that cannot sit in a courtroom with somebody for 4 1/2 months who is a superstar, an icon, and not get to feel sympathy for them.
Remember, we saw the back of Jackson`s head. We saw the back of McCauley Culkin`s head. The jury got to sit right next to Macauley Culkin, and they got to stare right at Michael Jackson for 4 1/2 months. That`s really heady and powerful stuff for these people who have been his neighbors all this time in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County, but had never been that close to him. And now they were part of his whole sphere. I think that`s very powerful stuff.
JONES: I don`t disagree with you, Diane. I don`t disagree that it was an impactful thing to have the stars in the room and the Jacksons behind, sitting behind Michael and the stars that were glittering around the courtroom.
But people like Jay Leno got on that witness stand and told us and told the jury that he heard the accuser call him up for Make-a-Wish and that the accuser sounded fishy. I am paraphrasing here.
DIMOND: Well, you`re talking -- you`re talking about evidence. The question is does celebrity taint a jury? And yes, I think that it can.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold that thought. Hold that thought, everybody. Because we`ve got to go to a break.
From Jacko to the Juice, I`m going to examine the most infamous celebrity trials of them all, O.J. Simpson`s murder trial. But Jackson was rather outrageous in his own right. Outside the courtroom, it was a circus of fans. So I guess that means Jackson was the ringleader of them all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNEDDON: It is different because the law in California has changed. It was changed specifically because of the 1993-94 Michael Jackson investigation. The law in California at that time provided that a child victim could not be forced to testify in a child molest proceeding without their permission and consent and cooperation. As a result of the Michael Jackson case, the legislature changed that law, and that is no longer the law in California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are back with an ISSUES special presentation, "Cases that Changed America." My fantastic panel is here. We`re looking at the Michael Jackson molestation trial.
But first, I want to turn to a very special guest. I am so delighted to have famous criminal defense attorney Tom Mesereau with me now.
Thanks so much, Tom.
Tom, of course, was Michael Jackson`s lead attorney for the molestation trial. Jackson, of course, found not guilty on all counts.
Tom, how do you believe this trial changed or impacted America and American attitudes toward the law?
TOM MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, you have to remember that this was a very intelligent jury. We had a retired math teacher with a master`s degree in math. We had a retired school principal with a master`s degree in counseling. We had a civil engineer. We had the head of a local social services agency. And we had people with military backgrounds. So a very intelligent jury acquitted him, not ten, 14 times. Ten felonies and four lesser included misdemeanors.
What that means is this. I think his celebrity status hurt him terribly going into the trial, because you had more media attention directed at this case than any case in history, and most of it was negative.
I think as we began to destroy their case and show how ridiculous their witnesses were, I think his celebrity status began to help him because he looked like a target. I think it proved that our jury system works, that you can direct a lot of negative attention at a celebrity, throw 70 sheriffs at his home, throw an entire D.A.`s office, you know, at him, through unlimited resources at a celebrity defendant, and still a jury in a conservative town can be very fair. So it showed our system works in the end.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, to me what struck me was the use of videotape in this case. It all started with the Martin Bashir documentary. Then you had the rebuttal documentary.
And there was the most infamous of all: the videotape of the family who accused Jackson talking about how wonderful he was, praising him to the hilt, saying he was a father figure and an angel. What was the impact of that tape? Because to me, that was the crux of the prosecution`s problem.
MESEREAU: Well, I think a lot of people misread the impact of these recordings.
First of all, a lot of pro-prosecution journalists who don`t know anything about how to try a case and how to humanize a defendant were saying the Bashir documentary was going to kill them.
When I first looked at it, I said, "Wait a second. I`m looking at a cute, appealing young kid. You know, a musical sensation and his family. There`s intoxicating music. They`re showing what a child-like, naive person he is. He denies any sexual contact in his bedroom." I was happy it was going it to be played. I didn`t reveal that.
I also was happy it was going to be played because I thought it would allow us to bring in the edited portions from that tape where he denies all the allegations. So that was -- that was the most impactful issue involving videotape.
In addition, when the family got on there and rather spontaneously all said he`s innocent, he never did anything like this, he`s a nice person, it had to hurt their credibility and their case. I know the prosecutors said they were forced to do it, but it didn`t look that way. And I think all the videotape in that trial helped us immensely.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you feel that prosecutors raided Neverland not knowing that that videotape of the family praising Michael Jackson existed?
And then when they went to the videographer`s home and found that videotape and saw the whole family that was their witness, accusing Michael Jackson of this, had made this tape praising him to the hilt and saying nothing untoward happened, that they were boxed into a corner. And that`s why they turned around and created this bizarre conspiracy case that many people said made no sense to justify, "Oh, they were forced to make that video"?
MESEREAU: Well, they created the conspiracy case out of whole cloth for a lot of reasons. One, they thought it would dirty up Mr. Jackson even more.
Two, under the law in a conspiracy case, an accuser can bring in what is called co-conspirator hearsay, meaning you can bring in out-of-court statements by other people alleged to be conspirators in the conspiracy. Normally, those statements could not come in. So he did it for that purpose, as well.
But I think in general, they thought that, if they made Mr. Jackson look like an overall criminal, a bad person, who would extort kids, imprison a family, do all sorts of nefarious things, it would help them get a conviction, and it backfired.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Were you ever doubtful of victory in this case? When this case started, many people believed it was an open-and-shut case against Michael Jackson, that they had him. And you walked in there, and I was really impressed by your incredible competence, and you proceeded to win. Was it ever for show, or did you always believe you were going to win this case?
MESEREAU: Well, when I got into the case, close friends of mine were saying, "Don`t take it. It`s unwinnable. The rest of your life, anywhere you go in the world, you`ll be known as the guy who lost the Jackson case."
But that`s not the way I conduct my life. And I got into the case, and I looked at the evidence objectively. I got to know the client, and I said to myself, "Wait a second. You know, there are a lot of things that are wrong with their case. I think they`re -- you know, I think they`re intoxicated by all the media and everybody telling them they can`t lose," they being the prosecution. And I thought I could turn that to our advantage.
And I`ll tell you, I never had as many good days as a defense attorney in any case as I had in this one.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tom, we`ve got to leave it there. But if I`m ever in trouble, I`m calling you.
MESEREAU: Well, thank you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s one thing I want to say. Thank you so much. Please come back soon.
MESEREAU: Thanks for having me.
Christmastime, 2002, a beautiful woman was killed, and soon the suburban murder gripped the entire nation. Husband Scott Peterson was later found guilty. But first, he became a pseudo celebrity. I`ll have all the details.
Plus, the case that started it all: O.J. Simpson`s double murder trial. I`ll analyze how the justice system is still reeling from that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, MUSICIAN: These will be my final show performances in London. This will be it. This is it. When I say this is it, it really means this is it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: People have said "this is it" about Jackson before. Back with my fantastic panel discussing Jackson`s acquittal on child molestation charges. Is this a cautionary tale about the dangers to the prosecution of keeping cameras out of the courtroom?
Lisa Bloom, had there been cameras in the courtroom, would there have been more focus on the facts of the case as opposed to the very visual circus outside?
BLOOM: That`s a great question. You know, I don`t think cameras create a circus in the courtroom. I think in the case of O.J. Simpson, for example, they exposed the circus that was going on in the courtroom. Cameras just show us the testimony as it comes across: good, bad, boring, whatever it is.
Without cameras, we have reporters, wonderful reporters like Diane Dimond, who go in, watch the thing, come running out, try to tell us as accurately as possible everything that happened.
Cameras in the courtroom are a good thing. We should shine the light on the justice system, just like the other two branches of government. We should all have the right to see what`s going on in our public courtrooms. We`re paying for them, after all.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Diane Dimond, we cannot discuss this case without talking about the fans.
DIMOND: Oh, must we?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The kooky, crazy fans. And you particularly were the brunt of some of these fanatical fans. Tell us how that impacted your life, because we`re talking about how these cases impact the world, but they also impacted the journalists who covered them.
DIMOND: Well, exactly. You were away from home 4 1/2 months. So was I. Yes, the fans were very fanny. Can I say that? They were very full of love for Michael Jackson.
BLOOM: She`s being nice.
DIMOND: Look, my life was a living hell for about 4 1/2 months there. Can I say that on television?
DIMOND: I had to get a restraining order at one point. They saw attacking the messenger as the way to get their love across for Michael Jackson.
I wish there had been a camera in that courtroom. People could have made up their own mind about the boy, about the mother, about the prosecutor, about Tom Mesereau, about the defendant himself. But there wasn`t. So it was up to people like me and you and Aphrodite and others in there to tell the story the best we could. I don`t think the fans really understood what our job was.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, because the Jackson trial was not televised, other things took its place. It didn`t stop the media from telling the story. Check out the reenactment of the Jackson trial. You remember this?
DIMOND: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I have an organized opening statement for you. I`m going to take you through the various topics: who Mr. Jackson is, what Neverland is, how he met these people, what kind of lives they have led.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Aphrodite, you know this trial crossed the line into some sort of insanity.
JONES: It was insane. And we all experienced it in our own way. I will say one thing, though, that really needs to be said. And that is for myself, I was part of the lemming mentality. And that`s to say I had him convicted as guilty before innocent and really went into that trial covering it for FOX News believing that I wanted to prove he was guilty. And every day I did a hit on the news I pointed to things that -- that led to guilt. And so did most of the reporters, I will say.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`ve got to leave it right there. You were all fabulous reporters. And it was great covering that trial with you.
Don`t go anywhere. From a celebrity trial to a trial that made a celebrity. Scott Peterson convicted of killing his beautiful wife. I`ll look at the murder that gripped the nation.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN ANCHOR: An "ISSUES" special presentation: "CASES THAT CHANGED AMERICA." I`ll examine high-profile trials that for better or for worse forever altered America`s justice system.
Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife, but before his 2004 conviction, he became a pseudo-celebrity. I`ll find out how a horrific crime in Anytown, USA can grip the entire nation.
And we`ll look at the fall-out from O.J. Simpson`s double murder trial. That case ushered in the era of legal television and dream team attorneys.
And as DNA evidence made its big-time debut, Americans learned just how flawed our justice system was and still is.
There are probably very few people who don`t know the name Scott Peterson. Why? Because he murdered his pregnant wife, Laci. The investigation and trial that followed made him a pop culture phenomenon.
Scott and Laci Peterson were an attractive young couple expecting their first child. Then on December 24th, 2002, Scott reported his pregnant wife missing. He pleaded for her safe return, but then inconsistencies surfaced in his story.
Peterson`s bizarre behavior brought suspicion on himself. He reportedly told a mistress, a single mom named Amber Frey, that he had lost his wife and would be spending Christmas alone. Trouble is he said that 15 days before Laci disappeared. Scott Peterson was arrested, tried, and convicted of the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. He`s been on death row since 2006.
Now to my panel: Diane Dimond, journalist, columnist and author of "Be Careful Who You Love;" Dr. Judy Kuriansky, clinical psychologist; Lisa Bloom, an anchor on the legal network "In Session;" and Vinny Politan, former prosecutor now host with Sirius XM Radio.
Dr. Judy, it all started with the Menendez brothers actually, but didn`t the Scott Peterson case cement the sick notion idea of handsome defendant as some sort of celebrity?
DR. JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely. And Jane he became the poster boy for horror and betrayal on many people`s parts. Every young woman co-ed who meets a guy in college, like Laci did with Scott wouldn`t they want to dream that this guy is going to end up murdering them and their unborn child. That`s number one.
A mistress, an innocent like Amber Frey, who gets involved in a love affair and sex with a guy who dupes her into thinking that he`s single. How many times has this happened to real women and who have a horror about that?
And on top of that, the third group, Jane, are the parents who stand up for their child saying, he didn`t do it. He`s innocent. And then, guess what, he gets convicted.
So on all those rounds, he becomes the poster boy psychologically and legally for the horror.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Amber Frey was Scott Peterson`s girlfriend at the time his wife, Laci, went missing. Frey never knew he was married. And later became a key witness for the prosecution. Her secretly-recorded conversations with Peterson were the centerpiece of the trial; did him in. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON`S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: You know, should I be in fear of my own life?
SCOTT PETERSON, CONVICTED OF MURDER: Not from me, Amber.
PETERSON: Not from me.
FREY: Not from you.
FREY: From possibly whoever took Laci, should I be in fear of them?
PETERSON: I don`t think so. I don`t see why.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lisa Bloom, I know your mom, Gloria Allred, represented Amber Frey. She was quite heroic. Here is an innocent tossed into the center of this storm and she ended up really helping to nail this guy by having the courage to do those secretly recorded phone conversations.
LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": She really did. And at a time when Laci was missing and people suspected Scott was the murder, Amber, at personal risk to herself and her young child wore a wire and over a period of weeks basically interrogated Scott without any help from the police and got the crucial tapes that ended up convicting him.
By the way, I met Amber Frey. She`s a lovely woman. And you know what`s she`s doing now? She runs a spa.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m glad that she`s doing well. That makes me very happy.
It was former President Bush who signed the law making it a separate crime to kill or harm on unborn child during an assault on the mother. It became known as Laci and Conner`s law after Laci Peterson and her unborn son.
Listen to what Laci`s mom said on CNN`s "Larry King Live" about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON`S MOTHER: It was important to me because the state of California already has this law which basically is that if a woman is killed or a baby is killed in the process of a crime that it is a double homicide or that -- you can be held responsible for the homicide of the baby also. Many states do not have it.
This bill itself was a federal bill. So if this happened on any federal property, they could -- it could be tried as a double homicide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It was a heart-wrenching case, having to hear testimony about fetuses washing up. Gruesome stuff. Setting politics aside, Laci Peterson`s murder helped usher in a law.
Vinny Politan, is it changing now we define murder?
VINNY POLITAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It could be. You know, this case was -- in the double aspect murder of it was there from the beginning. But when you look at this case, that may have been the motivation here for Scott Peterson as well.
This is a guy who was living the life, you know. He`s got a girlfriend, a beautiful wife, he`s doing everything he wants to do. If a child now comes into his life, all that`s down the drain. His life changes forever once he becomes a father.
Looking at the case and looking at Scott Peterson and what happened here, that may very well have been the motivation for this murder, to not bring a child into the world. And now all of a sudden he can live that life that he thought he was going to live.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Diane Dimond, indeed this was a case where we all became armchair psychologists, analyzing why he would want to do something like this. And it was revealed that although he had initially said he wanted children, at some point he changed his mind and said he didn`t want to have children anymore. This was really the first true psychobabble case.
DIANE DIMOND, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Oh, yes. Boy, what a big surprise.
A real handsome guy with a mistress on the side suddenly changes his mind about wanting children.
You know, I am the mother of a daughter. I have grandchildren actually. And I look at this guy and I watch that case, thinking to myself, what would I have done? How would I have behaved if I had been in that courtroom and been Laci`s mother? I don`t think I could have handled what she handled. I think the whole idea of getting counseling for jurors and witnesses and parents in cases like this is a great one. The state of Oregon is already doing it.
BLOOM: And reporters and journalists, too.
DIMOND: Sometimes, exactly.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Believe it or not. I definitely need therapy after covering these cases.
What`s fascinating is, I think it also, Lisa, ushered in the era as the mother of the mother as sort of a champion for her dead child. Who could ever forget Sharon Rocha during the victim`s impact statement saying divorce is always an option.
BLOOM: Yes, yes. And the jurors when they came back with their death penalty decision sentencing Scott Peterson to death, they all turned as they walked in and looked at who -- Sharon Rocha in the courtroom because they identified with her.
She was a rock and a pillar of strength during this trial, standing up for her daughter and her dead grandchild as well -- grandson. So I think absolutely she pointed out how important it is for victims to go to trials as painful as it is, and to look the jurors in the eye.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Judy, the sad fact is that a leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder at the hands of the man who impregnated her.
DR. KURIANSKY: Exactly. This is one of the biggest horrors of this entire case. To think that, in fact, there are men, as you said earlier, who don`t want to have children, who end up then murdering them. And also, by the way, other cases where there are women who don`t want to have children.
This is one of the biggest horrors to think that a mother or a father can kill a child, that there are patricides, matricides, infanticides and all of this gets to the guts and the horror of everybody who is watching, who is thinking and who is fearing that such a thing could happen.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Are you living with the enemy?
Dr. Judy, thank you so much. The rest of my panel will be joining me to talk about trial to end all trials -- the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Almost 15 years later and our justice system is still dealing with the fall out. You don`t want to miss this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury in the above entitled action, find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder in violation of Penal Code Section 187-a, a felony upon Nicole Brown-Simpson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: 140 million people watched in shock as the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial was read almost 15 years ago. Some cheered, many were outraged. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman.
The trial forced a national debate about race and celebrity. It ushered in the era of legal television and round-the-clock trial watchers, including my panel: Diane Dimond, journalist, syndicated columnist and author of "Be Careful Who You Love;" Lisa Bloom, an anchor on the legal network, "In Session;" Vinny Politan, Sirius XM radio host and former prosecutor; and I am delighted to welcome a very special guest, Vincent Bugliosi, a former L.A. county prosecutor and author of "Outrage: The five reasons O.J. Simpson got away with murder."
Vince, so thrilled to have you here today; I`m a huge fan of all of your books. I particularly loved "Outrage."
VINCENT BUGLIOSI, FORMER L.A. COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Appreciate it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is your single strongest argument as to why O.J. was found not guilty?
BUGLIOSI: I think I pointed it out in "Outrage" the majority of people thought it was the jury. The jury was a major big-time bad jury, no question about it. But then when I came out with "Outrage", I pointed out that the prosecution was even worse; mind-boggling, tremendously unprepared. They didn`t know how to try a case. I gave example after example of the staggering incompetence of the DA`s office here.
You know I`m pro-prosecution, but I was asked to write the book and either I state the facts or I don`t. I don`t write the book.
So it was primarily lost because of the incompetence of the prosecutor. I`m not boasting about it but before "Outrage" the general belief was that this case was lost because of the black jury, and it actually wasn`t a black jury -- only nine were black, predominantly black.
Now after "Outrage" came out, and this is a fact, the general consensus is that the defense did not win the case, the prosecution lost the case. It was primarily because of the prosecution.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. When I read your book, it was like, boom, boom, boom, boom. It all made sense.
The most infamous celebrity trial of them all came crashing into our lives June 17th, 1994, with the televised broadcast of that slow-speed bronco chase. You`ve got to remember that, folks. 95 million people watched O.J. Simpson take flight on the freeways of Los Angeles. Simpson was supposed to turn himself in that morning to face charges for double homicide of his ex-wife and her friend.
Media waited for Simpson at the police station. When he failed to appear, hysteria took over. Thousands went to overpasses. Millions watched on TV.
Now, Vinny Politan, was this the birth of criminal cases as sheer entertainment?
POLITAN: You know what it was is a couple of things. Obviously there`s the entertainment part of it because we`re watching it on television and we`re able to see what happens. But what it also is, is hey, you know what, everybody in this country gets a fair trial. gets a fair shake. Because before he went to -- went to court and went into trial and those 12 jurors made a decision, everybody was presuming he was going to be convicted. It didn`t happen.
Now, the entertainment aspect of it, you know what happened in this case and people say it was almost the death of cameras in the courtroom because of what it exposed. But what it really taught us is that different judges run their courtrooms in much different ways. In my experience covering these courtrooms, I`ve never seen anyone control or not control a courtroom like Judge Ito. And I think that`s what it really exposed to all of us.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I tell you, I think who controlled the courtroom, was Johnnie Cochran, the ring master of the trial of the century. His theatrics captivated the viewing public. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNNIE COCHRAN, LAWYER FOR O.J. SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL: This is a knit cap. I`m going to put this knit cap on. And you haven`t seen me for a year. If I put this knit cap on, who am I? I`m still Johnnie Cochran with a knit cap.
Have you looked at O.J. Simpson over there? He has a rather large head. O.J. Simpson in a knit cap from two blocks away is still O.J. Simpson. It`s no disguise. It`s no disguise. It makes no sense. It doesn`t fit. If it doesn`t fit, you must acquit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: If it doesn`t fit, you must acquit. Diane Dimond, Johnnie Cochran walked away with this case. He really used this poetic expression to describe that memorable stunt where he managed to get prosecutors to -- look at this. To let O.J. put on the gloves. And this is what Vincent Bugliosi referred to in his book.
But why the heck did the prosecution allow that to happen?
DIMOND: Well, the judge allowed it to happen. But I completely agree with my old friend, Vince that it was the prosecution. I mean, how many days did they spend on DNA and they never even really fully explained it.
But let me tell you something. You asked at the top of this, how has this changed our justice system?
I speak to law school students; just did it at New York law just two days ago. And do you know, as part of their curriculum, they are taught how to be television pundits. They are taught how to do a news conference.
DIMOND: They are taught how to come -- they are taught how to come up with those great little phrases like if it doesn`t fit, you must acquit.
We may be looking at a whole new generation of grandstanding criminal defense attorneys because of the O.J. Simpson trial 15 years ago.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we have to get to this other huge issue. What we saw at the Simpson murder trial was ground breaking; legal strategy where side issues were turned into central issues.
We all remember, of course, LAPD Mark Fuhrman. The defense alleged Fuhrman, who testified against O.J., planted evident at the crime scene. They introduced the incendiary "N" word audiotape where he used the word 41 times.
This became the cornerstone of the defense`s case, Lisa and the evidence sort of fell to the side.
BLOOM: Well, I didn`t think that was a side issue. I thought it was the best issue the defense had. I thought it was repulsive that Mark Fuhrman was on the LAPD, that he admitted on a videotape 60-something times that he used the "n" word over and over again, that he falsely charged black drivers when they`re driving with a white passenger. And somehow he`s made a career as a TV pundit now not withstanding his perjury conviction.
You know most of us don`t have any perjury convictions. And I guess some of those law students are going to be competing against Mark Fuhrman now. I thought this was all shaken down.
POLITAN: Convictions, Lisa, no. No convictions over here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go back to Vincent Bugliosi because what I really thought was most fascinating about your book is how the prosecution -- you outlined how the whole idea that the police department got together after this happened and immediately within a couple of minutes decided to do this vast conspiracy, which would have required tremendous planning. And the prosecution never really broke down how idiotic and nonsensical the whole planting of evidence theory was.
BUGLIOSI: Not only didn`t they break it down, but in their entire opening argument, they didn`t even talk about it in their opening argument. And in their summation, they only addressed a couple of pages to it. So they basically ignored the key issue at the trial.
Jane, I thought that this -- in all deference to you, I thought this was about how the Simpson case changed America. I guess I was wrong on that, but your producer asked me to respond to that question, did it change America?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, go for it, sir.
BUGLIOSI: Well, it`s an anatomy of the Simpson trial, which is fine if you want to do that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think that we`re analyzing how it changed America in the sense that if you look at a slow-speed chase, for example, it`s never happened before or since that that did change America in terms of entertainment. It becomes an entertainment.
But you obviously have something you want to say in terms of how it changed America. So go for it.
BUGLIOSI: As far as entertainment, there had been cameras in the courtroom before this and there continue to be cameras in the courtroom. Cameras do not belong in the courtroom.
A criminal trial is a very serious, solemn proceeding that determines whether a person`s liberty and sometimes his very life is taken away from him. And anything that interferes or even has a potential of interfering with the resolution of that determination should automatically be prohibited.
But it didn`t change after the Simpson case. Judges still wanted to see their mug on TV; still televise trials. But as far as changing America, I don`t want to rain on the theme of the show, Jane, but I don`t think the Simpson case changed America. Although there was a time right after the verdict when many people thought it did. It is no secret that the majority of white Americans -- I`m sorry?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sir, hold tight. We are going to get back to more of this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You raised great issues. I appreciate it. Outrageous O.J. trial, coverage and analysis. We`ll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder in violation of Penal Code Section 187-a, a felony upon Ronald Lyle Goldman a human being as charged in count two of the information."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you lovers?
KATO KAELIN, O.J. SIMPSON`S HOUSEGUEST: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just friends?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell the defendant that?
KAELIN: He knew we were friends.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he still didn`t want you living in the house?
KAELIN: I guess -- I mean I didn`t. And I guess not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kato Kaelin squirms as he`s grilled about his friendship with Nicole Brown and O.J. Simpson. Kato will forever be known as O.J.`s houseguest. He is a nice guy. I talked him with.
Back with my panel.
You just heard Diane Dimond and Vincent Bugliosi say cameras don`t belong in the courtroom. Do you agree or disagree? I respectfully disagree. I think that for example, had cameras had been in the courtroom with Michael Jackson we could have had a different outcome.
DIMOND: If you are asking me, I don`t think we would have had a different outcome. More people would have known the prosecution case was too convoluted for anyone to really grasp.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Diane, you don`t think cameras belong in the courtroom?
DIMOND: No. You know what? I honestly don`t.
POLITAN: Et tu, Diane? Et tu?
DIMOND: I have seen how people play to it. That`s not what the justice system is about. I don`t think cameras should go into church for mass either.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Boy, Vinnie, help me out here.
POLITAN: We have got to see what is going on. Why should a branch of our government be secret? I think that`s absurd.
DIMOND: It is not secret. It is open. You want to go into a courtroom, go into a courtroom. It`s not closed to you.
POLITAN: Anyone can walk out to a courtroom but why should a courtroom only be open to people who are out of work who can`t be there during the day. We should be able to see our government at work. We should see what the judges are doing every day. We should be down there on Friday when they`re sentencing criminals and giving them probation when they should be sending them away.
DIMOND: We should have lawyers that don`t grandstand and judges that don`t send little notes to reporters during a trial.
POLITAN: Defense attorneys grandstand in front of a jury anyway. The camera doesn`t do it.
DIMOND: Hey, she asked, I`m telling you.
POLITAN: -- that`s why they invented the pinky ring.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what? I think when you shine sunshine on something the truth is more likely to come out.
Vincent Bugliosi, just respectfully, I don`t get where you are coming from on this no camera thing.
BUGLIOSI: Jane, there is only one purpose for a criminal trial; maybe you know more. That`s to determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crime. There is no other reason. Not to educate the public. Not to entertain the public.
People were saying that they were educated by the O.J. Simpson case. That`s nonsense. It was just a form of entertainment for them. Televise a drunk driving case or an automobile collision case or a breach of contract case. See how many people watch.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have got to end it right there. But I have to say I think cameras in the courtroom are a great idea and I hope it goes worldwide. Thanks to my fabulous panel joining me.
I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell. You are watching "ISSUES."