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Sunday Schoolteacher Charged with Murder, Rape; How Will Octomom Pay for Children`s Upkeep?

Aired April 14, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, breaking developments in the brutal murder of Sandra Cantu. Melissa Huckaby called in front of a judge to be formally charged with murder and kidnapping. But in a gut-wrenching twist, I`ll tell you if this young mother was also charged with rape with a foreign object. And speculation mounts. Did this atrocity happen in the church where the suspect taught Sunday school?

And a shocker in the Caylee Anthony murder case. The death penalty on the table as prosecutors seek to put mom Casey on Death Row. Did new evidence lead to this decision? Or is it an act of desperation? I`ll examine the prosecution`s strategy and how Casey`s defense will respond. Why critics say Jose Baez doesn`t have the experience to fight a death penalty case.

Then from "Braveheart" to broken heart. Mel Gibson`s wife of 28 years wants a divorce from the devout Catholic Gibson, worth almost a billion dollars. But with no prenup, the star`s wallet could be the biggest casualty in a legal battle that could make the clashes in "Braveheart" look like a walk in the park.

Plus, Octomom Nadya Suleman now has all 14 kids at home. So now will she stop mugging for the cameras and get down to mothering? And I`ll examine all her expenses that are piling up. Who`s going to foot the mammoth bill?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stunning breaking news tonight in the brutal murder of 8-year-old California girl Sandra Cantu, found stuffed in a suitcase that was dumped into an irrigation pond.

Just hours ago Melissa Huckaby, a 28-year-old mother and Sunday schoolteacher, was hauled into court and officially charged with raping and killing the adorable second grader. Huckaby broke down and cried as the judge read these mind-boggling charges.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s been a complaint filed in the case of in 111539A, that is count one, that on or about March 27, 2009, the crime of murder in violation of section 27 of the penal code, a felony, was committed by Melissa Huckaby, who at the time willfully, unlawfully and intentionally with malice aforethought against Sandra Cantu.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievably, Melissa Huckaby`s own 5-year-old daughter was a playmate of the 8-year-old murder victim who lived five doors down from this suspect. This young mom did not enter a plea, and she did not utter a single word as she was formally charged.

Along with murder she is also accused of kidnapping, lewd conduct with a minor and -- it makes me sick to say it -- rape with a foreign instrument. These three special circumstances mean, if convicted, she could face the death penalty.

Tonight, disturbing questions. People are asking did the crime occur in the very church where this woman teaches Sunday school? Also, new questions about the suspect`s troubled past. Records show a bankruptcy and rap sheet for petty theft which she denies. Relatives say she suffered from depression, but does any of that indicate a capacity for the horrific crime she`s accused of, allegedly raping and murdering an 8-year-old neighbor? This is surreal.

What`s your take on this outrageous case? I am taking your calls. So sound off.

But first, my expert panel: Bradford Cohen, criminal defense attorney; Remi Spencer, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor; Don Clark, former special agent in charge, Houston FBI; Judy Kuriansky, Dr. Judy, clinical psychologist, who has written extensively about sexual dysfunction; plus, Sergeant Tony Sheneman, public information officer for the Tracy Police Department. But first, we begin with Bob Moffitt, reporter with KFBK Newstalk 1530.

Bob, you were inside the courtroom. Paint a picture of what it was like inside.

BOB MOFFITT, REPORTER, KFBK NEWSTALK: The red eyes of the defendant matched her red jump suit.

She was not the only one who was close to bursting into tears. The packed courtroom also had plenty of members of the victim`s family. Sandra Cantu`s aunt and uncle made an appearance, as did many others wearing T- shirt with colored imprints of Sandra`s face on them.

The victim -- or defendant, rather, said nothing, look at the judge, as the judge read the charges aloud against her and then was led away. She will appear back in court April 24 as the arraignment continues, as she did not enter a plea.

In the meantime, she will also undergo a continuing medication evaluation, and we will see what happens from that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Listen again as the judge reads the astounding charges to Sunday schoolteacher Melissa Huckaby. Listen and watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very special circumstance, it is further alleged that the murder of Sandra Cantu was committed by Melissa Huckaby. Also, it was engaged in the commission, attempted commission or immediate flight after the commission or attempted commission of the crime of rape by an instrument in violation of penal code section 289.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Judy Kuriansky, everybody in our newsroom noticed the same thing: certain words, specifically the word "rape" and Sandra`s name, the victim`s name triggered sobs. What does that tell you?

DR. JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It tells me that she possibly has been raped herself, and this was a re-enactment of that experience. The statistics have shown that this is the case: up to 80 percent of these situations happen when the woman has been raped herself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, just to put that in perspective, Dr. Judy, you and I have talked about how sometimes sexual crimes -- and again, this woman is just accused. She hasn`t been convicted of anything. She hasn`t even entered a plea. So we have no idea whether she`s innocent or guilty.

But hypothetically, we have talked at length about how sexual crimes are often an acting out of a childhood trauma. And we`ve used the example of Phil Specter. Now, Phil Specter`s father -- and of course, he was just convicted this week -- Phil Specter`s father committed suicide. Many years later he ends up shooting a woman in the mouth with a gun and then saying to the world that she committed suicide. So we saw that childhood trauma go full circle.

So you`re saying the same principle could apply here.

KURIANSKY: Exactly. And put this piece together, because you`re so good at that. The fact that not only was this happening in the church, something, I would say, happened to her in the church area. And the body was found near the church. This is always very telling: where is the body found? It`s found in the neighborhood and in the area where I suspect that something happened to her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we don`t know for sure that this happened in the church.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s one of the many unanswered questions, although there have been news reports quoting sources as saying that investigators believe it may have happened.

We have with us right now Sergeant Tony Sheneman, who is a public information officer for the Tracy Police Department.

First of all, I want to congratulate you on -- and your entire department, excellent police work getting this case cracked so quickly and, really, moving very, very fast. We`ve seen cases that have dragged on for so long with no resolution. So congratulations on that.

But I know there are so many questions, Sergeant. People want to know, did it happen in the church? If you`re accusing this woman of taking her from the mobile home park to the church, where was her daughter when this allegedly occurred? I know you can`t answer a lot. What can you tell us tonight?

SGT. TONY SHENEMAN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, TRACY POLICE DEPARTMENT: There -- there is an allegation that it did happen in a church. I can`t confirm that. I can tell you that the allegations that were read today were a result of the investigation that was conducted over the course of the last week and that the congratulations actually goes to the investigative team.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, a lot of people are wondering. Correct me if I`m wrong. Apparently, she went in. She was released from the hospital. She was suffering from some sort of stomach ulcer on Thursday.

Friday, she goes in to talk to you, does something like a five- or six-hour interview with you. And at that point you decide you have probable cause to arrest her. Did she confess, or was it just a question of her story didn`t make any sense, and you felt you had probable cause?

SHENEMAN: I can`t speak to a confession, but probable cause was developed during the course of the interview that gave us reason to arrest her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to thank you, Sergeant. I know that you`ve got a lot to do and there`s only so much you can say. So I appreciate you taking the time.

Bradford Cohen, criminal defense attorney, why did she not enter a plea?

BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think what`s going to happen is she`s going to get psychologically evaluated. There`s a lot of things going on. The P.D. was just appointed today. He or she is definitely going to take a look and she if she`s going to need some psychological evaluation prior to entering a plea.

I believe that even when they come up for arraignment again, they might not even be ready at that time to enter a plea. So there`s a lot of things going on behind the scenes in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, do you think it`s a build up, Remi Spencer, for not guilty by reason of insanity plea?

REMI SPENCER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think you`re very right. I mean, I think it`s very possible that you`re right, because if that`s going to be her defense, how could she enter a knowing plea today? I think her lawyer is doing the right thing holding off before entering any kind of plea, and I think that we`re going see an evaluation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of Melissa Huckaby`s friends spoke out on "Good Morning America," visibly upset that she could have reached Melissa with one phone call. Listen to this.


EMILY FONTES, FRIEND OF MELISSA HUCKABY: One phone call to call her and see how she was, and that`s really hard to know I can`t go -- go back.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Some believe Melissa was in some kind of downward spiral. The reports of trouble with the law which she denies. There`s bankruptcy reports, trouble keeping jobs, struggling to raise a small child as a single mom, depression. But Dr. Judy, none of that, none of that seems to explain the horrific nature of these specific allegations.

KURIANSKY: Yes, that`s true, but it`s part of the picture. It`s part of the picture of a person who was extremely distressed in her own life and fell apart, and it is telling. It`s telling that, with my idea of what might have happened at this time, psychologically as a profiler, she ends up re-enacting, as we`ve said, this kind of abuse.

The child may have said something like I`m going to tell. She panics and projects herself into what happened and how she felt as a child, how she would have wanted to kill her abuser. All of this gets mixed up in her mind, and that`s what my thought is what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, everyone, more on the brutal, incomprehensible murder of little Sandra in just a moment. What evidence could have caused this Sunday schoolteacher to be charged with such a horrific crime? Weigh in: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Sound off.

And in the Caylee Anthony murder case, prosecutors seek the death penalty now against mom Casey. Do they have new evidence, or are they just desperate? I`ll have an update. But first, everyone is stunned by the grotesque allegations against Melissa Huckaby in the murder of little Sandra, even the suspect`s own family.


JONI HUGHES, MELISSA HUCKABY`S AUNT: Very shocked. Very out of character for Melissa. We love her dearly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fantastic mother. Very, very loving.

HUGHES: Very loving. A great sadness for our family, and it`s a very difficult time for us and very difficult to express to you right now how we`re feeling.



JOE CHAVEZ, SANDRA`S UNCLE: We have to live the rest of our lives without Sandra. She`s in jail. She can still see her little girl grow up. We don`t. We don`t get to see that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want the death penalty?

CHAVEZ: Of course. Prison`s too lenient.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sandra`s uncle on Saturday expressing his support for the death penalty against the suspected killer of his 8-year-old niece.

We are back taking your calls on this outrageous case of rape and murder of an innocent 8-year-old child, allegedly -- and I say allegedly -- by a young mother and Sunday schoolteacher. Now published reports quote sources that speculate the crime may have occurred inside the church where she taught Sunday school. No official confirmation on that yet.

Phone lines lighting up. Mariela in North Carolina. Your question or thought?

CALLER: Hi, Jane. I read your book a few years ago, and I wish it could be required reading for everybody in high school. I think it`s great.


CALLER: I have a lot of doubts. It`s almost unheard of for a woman by herself to commit this kind of a crime. And the way this woman inserted herself into the case from the beginning with, you know, "Oh, that was my suitcase." "Oh, then there was a note left in the driveway."

Then she goes in and, after three hours of interrogation, she`s confessed. I mean, I`m assuming they certainly had to videotape her confession. I`m just wondering if she`s more fitting the profile of somebody who would be swayed and be suggestible than somebody who could really do this horrible thing. And I`m wanting to know, along with everybody else, when there`s going to be an autopsy result.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, excellent! Well, Don Clark, I`d like you to handle all of that with the caveat that you heard, that the public information officer refused to confirm that this was a confession.

DON CLARK, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, HOUSTON FBI: Yes, I did hear that. And you know, that police department has done a great job out there, so I understand what they`re doing. But they really have their work cut out for them, in line with what this lady is saying.

I don`t know that I totally agree with what she`s saying, but the fact is, is that they`re going to have to go to work and really build a very strong case here. Talk to a lot of people, interview a lot of people. There`s one other person involved in this, too, that hopefully they`ll be able to, with the right assistance, through psychologists and so forth, is their own little girl to see what was going on there.

So they`ve got a lot of work to do to build a case, whether it`s death penalty or not, but to ensure justice is done.

KURIANSKY: It`s very important to point out to Mariela, who just was mentioning that it seemed strange that she confessed, so-called, or that she said, "It was my suitcase," but this psychologically makes sense.

There have been reports of women who are abusers and then murderers who do then tell the truth about it, unlike other cases that we know. When they`re not psychopathic, as I don`t think that this woman is, who would make up a story, when she`s in shock, when she really is admitting something and when it happened by impulse as opposed to planning. That`s possible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re right. And the caller mentioned in my book -- the title of the book is "Secrets Can be Murder." The whole premise is toxic secrets sit and build like a volcano, and then they explode.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And once they explode, there is a release. And I`m not saying that`s what happened in this case.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But that`s what happens when somebody finally releases the secret through the act of committing a crime. There`s a sense of relief, even though they`re in a you-know-what load of trouble.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bob Moffitt, what are some of the other tidbits emerging here, specifically speculation that it happened in the church, the idea that she went to one of the vigils? There`s a lot of creepy details.

MOFFITT: Absolutely. She did go to a vigil, the second night after Sandra went missing. And then there is the question as to where the murder took place. Did it take place in a church? Obviously, it would strike a cord with any person who has spent a long time going and praying and worshipping at a house of the Lord to have -- to know that a little girl was murdered there.

Some of the other details, and we`re not quite sure where the murder took place and when the murder took place and the charges that were filed today and the special circumstances. Those include the option that the murder actually could have taken place before the sexual abuse took place. Keep that in mind, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. That brings in a whole other phrase that -- that I don`t even want to articulate into the equation.

Lorraine in New Jersey, your question or thought.

CALLER: I have two questions. No. 1, does Huckaby have a husband? And No. 2, I wonder if she has ever inappropriately touched any of her Sunday school students, I mean, and they`re just afraid to speak up?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I never -- I know she`s divorced, and she has a 5-year-old daughter. And we certainly never heard anything about that. I mean, her family says this is completely out of character. They are reeling in shock, and you know, you have to have compassion for her family. These people, her grandfather is a pastor of the church that`s half a block away, the one where this could have occurred.

Let`s jump ahead, Bradford Cohen, to the preliminary hearing. What are we going to see and hear?

COHEN: Well, you know, a preliminary hearing, generally, there`s some evidence that`s presented that you can at least formulate the basis for why the police are charging her.

At this point we don`t know anything, and the police department is doing an excellent job by kind of keeping that all a little close to the vest. And they`re not saying anything, because they`re saying they want to get her a fair trial, which is admirable for them.

And I think that that`s what`s going to happen up until the point of the preliminary hearing. They`re not going give you a lot of information.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, Remi, in fact, both sides have indicated they want a gag order in this case.

SPENCER: And that`s not surprising. Because of the attention that this case is going to get. The parties want to make sure that the defendant`s going to get the fair trial that she`s entitled to.

I mean, it already sounds as if the court of public opinion has already convicted her, and we know so very little about this case. But as you bring up, Jane, I think that at the preliminary hearing we`re going to learn a little bit more about the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s hope, and let`s not convict anybody. Nobody`s been convicted. They`ve just been charged.

Thank you to my panel for their insights.

Octomom brings home the last of her octuplets last night. So will she finally stop mugging for the cameras and start mothering?

Mel Gibson, billion-dollar man, devout Catholic, now reportedly facing divorce. His wife of 28 years wants out. I`ll tell you about it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Basking in the spotlight tonight, the in vitro- addicted, camera-loving Octomom. Who else?

Finally the last of her eight newborns home from the hospital. Jonah weighs in at almost five pounds, bottle feeds and has a stable body temperature. Way to go, little guy. But Jonah, who spent two months in neonatal ICU, was born with a cleft lip. So guess what? He`s got to go back to the hospital for surgery.

Meantime, a blissful Octomom says the energy at home is, quote, "so positive." But good vibes will not pay for medical bills and formula. Will she have to do a 180 on public assistance? Listen to what she just told BrightCove Media.


NADYA SULEMAN, MOTHER OF OCTUPLETS: Blick (ph) is the formula, and it`s not a form -- it is a form of assistance. I`m still debating about having it.

I have two choices. I either pay $2,000 a month for formula, and I get help for that when half the people in the country are getting help anyway.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Not really, but whatever. Let`s not forget that three of her other kids are disabled. So how will she handle this mountain of expenses?

Straight out to entertainment journalist Suzanne Rozdeba.

Suzanne, how are you doing?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rumors of a reality show. I`m doing great. Rumors of a reality show persist. At this point, the octo media darling almost has no choice. What is the very latest on her future in TV. I am so sick of just speculating about it. If you`re going to do a deal, Octomom, sign it already!

ROZDEBA: Jane, I said last time, and I`m going to say it again. I believe 100 percent she`s going to have a show. She has been meeting with producers and her attorney -- her attorney finally set on record she has met with producers. She is going to have a show.

Basically, he`s saying that she needs to support herself. She`d rather not do it through public assistance. She`ll do it through a show. So maybe we`ll see her get a man or we`ll see her, you know, driving -- learning how to drive a 14-person car. This show is going to happen, and I bet you every network -- big network in this country is going to want to do the show.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the funny thing is I feel like I`ve already seen the show, and when it comes out it will be re-runs, because we`ve been so obsessed with this woman.

You know, she says that she is sleeping three to four hours a night, but she feels great. Now, if I sleep three to four hours, which hasn`t happened very recently, I feel like hell. I certainly wouldn`t want to be in charge of 14 kids, which is what she`s got in the house right now. She does have these Kaiser (ph) nurses, however, right?

ROZDEBA: Yes. She does have the nurses from the hospital. They`ve been coming to her home every day. She has about three nannies at all times, round the clock, trained specifically for these babies through the hospital. So she`s getting a lot of help.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, what about the little guy who has to go back for the cleft lip operation?

ROZDEBA: You know, Nadya is saying that it`s very minimal, that he`s probably going to just have one operation, and then everything will be fine. She said that things were exaggerated. So it seems like all the kids are doing great right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, I`m not a fan of Octomom. I don`t think anybody should have 14 kids. I think it`s an obscene decision. But I`m on the side of the kids. I want them to survive. I seems like everyone says terrible things about her, but yet Kaiser (ph) keeps releasing the children to the home. It can`t be that bad; otherwise we would have heard about it.

ROZDEBA: Yes. Well, you know, it seems like this new fabulous house that she has and all these nannies, it seems like she`s getting a lot of help. I mean, the house has been spic and span, from what I`ve heard, and that the nannies are really taking care of things. She`s even got a little bit of free time on her hands.

So I think that everything in the house seems to be pretty serene. On the other hand, Nadya has admitted, you know, that it is kind of crazy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes. You think? Maybe kind of crazy?

Suzanne, thanks.

Stay tuned, the Caylee Anthony murder. Now the prosecutors want the death penalty. I will talk to a very important person.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A shocker in the Caylee Anthony murder case, prosecutors now seeking the death penalty for mom Casey. Did new evidence lead to this decision or is it an act of desperation? I`ll examine the prosecution`s strategy and how Casey`s defense will respond.

Then from "Braveheart" to broken heart, Mel Gibson`s wife of 28 years wants a divorce. Get this -- he`s worth almost $1 billion, but with no pre-nup, the star`s wallet could end up being the biggest casualty.

Accused killer Casey Anthony`s defense team reacting tonight to the stunning news that prosecutors now want the death penalty. Prosecutors who previously sought life in prison have changed their tune and they`re now telling the court they will -- they will -- they will, in fact, seek the death penalty.

Casey Anthony accused of murdering her precious 2-year-old daughter Caylee. Last night her attorney Jose Baez visited Casey in jail breaking the news to her that if convicted, she could die.


JOSE BAEZ, CASEY ANTHONY`S ATTORNEY: She was fully aware that this was a strong possibility and she`s aware of the forces that are out to get her.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Forces out to get her? Prosecutors might call that justice. Baez himself came under fire yesterday as rumors ran rampant that he would have to step down as lead counsel. Baez is reportedly not certified by the Florida Bar to defend a death penalty case.


BAEZ: This is nothing but people will be out there saying oh, no, I`m going to be off the case or I`m going to be in the background. They really don`t know what they`re talking about.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Meanwhile, just why did the prosecution change its tactics now? And does a new motion filed by the defense provide clues into its strategy, specifically, exactly who they might be accusing of little Caylee`s murder?

So many issues, straight to my expert panel: Darren Kavinoky, criminal defense attorney and "Voice of Reason;" and back with me Judy Kuriansky, clinical psychologist; Bradford Cohen, criminal defense attorney; Remi Spencer, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.

But before we dive into the details, a very special guest Marti MacKenzie, spokesperson for Jose Baez. Marty thank you for joining us tonight. We want to get your side of the story on all this. So why do you and by extension, Jose Baez, why do you think the prosecution is seeking the death penalty now.

MARTI MACKENZIE, AUTHOR, SPOKESPERSON FOR JOSE BAEZ: Well, we can`t read their minds, of course. It is interesting, the timing I think of their announcement because on Friday in a really critical piece of evidence which was of course, the discovery of the remains, the deputy who contradicted and changed his story about what he found and didn`t find at that site was fired by the Orange County Department.

And so this deputy, Richard Cane, that was the news story on Friday and that was a very negative news story for the prosecution because it involves a person who did not discover in a timely fashion, but who said he looked in that exact spot the remains of Caylee Anthony.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what I`m hearing from you is that maybe they decided, the prosecutors, to spring this whole, we`re seeking the death penalty to have a bigger news story that would overshadow that negative report?

MACKENZIE: Well, Jane, those words just came out of your mouth and it does sound like it is a possibility.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, imagine that.

Ok, let me move on to the report that the Florida Bar Association is saying that Jose Baez is not qualified or certified or however you want to put it to be lead counsel on a death penalty case. Is that true? What`s his reaction and what do you plan to do about it?

MACKENZIE: Well, the Florida Bar is not saying this just simply because of Jose Baez. I mean, there are different rules and standards for trying a death penalty case and they`re put into place so that the defense later, the accused, if convicted can later not claim that they did not have an adequate defense and to ensure that an appeal might not be based on inadequate defense, but this is not the case with Jose.

He has tried other cases involving murder before, but not with the death penalty. However, this is a team effort. This is a defense team.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you saying essentially that they`re going to get someone else to sit there with him so he can stay on the case. And if so, will that person become the lead defense attorney and then Jose Baez will sort to be kicked back to second fiddle?

MACKENZIE: There is no second fiddle. This is a defense team. It`s made up of some very, very experienced people like Linda Kenny Baden, who is a forensic specialist. There is already a death-qualified, as they put it, lawyer on the team and has been on the team for some time because this was always a possibility. And Jose Baez, along with the other members of the team will be doing exactly what they would be doing even if the death penalty had not been brought out. But, of course, the bottom line is they have to get a conviction first.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, of course, and you know we`ve got to leave it right there. But I have one quick question to ask you, how are you paying for this defense team? You just mentioned Linda Kenny Baden and all these famous experts on this team.

MACKENZIE: Well, I`m not paying a cent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, I`m not talking about you, you`re the spokesperson...

MACKENZIE: You said, how are we paying?


MACKENZIE: You know that information is confidential between Jose Baez and his client. And this has been something that`s been battered around and it`s really not pertinent to the actual issue of Casey Anthony`s defense.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I know there are those who would disagree, but listen I want to thank you, Marti for taking the time and I hope you come back soon. Any time you don`t like something that we`ve said here on ISSUES you give me a howler and I`ll have you right back on to tell your side of the story. We want to do it fairly here. Thank you again.

Back to my expert panel.

Bradford Cohen, you have been listening if Jose Baez, Casey`s lead attorney whom we know doesn`t want to bring up this case...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... has to bring somebody else in to handle the penalty phase, how is he going to navigate all that?

COHEN: It`s done regularly. There are a lot of times where the lead attorney in the actual case brings someone else in for the death penalty phase. It`s not unusual to have that and that`s because some people specialize in just the death penalty phase of the case.

Jose, I`ve spoken to Jose quite a few times. I like him. The experience that they are now with his team is good experience.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just cut to the chase.

COHEN: Sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is he going have to hire somebody else to sit there or does he have enough people now that without changing it so that they can continue now that the prosecution is seeking the death penalty?

COHEN: I think 100 percent he`s got enough people there now. I think he`s going to go out and hire anyone else. I think he`s got enough people on his team that there are death-certified people on the team now that will be able to sit second chair or first chair depending how Jose plays it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Casey`s attorney Jose Baez spoke out about a possible reason why he thinks the prosecution decided to seek the death penalty. Listen to this.


BAEZ: If they think that this is going to make her plea, they`re sadly mistaken. They`ve been trying to intimidate Casey Anthony from day one and it didn`t work then. It`s not going to work now.



Obviously, facing death would rattle anybody. Dr. Judy Kuriansky, you have been studying Casey Anthony for a while now. Do you think the idea that the death penalty is on the table was going to change her mind about a possible plea?

JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I think she`ll stick with it because that`s the nature of the personality that we`ve seen so far. And it`s pretty devastating, about one in five women who are on death row have killed children, about 200 young kids a year are killed by their mothers. But this is a woman who has lied and kept her story and claimed that she`s innocent. And I think they`re going to stick with it and that team -- who are -- they don`t care if they`re being paid.

They`re being paid big time in all this publicity.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, you`re right. I mean, this is -- publicity is a commodity and they`re getting lot of it.

The prosecution has said there are sufficient aggravating circumstances that exist to justify seeking the death penalty.

Could this evidence had been found actually on little Caylee`s body? We`re talking about a piece of duct tape with a heart on it. It was found on her skull presumably used around little Caylee`s mouth. And the heart was actually found somewhere else. The outline of the heart was found on the duct tape.

As the prosecution sifts through, we`re talking hundreds and hundreds of pieces of evidence, there seem to be strong predictors that they believe this was premeditated.

Remi, how much does premeditation play into the death penalty?

REMI SPENCER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It plays a very big role before the state is going to try and seek the death penalty in any case. I think the timing in this case is highly suspicious, though.

I think the defense team may be right that the state trying to leverage the severe penalty in an effort to get a plea. This is a case that as far as we know in the public right now is for the most part circumstantial. And if it`s going to be about the duct tape or where it was placed or found on the body, it`s going to be a very difficult case for them to make...


SPENCER: ... for death penalty.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Darren Kavinoky, you are the "Voice of Reason" put this all in perspective for us because Jose Baez says that this is going to prolong the trial and make it go longer and it`s going to cost tax dollars, a lot more of them. What do you say?

DARREN KAVINOKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, that part is definitely true. Adding the element of the death penalty totally changes the game.

Now you have to death qualify the jurors, which certainly adds to the process. You get more challenges on both sides in a death penalty case and of course, in a death penalty case, I mean, it`s obvious we`re playing for the highest stakes around but it also makes me think about all of those people and all of those DNA exonerations from death row, over 100 of them, these are people who have been convicted in courts, scheduled to die and then ultimately vindicated later on the base of DNA evidence.

And that`s something that makes me really, really cringe whenever we hear that. But if they`re going to go after the death penalty here they`ve got to show premeditation, deliberation and they`ve got to show some kind of heinousness, something that justifies the most severe punishment that we know in American law.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Judy right now apparently there`s only one woman on death row out of approximately 400 on death row in that state. So could this boomerang because jurors might have a harder time sending a woman to, well, get the lethal injection?

KURIANSKY: Well, there is a gender bias at times, but this is a horrible situation to think of what happened. I think that the public is absolutely riveted and horrified by what this woman might have done, thinking about any mother killing her child, you have Andrea Yates...


KURIANSKY: ... you have Susan Smith, I don`t think they`d mind.

KAVINOKY: Yes, but the problem is we don`t convict ...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we`ve got to leave it there.

KAVINOKY: We don`t convict based on speculation on what might have been, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, all right I hear you. Thank you, excellent panel.

Phil Spector convicted of second-degree murder. He was booked after court yesterday; that means he`s in jail right now.

Mel Gibson, his wife wants a divorce. I`ll tell you all about it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mega star Mel Gibson and his wife of almost 30 years divorcing, people. I will have the salacious details.

But first "Top of the Block" tonight.

Eccentric, let me say, very, very eccentric music mogul Phil Spector finally faces justice. He was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2003 shooting of gorgeous actress Lana Clarkson. After the jury delivered the verdict Spector hauled out of court and thrown behind bars for the first time in six years since this happened.

You are looking at his brand new mug shot. It`s frightening. Look at that mug shot, look at those eyes, he`s showing no emotion although he is showing yet another hairdo.

Take a look once again at those eyes. I mean, that is scary. That is probably the last thing poor Lana Clarkson saw. I, for one, very thrilled with this trial`s outcome. We have a murderer behind bars and a brand new photo to add to the pantheon of bizarre celebrity mug shots. Lovely.

That`s tonight`s "Top of the Block."

Now, to a real celebrity stunner.

Mel Gibson and his wife of nearly three decades headed for divorce court. The movie mogul worth almost $one billion, yes, billion with a b, with no known pre-nup between Mel and his soon-to-be ex, Robyn. She stands to be a very rich, single woman.

Robyn filed for divorce yesterday morning, but why now? Does it have anything to do with these photos? Take a look at that right there. Published in today`s New York daily news of an allegedly steamy encounter between mega movie mogul Mel and a bikini-clad Beauty on the beaches of Costa Rica or was it the infamous anti-Semitic tirade and police station tantrum from July of 2006 when Mel Gibson was pulled over a suspected DUI.

After all, the couple separated only a month later and not for nothing, Gibson`s religion, the subject of controversy itself strictly prohibits divorce. So, the question tonight -- should he refuse to get divorced?

Give me a call and let me know what you think about all of it.

Meantime, I am so thrilled to be joined by a very, very special guest. My dear friend, Harvey Levin, the executive producer of the mega hit "TMZ." How are you doing, Harvey over there in LA?


Before we start, I`ve got to tell you something, Jane, because this is the way they make sausage, you know, in...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Vegan sausage.

LEVIN: Vegan sausage. You`ll love this story.

So there was like this little panic in the newsroom because we got word from the courthouse downtown that Britney Spears was in the court building. So this is the way things happen here. So we`re all kind of scrambling and we get a call from the person who tells us, we made a mistake, it wasn`t Britney Spears. It was Ed Asner. That`s a common mistake.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just to give our viewers a back story. I used to work for you, Harvey. You would always send me down to that courthouse chasing people around the block in my high heels with my camera and there`s like six or seven entrances to the building and it was a nightmare. Can you say nightmare.

LEVIN: Yes, I can say it. Look at you now, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Harvey, it was always fun even when it was a nightmare. I always loved working for you.

Let`s talk Mel Gibson --

LEVIN: What did you just say?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I said I always loved working if are you.

LEVIN: No, it was the nightmare part.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We have to get serious. Hard to be serious with you, Harvey, but -- tell us about what`s going on with Mel because this is a stunner given that he doesn`t believe in divorce.

LEVIN: Well, here`s the thing. They have been estranged for a long, long time and when you look at his divorce documents, his response to her divorce which is interesting because he filed it hours after she did which is unusual, but he says that the separation date was August 28, 2006, which is less than a month after his DUI arrest.

We are told that the DUI arrest was a big issue in that marriage. And that it wasn`t that it was the only thing that came out of the blue, but there were other issues and, you know, the talk about another woman and all this, that is long after the fact that apparently this marriage had dissolved.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to give a little back story because you, TMZ broke this story, the big Gibson story and as you mentioned, they`ve been living apart since August of 2006. Is it a coincidence that Mel`s infamous tirade with the police officer took place a month earlier? There were reports that the incident might have played a role.

Remember, Harvey, the cell phone video of Mel, beer in hand, hanging out at the bar. It`s very blurry; it was shot the night of his DUI arrest. Without a doubt all of this was disturbing and he added insult to injury when he went into the anti-Semitic tirade.

And I`m just going to give you some quotes -- you know them well -- from the arresting officer. "You mother bleeper, I`m going to bleep you. Bleeping Jews are responsible for all of the wars in the world, are you a Jew?"

Harvey, you broke this disturbing story. I know Mel later apologized for it. Why does this back story possibly connect with this divorce?

LEVIN: Well, apparently, you know, when he was arrested, Mel Gibson made some comments. And we didn`t put all of this in the post when we did the original story. But apparently, you know, his wife, he knew his wife was going to be none too happy about this arrest. And one of the things, remember, he said, "Oh, my life is over." And he was really upset. You know, when he was on the street after he got busted.

But there was some issue about, you know, drinking, I guess, and he had been concerned about his wife when he was arrested. So, you know, this seems to stem beyond and before he was actually stopped on Pacific Coast Highway. That there were some issues there and that Robyn had apparently laid down the law on some certain issues and Mel was really concerned that he had gotten busted.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Harvey. Stay right there. I`m so excited to have you on. More on Mel Gibson`s mega divorce; more details in just moments. And we`re going to take your calls.



DEPUTY JAMES MEE, MEL GIBSON`S ARRESTING OFFICER IN 2006: I am the guy. I guess I beat the Mel Gibson slayer but not because I want to be. And I don`t want this celebrity. And of course my department doesn`t want me talking to the media.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. That is the officer who arrested Mel back in 2006. And I`m talking with Harvey Levin of the mega hit TMZ about the connection between that incident and the announcement that they`re getting divorced, Mel and his wife.

Now the phone lines lighting up. Amber, Kentucky, your question or thought, ma`am.

AMBER, KENTUCKY (via telephone): Hi, Jane. I was wondering if Robyn would end up with more than half of Mel`s money because of his cheating and because there was no pre-nup?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we don`t know anything about cheating. I want to be very clear on that. But Harvey, what about this whole pre-nup issue?

LEVIN: Well, just real quickly on the cheating issue, number one, if in fact there was anything going on with this woman, and Mel denies it, it was long after they had separated. So, you know, you have to discount that.

Also, California`s a no-fault state, so it doesn`t matter anyway. But as for a pre-nup, there is none. We know that. I mean, we published that yesterday when we broke the story that there is no pre-nup here. They got married in 1980, before Mel had any money. And you know, there was no pre- nup.

Robin is entitled to half of the earnings; it`s a 50-50 community property state. So she won`t get more than half. But theoretically she could get half of all community property. And there will almost certainly be a settlement in this case. And from what I`m hearing it will probably happen without a big fight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You said not be a big fight?

LEVIN: It will not be a big fight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even though I`m not great at math but we`re talking $500 million possibly?

LEVIN: That`s right. But the question is where do you go? I mean, if you have a trial and it`s all community property, you know, it`s hard to argue I`m only going to give you 10 percent. You know, if you were to say that. Because ultimately a judge is going to look at it and say look, it`s a 50-50 state.

So I think when the lawyers start negotiating, and there are really good lawyers in this case. Laura Wasser is representing Robyn, and Bob Kaufman, both great lawyers, representing Mel. They know the game. They know what`s going on.

And my guess is, you know, that there`s not going to be a lot of acrimony here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, apparently, there`s also a minor involved, a 10-year-old boy. Do you think there`s going to be a custody battle, we only have a couple of seconds.

LEVIN: No. She`s asking for joint custody, and I think that`ll be fine with both of them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Harvey, it`s great to have you on. And you know that I love you and I`ve always enjoyed so much working for you. I miss you.

LEVIN: It was a nightmare, Jane. It was a nightmare.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Please come back soon.

I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and you`re watching ISSUES.