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Is Family of Fatal Drunk Driver in Denial?; Octomom Documentary to Air; Jackson Death Probe; Life or Death for Billings Murder?; Nancy Grace`s New Novel

Aired August 11, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, explosive allegations in the New York drunk driving accident. The woman described as a perfect mom killed seven people and herself while drunk and high on marijuana. Now we`re hearing child welfare is investigating this woman`s family. Her husband has denied she had an alcohol problem, but now investigators want to know why this guy let his wife get behind the wheel. Their 5-year-old son is the only one to survive the crash, but should Dad get custody?

And Octomom is back and bigger than ever. Pouty lips and her 13 kids will be the stars of a two-hour special, complete with a six-figure payday. This woman has wanted publicity since day one, but maybe instead of worrying about TV production, she should worry about kids.

Also, an avalanche of developments in the Michael Jackson death probe. Just hours ago, federal drug agents raided a Las Vegas pharmacy in connection with Michael`s death. Did investigators find their smoking gun?

Meantime, coroners say the autopsy is complete, but they`re not releasing the results. When are we finally going to figure out what officially killed the King of Pop?

Plus, we`re going to be joined by special guest Nancy Grace. She`s written her first novel, "The 11th Victim." This brilliant book was almost a decade in the making. I`m going to talk to her about all of it, including the eerie similarities between her and the heroine of her novel.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Startling developments tonight in the horrifying wrong-way drunk-driving accident that left eight people dead including four children. Today, the lone survivor, 5-year-old Brian, left the hospital where he`s been since that gruesome crash.

That crash was caused by his own mother, 36-year-old Diane Schuler. Schuler, hopped up on booze and pot, drove for almost two miles the wrong way down the freeway. The minivan packed with Brian, his sister and three little cousins smashed head-on into an SUV. Everybody in both vehicles died except for little Brian. Diane Schuler`s husband reacted to the tragedy last week.


DANIEL SCHULER, WIDOWER: I lost my daughter; I lost my wife. All I have is my son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is your son doing now?

SCHULER: He`s going to be good, better, getting there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what will Brian be coming home to? "Newsday" is now reporting that child protective services has launched an investigation into his father. The man you just heard from, Daniel, to determine if he could have done anything to prevent this terrible crash. Daniel claims his wife did not have a drinking problem and that she was totally stone-cold sober when he kissed her good-bye and sent her on her way with the kids.

His attorney, Dominic Barbara, spoke about other ailments that might have contributed to the accident.


DOMINIC BARBARA, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL SCHULER: She had numerous medical conditions. Problems. One of them was an abscess, which was almost two months old which she would not go to the dentist for, no matter how much he begged her. She had diabetes of various levels. She also had a lump on her leg, and the lump on the leg, we`re not sure what it was, but it was moving.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Moving lumps? A toothache, diabetes? Could that have caused her to drink the equivalent of ten shots of booze and smoke pot, which is what the coroner says was in her system?

Now, you won`t believe the husband`s latest theory, that she suffered a virtually undetectable stroke, leading to her bizarre behavior. Is this all just spin? Is Diane Schuler`s family simply in denial, unable to accept that she had a real problem?

Straight out to my outstanding expert panel: Terry Lyles, crisis expert and psychologist; David Schwartz, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney; Curtis Sliwa, founder of Guardian Angels and ABC Radio talk show host; Vinny Parco, private investigator extraordinaire; and Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor and author of "And Justice for Some."

Wendy, I want to start with you. Do you applaud child services for looking into the background of this dad we just heard about -- from, who lost a daughter, lost a wife and is now trying to pick up the pieces of his life with his surviving son? Or are we simply beating up on somebody who, yes, he may be in denial, but he has just experienced an incomprehensible tragedy.

WENDY MURPHY, AUTHOR, "AND JUSTICE FOR SOME": Well, look, he did just experience an incomprehensible tragedy, and it is absolutely perfect that CPS is involved at this point.

One of the things I hope they do, Jane, is speak to little Brian. I know it`s hard to hear, you know, about what happened when you`re 5 years old and all this terrible stuff just happened, but he may well have some of the best answers to the most important questions.

And here`s the thing. If this guy is such a great father, if he wants us to believe the silly stories about the lumps -- I mean, I don`t care if she had the bubonic plague. She was drunk. But if he wants people to believe this, he should be open to a CPS investigation. That`s what a good parent does. And if he isn`t open to it, then he has something to hide.

So I`d like to hear from him. He`s been a big-mouth, he and his lawyer, right? What`s the answer to the question? And you going to let them investigate your background or do you have something to hide, Mr. Schuler?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, come on. He`s lost his wife; he`s lost his daughter. His son is badly injured. His job, because he`s a public safety officer, obviously compromised. His finances compromised. He`s undoubtedly, or the estate is going to get sued. This guy`s life is a total wreck.

Now he`s got to worry about child services come in and asking whether he could have predicted something like this?

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: I think you have to think of the 5-year-old boy that`s still alive, that survived that ordeal. He needs to be with his father, because he`s already lost everything.

Can you imagine if you snatch this young boy away from his father and you put him into a sterile environment that he doesn`t know anybody? He`s just lost his mother; he`s just lost his other sibling. Leave him with the father. Do your investigation.

But, you know something? The father wasn`t behind the wheel. The father wasn`t bending his elbows, hitting the bong while driving. And if you believe Dominic Barbara, what a spin doctor he is, the lawyer. This woman was sane and sober when she got behind the wheel and then, all of a sudden, mysteriously, somehow she was half in the bag by the time that crash took place.

DAVID SCHWARTZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And, Jane -- and Jane, you know, he needs to go out there and protect his rights as a father. Of course he`s going to do anything to protect his rights as a father when the government comes into your house, and they want to investigate the concept of snatching your child away. He was not behind that wheel. And for...

MURPHY: Wait, wait, he didn`t have to say anything -- he didn`t have to ...

SCHWARTZ: For Wendy Murphy to say what does he have to hide? What does he have to hide? Give me a break, Wendy. He`s...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. OK, OK. Wendy.

SCHWARTZ: Like any father would do.

MURPHY: You can`t have it both ways.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. I understand what you`re saying. Wendy, you get -- you get to debate back now.

MURPHY: Look, the point is if a guy had just shut up from the beginning, I might not be saying this. He went on television. He said, "No booze. She was fine. Everything`s fine. I wasn`t negligent. Everybody`s great in my family. We have no issues."

Now that he`s done that, we, the people, through the government and child protective services, have a right to see whether he`s telling the truth. This isn`t just about him.

SCHWARTZ: There was a piling-on effect. That`s why he went on TV. There was a piling-on effect on him.

MURPHY: Oh, please.

SCHWARTZ: He suffered a -- a tragedy in this particular case, and the media was piling on him. Now he`s coming back and explaining his side of the story.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me say this.

MURPHY: What`s wrong with that?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think it was a very bad idea to hold the news conference. He has brought attention -- who agrees with me? I love that.


SCHWARTZ: I would have waited.

PARCO: He should have never went on TV with that -- that dumb attorney and making those outrageous claims...

SCHWARTZ: Exactly.

PARCO: ... of medical conditions that didn`t exist. If they really feel that this wife -- his wife wasn`t an alcoholic, why don`t they have their own independent toxicology report?

SCHWARTZ: Well, they want to do that. They want to do that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to bring in this. Conflicting reports. Last night, Nancy Grace asked "Newsday" reporter Michael Amon about the conflicting stories surrounding Diane Schuler`s drinking and drug use. Listen to this.


MICHAEL AMON, REPORTER, "NEWSDAY": New York state police have told me that when they interviewed Daniel Schuler about his wife`s medical condition, they also asked him, did she do drugs recreationally? Did she drink at all?

And what he told them, according to what they told me later, was that she was a social drinker and she occasionally smoked pot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Terry Lyles, that`s not what we heard at the news conference. We heard at the news conference somebody beating their chest and saying, "She`s not an alcoholic. I`m sure of this. My heart is clear."

TERRY LYLES, CRISIS EXPERT/PSYCHOLOGIST: I think he just jumped the gun. I mean, he has a right to protect himself, as I said earlier, but timing is everything. I think I would have laid low and just kind of let this take its course, even though there was a kind of piling on effect.

Hey, if he has nothing to be guilty about, why come out with a big portfolio to say this? It`s obvious she had a lot of alcohol in her system. She was stoned on pot. There`s no way he could not have known that just hours before.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: David Schwartz, he`s insulting our intelligence by coming out and holding a news conference and saying the coroner got it wrong. What, did they get the wrong body?

SCHWARTZ: Well, first of all, the coroner gets it wrong a lot, OK? And there`s nothing wrong with reinvestigating the case. They didn`t necessarily say that the coroner was wrong. All they wanted to do...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, they did.

SCHWARTZ: No, no, no. They wanted to investigate. They...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If the coroner says she has the equivalent of ten drinks in her system...

SCHWARTZ: Exactly. And I`m telling you that this stuff is not an exact science. Many times when the coroner issues that report. What`s wrong -- what`s wrong with reinvestigating?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I would agree with you if it was one drink.

SCHWARTZ: Labs -- labs make mistakes all the time. Labs make mistakes all the time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy Murphy, I would agree if it was one drink, but ten drinks?

MURPHY: Point one nine. First of all, a 0.19. I`ve prosecuted drunk-driving cases.

SCHWARTZ: So have I.

MURPHY: The only people who could still drive after 0.19 were those who had a long habit of getting up there, if you know what I`m saying. People who think she must have had a big drinking problem say it, because a .19, most of us would be in a coma.

SCHWARTZ: What`s wrong with reinvestigating that?

PARCO: David, I have to agree with you.

MURPHY: It`s wrong to lie. I`ll tell you that. It`s wrong to lie and he lied.

SCHWARTZ: What are you talking about? You don`t know that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think he may be in denial is what the shrinks would say. And we`ll talk about that in a second. More on this wrong-way crash.

Family feud, fall-out in a minute. Will the father lose custody of the crash`s sole survivor? Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Sound off.

Then HLN`s own Nancy Grace is stopping by to visit ISSUES and to talk to me about her latest career highlight, her heart-stopping new thriller, "The 11th Victim." What a read. I couldn`t put it down.

But first, two families butting heads in the wrong-way crash case. The driver`s husband maintains his wife was not drunk and high. Here`s his attorney claiming some misinformation has been leaked to the public.


BARBARA: The misgiving of information, we are not blaming -- you can say it. We`re not blaming on the state police or the district attorney`s office. It`s just more information seems to be coming out.




BARBARA: And I think that from the stroke came all the other issues of what happened. This man -- I`m just asking that when you speak -- I`m going to wait until you get done. OK? When you`re done, I`ll talk. I have enough pressure today.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Daniel Schuler`s attorney, Dominic Barbara, lashing out at a press conference last week. If they`d never held that press conference, if Daniel Schuler hadn`t come out saying the toxicology results showing his wife was drunk and stoned were wrong, would he have avoided all this attention he now faces, including an investigation by child services?

Phone lines lighting up. This is such a -- it`s a case that`s really touched a nerve because of all the children lost. Nicky in Indiana, your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Jane. I enjoy your show.


CALLER: I was just wondering if anybody has considered the possibility that Mrs. Schuler was -- that her food was spiked when she stopped off at the McDonald`s.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. OK. That`s a good one. That`s -- that`s an interesting theory. Let`s see. How about Vinny Parco, private investigator. You want to take a crack at that?

PARCO: Yes, I think that would be another excuse that Dominic Barbara would make. I mean, I don`t think that`s feasible. I mean, why would somebody at McDonald`s spike the food?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this. Diane Schuler`s family has now got yet another alternative theory to explain the deadly wrong-way crash. Their attorney, Dominic Barbara, explained a conversation Schuler had with a friend about 30 minutes before the crash. Listen to this.


BARBARA: One of the conversations asked of her was, "Are you all right?" And this person who spoke to her said she didn`t sound drunk. She didn`t sound slurred speech. But she sounded confused.


SLIWA: I -- I`m confused. There you have it right there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, he`s saying specifically she could have suffered a transient ischemic attack or TIA, a sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain. The symptoms include blurred vision and disorientation. Do you buy it?

SLIWA: No. I mean, he`s reaching. I mean, he`s -- he`s quite the spin doctor.

But I got to tell you, this guy -- this father would have been under the electron microscope of the media because this is New York, the media capital of the world. Three tabloids, non-stop 24-hour news cycle. Eventually, he would have surfaced. He would have been the sort of prime inspection of the day. So it was bound to happen. He just chose the wrong mouthpiece to put a spin on it, and he`s in denial.

Look, would you want the world to know that your wife, who is responsible for the death of your kids, was a drunk and was hitting the bong? You wouldn`t want that information to go out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Terry Lyles, the bigger point here is that we need to not be denial as a society. And we need to start being honest about the toxic secrets in their family before they become lethal.

LYLES: Well, Jane, we talked about this the other day. I mean, your show is called ISSUES. I mean, all of us have issues. I don`t think any of us are indicting anyone necessarily. We all have issues, and we`re all at different levels of strange, if you will.

But if someone is in denial like this, I mean, there`s no way this guy cannot know. Like was mentioned earlier, if her blood alcohol level was, you know, 0.19, most of us would be out, unconscious. There`s no way she just started drinking that day, and there`s no way she just found some marijuana on the side of the road. This has been going on.

SCHWARTZ: But, Jane -- Jane, the problem is there are mistakes in crime labs that are made. All the crime labs in New York and all over the country...

LYLES: Understand that. Understand that.

MURPHY: This isn`t one of them. There`s no...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Let me see the panel.

SCHWARTZ: Let`s take another look at those numbers. Let`s reinvestigate.

PARCO: Whatever the numbers are, let`s look at the facts. They found the bottle of vodka in the car.

MURPHY: Can I just say something?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead, Wendy.

MURPHY: No, but the point about -- that`s right. Vodka in her belly, vodka in the car, vodka in her blood. So let`s not make stuff up about the crime lab, OK?

SCHWARTZ: What are you talking about?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, hold on. Hold on.

MURPHY: People want to...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You said your point. But David, jump in there, because...

SCHWARTZ: There are mistakes. Wendy is trying to make it seem like it`s always the little guy in the white -- in the white lab coat and everybody is so perfect in the crime lab. We have examples all over this country of...

MURPHY: You have...


SCHWARTZ: ... close it down.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Ever since O.J., everybody uses garbage in, garbage out, OK? Johnny Cochran used that to perfection, OK? But you can`t say every single case is a case of tainted evidence. And that`s what happens to every single one of these cases.

MURPHY: Thank you.

LYLES: Jane, my concern is she was driving two miles the wrong way. OK? I don`t know what her blood alcohol level was. And at this point it may not really matter until we get to that legal device. But two miles driving on the wrong side of the road with a van full of children, there`s something wrong.

PARCO: That`s negligent by itself.

LYLES: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But if she was in a blackout...

MURPHY: If the question is, is he negligent, then the...

SCHWARTZ: No, no. No, I don`t -- no.

MURPHY: They`re going to be asking questions. They`re going to be asking questions. What did you know about her past? Did she have mental health problems? Were you angry with her? Did she drink when she was angry? What did you know about the bottle of booze that was in the car? There was a report that they transported it...

SCHWARTZ: Guess what. He doesn`t have to answer those questions.

MURPHY: He -- yes, he does.

SCHWARTZ: He does not.

MURPHY: His kid died. Yes, he does. And in...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, you know what? She may have hidden her problems from him. I know people who have hidden their alcoholism from their closest relatives.

PARCO: Did anyone ever think that she might have been drinking while she was driving in the car?

MURPHY: Of course. Of course she was.

PARCO: Put the vodka in a bottle, like a water bottle?

MURPHY: Of course she was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll revisit this. Thank you so much, panel.

You know, the face of addiction is not what we think it is. It`s not just the crack addicts in the gutter. Millions of middle-class Americans suffer from addiction. I know because I`m one of them.

In my new book "I Want," I reveal details of my own personal battle with alcoholism and how I finally got sober 14 years ago. It`s a recovery memoir. You can preorder your copy right now. Click on Look for the preorder section. If you`re struggling with an addiction, this book can help you. It can help if you`re trying to help a friend or relative with a problem. There`s a few shockers in there, to put it mildly. Check it out.

Nadya Suleman headed for prime time, a new TV show. And she`s back in the hospital. Why are they saying it`s so polarizing?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s "Spotlight," we`re just hearing that Octomom is in the hospital for an undisclosed reason. As breaking news, Radar Online reporting Nadya Suleman will be there for a day or two. But a source says it`s nothing serious.

Her hospital stay comes just days before a two-hour FOX documentary called "Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage." The producers call the footage jaw-dropping. It was shot by a crew that`s been living with Suleman for seven months.

But hold on. Isn`t this the very same woman who claimed she wouldn`t dream of exploiting her 14 kids on TV? We`ve got evidence. Listen.


NADYA SULEMAN, MOTHER OF OCTUPLETS: I just want it to be very not like "Jon and Kate Plus 8." I`m not allowing that. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to star in a reality show when your kids are all, like, grown up?

SULEMAN: No, I think that`s exploitation of my kids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Really? Well, in addition to the FOX documentary, Suleman signed on for a reality show to air in the U.K. There hasn`t been much interest in the U.S. version of that show.

So my question is next week`s documentary, just sort of an Octomom promotion meant to attract a few more lucrative deals here in the U.S. by showing she can get big ratings?

Straight out to my awesome guest, Dawn Yanek, editor-at-large for "Life & Style Weekly."

Dawn, one of the TV honchos involved in this predicts this doc will be polarizing. Is that hype to get viewers to tune in, or could it be very polarizing?

DAWN YANEK, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "LIFE & STYLE WEEKLY": I think it`s a combination of both. I think wherever Octomom goes, there is controversy. And as he said, there will be controversy before the special, during the special, and after the special.

You know, I don`t know if there`s enough interest in the United States for an entire series like this European production company is doing. You know, as we`ve seen in "Life & Style Weekly," with people like Jon and Kate, the public`s interest can really turn on a dime.

And love for Nadya has not always been there, of course. It`s more fascination, shock and a little bit of horror. That said, I really do think people will tune in for two hours.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What I think is fascinating, she didn`t get control. In other words, she couldn`t look at the doc and say, "That makes me look bad. Don`t include that."

So we hear that she`s just gone to the hospital. Maybe she`s seen a preview and doesn`t like it. I have no idea. That`s my speculation with a capital "S."

FOX producers are really pumping up this special as if we`re getting our first look inside this family`s insane world. But haven`t we seen too much already? You`ve got to remember this bizarre scene: Octomom bringing her babies home from the hospital. Paparazzi mobbed her house, each one trying to get a shot. They invaded her garage.

It almost feels, Dawn, like we`ve already gotten an Octomom reality show without ever having to actually tune in. Did she sort of water down her value by exposing herself too much early on?

YANEK: That`s a really good question. I don`t know if she had too much of a choice of it, especially early on. But now there`s been a little bit of a lull in the coverage. I mean, we haven`t seen Octomom in the last few months. There really hasn`t been that much news about her.

But now with this special airing, of course with the show starting taping in September and with this new hospital stay, suddenly interest is here again.

And, of course, the questions about whether or not this is exploiting the children is at the forefront. The thing is, it might not be all bad. And the reason I think that is because we`re going to be seeing what type of mom she is. This is going to be pretty candid, pretty intimate, pretty shocking. And child advocates are really curious to see, I think, what`s going on inside that home.

Also, a trust has been set up for these children, so they are protected financially in a way. It`s not all just going to Nadya.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s also a cautionary tale. Don`t have that many kids.

YANEK: Fourteen kids. It`s crazy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, Dawn.

The dragnet widens in the Michael Jackson death probe. We`ll have the very latest, coming up next.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: The dragnet widens in the Michael Jackson death probe. Hours ago, Federal drug agents raided a Las Vegas pharmacy in connection with Michael`s death. Did investigators finally find their smoking gun?

Plus, we`re going to be joined by special guest Nancy Grace. She`s written her first novel "The 11th Victim." This brilliant book was almost a decade in the making. I`m going to talk to her about all of it, including the eerie similarities between her and the heroine of her novel.

Tonight, the heat back on in the Michael Jackson death probe; another day, another big raid. Hours ago, federal drug agents and police armed with a search warrant swarmed a Las Vegas pharmacy. They were hunting for, quote, "items of evidence in a criminal investigation."

According to sources that included records related to the purchase, delivery and storage of that powerful surgical knock-out drug, Propofol. But the DEA agent who talked to reporters was beyond tight-lipped.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it Propofol? Was that the...

MICHAEL FLANAGAN, NEVADA DEA: You know, right now we`re just looking for documents that are related to the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they -- do they have any culpability in what happened to Michael Jackson, the pharmacy?

FLANAGAN: Like I said, we`re just here at this time to -- you know, to, you know, search for documents that might be related to the ongoing investigation.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why do people give interviews if they`re not going to say anything? Today`s raid came two weeks after a surprise sweep of the Las Vegas home and office of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson`s personal physician.

According to an anonymous law enforcement official, Dr. Murray told cops he administered Propofol along with a cocktail of sedatives to the pop star before he died. A spokesman for Dr. Murray`s attorney issued no comment to us in reaction to today`s news.

So now we may know why the LAPD wanted the coroner`s report kept under lock and key. Or do we? How does revealing the cause of death from the toxicology report to the public compromise the criminal investigation? I don`t get it. Everybody in the whole world already knows they`re investigating. If somebody wanted to destroy evidence, wouldn`t they have done it already?

Straight out to my awesome expert panel; Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney; Vinnie Parco, private investigator; Joe Tacopina, former Jackson attorney; and Mike Walters, TMZ assignment manager.

Mike, always on top of this story; what have you got for us? What is the very latest?

MIKE WALTERS, ASSIGNMENT MANAGER, TMZ: Well, Jane, like you said, DEA and Metropolitan, Las Vegas PD and LAPD went into this pharmacy. You said most of it. One thing that we found out that`s really interesting is this pharmacy has a specialty in home infusion, which is basically what was going on with Michael Jackson; getting injections or IV drips of certain drugs from home.

There`s also -- one thing that isn`t even on our Web site yet -- but I`m going to tell you about it right now -- this pharmacy has already been in trouble and fined for issues relating to people in their office and talking to other patients about injecting drugs in their homes. So this has happened before.

But right now, obviously ramping up with the law enforcement and going after pharmacies and continuing with this path with Dr. Conrad Murray. And, like you said before, why exactly the coroner and LAPD didn`t release some of the information in the autopsy; I think that`s because they don`t want to call this investigation certain things yet, even though we already know exactly what`s going on. But that`s what`s going on. That`s the very latest.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t understand, Joe Tacopina, what the advantage is of not releasing the coroner`s report to cops. Apparently the cops asked the coroner, keep it quiet. We are still investigating.

I don`t get it. I mean, if we know that it was a drug cocktail, for example, which has been reported by numerous sources. For example, ABC News reporting that Propofol was a contributing factor but that there were also several other anti-anxiety meds and sedatives in his system. If we`d already been talking about this for weeks, why not just tell the public so we can move on?

JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Jane, just what you just said. We know because, you know, a particular news agency is reporting it doesn`t make it true. And, you know, we can`t fall prey to we all know it`s this so therefore let`s have the investigation become an open investigation.

Prosecutors, and I was once one, don`t do it that way and they shouldn`t do it that way because what it does is one, it could compromise the investigation. I mean, when they`re speaking to witnesses, witnesses who may not know certain information, they want to get an unbiased response from that witness, whether it be truthful information about who was in the pharmacy or who asked for certain things to be done.

Once you start revealing the investigation as it`s ongoing, it certainly compromises the investigation. I don`t think it`s anything untoward or I don`t think it`s anything unorthodox quite frankly.

This is a grand -- an investigation that may turn into a grand jury investigation about a potential homicide. And, you know, one, out of respect for -- for the victim and his family, you just don`t go about, you know, revealing your information to TMZ, as much as I enjoy TMZ and all those fun shows.

You know, it`s not about 1-800-give-me-justice. It`s really about letting this investigation run its course without it being contaminated by leaks and rumors and all those sorts of things that happened. We don`t want witnesses to have their opinions changed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But by the same token, Drew Findling, it seems like the rich and famous, there`s a different set of rules. I mean, I know when I worked at celebrity justice, they had private trials. They have offices for rich people to go and have private trials where they serve them coffee and food in these lavish offices.

When I saw that for myself, I literally almost fainted. I was like, I can`t believe it. Well now, a rich and famous person dies tragically and we don`t get the coroner report. Do you think if some Joe Schmo died of what`s suspected to be a drug cocktail, we would learn the coroner`s report?

DREW FINDLING, ATLANTA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I really disagree with you. I`m going to agree with Joe, but I want to kind of explain a little bit more. I think that Joe is right that they don`t want to compromise the integrity of the investigation and the integrity of the witnesses and what potential witnesses have to say and let that be influenced what they may read or hear about in the news.

But also if you look at the screen, you`ll see DEA; Drug Enforcement Administration. You can feel the federal influence on this case. You know, in state cases we kind of haphazardly talk about cases and we comment on cases and even during an investigation, investigators talk about it. But when the federal authorities -- the DEA and the FBI and the U.S. Attorney`s office -- gets involved, like in this case, it`s the DEA, then there`s really going to be some dummying up.

I don`t think it has to do with celebrity justice. I think it has to do with the federal influence in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I actually don`t understand what`s taking so long. if they find a bunch of pills in his room, if they find a bunch of drugs in his system, how come it`s taking this long to connect the dots to the pharmacies or the suppliers? I don`t get it.

But listen to this. An anonymous law enforcement source told the AP that Dr. Conrad Murray told cops that he gave Jackson powerful sedatives hours before he died. Murray said the dose, according to these reports, was within normal medical guidelines, mixed those with Propofol and take your eye off the patient and it could be deadly.

But is it murder? Michael`s sister LaToya thinks so.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LaToya, do you still believe it`s a conspiracy?

LATOYA JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON`S SISTER: It`s murder. I think someone did it. That`s my opinion.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now in a written statement to the Associated Press, Dr. Murray`s attorney dismissed the multiple drug assertion as, quote, "ridiculous" and said they would not respond to any accusations from unnamed sources.

But Vinnie Parco I thought you weren`t supposed to mix Propofol with anything. Now we`re hearing these reports that it might be mixed with other drugs.

VINNIE PARCO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well the problem with this -- I have to agree with Joe. The problem is an interaction between the drugs. That could be why the coroner hasn`t come out with a report yet. They probably don`t know the exact cause of death.

And this is the standard operation -- when I did a narcotic investigation, we wouldn`t release any information until we have all the facts together so we can make a determination.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Walters, why is it taking so long? I would think they found -- day one they found drugs in the house.

WALTERS: Right. Well, you`re right. I mean, the first thing is they have the stuff back. The coroner has already said that they have their findings.

Also, I can tell you for sure, the family has a copy of their second autopsy findings, which they had done aside from the coroner`s office. Now, why some of it gets to the media and why not, I think you`re right, Jane.

I think it`s funny, we were just talking about federal agents and how the federal influence on this case. You notice when we watch the clip we just watched, everybody has their uniforms on, but the DEA is about this big.

It`s so funny because they`re like, hey, look. I think that`s right. The federal influence does change some of it. But it also changes some of the ways they interview witnesses and people lawyer up. They stop talking when it becomes an official criminal investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Michael Jackson, the Movie -- I`ve got to talk about this -- coming to a theater near you soon. That means big bucks coming soon to the Jackson heirs.

What do you know about this, Mike Walters? This is a huge deal. I heard $60 million to purchase these rehearsal videos. They`re going to be turned into an actual movie. That we`re going to go into a movie theater and watch?

WALTERS: Yes. I have to tell you, I`m actually a huge fan of Michael Jackson. I know I work on the other side of this case, but this is huge for the fans. Before the end of October, $60 million deal, Columbia Pictures is going to do a movie of all the rehearsal footage -- about 80 hours` worth -- of him right before he passed away.

They`re going to package it up. It`s going to be -- some of it`s going to be in 3D. I mean, this is what the fans who are mourning Michael Jackson`s death want to see. And AEG, Columbia and Sony have put it together. The judge has signed it. You`re going to see this movie and it`s going to be a bombshell in Hollywood and everyone is going to go see it.

This is going to be lined around the theaters. This is great for the Michael Jackson fans. I`m one of them. I`m going to go see it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joe Tacopina -- I got a few seconds -- why did the kids get their own lawyer? Why did the judge think that was necessary?

TACOPINA: Because when you`re dealing with children, a judge is always going to act in a way that perhaps is overcautious, but it`s better to protect the best interest of the children. Obviously they don`t know what`s in their best interest. This is standard. It`s ok.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Thank you so much, fabulous panel of guests. Come back soon.

Will we get justice in the Billings murder case? With 7 people connected to the killings, this couple could face the grand jury.

And speaking of justice, our very own Nancy Grace -- she`s going to join me in just a second to talk about her spectacular new novel. It`s called "The 11th Victim." I couldn`t put it down. I couldn`t stop reading it. What a page-turner.

Stick around.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: She`s known around the world for her relentless pursuit of justice. Our very own Nancy Grace joins us to talk about her latest book. I love it. I was up reading it all night -- a couple of nights.

First, "Top of the block." Will it be life or death for the seven people connected to the murders of a Florida couple known for adopting special needs kids? Prosecutors in Florida today asked a grand jury to indict these alleged parent-killers for the first-degree murder of Melanie and Byrd Billings. That`s a move that could allow them to seek the death penalty.

And this just coming in from the billings family attorney: that safe, the one stolen from the family`s home, it is 100 percent certain now it did not have any guns, drugs, or the rumored $12 million in cash stashed inside. Contrary to what some had suggested, it was holding just $164,000, jewelry, and some legal documents. That`s it.

This has certainly been a bizarre murder case from the sheer shock of it all to the allegations that the Billings were killed by the Mexican mafia. Bottom line here, two amazing, wonderful, dedicated parents are dead and it is time for some justice. Let`s hope it happens soon.

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

Joining me now -- I am so excited -- she is an iconic TV host, the leading legal commentator here on HLN; a nationally-recognized victims` rights advocate, a former prosecutor with a perfect record of convictions a mother of young twins and now to top it all off, Nancy Grace is a novelist. I am personally so delighted and really honored to have Nancy here on ISSUES tonight to talk about her new book "The 11th Victim."

It is available starting today.

I personally was thrilled to get my own advanced copy. I`ve been poring through it. It is spell-binding. It`s intricate. It is sure to be a murder mystery hit of the season.

Joining me now -- the one and only Nancy Grace. Nancy, great to see you and congratulations.

NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST, "THE NANCY GRACE SHOW": I am embarrassed by that beautiful opening. I just -- I hope you can convince the viewers all of that is true. And I`m on with the gavel, ok.

First of all are you going to make me talk about plastic bags or pets` rights?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have to tell you that I was very impressed to se inside the book one of the themes is an environmentalist who is also an animal lover trying to save the turtles off the Georgia coast. I`ve been to the Georgia coast. I`ve been to Sea Island, Georgia -- how beautiful?

Why did you decide to include that? Was that something close to your heart?

GRACE: Very close. Jane, my whole life since I was about 4 years old, I`ve been going down to St. Simon`s Island on the Georgia coast. We had always gone to the Methodist Center.

We`d be in the church bus, going about 45 miles an hour down old 341 to get to a Methodist camp. Every summer we would go and I kept going my whole life. I love it there. It`s where Methodism was founded.


GRACE: So I`ve been going there my whole life. It`s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And they are trying to trash it?

GRACE: Of course. Everything that`s beautiful must be destroyed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course. Yes. I just want to say as an environmentalist and an animal rights activist, I was really touched that you included that ....

GRACE: I was doing a lot of research. Over the years, I don`t want to give it away, for instance, I saw the battle over a huge bridge to link the island to the mainland. I saw the replenishing effort where they dumped sand on to the beach and everyone was upset about where the sand was coming from. Was it coming from near a bunch of sludge nearby?

And everyone was saying if I had different outcomes in the book -- really it happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I couldn`t help but notice Haley Dean, the heroine of the book, has a lot of similarities to somebody I know. She`s blonde, she`s petite, she was a prosecutor in Atlanta with a perfect record of convictions in trials. What was it like writing about yourself as a fictional character?

GRACE: Well, you know, Hayley -- and I can`t say this enough. She is a much better person that I could ever be.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t think so.

GRACE: Yes, she is, Jane. She is calm, cool, collected. Would you use those words to describe me? She thinks her way out of problems. She`s very strategically minded. (INAUDIBLE) in that her fiance was murdered shortly before their wedding has mirrored what happened in my life. From there I dropped the study of Shakespearian literature and became a felony prosecutor.

In her case, she had been studying psychology and became a prosecutor and moved to New York. Long story short, her patients started dropping like flies in the same M.O. as a man she prosecuted. And that starts the book.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, what I found very interesting were these parallels to your life. It got me thinking about what you really went through. I know we have some really gorgeous pictures of your family -- the beautiful, wonderful family you have today and the wonderful husband that you have today -- but also of this tragic turning point in your life of the loss of your fiance -- and there he is, I understand.

What do you feel comfortable telling us? And there you are. Those are great pictures. Look at you. Wow.

GRACE: That was a long time ago.

Well, you know, when someone passes away, you don`t stop loving them. You never stop loving them. And as the years passed, I wondered what my life would have been like had I been able to marry Keith. And I really thought I would never marry and I would never have a family.

In fact, Haley was the name I always wanted to name a little girl, but I never thought I would have one. And then when Lucy came and the both of us nearly died, I named her after my grandmother because I felt her presence with me when Lucy was born.

So, Haley is the heroine in this novel, that`s where that name came from.

I still miss Keith now. But I feel his guiding hand, helping me. And finally, after all these years, nearly 30 years, Jane Velez-Mitchell, opening my heart and finally marrying a man that had loved me for a really long time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m so happy for you. I really am.

I wonder if your character -- your heroine becomes a therapist. Is it too personal to ask -- did you ever do therapy to deal with this crisis?

GRACE: I did not because at that time and place in the world, I never even heard of it. In retrospect, I wish that I had. Maybe it wouldn`t have taken me 30 years before I finally realized I could have love in my life.

All I could do -- like a robot, like a machine -- was try, one case after the next. Investigate this case. Get this killer. It went on and on that way.

Well, it`s fascinating. We`re going to be back in just a second with more Nancy Grace. This is so thrilling for me.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I am back with my dear friend -- I think I can say that -- and leading legal commentator, Nancy Grace. "The 11th Victim," this is a fantastic novel -- couldn`t put it down. If I look bleary-eyed, I`ve been up until like 3:00 in the morning reading it, night after night.

It is fantastic. It`s about an Atlanta prosecutor and that prosecutor bears a lot of similarities to somebody we all know. It`s out in stores nationwide today. You`ve got to get it. First of all, you can learn a lot about the law because there`s intricacies and four plots interwoven.

Do you think people can learn something about that?

GRACE: Yes. It may be hard to believe, that the law in the courtroom is really that nasty. And that judges really are not the iconic figures that everyone thinks they are.

And, of course, granted, some of them are fantastic and wonderful and revered. Some of the greatest people I`ve ever known, Jane, are lawyers and judges. And some of the most disappointing are lawyers and judges.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You have one character who is a lawyer. He`s always drinking out of a flask. And checking out the rear-ends of his secretaries.

GRACE: I`ve seen a judge like that.


GRACE: Yes. Hello? They`re people. That`s the thing about the justice system. It`s made up of humans with frailties and flaws. And, you know, you`ve got a rough cut at justice when you go in the courtroom.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How did you take these real-life cases and all these experiences you`ve had and weave them into the story? I mean, how challenging is that?

GRACE: It took me a really long time, working on this book almost since I came out of the courtroom in `97 to start a show with Johnny Cochran over at Court TV. And I miss the courtroom so much, I started writing about this.

And in the meantime, I was at Court TV nearly 11 years. I left, I came here to launch this show. I wrote another book.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: "Objection."

GRACE: Which was a "New York times" best-seller, praise the Lord -- got married, had twins, nearly died; didn`t. Now, they`re almost two and I finally finished the book, only because my editor made me.

I pitched her another book. She said, "You got anything else?" Well I have murder mystery manuscript. She said, "I like it. Now you have to finish it and they put me on a deadline.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a pedestrian question but I think it`s the one everyone wants to know. How did you do this? You have twins. How did you...

GRACE: I was so sick during my pregnancy. I threw up every day. I hate to tell all you expectant moms. From about a month and a half on until the day I delivered -- look. But look who was worth it. There`s baby John David and little Lucy -- the loves of my life. There they are.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They are so beautiful.

GRACE: I could not write while I was pregnant. I was so sick. I was in a wheelchair. I could hardly even do the show. Sometimes I had to lay down on the floor...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You never showed it. It never showed on the air.

GRACE: And with all the hair and make up I was wearing. I just couldn`t write.

After they were born, they would be up all during the night. And I would write into the night sometimes at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning to make that deadline for my editor, Gretchen, to finish that book.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was it difficult because you`re a sort of just a facts kind of person. And now you have to go into descriptions here and talk about emotions and all sorts of things that are revealing. Was that scary to be that vulnerable?

GRACE: No. It wasn`t scary. It`s scary to put a book, a novel out there, because when I talk about cases that`s something beyond my control. Those are not my facts. These facts, I created. And to put that out there, you know, that`s kind of -- that`s very tough.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I could talk to you all night. It`s a tragedy that we`re out of time.

You have to check this book out, people.

GRACE: We don`t have to talk about plastic bags and even firemen?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And don`t use plastic bags. Nancy thanks so much for joining me tonight. Love you. Love you. And it`s great. I love your book.