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Interview With Larry Flynt

Aired April 20, 2011 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, Washington behind closed doors. How the sex lives of presidents and first ladies and founding fathers have shaped this nation then and now.

Have you got any big scandals that you got up your sleeve for the next election campaign?

LARRY FLYNT, AUTHOR, "ONE NATION UNDER SEX": We're constantly working at least a half a dozen or so investigations at both the Senate and the House.

MORGAN: Porn mogul and free speech defender Larry Flynt on sex, lies and politics.

And a shocking true life story made headlines across the country. Stacy Lannert shot and killed her own father after what she calls years of abuse. But the most shocking thing may be what happened next.

STACY LANNERT, CONVICTED FOR KILLING OWN FATHER: Going to prison was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me.

MORGAN: Her story of crime, punishment and redemption.


Larry Flynt is America's king of porn. He's the publisher of "Hustler" magazine and also the new book, "One Nation Under Sex." And he's a longtime free speech advocate.

Larry joins me now.

Larry, thank you for coming to my studios today.

FLYNT: Hi. Glad to be here, Piers.

MORGAN: Now, how'd you like to be described? Let me put it a sort of smarter way perhaps. If I could leave you with one headline when you finally leave this mortal core of ours, and it can only be Larry Flynt, pornographer, Larry Flynt, free speech campaigner, or Larry Flynt lifelong controversialist?

Which would you take?

FLYNT: Much bigger than that. I always felt Moses freed the Jews, Lincoln freed the slaves, and I wanted to free all the neurotics.


FLYNT: And I realized in the process that I've helped millions of people get through puberty. I think that's a great accomplishment.

MORGAN: Do you think so?


MORGAN: You think that's your lifelong contribution?

FLYNT: I think it's a great contribution. I have book signings. People come up to me and said, Mr. Flynt, I just want to thank you for helping me make it through puberty. I said, my god, what greater compliment could they give me?

MORGAN: Well, OK, let me try and give you a better one because I think it's a fascinating thing when you look at your career. To try and work out from where I sit, what you would personally -- if you were being really honest would be proudest of, because you've been such a campaigner. You've been such a politically active man as well.

Here you are, you're super rich, you've had this amazing life, but part for me things, if you had your time again, could you be tempted into a totally different path?

FLYNT: No, no, I don't have any regrets. And I do feel that I've done a great deal to expand the parameters of free speech. And I think that's extremely important. I feel the greatest right that any nation can afford its citizens is the right to be left alone and I've always fought on the privacy and freedom issues for the last 35 years.

MORGAN: Why is it so important to you, freedom of speech? Why has that been the one thing you've really been so relentless about?

FLYNT: Because we've had it so long it's lost its value, you know? Freedom of speech is not freedom for the thought you love, it's freedom for the thought you hate the most. And a democracy can't exist without free speech and the right to assemble. And that's what Americans tend to forget.

And they're born into a culture where they take all of their freedoms for granted. Well, you can't do that, you know? They can be taken away as easy as they were gained.

MORGAN: But what about for example the recent story of this pastor who came out with these outrageous comments -- mind you, outrageous because he made (INAUDIBLE) -- about wanting his right to burn the Quran and he then burns the Quran and as a result of that absolutely inevitably a lot of people get killed in Afghanistan?

FLYNT: Well, you pay a price for everything. And the price you pay to live in a free society is toleration. You have to tolerate the things that you don't necessarily like so you can be free. And free speech is not always good. Free speech is somewhat offensive. And -- MORGAN: But what about deeply inflammatory speech? This is where I slightly take issue with -- a man's right to free speech I totally subscribe to. I've been a journalist all my life. I was a newspaper editor in Britain for 10 years. I get this argument. And I've defended it passionately like you.

But even now I get to the stage where I feel there must be limits. When I see this idiot talking about burning the Quran, I think there should be something that stops him doing that.

FLYNT: When I first --

MORGAN: The consequences are so serious.

FLYNT: When I first started out I used to buy into a former Supreme Court justice's argument that you can't scream fire in a crowded theater. Well, I think you can. If somebody gets hurt as a result of that, you can prosecute them for the act. But if you start compromising the First Amendment, you're on a slippery slope.

Now I think nothing was more tasteful than the preacher burning the Quran or also the preacher that was protesting some soldier's funeral when he come home, you know, I mean those are bizarre incidents. But we can't set aside one of most important things that the framers gave us, free speech, but for the purpose of dealing with these idiots.

MORGAN: And you believe it should always be unfettered? That there should never be any limits?

FLYNT: I don't think you put any limits. I don't think you compromise it. And certain things in life you don't compromise. And one is free speech.

MORGAN: How do you feel about being an American right now?

FLYNT: I feel good about being an American. And it's not an easy climate to feel good about, you know. But I think things can and will get better.

MORGAN: If you'd been running America in the last few years, what would you have done to deal with the financial crisis for example? Would you've it coming do you think? Did you have any sense as a big businessman this was going to happen?

FLYNT: I think I did see it coming. And you know, we've got a cure for people who get in trouble financially. It's called bankruptcy. And I think nobody is too big to fail. And I think that's what they should have let Wall Street do at the beginning of the financial problems.

Look, the average guy out here, he's got a problem financially, gets soaked with a lot of medical bills or involved in some kind of an issue that goes bad. His only resort is bankruptcy. I don't know why we should go in and bail companies out. And bail (INAUDIBLE) out. MORGAN: How do you feel -- when you see some -- a company like Goldman Sachs, for example. There's nothing personal against them, it's just that they're the prime example of a company that was in big trouble because of the financial crisis, gets bailed out by the taxpayer, and the moment they get back into the money, they just award themselves the same multimillion-dollar bonuses they always did before.

FLYNT: Piers, the reason why they're able to get away with that is because we do not have the financial system properly regulated. And New York -- the last rounds that they made in an attempt to regulate died. Those guys. To sold us out again, you know? Nobody will step up to the plate.

MORGAN: Because I mean the little guy right now in America, the 10 percent who are unemployed, and you're talking a lot of people. A lot of the Americans are really hurting. They must be watching what's happening on Wall Street again and thinking, this is exactly the kind of greedy culture that got us into this mess in the first place.

FLYNT: Well, that's absolutely true.

MORGAN: People would look at you and they say, well, OK, I mean, you're very expensively dressed today. You've made a lot of money out of sex. Who are you really to dictate any kind of morality to Wall Street? What would you say to that?

FLYNT: Well, I think morality is sometimes too subjective to define. What might be to one is not to another. Just as -- said the same thing about obscenity. You're going to lose the best -- minds of man. And morality follows the same issue.


FLYNT: One of my favorite sayings was they once asked Woody Allen if he thought sex was dirty. He says, if it's done right, it is.


MORGAN: I mean, where do your morals lie?

FLYNT: Hey, I put on my clothes the same way everybody else does every day. And I go to work. I'm really kind of old-fashioned in a sense. My friends are important to me.

MORGAN: What's your view, say, of sexual infidelity, for example?

FLYNT: Hey, look, I'm the first guy to defend the philandering president. I think if you can fight two wars and balance the budget at the same time, you should be able to sleep with whoever you want to.

MORGAN: So if you basically get the wars wrong and get the money wrong and you're having an affair -- FLYNT: Yes, you're in trouble.

MORGAN: That's big problems for you?

FLYNT: That's big trouble.

MORGAN: I mean, some would argue, Larry, that's a slightly warped morality, isn't it? It's sort of based on financial success which suits your purposes perfectly.

FLYNT: Well, you know, if you're comfortable with your life and how it's going and you're not treading on anyone else, that's why I said at the start of this show, the greatest right that any nation can afford its people is the right to be left alone.

The same thing can apply to people. We've got to learn to leave each other alone as long as they're not breaking the law. It's really nobody's business who's in your bedroom and what's going on in your bedroom.

MORGAN: So when you see, for example, somebody like Charlie Sheen who's been the biggest news story outside the Middle East uprisings in the last four months, do you think that his behavior is completely acceptable? You think people should leave him alone?

FLYNT: I think it's a tragedy the way the media exploited him. He's obviously bipolar, you know. Euphoric state of a manic depressive condition. He needs treatment --

MORGAN: You're a bipolar yourself, right?

FLYNT: Yes. That's why I can speak from a certain amount of authority on that.

MORGAN: And he denies being bipolar.

FLYNT: He is. He's classic example of someone who's bipolar.

MORGAN: What is the sign for you that says he is?

FLYNT: Well, you know, the first sign is that you become euphoric, you know, about everything you do. And many of the creative artists, you know, over the years, if you talk to them, they'll tell you that their best work was done when they were in that zone.

For this book I read, the "Gettysburg Address," and I felt Lincoln was in that zone, you know? Lincoln was manic depressive. Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote about the dark side of Lincoln, you know. She didn't make the connection with his sexuality. But I -- many people suffer from bipolar --

MORGAN: Catherine Zeta-Jones has just come out and said that she's bipolar.

FLYNT: Well, it's worse for some people than it is for others. But thing about it is, they got a lot of good medications that can treat it. A lot of people don't want to take treatment because to them that's them conceding that they've got a mental illness and they don't want that and they don't want the stigma associated to it. But the best thing in the world that you can do is if you're bipolar is get treated.

MORGAN: We'll take a short break now. When we come back, I want to talk to you about how you started this huge empire.


MORGAN: Larry, we're going to come to this fascinating book "One Nation Under Sex" a little later, where you basically dissect the sex lives of a multitude of presidents. The running theme being that some of their inability to keep their trousers up has had a material effect on how America has been governed.

I'm interested, though, about you and sex and what the tipping point was for you when you realized, my life and my financial security is going to come from sex? When did you first think that?

FLYNT: Well, probably when I first started out. But I had never read any of the other magazines like "Playboy Penthouse".

MORGAN: You never had?

FLYNT: Just out of the Navy then and I wanted to start a men's magazine because I felt that they -- I felt nobody was interested in knowing how to make a perfect martini and what was the electronic system, you know? They bought that magazine for the sex, cartoons and the humor.

And that's what we focused on. And it was also more explicit. And of course that's what men want. You see, people don't -- often don't understand what guys want. Guys are more turned on by what they see. Women are more turned on by what they read. If you really understand people, it's easy to respond to them in terms of what they want.


MORGAN: Is there a lot of hypocrisy talked about the adult entertainment business, do you think?

FLYNT: Well, hypocrisy is terrible throughout our society. It's worse on our political environment because it's the biggest threat to democracy that there is. You know, for the last 35 years, I've exposed politicians. Every where. And people say, oh, you just want to expose their sex life. That's not it at all. It's just the hypocrisy we're going after, you know?

MORGAN: What you see, must (INAUDIBLE) to you. After years of having to defend the porn business, if you look at any of the surveys into Internet usage, for example, I think it's about 90 percent of every single site downloaded online is a porn-related site, showing that actually the number of people in the world that do look at this stuff is clearly significantly higher than people ever thought. FLYNT: Oh, yes. It's as common place as apple pie. You know? I have never advocated that pornography be available for children. What we could limit adult reading habits. So what's there for children -- "Alice in Wonderland", "The Little Red Riding Hood."

So you have to police what they actually have, you know, available to them. But I don't think that adult doing that should be restricted.

MORGAN: How do you feel about the obvious debate about exploitation of women then? I mean, if you had a daughter that wanted to become a porn star, what would you have said to her?

FLYNT: That would be her business but we --

MORGAN: Would you have tried to stop her?

FLYNT: We exploit sex like "Sports Illustrated" exploits sports, you know? I mean it's -- I've never had a girl or model, complain that she was coerced or forced to pose in the magazine. They do it freely. And it's not necessarily for money. They know they got a great body and they want to preserve it for posterity sake.

MORGAN: Is that always the case, Larry?

FLYNT: Most of the time.

MORGAN: Yes. Let's talk about the times that it isn't because like all these things there's -- it's like the drug debate. You know I know people who can take drugs casually and it's fine for them. But I know other people, their lives get ruined by drugs.

And the same I would imagine with the porn industry. There will be some girls who can deal with it because they're mature enough and actually find it quite fun. There'll be lots of others who do genuinely get exploited by that and whose lives can get wrecked by it.

FLYNT: Well, you know, I own a casino. And I'm faced with the issue about not catering to problem gamblers. I don't have time for the emotions of people that can't control themselves. And I would say the same thing about a model that's posing. It's not up to us to psychoanalyze every girl who wants to pose to see --

MORGAN: Isn't it up to you, though, as the powerful big boss that runs this empire? Isn't it up to you -- don't you have a slight moral responsibility to protect the more vulnerable girls who get hooked on this stuff?

FLYNT: We do. And we're not -- we don't solicit girls for this purpose. They come to us. You know? And if one appears to be a problem, we don't proceed, you know, with photographing her, you know, if somebody is loony.

MORGAN: Have you -- have you always liked sex yourself?

FLYNT: Pardon? MORGAN: Have you always liked sex yourself? Or are a classic repressed teenager before?

FLYNT: Right. I've been like the Energizer Bunny all my life.

MORGAN: Really?



MORGAN: Really?


MORGAN: The Energizer Bunny? That raises all sorts of images in my head.

FLYNT: Yes. Well, it's been a long strange trip as the grateful dead said.


MORGAN: I mean are you still as energized as you used to be, Larry?

FLYNT: Yes, but got a few limitations on me. It's a little more complicated being in a wheelchair but I manage.


MORGAN: Who do you think has probably been more successful over the years, you or Hugh Hefner?

FLYNT: Wow. Hefner is in his 80s now, you know?

MORGAN: Think he's losing it.

FLYNT: Probably yes.


FLYNT: One thing about getting old, if you're too old to cut the mustard, you can always lick the jar.


MORGAN: I'll remember that when I have to.

I'm going to come back after the break. I'm going to talk to you about the "Hustler" empire. How it took off and how you react to something -- finding yourself as a tycoon. And we're going to talk about the sex lives of our politicians.


MORGAN: Back with my special guest, Larry Flynt.

Now, Larry, this book, "One Nation Under Sex", is subtitled "How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History."

And you're probably the perfect guy to have written this book. What have you unearthed? What have you found from your study of president's sex lives?

FLYNT: First of all, when I said I was going to do this book, I reached out to my friend David Icenbach with -- from the university because he's a history professor. And no one -- nobody will want to read a history book written by a pornographer.


FLYNT: So David is extremely bright and quite familiar with the content. And we knew that presidencies were always affected by first ladies, mistresses, lovers, you know, and so we just want to work on it. And some of this stuff has been in print. Very little of it. You know. I mean most of it was unearthed by us.

MORGAN: What were the most shocking discoveries, would you say?

FLYNT: Well, one thing that nobody knows, the youngest first lady was 19. It was Glover Cleveland's wife. She was actually the nanny. And while he was campaigning for president his wife died so he married the nanny and moved into the White House.

Now what does that mean culturally speaking? Today, we would not accept an 18 or 19-year-old girl as first lady.

MORGAN: Who was the most sexually promiscuous president, would you say?

FLYNT: It does (INAUDIBLE) between Warren Harding and John Kennedy.

MORGAN: I mean the theory about John Kennedy is, had he not been assassinated, in a year or two, so much stuff would have come out about his life that he would have been discredited. To you go along with that?

FLYNT: That's probably true. See, I grew up during the period of the Kennedy mystique. And it's that time when everybody loved their country. Everybody was patriotic. Everybody thought you were going to accomplish whatever you wanted to. And Kennedy was the feel- good president.

And so when his penchant was for the Hollywood starlets like Marilyn, Angie Dickinson or Candy Bergen, Marlene Dietrich, you know, people like this. So -- and his wife, (INAUDIBLE) she started having affairs, too. So these affairs were very careless and reckless.

MORGAN: I always find it odd that someone like you could have built a billion-dollar empire out of pretty hard core sex in a country that can be so puritanical about the sex lives of politicians.

I mean, if you look at someone like Bill Clinton, for example, he's one of the most popular presidents ever, and yet he was a pretty naughty boy, wasn't he?

FLYNT: Yes, but see --

MORGAN: Where's the consistency of this puritanical --


FLYNT: Clinton is what you refer to as the lovable rogue. Even from the time Jennifer Flowers first came out with her accusations everybody knew it was true. And in the end during his (INAUDIBLE) did lie about, you know, having sex with that girl and what have you, but Clinton always wore it on his sleeve.

He didn't hide it like many of the conservative Republicans do. So a nation was able to forgive him --

MORGAN: Are you still investigating the sex lives of Republicans?

FLYNT: Every year, we're running an ad in the "Washington Post" that cost $85,000 to try to get as much dirt as we can on him. Because that's the only way I can affect politics. Otherwise, all I got is one vote. You know? But --

MORGAN: What makes you so confident that the Republicans that you're going to be exposing are any better or worse than Democratic rivals?

FLYNT: Well, we will expose anybody. Democrats or Republicans. We're an equal opportunity offender. But --

MORGAN: Yes, but, Larry, how can you -- honestly, if I'm playing devil's advocate, how can you have the goal to expose other people for their sex lives given the way you've --


FLYNT: It's the hypocrisy like when I expose Speaker of the House Livingston during the Clinton impeachment, when he was wanting Clinton's head on a platter and he's seeing three women -- intern in his office, a federal judge and also a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. And, you know, he was denying all of this. So we busted him. He (INAUDIBLE).

MORGAN: Does it have to be hypocritical in your view?


FLYNT: Hypocritical --

MORGAN: Have to -- FLYNT: When he was doing an interview with "The New York Times," they asked him what he thought about me and he says, I think Larry Flynt is a bottom feeder. So they called me for a comment and I said, yes, that's right, but look what I found when I got down there.


FLYNT: So that's what we to do. We try to get down in the mud with them. And let people know that they're human.

MORGAN: Have you got any big scandals that you've got up your sleeve for the next election campaign?

FLYNT: We're constantly working at least half a dozen or so investigation at both the Senate and the House. You'll never know what's going to materialize, you know? But we always hope something will.

MORGAN: So they'd all be Republicans, would they?

FLYNT: I -- most of them are Republican. And it's only because they make it easy for us, you know? They've got so much baggage. That -- that guy we got in Louisiana, Vitter, he's -- in the Senate, he's the abstinence guy. That's what he was promoting, but he was seeing hookers in both Washington D.C. and Louisiana.

MORGAN: Well, what -- for arguments sake -- if you've got a story about President Obama, a sex scandal about him, would you feel it was right to publish that, given the obvious damage that would do to the country, and its reputation?

FLYNT: I wouldn't want to, but I would.

MORGAN: You would?

FLYNT: Because it would be very hypocritical of me not to.

MORGAN: Finally, one of the most fascinating things about you, Larry, is that you were nearly assassinated yourself. No one's ever been quite sure who was behind it. (INAUDIBLE) a name that was put in the frame, and you're pretty certain it was that person.


MORGAN: But never brought to justice over it. It left you partially paralyzed.


MORGAN: What do you feel when you look back on what happened to you that day?

FLYNT: I don't look at it.

MORGAN: What do you -- what do you feel about it? Do you feel bitter about it? FLYNT: I don't look at who shot me -- whoever it was shot me. It's the mentality of a person that wants to shoot you because they disagree with what you're doing, or they disagree with your politics. This guy was a racist -- white racist who was upset over a black and white photo feature we had ran in a magazine. And that's really why he shot me.

MORGAN: It was an inter-racial photo shoot?


MORGAN: But how has it affected your life? Obviously physically it has. Has it affected you in your spirit do you think?

FLYNT: People always ask, "What's it like being in that wheelchair?"


FLYNT: I don't -- you know, if you hadn't of mentioned it, I wouldn't have even thought about it.

MORGAN: Really?

FLYNT: I don't spend my life dwelling on anything I can't do nothing about. So I don't ever think about I'm in a wheelchair until somebody mentions it.

MORGAN: How would you like to be remembered?

FLYNT: As someone who fought to expand the parameters of free speech in a very good way.

MORGAN: Well, that's a pretty laudable way to be remembered, I would say. Larry Flynt, thank you very much.

FLYNT: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up, a true life story of childhood trauma and shocking violence. How woman says she found freedom behind bars.


MORGAN: Stacey Lannert's story is horrifying. I warn you, the details are graphic and disturbing. At the age of 18, Stacey shot her father to death after what she says were years escalating sexual abuse. She spent 18 years in prison, until Missouri's governor commuted her sentence.

Stacey tells her shocking story in the book "Redemption, a Story of Sisterhood, Survival and the Search for Freedom Behind Bars."

Stacey Lannert joins me now, along with her longtime best friend, Tom Wilson. Stacey, Tom, thank you for joining me.

It's an extraordinary story, your story, one that is complicated, one that inspires a lot of emotions, one that seemed to develop over the years. And now you find yourself here with I guess the redemption, the comeback. How do you see where you've got to?

STACY LANNERT, AUTHOR, "REDEMPTION": I look at the redemption as being able to tell my story, to find my voice and try to make a change in the lives of others, and hopefully inspire them to come forward too. Child sexual abuse is the only disease that cripples America that can be changed very easily by speaking out against it.

MORGAN: The worst thing about child sex abuse is, of course, the speaking out at the time for a child is almost always impossible.

LANNERT: Absolutely.

MORGAN: The child really doesn't understand what's happening. Even if they do, they can't report it to anyone because no one would believe them half the time. So it's a nightmare scenario.

Take me back to when I think you were eight years old, when your father first abused you, and your life changed.

LANNERT: He didn't actually rape me until I was nine. That's the first time it happened. Before that, when I was eight, it was grooming. It was him and I sharing a special time. I didn't know that what we were doing was wrong or that I was committing a sexual act with my father.

MORGAN: And when you were nine, about a year after this abuse started, he escalated the abuse into full-blown rape.


MORGAN: And this went on for how long?

LANNERT: Till the age of 18.

MORGAN: And how often was this happening?

LANNERT: It varied. And I lived back and forth in between my parents, so there would be breaks from him. And my father was an alcoholic and he would try to quit drinking. And during those attempts, our life was -- our life was more peaceful, less violent.

So it wasn't every day. Sometimes it could be five times a week. Sometimes I'd go a couple months without any what I call incidents occurring.

MORGAN: Where was your mother in all this?

LANNERT: They divorced when I was 12 years old. And I went to live with him.

MORGAN: When I read the book, I just couldn't envision any situation worse for you than at the age of 12, after four years of abuse and then rape, your parents split up and you're left with this monster. MORGAN: It's because I didn't know the words to tell someone what was happening to me. When I was 12, I had told a baby-sitter. And the baby-sitter told my mother that my father hurt me. And because the words were so diluted, she didn't understand the true scope of what was going on.

So when she didn't step in and protect me immediately, I became extremely resentful and angry towards her.

MORGAN: Do you believe, looking back on it, your mother must have known what was happening?

MORGAN: No, because she would confront him. And she had been molested herself as a child. And he would manipulate her into believing that she was being paranoid, and just reading things into the situation, that she was bringing her past into our present. And so she felt a little crazy, a little confused.

MORGAN: When you're 12, she disappeared. She goes off to Guam and --

LANNERT: She actually moved to Arizona first. And, you know, there was a lot of travels in between. She did. But she was also struggling to find her own way. And you can't fault anybody for trying to find themselves.

MORGAN: Tom, you were friends with Stacey throughout this period. Did you have even a tiny inkling about what might be happening?

TOM WILSON, FRIEND OF STACY LANNERT: Well, we didn't meet until our junior year. We met in Spanish class. I had no idea. There was no indications. The one time -- the first time I met her father was on Christmas Eve of '88. And coming from my household to her household, it seemed like there was something off. But at that time, I didn't put two and two together.

MORGAN: You only found out about the abuse after Stacey finally shot her father?

WILSON: Correct. I found out when one of my other best friends called me and told me to turn on the news. That was the first time I found out anything.

MORGAN: Let's go to the moment that you finally crack with your father, because, as you say, you've been and gone from the home. You're sent to live with him with your sister. And then you leave, you come back and this goes on for a while.

And then you discover that he is abusing your sister. And that triggers in you a thought process where there's no going back.

LANNERT: Actually the thought was there prior, because as soon as I turned 18 I thought that I would be able to get out of the house. I'm an adult now. You can't ever touch me again. And so when my 18th birthday came and he threw me down on the ground and raped me and cut my hair off, I thought, I'm never gonna escape this. How am I ever gonna get out?

And then I thought, well, I can save my sister. I can't save me.

MORGAN: We're going to take a short break now. When we come back, I want to talk to you about the moment you killed your father and the aftermath.



MORGAN: Back now with Stacey Lannert, who spent 18 years in prison for the murder of her father, after what she says were years of sexual abuse. Also with us is Stacey's best friend, Tom Wilson.

Stacey, let's go to the moment that you pulled the trigger and killed your father. Did you intend to kill him then?

LANNERT: No. I had no intention of taking his life. I wanted him to know that when I said we're leaving and this is going to stop, that I meant it. And I wanted it to be a threat, but I didn't mean to harm him.

MORGAN: You go back to the house. He is semi-conscious on the couch. He's been drinking, as he usually was. What happens then?

LANNERT: The gun was downstairs. And I think I just went back to that moment where I saw him dragging my sister into his bedroom. And -- I just stepped over a line that no one should have to step over.

MORGAN: And you shot him?

LANNERT: And I shot him.

MORGAN: The first shot doesn't kill him. He does what -- how does he react?

LANNERT: He didn't realize he has been shot. And he woke up screaming my name. Sat up saying my name, and so I was terrified and immediately remorseful for what had happened. And I went and turned on the porch light and opened the door and was going to find a phone to call an ambulance.

And then he just started calling me and Christy all kinds of names and blamed us for not -- for the ambulance taking too long to come. Earlier during the altercation that happened, he took all the phones and ripped them out of the wall and had hid them.

So when I went to go find a phone to save his life, I couldn't find it. And he started calling me all kinds of whores and bitches and told me to just wait till he got up from that couch. I knew if he ever got up, that we would die.

MORGAN: So what did you do?

LANNERT: I shot him a second time.

MORGAN: In the head this time?

LANNERT: I didn't know where it was. I had placed the gun on a ledge behind him and I just closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. And I just figured whatever happened would happen.

MORGAN: At your trial, you didn't reveal this abuse.

LANNERT: I wasn't allowed to.

MORGAN: You were told not to by your legal team?

LANNERT: No, it's not that I wasn't allowed to. It was that nothing that happened previously to that night on July 4th, 1990, made any difference. All that was on trial that night were my actions for that one brief moment. They had something called the battered woman's syndrome and I wasn't eligible for it. So I had no defense and I was guilty.

MORGAN: You're how old now, 18, 19?

LANNERT: I was 18 when I committed the crime and I was 20 when I finally went to trial.

MORGAN: And that moment when they say life with no parole, what are you thinking then?

LANNERT: When they came back with guilty in the first degree, I knew that it would be life without parole. I had been offered the plea bargain of a life sentence. In order to do that, I would have had to have said the crime occurred because of monetary gain.

And I knew that I had made so many mistakes already that from this moment forward, I had to just follow the truth.

MORGAN: Some people were claiming you killed him for his money?

LANNERT: Yes, yes. That was the prosecution's defense, that it was monetary gain.

MORGAN: Tom, let me just ask you, when this all comes out and the trial comes out, at what point does Stacey tell you about the abuse?

WILSON: Well, unfortunately when all this came out, I had already enlisted in the Navy. And I knew that within a month of finding out about her being arrested, I was going to be in boot camp. So I wrote her a note saying that I was going to be her friend. I would always stand behind her and that I believed in her.

And as soon as I got out of boot camp and was able to come home, I was able to visit with her on boot leave and was able to talk to her about it. It wasn't all said right away, but enough was said to where I believed her and I knew that what she was saying was the truth. Now, for the past 20 years, the story has filled in quite a bit more. And I still believe her. I still believe everything she says, simply because I know the kind of person that she is.

MORGAN: We're going to take another short break. When we come back, I want to talk to you about what it was like being in prison, given what had gone on to you. And more importantly, what it's like to come out and to finally get your liberty again, liberty that you didn't think maybe you would ever see.


MORGAN: Back now with Stacey Lannert, who murdered her father after what she said were years of sexual abuse. Also with us is Tom Wilson, who has known Stacey since high school. Stacey, you're sent to prison for life without parole. That is the end of your life, and the life as you knew it. What was it like, prison for you, knowing perhaps there was never going to be any way out?

LANNERT: I always had hope, because I felt like when I went to trial, I made the right choice. And so I didn't believe that God was that cruel. And I believed that somewhere, somehow it would change for me.

But then I did have a very dark moment right before I was actually released. And it dawned on me that this could be the rest of my life forever. And I was just starting to really feel and to want to be a part of this society and to watch my niece grow up and be a part of this world.

And I thought I would never have the opportunity. And for about a week, I was so miserable, just soul shattering miserable. I was suicidal. I was bitter. I was angry. After the end of that week, I woke up, had a talk with God and said, if this is where you want me, then this is where I'll be. Just give me the strength, please, to make it through.

MORGAN: How did you come to get released? What happened?

LANNERT: We filed a petition for clemency, not a pardon, not asking for full-out --

MORGAN: You've never disputed killing your father?

LANNERT: Never. I asked for mercy. That's what clemency is. It's mercy. So I asked for mercy, because the laws had changed so much that if the same crime were to happen today, a less severe sentence would be imposed.

Governor Blunt was the third governor I had requested it of. And on Christmas Eve, he had commuted five people's sentences, and I wasn't one of them. And that's where that dark moment set in at. About a week and a half later, after I had made peace with where I was going to be, I got a phone call from my attorney, and she said, Stacey, they're reviewing your case and I said, they are? And she said, they are. And I was so thankful just that I would have an answer, be it yes or no, that somebody cared enough about my life to make a decision. Two days later, they came back and I was on the phone and she told me that he granted my clemency, and that not only did he grant it, but that it was with immediate release. And I walked out of prison six days later.

MORGAN: And the reason he did that is because he studied the evidence. And there had been further evidence that emerged now about the abuse you had suffered. And he believed you?

LANNERT: Yes, he did.

MORGAN: And he believed if that had been made available to the jury originally, you wouldn't have been convicted.

LANNERT: Absolutely.

MORGAN: So really in the end, your life has come down to certain people believing you.

LANNERT: Yes, yes, it has. And it took the courage of one man to say, I do believe her, and this is too harsh, and I'm going to give her mercy. And with one stroke of a pen, he changed my life forever. Forever.

MORGAN: What is your relationship with your mother like now? Do you blame her for what happened?

LANNERT: No, I do not. I don't blame anyone, because if I blame, then anger and hate rule me. And instead, I have found healing and forgiveness and love for my mother, for my sister, for everyone.

MORGAN: What is your message to other people who may be going through what you went through? What should they do?

LANNERT: Find your voice, tell. And when the first person doesn't help you, tell another person. Find another person and tell, tell, tell. And as adults, we need to be there. And we need to be more observant. And we need to make a change in the lives of children, because they don't speak for themselves. They don't know how.

But we do, and we can. And we can make a difference.

MORGAN: Stacey, Tom, thank you very much. It's been fascinating story to listen to.

And I'm just glad you've got to the place you've got to.

LANNERT: Thank you.

MORGAN: Thank you very much.

Tomorrow, my one on one with the first lady of comedy, Carol Burnett. Here's a sneak preview. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Can you still do it?

CAROL BURNETT, COMEDIAN: I'll try. I have to put my hand here. (YELL)


MORGAN: That's the hilarious Carol Burnett for the hour tomorrow. That's all for us tonight. Now here's "AC 360."