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DR. DREW

Teen Killer To Go Free?

Aired September 6, 2012 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: A quiet night shattered by a car plowing into a group of pedestrians near a university. Four young people dead, one left permanently disabled, as the 18-year-old driver staggered from the car, declaring "I am the angel of death."

The driver, David Attias, was the son of a Hollywood director. But his connections did not get him off. He was convicted on four counts of second-degree murder. But he did not go to jail. He went to a psychiatric hospital for 10 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We the jury in the above-entitled case, hereby find the defendant, David Attias, guilty of the crime of murder.

PINSKY: Ten years have passed and yesterday, a judge decided that Attias, with a history of mental illness, is no longer a threat to the public and could be free to walk the streets with you and me. Is that justice?

And later, a Massachusetts man convicted of murdering his wife in 1990 is making headlines because he has convinced a judge that he is entitled to a sex change operation. The judge cited serious medical need. Now the average cost of gender reassignment surgery is $50,000 to $150,000. And guess who would pay for this surgery? The taxpayers. And that has many people upset.

Let`s get started.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINSKY: All right. Here we go.

Let`s go out to John Phillips. He`s a radio talk show host here in Los Angeles at KABC.

Areva Martin, an attorney and legal affairs commentator.

John, you have followed this story in Santa Barbara for 11 years. Take us through it and bring us to the present moment.

JOHN PHILLIPS, TALK RADIO HOST, KABC: Well, David Attias was an 18- year-old college student at U.C. Santa Barbara at the time, known as "Crazy Dave" among his classmates. He`s had a history of mental illnesses. He`s had problems for a very long time, been treated for those problems for a very long time.

Decided one evening to take his car out, which his parents were at the time considering taking away from him if he didn`t continue to go get treatment and take his medication and treat his mental illness. He took this car out answered ran five people over. He killed four of them, maimed a fifth -- was taken up before a jury in Santa Barbara County, was convicted of second-degree murder.

But they found out that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, declared to be insane, was sentenced to Patton State Hospital here in San Bernardino, where he is treated. The psychiatrist psychologists, mental health professional there say he is now cured, that they have treated his illness and he is being shifted, convinced a judge to shift him to an outpatient facility in Oxnard, which is up near Ventura County.

PINSKY: Now, John, as someone who has followed this case, judging by the way you reported the story, you don`t think that`s such a great idea?

PHILLIPS: No, I think is a ticking time bomb. This guy was treated for mental illness prior to killing four people and maiming a fifth. And it didn`t work. They tried, they failed. I think after -- this guy killed four people and maimed a fifth, it`s time to take precaution and not give this guy another opportunity to kill more people.

I don`t want to have to hose down anymore college students off the grill of this guy`s car.

PINSKY: Areva, now, I understand you feel differently. Let me start with this question. My understanding, he was found guilty of second-degree murder around then the jury came back and said, no, no, insanity? Is that how it works?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Two-part process, Dr. Drew, when someone pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. So first the question is --

PINSKY: He made that plea?

MARTIN: Did -- yes, he made that plea in this case.

PINSKY: OK.

MARTIN: And the first question becomes did he commit the crime? So, that`s the first determination the jury had to make and they made the determines that this guy drove over these five people, killed four, maimed the other one.

Now, the second question becomes was he legally insane at the time that he did it? The legal definition is, you know, did he know the difference between right and wrong? Did he have an understanding of what he was doing? And the jury came back and said this guy was legally insane.

PINSKY: So you think the jury is right, the treatment has worked and this is justice being played out?

MARTIN: Well, I didn`t say that, Dr. Drew. But what happens in this case is, has the person been rehabilitated? That`s why he went to the state facility, for protection from himself, to prevent him from harming others and to receive treatment.

Now, after ten years, four doctors, four mental health professionals have said he is capable of being released to this step down facility, and there is a possibility that within one year, he could be out. There`s a serious question, though, about whether he is still a harm to others.

PINSKY: And whether he would be willing to maintain his treatment that makes him potentially less of a threat.

Kristin in California. Kristin, you have a question for us?

KRISTIN IN CALIFORNIA, FORMER UCSB STUDENT (via telephone): I was actually there that night and I remember the scene and what I remember most was the shocking thing of seeing shoes in the middle of the street. He had hit someone so hard that he hit them out of their shoes. It was -- it was a terrible -- terrible night and it was a tragedy, and it put -- the entire campus was it was so morose and so hard to be a part of.

I also work at a mental facility or a psychiatric rehabilitation facility and I know that if a patient doesn`t want to be on medication, they don`t -- they won`t be on medication, they will take themselves off. And if this is an individual who believes he does not need to be on medication, he will continue or he will refuse medication and could be a danger to society again.

PINSKY: So, Kristin, it sounds like you are fearful of this guy walking the streets?

KRISTIN: Oh my goodness, I`m glad I`m not down in Santa Barbara anymore. This is -- he shouldn`t be allowed to be on society. No. I would be afraid, yes.

PINSKY: And I think, John, you agree with that?

PHILLIPS: Oh, absolutely. He is going into an outpatient facility where there`s going to be four mental health professionals treating over 50 patients. He is not supposed to drive. He is supposed to be taking his medication. How can four people make sure that 57, 58 patients are doing what they are supposed to do, especially when you`re taking a risk with a guy like this who, again, has been treated for this before, wasn`t successful, went out and killed people. We are playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the chamber.

PINSKY: Areva, you bristled.

MARTIN: Well, you know, the prosecution made the same point. The prosecution put on case before the judge saying I believe this guy is still very dangerous and there was a psychologist that weighed in on the whole issue whether he was capable of being released. And the system is set up so that people can be rehabilitated.

And the question is, was he rehabilitated? I don`t think anyone knows that, and I`m concerned, too. I`m concerned about releasing him but also, this raises a serious mental health issue about how do we treat individuals who have mental health issues that commit crimes.

And so far, the system say, we send them to state prisons, we send them -- state institutions to get them better. And if they are better, they should be released.

PINSKY: The reason we are doing this story is mentally-ill individual -- really, why I wanted to do this story -- walked into a theater and shot up a bunch of people, a guy who was in treatment, rejected treatment, I`m sure we are going to find this out, didn`t take his meds.

Here`s my point of view: people are not responsible for having mental illness. I feel deeply conflicted about us imprisoning mentally ill, but they are responsible for their treatment. They`ve got to take their med. And when people are contemptuous and arrogant that is guy is reported to have been in treatment, I agree with that caller who is kind of concerned.

We got to take a break. I know you`re bristling.

OK. In addition your comment, Areva, we`re going to have a friend of the killer`s family who is going to tell us why he feels that this kid should be given a break and how the family feels about his upcoming release.

And later, a judge in Massachusetts has ruled a convicted murderer is entitled to a sex change operation that we pay for. We are going to hear from a transsexual about this topic and taking your calls.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL ATTIAS, SON CONVICTED OF KILLING FOUR PEOPLE: I just want to say I`m devastated and heartbroken. We are for everybody who has been affected by this -- this very horrible tragedy. And we know that it has affected not just the loved ones and the families of the victims whose grief must be unspeakable and we extend whatever compassion we are capable of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: Just awful. That was the father of David Attias, the kid who drove his car into a crowd of people in Santa Barbara and killed four.

I`m so conflicted about these stories because not only are the victims of the crime the people who our heart goes out for but these families are victims as well. We have got remember that.

Joining us now, Frank Gruber, who is a close friend of the Attias family and he wrote for the "Santa Monica Lookout News" during the trial.

Also, clinical psychologist Mel Golland join us.

Michelle, the young man is cleared to release -- to be released. You don`t get cured of chronic psychiatric illness.

MICHELLE GOLLAND, PH.D., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely not.

PINSKY: So what`s going on there?

GOLLAND: I mean, first of all, we shouldn`t use that sort of language.

PINSKY: Yes.

GOLLAND: I work very closely with NAMI, which is the National Alliance of Mentally Ill, and we need to be able to educate the public about mental illness and the management of these issues. And if we are going to have a system like we do that sets up individuals who commit crimes and they are found to be mentally ill, we need to have the follow-up seems to be in place for him as well.

PINSKY: So, we need to be able to force him to do his treatment is that what you`re saying?

GOLLAND: Absolutely. Absolutely. Or he will go back into Patton.

PINSKY: Mr. Gruber, you had direct contact with the family. I -- watching that video, obviously just completely stricken.

But I have a question. Why didn`t they or why don`t they, if this kid comes out, get a conservatorship over this kid and that would force him to do his treatment?

FRANK GRUBER, FRIEND OF ATTIAS FAMILY: Well, I can`t speak from a legal perspective like that. I`m not -- I`m a friend of theirs but I can`t say what they have considered to do specifically like that or not.

I mean, but I will say that it`s -- I think the conservatorship is not the issue. Anybody who knows somebody who is mentally ill, if there is going to be a problem, they are going to get around whatever kind of restrictions there are. The fact here is that the four doctors, the staff at Patton, have come to the conclusion, which they don`t come to the conclusion very often, that David Attias is -- can go into this step down treatment program and hopefully, the result will be that he will be able to rejoin society and become a productive member of society.

I mean, that`s -- to me, it`s, in a way, the system is working. I mean, I know it`s hard for people to take, but this is the way the system should work and let`s hope for the best for how it does work. If it doesn`t work, I suspect he`ll be back in Patton.

PINSKY: Well, if it doesn`t work, the risks might than great.

But, Areva, I know you agree with Mr. Gruber. My question, though, is why -- I`m so frustrated. I want to -- everybody to understand something, Britney Spears is alive today because her parents got a conservatorship over this adult child with mental illness. They deserve an award.

I recommend this to parents all the time. They never do it.

MARTIN: Well, we`ve talked a lot about this on the show, about how important it is for family members to recognize the signs of someone who is decompensating and who has a --

PINSKY: Get a conservatorship. You know why they say won`t? You know what they say they won`t?

Michelle, what`s the number one reason parents say they won`t get a conservatorship, refuse to do it and they resisted to do it? What do you think? I recommend it all the time.

GOLLAND: I recommend it all the time.

PINSKY: What do they say? When they say no, what do they say?

GOLLAND: They don`t think they can do it.

PINSKY: It`s expensive, it`s cumbersome, it`s difficult.

MARTIN: A lot of folks think it is very cumbersome.

PINSKY: It is.

MARTIN: But it`s not. Not as difficult as they think that it is.

GOLLAND: I have to interject.

PINSKY: And what`s the other thing though? What`s the other thing that they say?

GOLLAND: That the treatment --

PINSKY: Nope, the other thing is --

GOLLAND: What?

PINSKY: He will never speak to me again.

GOLLAND: Yes.

MARTIN: Fear that they will be alienated from their child.

PINSKY: And he goes and kills a bunch of people. That`s better?

GOLLAND: The problem is our society wants it too many ways and we don`t want to pay. We don`t want to have the benefits and the nets that these families and these individuals with mental illness need. The community mental health system is gone. We don`t -- we need multiple eyes --

PINSKY: Well, that`s bigger -- you`re right, a bigger job than I`m prepared to talk about. You`re right. The system is bad. You`re right. You`re right.

Shelia in Illinois. Shelia?

SHELIA, CALLER FROM ILLINOIS: Hi, Dr. Drew. My whole thing is if you`re competent enough in your daily reality to choose your alcoholic beverage and put it into a class to drink it and then operate a car, then you`re competent enough to face the consequences without your beverage, because beverages do not make you competent.

PINSKY: Shelia, but this was not strictly a substance story. This is a mental illness story.

John, sure you want to ring in on this as well. Go ahead, John.

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. Well, the fellow who knows his family and friends with the family said we should hope for the best. That`s what we`re doing when we let this violent person out. We`re hoping that a violent person doesn`t act in violent ways again.

And we have been hearing about how wonderful these mental health professionals are at Patton State Hospital. No, I`m sorry. They have a professional bias to say that this guy has been cured.

GOLLAND: First of all, they actually will get --

PHILLIPS: They don`t want to say that they`re just baby sitting lunatics. They want to say they are treating people and making everything better.

PINSKY: Hang on, John. Hold on. Michelle? Go ahead, real quick.

GOLLAND: Sir, I said to you earlier, you know, the way you speak about individuals with mental illness is very offensive.

PHILLIPS: Well, killing four people is offensive to me.

GOLLAND: But you know what, I`m talking about part of the problem are individuals like you.

PHILLIPS: Why aren`t you offended that four people are dead and a fifth was maimed?

GOLLAND: Actually, I`d like to finish, OK?

PINSKY: Right.

GOLLAND: You are part of the problem because you --

PHILLIPS: Yes, I`m part of the problem.

GOLLAND: -- because you contribute -- do you have an ability to keep your --

PINSKY: Michelle, I`m going to step away from you two, not sure it is going to go anywhere.

But I`m going to go out to Mr. Gruber and say, this is -- this is such a difficult problem. And the real question, I`m going to give you a second to answer this obviously, people are concerned, there`s lots of emotions on both sides, but you know, and I`m very conflicted about this I got to tell you. You know, bringing an ill person to justice, that`s already a concept that I have a problem with. Do you agree with that? Has justice been served here?

GRUBER: You`re talking to me?

PINSKY: Yes.

GRUBER: Well, I think that justice was served when he was found guilty and then not guilty by reason of insanity. I think that anybody who looked at the record knew the history of this, of David, would know that that was a very reasonable verdict that the jury reached.

Now, it becomes a medical issue. The judge in this case spent 12 weeks analyzing the evidence. I haven`t read the judge`s opinion but apparently, goes on to 80 pages. It very carefully, as I understand it, deals with all of these issues that we are talking about.

I don`t think anybody rushed into this. I don`t think that anybody is overly sanguine about it. I mean, nobody is trying to be -- when I said we hope, yes, of course, we hope. But, of course, we also -- there`s going to be mechanisms here to make sure that hope -- that it works hopefully.

PINSKY: Thank you, Mr. -- I got to break, Mr. Gruber. You have been --

MARTIN: Let me just say in defense of the legal system, Dr. Drew --

PINSKY: Yes.

MARTIN: These case are very difficult. My heart goes doubt family, the victims. The process has worked. The process is set up such that if a person is rehabilitated after being, you know, placed in one of these institutions --

PINSKY: Areva, the problem is you have two medical professionals --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: You haven`t examined this individual. You haven`t been on the ground with him like the four doctors at the state hospital.

PINSKY: Correct, I grant you.

MARTIN: Who have spent 10 years looking at him. They determined that he is able to be placed in the step down facility so got to have trust in the legal system.

PINSKY: Hold that thought. I agree with you. We`re going to keep that going. And your calls.

And later, a transsexual who supports -- well, who is -- who supports a convicted murderer. We`re going to talk to her. She`s right there. And a gentleman in prison who wants to get a sex change operation. Nina there says we should pay for that.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very sorry, shaken up by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard somebody gun their accelerator and I just looked over my shoulder and just heard boom, boom, boom as he hit the cars and I looked and I basically saw a cloud of smoke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: We are discussing a terrible tragedy up in Santa Barbara where young people were killed because a young man with mental illness just drove over them, frankly. And kid now is ready to get out of his mental health facility. He was found guilty of reason by insanity.

And, Areva, you were saying trust the legal system, and I do, but there`s a faulty concept, the idea of rehabilitation of somebody with chronic mental illness requires daily management the rest of their life. And how can you guarantee he is going to do that?

MARTIN: But, Dr. Drew, four mental health professionals have examined this young man. They have determined and it wasn`t an easy decision.

PINSKY: Yes.

MARTIN: This took weeks for the court to deliberate over all the evidence that was presented. The prosecuting attorney had an opportunity to present evidence from a psychologist that had a different opinion whether he was ready to be released two years earlier, some discussion about releasing him and they decided he wasn`t ready.

PINSKY: OK. Michelle?

GOLLAND: What I`d like to say -- and the point to me is not just Monday morning quarterbacking that -- around him being released now. We need to look at why and how can we help those families and parents who are in the position, that that family was in as well. I would bet that they would want to change things, that they did.

PINSKY: I agree with you. I agree.

GOLLAND: They want other families to take that.

PINSKY: Yes.

John, I will let you say a last comment, then I`m going to wrap this up. Real quick. John, what do you want to say?

PHILLIPS: Well, these four mental health professionals at Patton State Hospital wanted to let him out before and then he had behavioral issues and they had to reverse themselves. This guy is not fixed.

PINSKY: OK. Well, again, nobody gets fixed. They get stabilized and if they are committed to and participating in their treatment, they can do.

MARTIN: We can always criticize the experts, Dr. Drew, but we have to have some faith in the system.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLLAND: We have to have an intelligent, educated discussion.

PINSKY: Guys, here`s the deal -- we have a gentleman that shout up a theater. That`s why we`re having this conversation. There were tons of safeguards against that as well. We must always continue to evaluate the systems.

The fact is, if you know somebody -- and we keep following stories like this and this particular sorry as well. But listen, if you have a loved one with serious mental illness, pay attention, get help. Treatment works. But they`ve got do it on a daily basis. If they refuse treatment, think about a conservatorship it can save not just their life but others.

Next up -- thank you to this great panel, by the way, John, Michelle, Areva, I appreciate it.

Next up, a man who`s convicted of murdering his wife, spent 10 years in prison. Now, he`d like taxpayers to pay for him to have a sex change operation. I`ve got somebody who says that`s OK.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: A Massachusetts man convicted of murdering his wife in 1990 is now making headlines because a judge said he is entitled to a sex change operation and taxpayers should foot that bill. I want to remind you about this guy you are seeing there in this footage, he strangled his wife, left her in the trunk of a car. That`s what we are talking about here. And he was convicted of that murder.

Joining me now, transsexual artist Nina Arsenault who`s had over 60 surgeries herself to become a woman.

And, Nina, you say this is OK, that we should be footing the bill for this surgery, is that right?

NINA ARSENAULT, TRANSGENDER ARTIST: Well, I mean, I absolutely agree that this is provocative way for this issue to come up in the public. And, you know, absolutely, it has a very negative charge about it because Michele is a convicted felon, a convicted murderer.

But I think it`s very, very important to acknowledge that I would like to disentangle that negative charge, just sort of defuse that, bring a bit of reason and intellect to the --

PINSKY: Nina, I`m going to interrupt you and say this is why I wanted you, because you always are very, very smart on this topic, so, let`s do it. Go ahead.

ARSENAULT: All right. Thank you. Thank you very much. You live in America, I live in Canada. Both our countries are human rights leaders. Both our countries believe that even people incarcerated inside the prison system deserve healthcare.

They deserve to be treated for mental illness as well as physical illness. And I absolutely find it abhorrent that Michele murdered her former wife, the correct pronoun to use in this situation would be the feminine pronoun.

PINSKY: Got it. Got it.

ARSENAULT: I absolutely find it abhorrent, and yes, very distasteful emotionally, the idea of giving money to a murderer. However, this is a legitimate medical concern. Transsexuals, doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists have been in the media for decades saying that that sex reassignment surgery, genital reassignment surgery is absolutely medically necessary for transsexuals. A lot of portion of the American public can never understand that.

PINSKY: Well, that`s what I want you to put a -- shine a little light on for me, because people have trouble getting their head around that. And, even I who have dealt with transgender and transsexual say, do we have to provide him all the treatment? Can`t we just -- can`t we just, you know, give most of it the hormones and other things, we have to do the expensive surgeries, too?

ARSENAULT: I would like to invite you and everyone watching this television show right now to ponder a question, and that question is, how would you feel if tomorrow morning, you woke up and when you looked in the mirror, you had the genitals of the opposite sex when you looked at your pelvic area?

I am asking to you take a moment with an open heart and an open mind and ask yourself what trauma would that put into your body? What state of panic? Would you be able to --

PINSKY: Let`s talk to some of our callers and see if they have an opinion about it. Suzanne in New York, you want to ring in?

SUZANNE, NEW YORK: Hi, Dr. Drew. Thanks so much for taking my call. This is a really important topic, and I am pondering the question that you`re -- that your guest just offered on top of my other questions.

PINSKY: OK.

SUZANNE: But I guess my thought is, yes, yes, yes, I believe that we should allow people to be the people that they are and do whatever is necessary, but I really have trouble with this one, because this -- people that are incarcerated are denied the right to even vote. And they`ve taken away their right to be a part of our society.

And if this incarcerated woman would like that surgery and she can pay for it, I would say, let`s do it.

PINSKY: Right.

SUZANNE: Otherwise, let`s go with what`s being offered, the hormone therapy, the talk therapy, whatever we can do to help here, but for the state to take on this kind of thing, I think, takes it to a whole new level that we really have to consider, because --

PINSKY: OK. Suzanne, hold on. Nina is shaking her head no. I kind of agree with Suzanne. Tell me why not.

ARSENAULT: We`re not talking about the right to vote. We`re talking about the right to be healthy. We`re talking about the right to -- I ask the caller if she woke up tomorrow, and she had a penis and testicles, would she be able to exist? What state of trauma would she live in? That`s what we`re talking about. We`re not talking about the right to vote.

PINSKY: Nina, let me ask you something -- Nina --

ARSENAULT: -- a medically necessary treatment.

PINSKY: Nina, how long did you live in that panic? What was that like?

ARSENAULT: Well, you know, being a transsexual, you know, I`m asking people to ponder a kind of hypothetical question, but as transsexuals, we come to that understanding that we have the wrong genitals as children. So, it also asks you the question what psychological resources do you think a child has to deal with that?

You know, I`d also like to respond to the caller in this way. If we had a person incarcerated inside the prison system who had lung cancer, who smoked their entire lives, actually, not just one of them, several of them, we could compare the cost of a few sex changes a year. We`re not talking about a lot of money here.

We`re talking about a drop in the bucket compared to the national budget for something like this. If you compared that to the amount of people who get medical treatment, people who have smoked all their lives, people who have drunk excessive amounts of alcohol, people who have never exercised, people who eat junk food on a regular basis, we`re talking billions and billions of dollars in a health care budget.

PINSKY: Nina, let me ask you this. We`re going to go to break, but how much did you spend on your surgeries?

ARSENAULT: Well, I -- you know, I think -- well, I think that`s a bit of a different situation. I had a series of procedures because of my gender, but, you know, my cosmetic procedures and the money I spent for them also was absolutely out of a quest for beauty as well.

PINSKY: OK. But, I imagine it was a lot though. It`s a lot of money, right? I mean, these things are not cheap?

ARSENAULT: It was a lot of -- it was a lot of money. I spent about $200,000 on the procedures. I raised all the money myself. As transsexuals, we are among the most disenfranchised and disadvantaged people in culture. We do not have often the opportunities to make money that other people have.

Often, we don`t have the privilege of education, even though educational institutions will accept us, there`s an enormous amount of transphobia out there that, you know, for us to sometimes just participate in an educational institution as we`re being scolded, shamed, judged, scrutinized for our bodies, which are admittedly the things that we have the most conflicted feelings about ourselves.

PINSKY: Well, Nina --

ARSENAULT: And so, it`s the psychic wound within us that`s the deepest.

PINSKY: Nina, I have to go to break, and you know we love you here. You speak about this in such complete way, such eloquent way. I want to keep this conversation going and bring in a couple of different opinions, so hang in there. We will see what they have to say.

I really don`t know what their opinions are going to be, but I know this is a topic that it`s going to raise some eyebrows, let`s just say. So -- and your calls after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA TAVILLA, PSYCHOLOGIST, FRIEND OF MICHELLE KOSILEK: She`s a victim of a medical condition. I`m very aware that there are other victims out there because of her crime. She`s aware of it. That`s not what this is about. This is purely about the law states that if something is medically necessary, that they get the treatment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: Medically necessary. A federal judge in Massachusetts ruled that a man serving a life sentence for killing his wife is, because he`s transgender, entitled to a sex change operation paid for by taxpayers.

Joining me is attorney and legal affairs commentator, Areva Martin, and author, Pamela Geller. Now, you guys have different opinions on this. Areva, I`ll let you say first your thoughts.

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Very difficult decision, obviously, Dr. Drew. You know, this is a tough area for people, because we`re talking about something that not usually accepted by most folks. Most people don`t understand this transgender stuff, but legally.

PINSKY: Let`s say it is but necessary, do we have to go to the mat with all treatments?

MARTIN: We don`t have to go to the mat, but, the judge determined that this man needed this sex change, no different than a person who needs a hip replacement or may need some other kind of orthopedic surgeon. Eighth amendment says you have a right, while you`re in prison, to get medically necessary treatment.

Very high burden. Very high standard of proof that this prisoner had to satisfy. So, not like everybody who says, hey, I want surgery, is getting surgery paid for by taxpayers that are in prison. But, when it`s medically necessary and a legal case has been made for it, judge makes the right decision. So, difficult to stomach, but I think the judge made the right call.

PINSKY: Pamela Geller, what do you think? Does this open the door to more procedures?

PAMELA GELLER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: This is an outrageous judicial abuse of taxpayer dollars. Cheryl Kosilek (ph) was nearly decapitated by her husband. She met him in a rehab center. She thought she could help him. With a wire, he nearly decapitated her. He was convicted to life without parole.

The very idea that we`d be paying for a sex change operation is outrageous. First of all, it has not been determined that it is medically necessary. And by the way, it is not. You cannot equate it with cancer treatments or heart surgery. He`s serving a life sentence. He`s a convicted murderer.

The man sat down to a steak dinner after he did away with her body. What are we talking about here? Once you`re convicted of murder, you forego certain rights.

(CROSSTALK)

GELLER: I let you speak. I let you speak.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Pam.

GELLER: We`re talking $40 to $80,000 -- thank you, dear -- $40 to $80,000.

(LAUGHTER)

GELLER: -- $40 to $80,000 when this country is $16 trillion in debt. It`s irresponsible. It shows an utter lack of contempt for the American people and for taxpayer dollars.

PINSKY: OK. Areva, apples and oranges, tell me about that.

MARTIN: Apples and oranges, you know, the woman that was murdered, heart goes out to her family. You know --

PINSKY: Guy`s a felon. Guy`s a felon.

MARTIN: Guy`s a felon.

PINSKY: Or she is a felon.

MARTIN: She`s felon. Life in prison. Right decision on that, but we`ve got to look at what the judicial system says about individuals who are in prison who have medical conditions. Now, if the medical evidence doesn`t support it, this is cosmetic, I`m the first to say don`t give the guy a cosmetic surgery.

PINSKY: OK. All right. Nina, two questions. A, is it cosmetic, and B, is he/she -- I get confused about these things, in with the women prison now? Is that where she goes, whether she`s had an operation or not?

ARSENAULT: She absolutely should be held inside the woman`s prison. Michele is a woman. This is not something you come forward and say on a lark she absolutely is a woman. Our gender is a core part of us. It`s one of the most primal parts of us. It`s not something you fake. It`s not -- this is not a ruse.

And so, yes, absolutely, she should be inside a woman`s prison. But, you know, doctors internationally have agreed for decades, doctors and psychiatrists that this is absolutely medically necessary. In my country, in Canada, OHIP (ph), the Ontario government, pays for the -- pays for the genital reassignment surgery.

I mean, I would like to extent the debate beyond, you know, Michelle and beyond the fact that she`s in prison getting this. I absolutely think the American government should follow Canada and should follow more enlightened countries like in Scandinavia and in Britain that this is a medically necessary operation and should be funded not only for Michele in prison but everyone who qualifies for it.

PINSKY: All right. Those are arguments worth discussing, but we`re going to stay within the balance of the taxpayer dollars and the prison. Pam, back to you, are you concerned that a convicted felon with male genitalia is going to be in a female prison?

GELLER: I`m concerned that this sets a dangerous precedent. The family of the decapitated woman, Cheryl Kosilek (ph) is imploring the judge to reconsider, is looking for an appeal. You can go to my site, atlasshrugs.com. I`ll provide a link to the petition.

I urge all Americans to speak out against this. We`re getting distracted here. The bottom line is it`s a convicted murderer, serving a life sentence without parole, why would the taxpayer be spending upwards of $50 to $80,000 for a sex change operation --

PINSKY: Let`s throw a call into this mix.

GELLER: A social life in prison, it`s ridiculous. It`s the height of insanity.

PINSKY: Sandra in Arkansas. Sandra, do you want to throw something into the mix here?

SANDRA, ARKANSAS: Yes, I`d like to be in the mix.

PINSKY: Go ahead.

SANDRA: First of all, Dr. Drew, thank you for having me, and I`m very, very appalled at this. I think, first of all, the judge should be removed. This is ridiculous. I mean, there are other inmates with other life-threatening problems that should be considered. It`s as if this person is getting a dream, getting his dream.

He`s always wanted to be a woman. And so, he killed his wife, go to prison for 20 years and what happens? He get a chance to get a sex change, something he have always wanted. It`s just not fair. It`s not fair to the families of the murdered woman. It`s just not fair.

PINSKY: OK. Sandra, I`m going to hold it right there. I feel like I`ve got to quickly take a break because you just threw a little lighter fluid on my panel here. And I`m sure they`re each going to have something to say in response to what you have to say. So, that and more of your calls after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: We are talking about a convicted felon who is transgender getting taxpayers to pay for a sex change operation. Areva Martin was going to comment to our last caller, Sandra, who was outraged that the judge -- thought the judge should be removed. And Sandra -- excuse me -- and Areva, of course, is still bristling at having been called sweetie by Pam. So, we`ll start there.

MARTIN: That`s OK. It`s such a difficult topic, Dr. Drew. And Sandra, I agree with you. I hate murderers, and I particularly hate murderers who kill their wives. I`m a wife. So, you know, I don`t have any compassion for this man that killed his wife. But we have to separate the murder, the punishment from the murder from what he is entitled to when he is in prison if he has a medical condition.

So, if there is a true need, and we`ve heard that this guy tried to commit suicide twice. He tried to castrate himself. He`s had all kinds of psychological issues associated with being a transgender person that the judge decided that the medical evidence supported the surgery.

PINSKY: How would you convince somebody like Pam? Pam said this is an outrage. Pam said this guy is getting his dreams, a social life, going to be a woman. Help me --

MARTIN: Pam, you have to separate the issues here. I`m not advocating for this guy getting anything in prison that he`s not entitled to, but the Eighth Amendment says you cannot be treated cruelly. Cruel and unusual punishment does not exist in our judicial system.

And if there is a finding of medical evidence that supports the need for surgery, it could be hip surgery, back surgery, any kind of surgery, then he has to get it. I don`t care if he becomes a woman or a man or what, but if he needs the surgery, the taxpayers have to pay for it.

We will pay for the treatment, the hormone treatment, the psychological treatment, that`s all taxpayer dollars. We`re paying for him to be housed in this jail. So, this is no different.

PINSKY: Pam, go right ahead.

GELLER: Kudos to the caller, because at the end of the day, with all the talking heads there are, the American people are very rational. What happens next? People going to prison so that they can get a sex change operation? There is -- it has not been deemed medically necessary. This is not on par with cancer treatment.

This is not on -- this is not life threatening. And may I add, Cheryl Kosilek doesn`t get to wake up in the morning and decide whether she enjoys being a woman or enjoys being a man or to ponder these issues. She was slaughtered in cold blood. He`s a convicted murderer. He does not get a sex change operation.

This is not rocket science. There`s no ambiguity here. This is not a tough case. There is nothing to separate. He`s serving a life sentence. He`s a murderer. He doesn`t get a sex change operation.

PINSKY: Throw another call in here. Myel. Myel in Indiana, go ahead. Myel?

MYEL, INDIANA: Yes. Dr. Drew?

PINSKY: Please, go right ahead.

MYEL: Thank you for having me on the show. And I want to first off say that this is totally -- for us to even just be having this conversation is ridiculous. This is abuse of taxpayer dollars if we have to foot the bill for this guy`s surgery. And I also have a question. You know, if this surgery was mandatory, why didn`t this man or woman have this surgery before he murdered his wife?

And if the surgery was deemed medically necessary, you know, if he would have had that before, then maybe that family wouldn`t be grieving over a loss.

PINSKY: And I think we`re talking about the splitting here as what is elective versus what is not, so you get into all these sort of intellectual things.

MARTIN: And I think we have to step back.

PINSKY: We`re going to step back, way back and take a break.

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: OK. Here we go.

MARTIN: Good point.

PINSKY: I`m going to keep this conversation going and we`re going to answer that caller`s question in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: A transgender felon, a murderer is going to get a sex change operation. Nina, is this elective? Did that caller, Myel, have a point?

ARSENAULT: No, this is not elective surgery. This is medical -- medically necessary surgery and, you know, the question for me is not do you pay for the sex change of a murderer. The question is that the American government should start paying for the sex changes of everyone who needs one.

PINSKY: Areva, do you have a comment about this?

MARTIN: I just want to talk about stepping back, Dr. Drew, and we can`t seem to separate the fact that we`re talking about a convicted murderer.

PINSKY: And by the way, it`s convicted murderer on one hand who we don`t really feel great about getting free health care.

MARTIN: Yes.

PINSKY: And it seems like an elective thing. Something that were -- it`s provocative.

MARTIN: And I just want to say, the court had to consider all of that. The court had to court the medical evidence, a high standard of proof. I`m not concerned that this is going to set some precedent that everyone that wants a sex change is going to be able to run into court and get one.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: It takes a lot of evidence, a lot of proof to be able to get any kind of serious medical treatment in prison. So, I don`t think the American, you know, public has to worry that we`re going to start spending our money, you know, frivolously on these prisoners that don`t need the surgeries.

There had to be a clear showing of need in this case before this judge would have ruled that this man is entitled to the surgery. I feel pretty confident about that.

PINSKY: But Pam, you disagree?

GELLER: Well, how do you quantify need? Why is one`s need more important than another one`s need? I mean, you`re getting into this crazy leftist area, I don`t know how you`re going to sort it out. It`s wrong. It`s wrong on all front it`s wrong. The issues that transgenders have, absolutely understandable. This is not the case.

This is a convicted murderer. They treat these cases with hormones, with psychological counseling, but the idea that you`re going to give a $50 to $80,000 sex change operation based on what? Again, it`s not life and death. There`s no abuse here. And if it was so, you know, necessary, how did he get married?

You know, how did he marry his wife, and then, of course, slaughter her? I`m sorry. There is absolutely no gray area here. I don`t understand how you`re even making this argument. Separating the murderer from the -- from this case, you can`t. You can`t. It`s what it is. It`s what`s it is. There`s no separating it out. And taxpayer funds should not be used for a sex change operation.

PINSKY: And Pam, we will have to leave it there. I want to thank you, Pam Geller. Areva Martin, thank you for joining me throughout the show. Of course, Nina Arsenault, Nina, again, we really appreciate you coming here and giving that opinion. Nina`s book "Transperformer: Nina Arsenault."

That`s her book. There it is right there, and she, obviously, has a very interesting life and a smart lady with lot of interesting opinions about this particular topic.

Reminder, we were talking about earlier in the show about mental illness and getting conservatorship and making sure people get proper care if they have a problem so they don`t hurt themselves and don`t hurt others.

Thank you guys for watching. Thank you for calling. "Nancy Grace" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drew Peterson guilty in the first degree murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Finally, somebody heard Kathleen`s cry.

END