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Burden of Proof

Football Star Ray Lewis Charged in Post-Super Bowl Murders

Aired February 3, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAX RICHARDSON, ATTORNEY FOR RAY LEWIS: He states that he's not guilty of these charges, and he believes that the system will ultimately show that he's innocent of these crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your client, Mr. Ray Lewis, is accused of two counts of murder.

ED GARLAND, ATTORNEY FOR RAY LEWIS: We are absolutely certain that the evidence will show that Ray Lewis had no involvement in bringing about the death of either of these two individuals. He was not in the fight, he had no weapon, and he in no way participated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: A professional football player is charged with a double murder, but Ray Lewis' lawyers say the pro bowler was just, quote, "a horrified bystander."

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had planned to be in Hawaii today, preparing for this Sunday's NFL Pro Bowl game. Instead, Lewis sits in a jail cell in Atlanta, charged in the killing of two men outside a trendy Atlanta nightclub.

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: The murders took place Monday in the early morning hours following the Super Bowl. Attorneys for Lewis say their client is not guilty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARLAND: Many mistakes can be made in the criminal justice system. This is one of those mistakes. When the true facts are known, we expect this case to go away.

We are making every effort right now to present the true facts from witnesses to the district attorney's office so they will know the true facts. And when that happens, we would believe that justice will require the dismissal of this case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us today from Atlanta is Ed Garland, who is the attorney for Ray Lewis. And here in Washington, Lucy Venoit (ph), former prosecutor Robert Bonsib, and Jennifer Gillmore (ph).

COSSACK: And in the back, Michelle Novy (ph), Maura Policelli (ph) and Jan Muranaka (ph). And also joining us from Atlanta is CNN/Sports Illustrated senior correspondent Nick Charles.

Nick, who is Ray Lewis? and what are the police charging him with? and what are the facts?

NICK CHARLES, CNN/SI SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lewis is an outstanding linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He had been in Baltimore. Came to the Super Bowl. Rented a limousine. Picked up several friends along the way in North Carolina.

He was here to watch the game and also to make several appearances. After the game, he went to this club, this nightclub, which was staffed by several uniformed off-duty Atlanta policemen, as well as several private security guards, none of whom reported any allegations inside the nightclub.

According to witnesses though, when the club closed at about 3:00 a.m. this past Monday morning, six men fight fought and argued with the victims who were stabbed to death. They argued with them, they were stabbed to death. The six fled in Lewis' black limousine.

About an hour later, the police found the limousine and the chauffeur changing a tire at a hotel, and the tire had been flattened by a bullet. Two knives were also found inside the vehicle. Lewis was told he was wanted for questioning that day. And later that night, he was arrested and charged with the murder.

So that's what we have to the moment. And as you said at the top of the show, he sits still in an Atlanta jail today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ed, you are quoted today in the wires as saying that Lewis does, quote, have "some limited knowledge." There are knives that Nick said were just found inside the vehicle. These is also a suggestion that shots were fired at the limousine. Can you explain the knives, the shots at the limousine?

GARLAND: Well, we are in the process of having an investigation done of each fact in this case. What is clear is that Ray Lewis had no involvement in the acts that resulted in this death. He was leaving this club, he was happy, he was having a good time, he was getting a group into his car, other people were milling about. These events take place.

He then is in the limousine, and the shots are fired as the limousine leaves. He is not a participant in the stabbing, and he didn't bring it about, nor did he cause it. VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know, Ed, what the motive for this homicide is? We listened to Nick say that everything seemed to be fine, and all of a sudden two people are stabbed in a car, and then leaves the scene. But there is -- Was there any -- Do the police have some motive for this homicide?

GARLAND: No one has floated the idea of a motive. I think it is very probable that you have patrons that are leaving a bar, people have been partying, and some arguments breakout between people, it all happens very rapidly and spins out of control.

Ray was merely present, and as you know, mere presence at a crime scene is not a crime. He did no act to cause it or participate in it.

COSSACK: Ed, there were some knives found inside Ray's limousine. What do you know about those?

GARLAND: I'm a little unclear as to what the specific facts are on that. I do believe that that will probably turn out to be true that there was a knife or knives found in there. That would mean that other people who piled into the limousine had those knives. That does not make Ray Lewis knowledgeable of what went on before or that he authorized it in any way. But it is not real clear what all those facts are.

COSSACK: But Ed, also, the report is that there were five shots or at least several shots fired at the limousine as it drove away. It would be hard to say that someone didn't know somebody was shooting five shots at them, as they were driving away, particularly when one of the tires went flat.

GARLAND: It's a good reason to be drive away, Roger. If you are being shot at, I recommend it.

COSSACK: it is probably a good reason to go to the police too.

GARLAND: He eventually went to the police once on his own. He was called later in the morning. He did not really know what had happened until he saw the media reports. And that was a good deal later in the day.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ed, you've been a criminal defense lawyer for a number of years down in Atlanta. And how do you -- how do you sort of -- is this a more difficult case, even at this juncture, in light of Rae Carruth and the O.J. Simpson case? Does it change your job at all at this point?

GARLAND: Well, there is a danger of people coming forward who want to be in the news and producing false evidence. There is some disruption of your focus when you are trying to conduct an investigation. We have three investigators trying to find the dozens of witnesses. The police have not fully finished their investigation by any respect. I know of seven or eight key witnesses that they have not interviewed, some of whom we have interviewed. We are going to be feeding that information in. It means, though, in some respects that everybody looks at everything more carefully. I don't think they did that when they made this sudden arrest. Realize there has not been an indictment. We have simply a warrant, based on one person's assumptions, I believe. It's not clear what knowledge that person has, it's not clear that it's accurate. And I would expect this case to fall away.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you about the limo driver. I have read reports that the limousine driver is being held in a hotel by the police. Is that correct, and why?

GARLAND: That is not correct. Now, perhaps, he was taken to a hotel room and questioned. But to my knowledge, he is not being held at this time.

I do know he was subjected to interrogation on three different occasions. He is an older gentleman. He has limited knowledge of what he actually observed or saw.

You are talking about events, distances, people running, events occurring in the dark, and the question of who does what becomes very important.

But the key thing here is: Ray Lewis was trying to get people in his limousine and leave, did nothing to try to cause this or be responsible for it. He does have some knowledge and some information and we're going to be providing our investigation over to the prosecution, which is unusual, but it shows his innocence.

COSSACK: All right. Ed Garland, thanks for joining us. Up next: Defending and prosecuting the case against Ray Lewis. And if convicted, could he be facing the death penalty? Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

Charlotte Hornets player David Wesley, who was drag-racing with teammate Bobby Phills when Phills was killed in a car crash last month, faces two misdemeanor charges.

Wesley was driving his Porsche with a suspended license at the time of the crash. Phills was in his own Porsche when he crashed and died instantly.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Good news for our Internet-savvy viewers: You can now watch BURDEN OF PROOF live on the Worldwide Web. Just log-on to www.cnn.com and click your way to the BURDEN OF PROOF link. We now provide a live video feed, Monday through Friday, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. And if you miss that live show, the program is available on the site at any time via video-on-demand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARDSON: Ray would request that all his fans and friends and family say their prayers for him. He states that he's not guilty of these charges, and he believes that the system will ultimately show that he's innocent of these crimes. And we're doing all we can to investigate what has taken place, and we'll be back in a couple of weeks for a preliminary hearing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Pro football player Ray Lewis was charged Monday in connection with two knife killings just outside an Atlanta nightclub. His lawyers say mistakes are being made in the criminal justice system.

And now joining us from Atlanta is criminal defense attorney Bruce Morris.

Well, Bruce, how do you start defending this man? There's all this pretrial publicity, everyone knows who he is. Where do you start?

BRUCE H. MORRIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The investigators, I'm sure, will be out both from the district attorney's office and from the defense team, trying to locate and interview every witness who had any contact with Mr. Lewis or anyone from the limousine that evening. They'll be interviewed. The neighborhood will be canvassed and all that will be reported and be part of the defense and part of the prosecution in this case.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bob, if I were the prosecutor in this case, what I would want to see most is the clothes that Ray Lewis was wearing that night to see whether or not there's any blood spatter on that, as well as subject the knives from the car to see if there are fingerprints on it, whose they are. What else does the prosecution want to look for?

BOB BONSIB, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, again, whenever you have a fight involving a bunch of people like this, it's always hard to separate out who did what. So they're going to be looking, I think, to see whether he had any level of responsibility, even if he did not, as his lawyer indicates, actually directly participate in it. Did he participate in some confrontation that may make him liable for the consequences of it?

VAN SUSTEREN: But knowledge, you would agree, Bob, is not enough. I mean, you say some level of participation. How little can participation be to hook someone into a crime?

BONSIB: Well, arguably it could be as little as some pushing and shoving, some people mouthing off one to the other. There's a fight that gets started, nobody intends it to go bad, and then one person out of this group on their own decides to pull out a knife and escalates it. Is he going to be liable? Is that a foreseeable consequence of a fight? Maybe yes, maybe no, but in many states it can make you culpable at least for some level of murder. They also...

VAN SUSTEREN: Bruce in Georgia, I mean, that seems, if you're just there in a fight, that, as Bob laid out, that seems rather remote to the actual offense?

MORRIS: If Ray Lewis were merely present and a fight broke out and he saw it, had no intention of participating in a fight at that time and it happened around him, he should not be charged. He certainly could not be convicted in Georgia. In order to be liable for a stabbing that somebody else performed, he would have had to been a party to the crime and furthered the crime with some knowledge that the crime was going to take place, and we've seen absolutely no evidence of that.

COSSACK: Does that mean -- suppose they were in a fight and Ray did not know that somebody had a knife and did not have any idea that somebody was going to use a knife, but he was a participant in this fight. Does that mean that he would not be guilty of murder, he would not be an aider or an abettor?

MORRIS: Roger, if he just happened to be there when the fight was taking place, he certainly has no criminal liability.

COSSACK: No, what if he was participating in the fight?

MORRIS: If he was acting in self-defense, he certainly would have no liability, and frankly, if he had no knowledge that any other participant had a knife or intended to use a knife, he would also still have no liability whatsoever.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nick, I ask you very cautiously, since -- if someone has done something violent in the past doesn't mean necessarily they have done the violent act that they're accused of, but tell me, is Ray Lewis, does he have a reputation for being -- has he ever gotten into any other trouble?

CHARLES: Well, he has. It's been about two months ago he was -- they filed assault charges against him for punching a woman in a Maryland bar. In fact, it's one of many spates that have happened through the NFL, and the repercussions is the NFL has a serious image problem, and this obviously exacerbated the problem, this Ray Lewis charge of murder.

COSSACK: Bob, in terms of arresting Ray Lewis, they say further investigation is being done, the police are looking around for other suspects, Ray Lewis is a prominent person, why would you arrest him? It would seem to me that you would need some -- the police would need some kind of eyewitness evidence.

BONSIB: Certainly in the press accounts we have seen nothing that would help us understand why out of all of these people he appears to be the only one that was arrested. So either they acted prematurely or there's some piece of evidence that hasn't been disclosed, because you're right, you've got to have something to connect him with it, and we haven't seen that in the press. The only thing that we've seen in the press is that he was one of a number in a group.

COSSACK: What would you conclude, then, for the fact that he's arrested, and we're speculating here, but would you conclude that the police have a witness who said, I saw Ray Lewis use a knife?

BONSIB: Either that or that he was involved at some level in causing this to happen, either encouraging somebody in the fight, doing something more than simply being present.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we're going to take a break. Stay with us.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: Why did Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia not attend President Clinton's State of the Union address last week?

A: He said, "I do not feel comfortable there. It has really become much more of a political show even in the short time I've been there."

"... I feel I am sort of a backdrop for a political spectacle and I don't think it's good for me. I really don't think it's good for the court, for that matter."

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: In addition to the charges against Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and murder charges against Carolina Panther receiver Rae Carruth, since November, seven professional football players have been accused of crimes ranging from trespassing to sexual abuse.

Bruce, obviously we're very early in this investigation, but if there are no eyewitnesses and if it's too early for the forensic results tests to be back, whether it might be blood on any clothing or fingerprints on the knife, why else would he be held?

MORRIS: Well, it's entirely possible that the police believe he knows more than he has told them. That is what he observed and hasn't talked about yet. And the ultimate leverage to get him to provide that information would be to hold him in jail without bond until he answers the questions that they want him to answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would that be lawful though, I mean, just to hold him because they want to put the squeeze on him to talk? I mean, you can't just hold him without some crime?

MORRIS: Well, if they have any evidence, and Greta as you know the standard for holding somebody on a warrant is just the smallest amount of evidence at all, that they were present and might have been involved, I'm sure they have some information that he was present. Beyond that, frankly, that's all they need to hold him and put him in a position where to get himself out of jail, he has got to tell what he knows about what he may have observed someone else did.

COSSACK: Bruce, there will be a bond review hearing shortly. At that time, won't the prosecution be forced to in some ways put it up and show exactly or at least what evidence they have to justify holding him without bond?

MORRIS: Yes, Roger, in Georgia, they are going to have to do two things: one, they are going to have to show evidence that he was involved in a criminal offense, and by involved, I mean doing something other than being present; and, second, they are going to have to satisfy the judge that a bond shouldn't be issued because he is a risk flight. That's going to be hard to do. Everybody knows this man. Everybody knows where he should be. If not in Hawaii, then certainly in Baltimore. He is not somebody who is going to run away from the contract that he has in the NFL. So I think there are good grounds for his getting a bond.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nick, what's Buckhead area like? and how late are bars open down there?

CHARLES: Well, they are open about -- Well, I really don't frequent it that late -- but I believe this one...

VAN SUSTEREN: That was a trick question, Nick.

CHARLES: Yes, that was loaded, Greta. You are not going to get me on that. I think 3:00 this one closed. And this was a very safe haven. It was well policed. As I said, there were uniformed Atlanta off-duty officers there, as many as 20 private security officials, it is sort of a haven where a lot of NFL players come on Sunday nights. And some of them fly from other cities after their games to go to.

So it is a well-known spot. It was $100 to get in, and $10 a drink I suppose. And they say, the two victims didn't seem to be the type of people who had the money to be running with that kind of crowd.

COSSACK: Bob, he is a -- the defendant in this case is a very well known -- Ray Lewis is a very well-known football player. In fact, he was all-pro, on his way to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Does that make the prosecution of him more difficult?

BONSIB: I think that it does. And I think we have seen in high- profile, high-publicity cases, the juries in those cases tens to react in ways that are unpredictably and don't happen in the ordinary low- profile case. It's a wild card and you just can't predict how a jury is going to factor that in, not just because of who he is, but because of all of the hoopla that goes around with the trial. They see it happening, they see the press, they see the people that are there as spectators. There is a whole different dynamic that is present and it is not one that can be predicted.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nick, in the criminal justice system, he is presumed innocent, and he will go through that system. What about the NFL, even with the allegation, what does that do to him?

CHARLES: You know, the legal questions are very difficult. There is moral clauses all these players sign. But how do you convict, really, a man who is still innocent until proven guilty. With Rae Carruth, of course, the Carolina Panthers immediately cut him. The other legal issue is when they act too swiftly. Because people are saying: You need harsher, stiffer suspensions, pay cuts, it has really got to cost these people. Former Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame defensive tackle, he was in the middle of a mayhem, Alan Page, he is now a Minnesota supreme court justice. He said: They have got to make things tougher on these players and they have got to let them know that actions really do have consequences. Because you are role models, you can't buy your way out of anything. And this is coming from a guy who, as I said, was right in the middle of all of this violent acts on the field.

So it's a question of turning it on and off, but it is a question of inhibiting this kind of thing. How do they go it? because then, if you let people go and you cut them, you get into this right to work issue in various states and at a federal level.

So legally, the NFL has to proceed very cautiously. But it's a question, again sociologically: Is this game inherently violent? and do players -- is that why there is this preponderance of violence that is spilling over off the field?

COSSACK: All right, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

VAN SUSTEREN: Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": A how-to suicide guide airs on Oregon television. Weigh in with your opinion today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific on "TALKBACK LIVE."

And we'll be back tomorrow with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.

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