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Burden of Proof

How Did Michael McDermott Amass His Arsenal?

Aired December 28, 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)

TOM O'REILLY, MIDDLESEX COUNTY ASST. D.A.: He appeared at work in a normal fashion, was at his desk at a normal fashion, had talked to people about the holidays. And somewhere around 11:10, he came in, he walked by individuals who were working and specifically targeted the individuals we believe he shot.

KEVIN REDDINGTON, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL MCDERMOTT: He has been undergoing psychiatric treatment and he has been on medication. And my concern would be that with the assistance of the court that if I have any difficulty having the facility allow him to continue with his medication that I could come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, an accused killer in Massachusetts is being held without bail, as investigators try to figure out what provoked the shooting and how he built a deadly arsenal.

Plus, a federal court prepares to hear a request from the convicted Oklahoma City bomber. Timothy McVeigh wants to end his appeal and be executed this spring.

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

COSSACK: Hello, and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. Greta is off this week.

Yesterday in Malden, Massachusetts, an alleged killer was arraigned in Middlesex County Court. Michael McDermott is accused of gunning down seven co-workers at an Internet consulting firm. The 42- year-old pleaded not guilty to seven counts of murder. He's being evaluated to determine if he should continue receiving medication while incarcerated.

Meanwhile, investigators say they have seized bomb-making materials from his apartment, and prosecutors are interested in the origin of the high-powered arsenal they say he assembled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you know whether or not he had weapons' permits and the history of the guns that were used in this?

MARTHA COAKLEY, MIDDLESEX COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: At this time, the information we released last night is the same information we have, that their were no applicable permits. We will pursue that, and if that's an appropriate charge we will bring that.

QUESTION: Do you know where he got the weapons?

COAKLEY: Don't know.

QUESTION: Did he have a gun permit that had expired?

COAKLEY: I don't have that information at this time. That's part of the investigation, obviously. And I will indicate that that is of great concern to us, and we will proceed to determine the license status and where and how those weapons were obtained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Joining us today from Boston is criminal defense attorney Henry Owens. And also in Boston, Bob Griffin, a deputy district attorney in Suffolk County.

Bob, I want to start right with you.

How does someone like Michael McDermott able to assemble this kind of an arsenal, this many weapons, bomb-making equipment? I know that the gun laws in Massachusetts are strict. You know, how do you do this?

BOB GRIFFIN, DEP. D.A., SUFFOLK COUNTY: You're right, Roger. The gun laws are very strict in Massachusetts. There are two separate ways you can obtain a permit to carry a firearm. One is a license -- a firearm identification card, and one is a license to carry a firearm.

And in order to obtain that, there's a significant background check and record check. If there's any history of mental illness, if there is any criminal convictions, then will you not be issued a license within the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

However, there are any number of ways in which Mr. McDermott could have amassed this kind of weaponry. He could get them in other states. It's not unreasonable to assume that he may have had access to certain individuals on the Internet that he could have obtained this type of weaponry. There are any number of ways he could have -- how he could have done this.

COSSACK: Henry, we're talking about a man that had an AK-47, a shotgun, a tremendous amount of ammunition, bomb-making equipment. I understand the notion that you can perhaps go out of state, but how do you get an AK-47?

HENRY OWENS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, as you know, this weapon was a semi automatic. It's my understanding that he did not have a lawful permit. But if someone had a permit, one could obtain that type of a weapon because it was a semi automatic. It seems unbelievable. This is a weapon of mass destruction...

COSSACK: Now...

OWENS: ... plain and simple.

COSSACK: I'm sorry, Henry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. And I understand that, but also he had -- I think it's also said he also had a shotgun. He had a tremendous amount of ammunition.

OWENS: He had a shotgun and he also a .32-caliber. And one of the questions that were raised, how did he get that type of weaponry into his place of employment?

COSSACK: What about the notion that his lawyer at least said he was being treated by medication for perhaps allegedly, we don't know, but perhaps mental illness? We just heard that, you know, people are supposed to have background checks and things like that. In mean, how does this occur?

OWENS: Unfortunately, it may be an example of somehow he fell through the cracks. If in fact he does have a history of mental illness, he should not have been able to obtain a valid license to carry a firearm or an F.I.D. card. The question is whether or not he in fact had a valid permit on the day in question. Some news reports indicate that his license expired several years ago.

COSSACK: Bob, I know that your office is not the one that is in charge of this investigation, but would you suspect that in fact the -- that the D.A.'s office in this case will be seeking to find out where he got those weapons and would attempt perhaps to prosecute if there's some crimes committed?

GRIFFIN: Oh, I'm certain that they're going to attempt to investigate and try to determine how he did amass thank type of weaponry. I don't know where the evidence will take them and whether or not they will have any viable prosecution against anyone, but I'm sure they're going to -- they're going to investigate that fully and thoroughly.

COSSACK: Is this the kind of case where if it turns out that there was a crossing of state lines, that the FBI would be called in to assist in terms of finding out, tracing where the weaponry was received?

GRIFFIN: That's a very real possibility. That would be a very good resource for the district attorney to turn to, to attempt to determine where these weapons came from.

COSSACK: All right, Henry, let's get back now and try to talk a little bit about trying to defend someone like this. There doesn't seem to be an argument, at least so far in terms of what the terrible facts in this case are. With that in mind -- I'm sorry, Henry, we have to go to Jeanne Meserve. There's going to be a conference from the White House.

Jeanne, please. (INTERRUPTED BY CNN COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)

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