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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

The Fifth Amendment's Tarnished Image

Aired February 15, 2002 - 08:54   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving on now this morning. When Enron whistle-blower Sherron Watkins testified before Congress, one committee member remarked that she was Enron's conscience, and that she was a hero. But yesterday was an exception. Actually, most of what we've been hearing on Capitol Hill has been a resounding silence from Enron executives who seem taken with taking the Fifth.

Our Jeanne Moos says that's giving the Fifth Amendment an image problem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All those in favor of the Fifth Amendment, raise your hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the advice of my counsel --

KEN LAY, FORMER ENRON CEO: I must respectfully decline --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To answer questions --

ANDREW FASTOW, FORMER ENRON CFO: Based on the protection afforded to me --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution not to be a witness against myself.

MOOS (voice-over): With all those executives in the Enron scandal taking the Fifth, the Fifth is taking a beating.

(on camera): What goes through your mind when you see someone take the Fifth Amendment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That they're guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they don't want to incriminate themselves because their guilty as hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Fifth Amendment should not be a blanket to hide under.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have nothing to hide, you don't take the Fifth Amendment. Simple. I'm not a brain surgeon. You know? MOOS (voice-over): We took the Fifth, To New York's Fifth Avenue.

(on camera): A Fifth Amendment, anyone? Where it didn't exactly go like hot cakes. Anyone care for Fifth Amendments?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the Fifth Amount?

MOOS: I happen to have it right here.

(voice-over): If you haven't seen it since high school, here it is. Buried in the middle of other protections. "No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."

RON KUBY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's a beautiful amendment. It really is.

MOOS: Defense attorney Ron Kuby has had clients use it thousands of times. Famous Fifth-takers range from Imelda Marcos.

IMELDA MARCOS, FORMER FIRST LADY, PHILIPPINES: Upon the advice of my counsel...

MOOS: To Colonel Oliver North.

COL. OLIVER NORTH, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I respectfully decline to answer the question.

MOOS: To Detective Mark Fuhrman in the O.J. trial.

DET. MARK FUHRMAN: I wish to assert my Fifth Amendment privilege.

MOOS: And though Enron has further tarnished its image...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be amended. The amendment should be amended.

MOOS: Defense attorneys say the Fifth Amendment was created to protect against forced confessions of the sort used by English courts to convict colonists seeking American independence.

KUBY: It's the principle guarantee against police abuse and against the use of torture to obtain information. And if we want to become a country like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Iraq, we can abolish the Fifth Amendment, and then see what the police do.

MOOS: One Enron exec taking the Fifth could barely spit it out.

RICHARD BUY, FMR. SENIOR V.P. OF ENRON: Under the advice of counsel, I respectfully -- I've lost my voice -- I respectfully decline to answer any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They make themselves look guilty.

MARK SALLEE, ATTORNEY: They might look guilty, but you might not be guilty. So sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut and let the lawyers do the talking.

PENNY FURR, ATTORNEY: People talk, they say things they don't realize and people twist it later. It's better for them to say nothing.

MOOS (on camera): But you know how it looks?

FURR: Oh, it looks horrible. But would you rather it look horrible or would you rather incriminate yourself into some big mess?

MOOS: Would you like to take the Fifth, the Fifth Amendment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, sure!

MOOS: Thank you. I don't know. People are reluctant to take the Fifth around here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seems like everybody else is taking it. Why can't we take it?

LAY: I do.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Good point.

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