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Interview With Lisa French

Aired September 26, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Exclusive. inside the lives of two boys at the center of one of the strangest and most sensational trial ever. 13-year-old Alex King and his 14-year-old brother Derek convicted of murdering their father.
While the family friend is acquitted in a separate murder trial, he still faces charges for alleged sexual relationships with Alex.

And now Alex and Derek's grandmother, Lisa French, speaks out about their lives before and after the trial, and on their murdered father. She's missing her weekly jailhouse visit with the boys to be with us tonight.

She's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

This trial has, naturally, received sensational attention. And we certainly thank Lisa French for flying here all the way from Florida to be with us tonight.

She is the step-grandmother of Alex and Derek King, the two Florida boys convicted of second-degree murder. Her stepdaughter is Alex and Derek's mother.

Give me a little of the family history here, how you got to be the stepmother of these children.

LISA FRENCH, YOUNG GRANDSONS CONVICTED OF OWN DAD'S MURDER: Well, my husband and I got married in 1987, and he has two children by his previous marriage, and one of them is these boys' mother. And she and Terry were already together at that time. And...

KING: Terry being your son?

FRENCH: No, Terry is -- was just Janet's boyfriend at that time.

KING: Oh, Janet is the mother?

FRENCH: Janet is the mother, and...

KING: So your husband is what in this?

FRENCH: Is Janet's father.

KING: Janet's father. So he's divorced from his wife, married you. You have children of your own, too, right?

FRENCH: Yes sir. KING: Were you -- are you and Janet close?

FRENCH: Yes, we're pretty close. We've been like sisters over the years.

How is she handling all of this?

FRENCH: She has not been handling this particularly well. She's had some physical problems. She is -- she even went in the hospital for a little while because her blood pressure was dangerously high there for a little while.

So she's been out of the picture for the boys for a long time, but she still cares about them a lot.

KING: Let's get into this. You've been visiting them in jail, right?

FRENCH: Yes sir.

KING: How are they doing?

FRENCH: Well, they've maintained a pretty positive attitude. They're kids, and they've been jolly.

KING: How -- are they kept far apart from each other?

FRENCH: They sometimes share a cell, and sometimes they're separated. It kind of depends on their behavior. They're typical brothers, so they get into these little spats with each other sometimes, and they separate them.

KING: Were you shocked that the state tried them as adults?

FRENCH: I was a little surprised; but I'd heard of this happening before, so I wasn't totally surprised.

I did not realize all of what this entailed until I was involved with it myself.

KING: Now, you call your stepdaughter Janet, but that's not the name she uses, right?

FRENCH: She changed her name legally to Kelly (ph), but I can't seem to get myself to call her Kelly.

KING: Why did she change her name?

FRENCH: I'm not really sure. I think it...

KING: Most people change their last name.

FRENCH: Well, she got married, so she changed her last name, too.

She had another husband in there that was harassing her, so originally I think the idea was to change her name and get away from him.

KING: What do you talk about with the boys?

FRENCH: Nothing serious.

KING: Don't discuss the murder, don't discuss....

FRENCH: There was a gag order put on them, so they...

KING: But they can talk to you when you visit them, right?

FRENCH: They do.

KING: The gag order is the press.

FRENCH: Well, they weren't allowed to talk to us either. Their lawyers gave them strict instructions, and so they did not. They followed their directions. They...

KING: Are your conversations monitored?


KING: They are.

FRENCH: They are monitored.

KING: Someone is listening to what you're saying to them?

FRENCH: Yes, sir.

KING: What do you talk about?

FRENCH: Silly stuff. Movies. We talk about our dogs. We talk about games.

Just different things. It's nothing serious at all, and...

KING: Are they in jail pending going to a prison, because jail is just for people who are going to face trial or who are convicted with less than a year to serve.

Are they going to go to, like, Raiford?

FRENCH: Well, we don't know yet, because the sentencing isn't until December.

At this time, there is a Web site online called www.petitiononline. And you can go to that Web site and click on Derek and Alex King's link there. And there's this petition to Judge Bell for leniency for the boys.

At this point there are hundreds of signatures on there. SO he has...

KING: Petition-dot what? FRENCH: Petitiononline.

KING: Dot?

FRENCH: Dot-org, I believe.

KING: Did you go to the trial?

FRENCH: Yes sir.

KING: A lot?

FRENCH: I was there every day for both trials.

KING: Both trials. What was it like for you?

FRENCH: I was excited during the boys' trial to hear a lot of the things that I'd been worrying about brought out by the boys' attorneys.

KING: Meaning?

FRENCH: Well, the lack of investigations that went on. The -- when the boys made their confessions, quote/unquote, the detectives pretty much must have taken it at face value because they really didn't investigate much.

And actually, the house was bulldozed about two months after the murders took place. So there couldn't have been a whole lot of anything going on.

KING: Lisa, if you put quotes around "confession," are you saying they didn't do anything wrong?

FRENCH: I don't believe they did. And there are a lot of holes in their story. There were a lot of things in there that didn't match. And...

KING: Who do you think did do it?

FRENCH: I believe Ricky Chavis killed Terry King.

KING: Who was -- they didn't know at the time -- was found not guilty of killing him, right?

FRENCH: That's correct.

KING: It was a rather -- wasn't the whole thing bizarre to you and others, family related in life (ph) that he's tried and they don't know what the result of the trial is, and the prosecutors are trying two different people and not telling you what happened to him?

FRENCH: Exactly. The whole thing was rather bizarre, to have a prosecuting attorney to try the same charge on, you know, two different sets of people here. So the thing that got me, though, was that the prosecuting attorney did not prosecute Chavis for first-degree murder. He prosecuted him for being a principal, or being involved with it: aiding, abetting, encouraging, that sort of thing.

During the course of the trial, Judge Bell sort of pulled the rug out from under him and told him he didn't really have a case. So he kind of fumbled around, and then when it was time to close, he did not even ask for a guilty verdict.

KING: What was the motive in the death -- what was the motive, do you think?

FRENCH: We believe that Terry was on to Chavis; that he caught on to the fact that he was maybe doing something with these boys that he shouldn't be, and perhaps found out some other things about him.

You know, the boys ran away for like a week or week-and-a-half before this took place. And on Friday night, before he was killed on Sunday night, the mother called, was on the phone with Terry. And he told her that he knew where the boys were and that he was going to do something about it.

And of course, then the next night the oldest boy was returned, and on the following Sunday afternoon the youngest boy was returned. And then that night Terry was killed.

So we believe that he was on to Chavis and that he was planning to do something about it, maybe blow his cover, tell on him, whatever.

KING: Why did they confess?

FRENCH: Because Terry had faced a lot of difficult situations in his life, with people harassing him a lot. He withdrew, he became sort of like a hermit. And Derek had just come to him from a family that was very sociable.

KING: Foster family?

FRENCH: Yes sir.

And so that was rough for him. And it's not good for teenagers, anyway.

So Mr. Chavis gave the boys an outlet. He let them play video games until they dropped, watch movies until they dropped, he gave them beer, he gave them pot.

KING: But why would they confess to something -- you put the quotes around it, you think Chavis did it -- why would the boys confess to something they didn't do?

FRENCH: Because he told them that if they confessed to the crime that they would get off from self-defense from abuse...

KING: Ah. FRENCH: ... which was never established.

KING: Let me get a break.

We'll be right back. We're going to take your calls for Lisa French, the step-grandmother of Alex and Derek King, currently in the Escambia County jail.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of Florida plaintiff versus Alex King, defendant, case number 015612-B. Verdict: We, the jury, find as follows as to count one of the indictment: guilty of second-degree murder, a lesser included offense without a weapon.

We, the jury, find as follows as to count two of the indictment: guilty of arson as charged.

So say we all, this sixth day of September, 2002.




DEREK KING: I hit him once and I heard him moan. And then I was afraid he might wake up and see us, so I just kept on hitting him. Hit him somewhere around 10 times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the blows to what area?

DEREK KING: The face, the face, the left side of the face and forehead.


KING: That was the playing of the confession in the courtroom and the two boys listening to the confession, which you say was not true. Told by Mr. Chavis to say those things and that nothing would happen to them.

FRENCH: Yes, sir.

KING: Is that what they say to you?

FRENCH: Yes, sir. Well...

KING: Larry. Stop that "sir." OK, go ahead. I'm sorry, go ahead.

FRENCH: Mr. Chavis had the boys for almost two days after the murder took place. So, he had plenty of time to talk to them and coach them and get them to say what he needed them to say. KING: If your theory is correct and Chavis did the murder, why weren't the boys mad at Chavis? Why didn't they leave him?

FRENCH: Well, I would kind of like to know that know myself. That's one thing I don't quite understand myself.

KING: I mean, Why weren't they mad?

FRENCH: I understand that Alex was pretty -- pretty upset. He said to his other Grandmother King that he was traumatized by what he saw --

KING: I want to talk about Terry, the man who was killed, the victim in all this. Who -- Why did these boys move around so much? One is in the academy, one is in a foster home, they're separated, they're together? Why? Why the bizarre nature of their upbringing?

FRENCH: I would like to tell that story.

KING: Please.

FRENCH: I would certainly like to tell that story.

Janet and Terry were together. They had four little children. Janet was really struggling with her role as a mother. Four little children under the age of 5 is quite a big set of shoes to fill for any mother. And, she's a very sweet person and she -- she has trouble even telling my dogs "no."

So, you can imagine how she was with four children that were running all over her, bruising her all the time, she had bruises on her body --

KING: From the kids?

FRENCH: From the kids playing too hard, too rough with her. So, Terry was working day and night, he was making like minimum wage, or maybe a little bit more, trying to support, you know, five other people besides himself. And it just wasn't working.

So, they decided together that she would get a high-paying job. And that high-paying job was as a dancer. So, she went to a local bar -- she applied and she got the job -- and so Terry was staying home with the children. He was really better at it than she was. He was a very good father.

And so she worked and she did like topless pole dancing, I think it's called, for probably a week or two maybe. And during that time, she met the manager of the place and they started a romance and so he would not let her dance any more. So she waited tables.

KING: Why did the boys move around though?

FRENCH: I'm getting to that.

KING: OK. FRENCH: She -- she -- anyway, she wound up leaving Terry and the boys for this man, and so now Terry's home with the children, no income, no food, no money. He waited two weeks before he ever even called us. And so, we immediately stepped in and Derek wound up going with the Walkers, who is my husband's ex-wife and her husband, and Alex came with us and then the mother would come every day and babysit the twins so that Terry could go to work every day.

So that went on for six months. And Terry was very unhappy because he wanted all his boys together. He wanted all four children -- he wanted them together.

KING: This is weird. Don't you think?

FRENCH: Yes, it's very weird. Very unnatural situation.

KING: Very.

FRENCH: So, I told him about a friend of mine who was a director of Heritage Home for boys in Milton, Florida, and he said he really liked that idea. You can put them all together, they could be together, be brothers, stay in a safe, Christian environment until he got situated so he could take them back. That's what he needed.

He had written some bad checks trying to buy food. He had a couple of tickets from -- driving tickets. And he was try to get that straightened out. So, we took them to Heritage Home. And --

KING: All four?

FRENCH: All four of them, yes. And they were there for eight or nine months and the home, I guess, went bankrupt and it had to close.

KING: And then they went to foster homes?

FRENCH: Yes, what they had was a program where families in the community would come in and sponsor a child and, like, take them out for a day. Well, the Lays were Derek's, you know, sponsor, and then Alex had a sponsor and the twins had a sponsor.

When the place closed, they all went with their sponsors.

KING: You're not too crazy about the Lays, right?

FRENCH: After the things that I heard them say in court, I'm not.

KING: You were hurt?

FRENCH: I was very hurt.

KING: They were what, critical of Derek?

FRENCH: It wasn't so much that, as that there were so many little things they didn't tell the truth.

KING: Like?

FRENCH: Well, like, they stated, under oath that nobody in the family ever tried to contact Derek and that's just not true.

Janet lived with us for about two years after all this happened. And I watched her many times pick up the phone, call, many times, and ask for Derek and, you know, "he's too busy, he's doing homework, he's doing this, he's doing that."

And finally, you know, she would hang up the phone and cry. And then she'd call back later on and say, Well, can I pick him up this weekend? "Well, this weekend's not good." Well, can I have him next weekend? "Well that weekend's not good either."

This went on and on. And finally, Nancy Lay told her, sometimes you have to let them go because, you know, his behavior is not good when you have contact with them and all this stuff, so.

KING: What happened to her relationship with the manager of the bar?

FRENCH: Well, they broke up and that's how we wound up having her live with us.

KING: And where are the twins?

FRENCH: The twins are with a -- the family that took them in. They have legally adopted them and they're doing very well.

KING: How old are they?

FRENCH: I believe they're about 11.

KING: Do you know how they reacted to what happened to their brothers?

FRENCH: I do not.

KING: Wouldn't you gather they'd need some psychological help?

FRENCH: I would think. If that was my brother, I would be very hurt.

KING: Are any psychologists seeing Derek or Alex?

FRENCH: They have not been. I understand that between now and the sentencing, that they're supposed to receive psychiatric evaluations.

KING: Do you expect the judge will be lenient? How lenient can he be? How much room does he have in Florida?

FRENCH: He has a really wide range, from what I understand. He can go from, like -- you know --

KING: Probation? FRENCH: Probation, right on up to 22 years or more of prison, in an adult prison.

KING: Twenty-two years or more for second degree murder

Our guest is Lisa French. When we come back from the break, we'll be including some of your phone calls. Later on in the show, we'll have our defense attorney Mark Geragos and former prosecutor Nancy Grace to get their thoughts on all this.

Lisa French is the step-grandmother of Alex and Derek King.

We'll start including your calls as well.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you love your father?

ALEX KING: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you -- were you in the room when he was killed that night?

ALEX KING: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Derek kill your father?

ALEX KING: No, sir.



SHARON POTTER, DEREK KING'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Do you remember, when was the first time that Rick Chavis kissed you?

ALEX KING: Yes, ma'am.

POTTER: When was that? Do you remember? Was that before Derek came back?

ALEX KING: Yes, ma'am.

POTTER: But before he kissed you, had he told you some other things, like, it's normal for men and boys to kiss?

ALEX KING: Yes, ma'am. He said that it was a normal thing and he told me about real relationships he had had.

POTTER: He said he had had relationships with some other boys?

ALEX KING: Yes, ma'am.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Lisa French, I asked her if she has any -- partial to either one of the boys, and she said, you love them both.


KING: They're very different though, right?

FRENCH: They're very different boys.

KING: Tell me, before we start taking calls, about the victim. Tell me about Terry.

FRENCH: Terry was a good guy. He was accused by Chavis and for some reason, that stayed. I don't know why people would believe the bad guy...

KING: In the Chavis trial?

FRENCH: In the newspapers. Chavis...

KING: Accused of what?

FRENCH: Abuse. Abusing the children. The only thing he could really say was that he stared them down. It was a mental abuse...

KING: Psychological abuse...

FRENCH: Because of that. And so, you know, my reaction to that, of course, is well, if that's abuse than I am definitely guilty because I give my kids dirty looks on a regular basis and it works. So that didn't work -- wash with me.

KING: Did you like Terry?

FRENCH: I liked Terry. Terry was very reserved. He was very quiet. He just did not have very strong communication skills. So sometimes he was kind of hard to talk to for me.

KING: Would you call him a good father?

FRENCH: Definitely a good father.

KING: Better father than Janet was a mother?

FRENCH: Yes, I'd have to say so. Yes. Because in this situation when a lot of men may have walked away because it was too overwhelming, he chose to stay and fight. He's always fought to have his children.

KING: Let's go to some calls for Lisa French, the step- grandmother of Alex and Derek King. They're in Escambia County Jail awaiting sentencing.

Los Angeles -- hello.

CALLER: Hi. does Janet visit the kids in jail and is she seeking professional help for herself?

KING: Good question.

FRENCH: Janet is seeking professional help for herself. She has been getting some counseling. And she has not been to see the boys as much as she wanted to because of the simple reason that she is under medical treatments or whatever from her doctor and it's very difficult for her to travel.

KING: Chavis is in jail, too, right?

FRENCH: Yes, he is.

KING: Is he in the same jail?

FRENCH: He is in the same jail.

KING: Do the kids ever get to see him?

FRENCH: Well we're told no so the best we can do is hope they're telling us the truth.

KING: And you haven't asked the kids?

FRENCH: I have asked them and they've said no.

KING: The toughest moment for you was the announcing of the verdict?

FRENCH: Yes, sir, that was very tough.

KING: Did you think it was going to go the other way?

FRENCH: I thought they had a very good chance of going the other way.

KING: San Diego -- hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi. I wanted to ask Lisa French if she lives in the same town or lived in the same town as her grandchildren. And did she never consider taking those boys in because they sound like they've had one hell of a life.

KING: Yes, boy.

FRENCH: Yes, we did consider taking them in. I do live near -- probably about 25 miles or so, maybe a little further -- from where Terry lived. We did consider taking them in. At the time that Terry wanted us to, he had four children and he wanted me to take all four and there was just no way that I could do that.

We had planned to be there for him and help him all along, it just didn't turn out that way. It was like everything he planned went totally wrong.

KING: Tampa, Florida -- hello. CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Miss French is have the boys ever been diagnosed with psychological problems whether it was at school or perhaps in the foster care system and were they ever been put on medication such as Ritalin?

FRENCH: Derek was diagnosed with ADHD. And...

KING: Which is what? Attention deficit...

FRENCH: Attention deficit...

KING: ... disorder.

FRENCH: Yes. I can't remember what all the initials stand for.

But he was on a medication -- it was not Ritalin. It was something newer than Ritalin and I don't remember the name of it. He has not had this medication since he's been in jail. There were a lot of things in the media about him wiggling and moving and moving his chair and stuff and that's why.

KING: But obviously there were problems here.


KING: Rooted in almost all areas, right?


KING: When you first heard that Terry was killed, what did you -- did you have a thought as to who might be the culprit?

FRENCH: We were told that Terry was burned up in his home so...

KING: You thought it was a fire and an accidental death?

FRENCH: I thought it was an accident.

KING: When you learned it was a murder, did you ever think it was the boys?

FRENCH: Not until I heard they had confessed. When I heard they had confessed to it and then their mother visited them and they told her they did it -- I had a little while there where I thought, I just can't believe it. But, you know...

KING: But your firm belief it was Chavis that got them to say it.

FRENCH: Yes, sir.

KING: We'll be back with more of Lisa French. And then after the next segment, Mark Geragos and Nancy Grace -- two of our regulars -- will join us.

Natalie Cole tomorrow night. We'll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What story was -- did Rick want you to tell them?

ALEX KING: He wanted to tell that we had gotten home that night, that we had gone to -- well, at Mike Tyson's house, that we had discussed the -- we had discussed killing my dad.




DEREK KING: We, like, started playing and stuff with toys. And I said, Don't worry about him, I'll deal with him.

So, when he went to sleep, I got -- I made sure he was asleep. I got the bat. And I hit him over the head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get the bat from?

DEREK KING: Down the hall a little ways, down the hall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And we were talking about that earlier. And is that what you hit your father with?



DEREK KING: Mainly the left side of his face and his head.


KING: We're back with Lisa French. You told me during the break that the Lays, the foster family, told you they were having problems with Derek.

FRENCH: Yes, sir.

KING: And you feel a little guilt over not taking them back or you had a problem that has to do with your son?

FRENCH: Yes. Nancy Lay called me about a month before Derek was returned to his father and talked to me about it, and she was looking for an answer.

You know, Where can we put him? So I -- I discussed it with her. And she didn't actually ask me to take him but --

KING: Should you have?

FRENCH: Well, I wonder myself.

Sometimes I look back and wonder if I should have.

KING: You came down on the side of being a mother over a grandmother, in a sense, right?

In other words your boy -- same age, right?

FRENCH: Yes, sir.

KING: Right in this grouping.

What about the affair between Chavis and Alex? Did you know about that?

FRENCH: I had heard that there were suspicious about that. And then after they had been in jail for a little while, Alex called my husband on the phone and said, Did you know that I'm gay?

And my husband says, Well, if that's what you think you are, then OK.

And I think he was surprised at that answer. But since --

KING: You didn't know about the relationship?

FRENCH: I just heard the suspicious concerning that.

KING: Alex not Derek?

FRENCH: On Alex.

KING: Lake in the Hills, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: Yes, I have a question for Ms. French.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: My question is, Is she going to be asking for an appeal on these decisions?

KING: Are they appealing? I think they are, right?

FRENCH: Yes. Yes. The boys' lawyers have appealed the case, in that they want the convictions turned over, and I think they're asking for a new trial as well. And I believe there's a hearing set for October 17.

KING: Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hello.

CALLER: Ms. French, I wanted to know, does any other family members have any guilt about this tragedy?

FRENCH: Oh absolutely.

We all feel terrible that we didn't become more involved with Terry so that perhaps he would turn to us instead of someone like Ricky Chavis.

But you can't go back and undo what's been done. The Lays made it very clear that they didn't want any involvement with Derek. They didn't want any involvement from the family. So, that's where -- kind of where that started. We all backed off.

KING: How's your husband, the boys' blood grandfather? How's he doing?

FRENCH: He has not done well. He's had extreme anxiety and depression and --

KING: Being treated for it?

FRENCH: He is being treated for it. I never thought I'd ever see him do something like that, so that tells me how much he's been suffering.

KING: El Paso, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hi, I would like to ask: If the mother did not have any of the four kids, why didn't she at least take in the two boys that murdered their father?

FRENCH: Well, that's something that we kind of wanted her to do too but she just -- she was having so many personal problems of her own, she could hardly even take care of herself, much less take care of the boys. And she just decided they were better off with their father.

KING: Lisa, this sounds like a tragedy all the way around.

FRENCH: It's a horrible story and there's so many convolutions that it's just unbelievable.

KING: Nothing good can happen to these boys in jail though, I mean, they're not looking at red. They're not going to be able to -- we're not going to bring them back to society by putting them in a hardcore prison.

FRENCH: Absolutely not. And I can tell you that their language has gone way downhill since they've been in jail.

KING: The cursing?

FRENCH: Absolutely. They didn't talk like that at first. But they certainly do now.

KING: Are they in the general population in the jail? FRENCH: Well, we're told no, but when we speak to them, they talk about speaking with other cellmates, you know, yelling down the hall.

And I know that Derek has -- right next door to him, a young man named Daniel who actually killed his uncle. He cut his throat. And so, that's a young man that's right next to him.

KING: And they do use curse words where before they did not?

FRENCH: Well, sometimes Derek would, but not like they do now.

KING: And that shocks you? They use them around you?

FRENCH: Yes, they do.

KING: Long Island, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: I wanted to ask if the kids ever did come out, would the grandmother consider taking them in then?

FRENCH: We would consider it. I don't feel that my husband and I are capable of giving them the kind of help that they need at this point in their life. They need some serious help and they need to be put in a place where they can get that help.

KING: Peterborough, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: I'm enjoying your program every evening.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I feel very sorry for grandma, but I would like for her to answer me if she knows whether her grandsons had lie detector tests?

KING: Did they ever have lie detector tests?

FRENCH: As I understand it, they did not. If they did, I was not told.

KING: You want them to get probation actually, right? I mean, that's your best hope?

FRENCH: I would actually like to see them sent to a place to be rehabilitated. That is my own personal desire.

KING: Because obviously these boys have problems. Now, someone gave them these problems. I don't think they were born this way, right?

FRENCH: That's correct.

KING: So, people contributed to this. Not every boy goes with a guy like Chavis, right?

FRENCH: Right.

KING: So they need help.

FRENCH: Absolutely.

KING: And you don't think prison will get it for them?

FRENCH: Oh, I'm sure it won't. I mean, what can prison do for them?

KING: When we come back, Mark Geragos, defense attorney. Nancy Grace, anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV will join us. Lisa will remain.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During this period of time, were you drinking, smoking, or what?

ALEX KING: We were -- well, that night, we had smoked some marijuana before we went to sleep. And me, Derek and Rick went into his bedroom, went to sleep. And then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who all slept in Ricky's bedroom that night?

ALEX KING: Me, Derek, and Rick.



KING: An American tragedy. Lisa French remains with us, the step-grandmother of Alex and Derek King.

And joining us, here in Los Angeles, defense attorney Mark Geragos. And in New York, Nancy Grace, anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV, former prosecutor.

Start with Mark -- what do you make of this?

MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: To say it's the tragedy all the way around is one of the great understatements of our time. I have been perplexed since the beginning as to what the prosecutor was thinking in this case. The prosecutor, could have, if he had wanted to, given those boys some kind of a deal where they would have testified against Chavis and they could have at least determined their own destiny.

Could have said, OK, you're going to do so many years here, you're going to do so many years there. It would have been a juvenile facility, it would have been a psychiatric facility. Could have done something so these boys could have at least not been kind of thrown to the wolves and he wouldn't have been left in a situation where, as Lisa says, the judge pulled the rug out from under him and he ended up floundering around trying to find some kind of a legal theory for Chavis.

And what I think incensed some of the jurors was that in the trial, the prosecutor's theory was always that these boys -- even if they weren't involved --they were involved at the behest of Chavis.

So if that was his theory and he thought Chavis was right there in the mix, that would be have only way he could have insured convicting Chavis -- who clearly by -- even if you accept everything the prosecution says -- is clearly the most culpable person.

KING: Can you understand why they were tried as adults?

GERAGOS: No, I can't. I mean it's beyond me.

KING: All right. Let's get the read of Nancy Grace in New York.

Nancy, how do you see this?

NANCY GRACE, ANCHOR, "TRIAL HEAT": Well I understand completely why they were tried as adults and the reason is that in most juvenile structures, a child that commits murder by hitting a homerun with an aluminum bat on his dad's head -- while the dad's sitting there asleep with a cup of coffee in his hands -- the only one, I might add -- as I'm listening to the step-grandmother talking -- the only one that was willing to take the kids in. All right?

After he's murdered -- bludgeoned to death -- juvenile systems would only allow these kids to have possibly one or two years behind juvie bars and then out on the street. That's not enough for a bludgeoning death.

KING: But, Nancy -- Nancy, you don't want them in Raiford Prison, in an adult population, in a court yard walking around.

GRACE: Or course not.

KING: What is your answer?

GRACE: And of course -- and my response to that is the truth. Juveniles are not put in with adults, end of story. So you don't have to worry about these two -- now, 13 and 14, being in with adults. That's not allowed in any...

GERAGOS: Except...

GRACE: If I could finish -- in any detention center in this country until they become adults. GERAGOS: I'm telling you that's absolutely, categorically untrue. They do it here in Los Angeles, they do it throughout California, they do it in Florida...

GRACE: After they become adults.

GERAGOS: As soon as they -- no, as soon as they are found unfit for the juvenile system, they're put in adult facility.


GERAGOS: I've got a woman right here who has her step- grandchildren...

GRACE: In a juvenile ward.

GERAGOS: The juvenile wards...


GERAGOS: ... there's no requirement for that. Once they've been found to be an adult then...

GRACE: They are 18 and under.

GERAGOS: No, that's not true.


KING: Let's ask this: do they see people older than -- do they see adults -- adult prisoners? Do they come in contact?

FRENCH: From a distance and they talk to the other cellmates by yelling down the hallway or whatever. They do have conversations with them.

KING: Conversations, but they're not in there -- Nancy, when they're 18, then it's okay to then...

GRACE: When they are 18, they are in with the rest of the population.

But before I discuss that, I would like to point out, Mark's theory that the prosecution should have put these two up, cut them a deal to get Chavis, long story short-- I wouldn't put anybody up on the stand that I knew to be lying. And I heard the medical examiner myself state that the physical findings went hand-in-hand with what these boys separately confessed to. And, Larry, I'm talking about confessing...


GRACE: I'd like to finish. Confessing to, after each blow to their father's head -- a father that they state didn't spank them...

GERAGOS: Don't forget the fact... GRACE: ... after each blow, he described his...

GERAGOS: Nancy...

GRACE: ... the father bleeding, his rasping breath -- they did this thing.

GERAGOS: Nancy, Nancy -- when you calm down from the dramatics, remember one thing. The boys confessed to ten blows, the medical examiner said there were only three blows. So explain to me if they had...

GRACE: That's not correct.

GERAGOS: ... if they have the corrobative evidence and there was medical evidence there, why are the boys embellishing by seven different -- separate blows.

GRACE: That's not what the examiner said.

GERAGOS: Also explain to me why it is if they believed -- that the prosecutor believed that it was the boys -- why did he try Chavis? What was the purpose of having a separate jury for Chavis and making -- arguing two diametrically opposed theories? How do you ethically get around that?

GRACE: The reason he tried Chavis first is because Chavis filed a demand for speedy trial. So he was forced under the law to go first with Chavis. The judge...

GERAGOS: I'm not asking about the chronology. I'm asking why do you have two diametrically opposed legal theories if you're a prosecutor.

KING: Well, let's put it simply. Nancy, the prosecutor is saying, Who did what? What is he saying?

GRACE: Well, what I think he's saying -- after listening to both trials -- I don't know Mark if you actually listened to the testimony.

But he went to the jury on Chavis and the judge after he had argued an opening that Chavis had either welded the bat or convinced the boys to do the deed, the judge told him, you can't argue he wielded -- that he convinced the boys...

GERAGOS: Which makes it even worse.

GRACE: If I could finish. When he went to closings, he did not argue for that conviction against Chavis.

GERAGOS: Right, but he went into both trials arguing in one trial that Chavis wielded the bat, arguing in the opening statement of the other trial that the boys wielded the bat.

GRACE: I think frankly...

GERAGOS: How do you justify that? You just throw it up on the wall and say let the jury decide?


GERAGOS: ... lie to one jury and say this, and I'm going to lie to the other jury and say that? If a defense lawyer did that, I'd have to peel you off the ceiling.

GRACE: Mark, the reason that happened is because -- in my estimation -- and you can laugh and giggle all you want.

GERAGOS: I'm not laughing and giggling. I think it's unconscionable.

GRACE: I'm looking at crime scene photos a man sitting there asleep, sipping his coffee, with his head blown in...

KING: He didn't do anything wrong.

GRACE: The reason the prosecutor went forward, Mark, is because apparently all three were involved in this plot. That's why he went forward with all three.

GERAGOS: Then try them...

GRACE: I don't know what's so difficult to understand about that --

Then try them together and come up with one argument.

KING: Let me get a break and think of what Lisa thinks of just what Mark and Nancy are saying. We'll be back, don't go away.


KING: We will take a couple of calls.

Lisa French, what do you think, though, of what you heard?

FRENCH: Well, I know from all the things that I've heard since the trial that the jurors in Chavis' trial have publicly stated that if they had heard all the evidence that was presented at the boys' trial, that they would have found Chavis guilty. The jurors from the boys' trial have publicly stated that they were shocked that Chavis was not found guilty, and they...

KING: Meaning no one killed Terry?

FRENCH: Right. We have second-degree murder without a weapon, and then we have a not guilty charge, so nobody killed Terry.

KING: Nancy, is that weird?

GRACE: Yes, it's very odd. When defendants are split up this way -- and it was at their request, in answer to Mark's earlier question. There was a speedy trial demand in Chavis, and a request for severance to try them separately by the defense. And I'd like to clear up something that was stated inaccurately. And I'm reading from the medical examiner's, Doctor Krembolin's (ph) testimony where he states that the victim got two blows to the chest, three blows to the head, and a remaining four blows on top of the others on the head. The head was such a pulp they couldn't distinguish the nine individual blows, but it was consistent with 10 blows.

KING: All right. I want to get some calls.

Nancy, would you agree that these boys obviously have a deep -- based on their upbringing, everything -- psychiatric problem. That this is not your common criminal?

GRACE: Oh God, yes. I watched them during the trial, Larry. I watched them and my eyes filled up with tears looking at them. They look like two little angels.

But when I look at the innocent victim, I don't know the answer. I just believe that they beat their father to death.

KING: Let's say they did, Mark. What should be done to them?

GERAGOS: Well, I'll tell you...

KING: Let's say the facts, as presented by Nancy, are correct; got to be punished, right?

GERAGOS: Yes, they've got to be punished.

But at the same time, what are you going to do with them? You're talking about -- as Nancy calls them, angels. They look like two little choir boys sitting there. And you're talking about kids whose mother left them under extremely difficult circumstances. You're talking about one boy who's, you know -- it wasn't really an affair, this was a boy who was molested. I mean, under any circumstances...

KING: It's not fair if someone is underage.

GERAGOS: Yes, if somebody is under the age of 14, that's molestation in virtually every jurisdiction, so...

GRACE: That's right.

GERAGOS: ... you're talking about a couple kids who are victims -- victims in one sense.

And even if the facts are true, what are we going to gain by housing these guys with the worst of the worst in an adult facility?

If she thinks -- if Lisa thinks their language is bad now, I hate to tell you what the coming attractions are in the next five or 10 years.

KING: Let me get a quick call in.

Carmichael, California, hello.

Carmichael, are you there?

All right, we'll try one more here.

And we'll try Long Island, New York, are you there?

Apparently we have lost the phone system here, so we won't be able to get another call in. We're sorry, but something weird going on, and I can't hear the phones.

Is that not a good point, Nancy, any kind of prison population don't fit this?

GRACE: Yes, it is a good point.

But my answer to you is -- and another disturbing fact that we haven't mentioned is Chavis already had convictions for child molestation under his belt. The revolving door let him right back out to prey on Alex King. SO that adds even more tragedy.

GERAGOS: Which, I think, is the most compelling argument of all for the fact that they should have done something -- the prosecutor should have done something creative with these boys, allow them to plead to something. At least determine where it was that they were going to serve their sentence, and had focused his attention on this predator, Chavis.

You, as well as I, know that this is somebody -- you've got the boys saying that he molested me, you know that the guy's got a prior conviction...

GRACE: He's being tried for child molestation, Mark.

GERAGOS: He's being tried.

But the fact of the matter is, he got away with murder. That's the bottom line.

GRACE: But long story short, they killed their father, their innocent father. They need to be in juvenile jail.

GERAGOS: Short story long is that this guy got away with it.

KING: Lisa, have the boys told you anything about what they think about Chavis now?

FRENCH: They won't talk about Chavis to us.

KING: They won't?

FRENCH: They will not.

KING: What did they say about him before the death of Terry?

FRENCH: They didn't discuss Chavis with me personally, but they believed him to be a great friend.

KING: And that's what you heard through other people telling you they thought he was a great friend to them.

Where did all this go wrong, Lisa? Was there a point in time when things went out of kilter here?

FRENCH: Probably at the beginning.

KING: When they were born?

FRENCH: Well, maybe shortly afterwards. It just seems like nothing went right.

KING: Are there some things, Mark, that the judicial system just...

GERAGOS: It's not equipped for. The criminal justice system is not equipped for this.

I mean, some people can say, hey, maybe they're bad seeds. But then you have to take a look: You have the twins there. And the twins, by all accounts, are at least developing so far OK.

And so you have to say to yourself, what kind of sense does this make to inject the criminal justice system, the brunt of the adult criminal system, onto these two kids?

GRACE: Nancy, have you had to prosecute kids?

GRACE: Yes, and I have prosecuted a juvenile for murder that gunned down four people.

KING: Isn't that very hard? Isn't that very hard when it's a kid? It's still a kid.

GRACE: Yes. When I would look at him I would see this choir boy. Then I would look at the crime scene photos and see dead people and people that now had colostomy bags. And you know what? I don't want to bring him home and mix him in with my little nephew.

No way. Juvenile jail is just fine for two killers that killed their own father.

GERAGOS: You know, I have to respond to that, because I've defended so many juveniles.

And I tell you, the thing that is just so disturbing to me -- and you saw it just in living color in watching this trial -- is those kids sit there, and you -- bouncing back and forth. And when I talk to these clients when they're on -- and I've defended 14-year-olds...

GRACE: Mark, what are you going to do with them? What can you do with them?

GERAGOS: Nobody -- they don't understand what's going on. They have no idea. It's a joke. It's like a joke. It's like a dumb animal that you're putting through this.

GRACE: They knew how to swing a bat, Mark. They knew how to swing a bat.

KING: Guys, we're running out of time.

I want to thank Lisa French very much for coming cross-country to be with us. We appreciate this. We hope that everything works out well for you, and for them and for everybody involved.

Lisa French and, of course, Mark Geragos and Nancy Grace. We're going to have a program soon where they agree.

We'll be back shortly and tell you about tomorrow night.

Don't go away.


KING: A real treat for you tomorrow night: Natalie Cole, the daughter of the late Nat King Cole is the guest. Not only does she have a lot to say about a lot of things, she's going to sing for you, too.

An evening with Natalie Cole tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.


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