CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Brandon Biggs
Aired July 7, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHANTE MALLARD: I am so sorry, Brandon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: exclusive. The windshield murder victim's son speaks out. Chante Mallard guilty of hitting his homeless father with her car and leaving him to die in her garage. Tonight, Brandon Biggs, the son of Gregory Biggs, tells his heartbreaking side of the story and we'll take your calls, too.
Plus, could a serial killer have murdered Laci Peterson? Do both sides have a new theory to consider? And what about those search warrants on Scott Peterson that were supposed to be unsealed tomorrow? We'll get into that with Ted Rowlands of KTVU on top of the story from, defense attorney Chris Pixley, Jim Hammer of the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, the district attorney for Westchester County, New York and defense attorney Jan Ronis.
They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
A couple of quick notes before we talk with Brandon Biggs. We'll also be talking to our legal panel about the Kobe Bryant matter. What a story that is. And tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, will be our exclusive guest for the full hour. And Thursday night, Colin Powell will be with us. We're in Washington all this week.
We begin with Brandon Biggs. He's in Albany, Texas. His father, Gregory Biggs, was the victim in the windshield murder case in Texas. Brandon, you have our condolences, of course. It's been a little more than a week since the trial of the woman who -- how did you feel about that sentence?
BRANDON BIGGS, FATHER DIED LODGED IN WOMAN'S WINDSHIELD: I was satisfied with the jury's verdict.
KING: How did you feel about her testimony?
BIGGS: It was a little disturbing at first. It was even shocking. But I was pleased to hear what actually happened.
KING: Let's go through the story of your father, an extraordinary story, a sad story. He was killed, actually, in October of 2001, right? All this didn't come to light until much later.
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: When he was found, what were the circumstances? What were you told?
BIGGS: He was found in Cog Park in Ft. Worth. It appeared to be a hit-and-run and there were no suspects at that time and so it appeared to just be a dead end.
KING: And did you accept that, a hit-and-run fatality?
BIGGS: Well, no, obviously the family -- our family wanted to know what had happened.
KING: So, it was always a puzzle to you?
BIGGS: Yes, it was.
KING: OK, let's go back. Your dad was homeless. He had a mental illness. What....
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: What was the story? He suffered for a long time? Give us a little background.
BIGGS: Well, he was diagnosed with a mental illness. You're correct. However, he was not homeless his entire life. That only occurred the last two-and-a-half years prior to his death.
KING: Had he fallen on hard times?
BIGGS: Yes, he had, Larry. You're right.
KING: Were you -- your parents were divorced, right?
BIGGS: Yes, sir.
KING: Tell me about your relationship with your dad.
BIGGS: Well, they divorced -- my parents, they divorced when I was very young and my father had visitation rights on a bi-weekly basis for the entire weekend, and as often as we could we would get together.
KING: And what was it like for you and him?
BIGGS: Well, it was great. We did a lot of fun things together. We went shopping. We went fishing. Just had a good time with each other.
KING: Now, you must have known that he had some mental problems, right? How did you deal with that?
BIGGS: Well, we never spoke about it much. It was something he didn't like to talk about, something I thought that he was probably even a little embarrassed about. But -- so we never spoke about it. The times he would try to speak by the, it would upset him a lot and he would -- you know, the conversation would usually end.
KING: When he was home -- he was homeless for how long before he died?
BIGGS: Approximately two-and-a-half years, I would say.
KING: All right. To have a father who was homeless -- like, how would you visit him? Where would he sleep? What were the conditions of his life?
BIGGS: He would stay in a shelter on Lancaster Avenue in Ft. Worth and he would actually pay rent there. It was kind of a place for people who were down to get back up on their feet. And so, when he told me that he was living there, I would go visit him as much as I could and we would still go do the things that we had always done.
KING: Did he -- was he able to look for work? Was he trying to get his life straightened out?
BIGGS: Yes, he was, Larry.
KING: So, you can say the two of you were very close?
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: All right. Now, he's found -- you were how old ? Eighteen when he was killed?
KING: How did you find out? How did they let you know?
BIGGS: My mother had called me. The police had contacted her and she had called me right after she had found out.
KING: Did you, at that young age, have to make funeral arrangements and everything?
BIGGS: Yes, I did. I was next of kin. Yes.
KING: All right. Did you think the police did not investigate this case fully?
BIGGS: No, I believe that they did investigate as much as they could with the information they had. I feel that they did their best.
KING: Because some people think that if a homeless person is the victim of a hit-and-run that the police won't pay a great deal of attention to that.
BIGGS: That may be the case in some circumstances, yes.
KING: But you felt no in this case? BIGGS: Yes, I felt like they did a good job. I spoke with the investigators personally and they explained to me what had happened, the leads they were following. And so, I knew they were working very hard.
KING: And it came on a tip, right?
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: Who -- do we -- what were the circumstances of that?
BIGGS: I'm really not sure of the circumstances upon that, upon the tip. As far as what I learned in the trial, it was supposedly an anonymous tip but the name was released somehow. I have not spoken with the individual who gave the tip to the police. And so, there is not -- I don't know much about that.
KING: How did you react when you first heard this story?
BIGGS: Well, it was -- it was tough. It was -- learning all of the events of his death, it was tough. And I don't guess anyone really knows how they would react in a situation like that. But I had the support of a -- good support from family and friends. And so, that really helped, more than I can say.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be right back with Brandon Biggs. If you have any questions of this young man, we'll entertain them. Our legal panel is ahead. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALLARD: I was going around the curve of, I hit Mr. Biggs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And when you hit Mr. Biggs, did you see him before you hit him, that you remember?
MALLARD: No, sir, I did not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And what -- what is the first thing that happened that made you know that you hit Mr. Biggs?
MALLARD: When I hit him, it was a real loud noise, and all this glass started flying in the car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALLARD: I am so sorry, Brandon. I am so sorry for what I have caused your family. And I'm sorry for the pain that I have put my family through. And I am also sorry for how I have done to society. I really am very sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Brandon Biggs is with us. We'll go to your phone calls momentarily.
How tough for you was it to attend that trial?
BIGGS: It was tough physically and emotionally. As far as physically tough, I was awake at 5:00 every morning and at the courthouse until, you know, 7:00 most every day. And emotionally it was tough. There was a lot of information to take in, a lot of new facts that were shocking and thought provoking, and so it was very tough.
KING: What surprised you the most -- Brandon.
BIGGS: Well, I can't say as far as really what surprised me the most, but as far as what was the most compelling or thought provoking or what I was listening to, when I listened to Clete's testimony, it was tough.
KING: To hear how he died and everything?
KING: And what they did with the body?
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: You were the final witness before the prosecution rested its case.
What was that like for you?
BIGGS: I was a little nervous, and I wanted to put into words what our family was going through. And put into words exactly what we wanted the Mallard family to know and what we wanted Chante to know. And so, yes, needless to say, I was a little nervous.
KING: What did you make of Chante's defense?
BIGGS: Well, what I made of her defense was I really don't know what any of us would have done in a situation like that, but I still think that it's common sense and that it's just the obvious thing to call and get help or to seek help when someone is injured that badly.
KING: Let's take a call for Brandon Biggs.
Ellijay, Georgia, hello.
CALLER: Brandon, I would like to ask you, what will be the impact of your father's death on you long term, positive or negative?
KING: I don't know what could be positive, but...
BIGGS: Well, I believe there is something good in every situation. Positively, it's making me a stronger person. It's going to make me able to speak with other people who are going through a tragedy like this and not just with sympathy but with empathy. But negatively, there are probably too many to even list. He will not be around for the rest of my life and that's -- that's a very sad thing.
KING: In other words, he was a good father despite all his difficulties?
KING: Let's take another call.
We'll go to Altalla, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: Brandon, I would like to know how in the world could your family sit back and let your father be homeless?
BIGGS: Excuse me, sir?
KING: His question was, how the family let your father be homeless.
BIGGS: Well, that's -- there is a lot of things involved in that. There is nothing I could have done about that, obviously. I'm too young of a man to support someone else. But as far as the rest of the family letting that happen, well there is just a lot of family background that we'd rather not go into it about that.
KING: To Worcester, Massachusetts, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Brandon, I'd like to ask you, do you ever plan on resolving your issue with the woman who murdered your father and possibly going to see her?
BIGGS: It's been proposed that maybe a meeting could be arranged or maybe some final words could be said between she and I, but at this point I really don't know if I would be willing to do that.
KING: Was there not a wrongful death suit filed?
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: Was that settled out of court?
BIGGS: Yes, it was.
KING: So, you seem like you felt sorry for her.
What are your feelings about her?
BIGGS: Well, I feel like she was brought up the best she could by her family. I feel like they did all that she could and I feel like towards the few years prior to the accident that she made a lot of bad choices as far as drugs and alcohol and partying. And those are -- those are really just bad choices on her part. But as far as how I feel about her, I feel like -- gee, it's a tough question. But I feel that she -- she made a lot of bad choices. And that certainly she should have done something upon the accident. KING: Lancaster, Kentucky for Brandon Biggs, hello?
CALLER: Yes. Larry, thank you for having me.
Brandon, my condolences for you.
CALLER: I was wondering if you would even consider after things settle down, being an advocate for the homeless?
I'm myself started a homeless shelter in southeastern Indiana and that would be a terrific ministry and might give you some more insight.
BIGGS: That's right. You know, with my father being homeless, I've learned first hand what it's like for people going through that, and I think it's definitely, would make me more able to help people in that situation in the future. It's a possibility.
KING: What do you want to do in life -- Brandon.
BIGGS: Well, I'm in college right now, studying pastoral ministries and I hope to pastor a church one day.
KING: You want to be a minister?
BIGGS: That's right.
KING: You think you might minister to the homeless?
BIGGS: Perhaps. It's certainly a possibility.
KING: We'll be back with more moments with Brandon Biggs and more of your phone calls. And then we'll meet our legal panel to talk about a lot of things.
This is LARRY KING LIVE don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALLARD: I touched his leg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did you touch his leg?
MALLARD: For one quick second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened when you touched his leg?
MALLARD: I just -- I panicked more and I started screaming. And then I just...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIGGS: The past 15 months have been filled with sadness and anxiety and grief, but today the healing process begins. Today, the Biggs family can move on to try and live their lives as normally as possible. We want to thank the prosecution team for their tireless work on behalf of Greg Biggs. And finally, we would like to offer our forgiveness to Chante Mallard and our sympathies to the Mallard family. Thank you guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our guest is Brandon. By the way, as we continue going to phone calls, both the prosecution and the defense praised our guest. The defense said Brandon is a wonderful young man, and prosecutor Richard Alpert said: "His level of maturity and sensitivity and just reasonableness is astounding. I think that the highest compliment to Gregory Biggs that we can give him is his son Brandon. He's an amazing young man." Lansing, Michigan, hello. Lansing, hello.
CALLER: Yes, I was just curious how you could forgive her. If she killed my father, I don't think I could.
KING: Where did that come from, Brandon?
BIGGS: The forgiveness, well, it comes because I've been forgiven of so much. And I just -- I can't not forgive other people, no matter how grievous -- no matter how grievous. Life is too short to live with all the anger and the bitterness. It's just too short for that.
KING: Before the trial, you said you wanted to meet her. Did you want to meet her?
BIGGS: I had spoken of that earlier when the accident first happened, but I'm still unsure whether or not I would like to do that.
KING: Some day you might?
BIGGS: Yes, some day. Some day.
KING: Akron, Ohio, hello.
CALLER: Hi. My name is Melissa, I'm 22, and I have a question for Brandon.
KING: Hi. Sure.
CALLER: I have all my condolences for him, but I have a 3-year- old daughter and have a hard time, let alone leaving her for one night, and I had a question for him, if he had hit somebody with his car and he knew that even if he did take the person to the hospital and they died that he would still go down for involuntary vehicular homicide, you know, what would he do? How would he think of that? You know?
KING: In other words, you're trying to make an understanding case for the defendant?
CALLER: Excuse me?
KING: You are trying to understand the defendant.
CALLER: Right, like I can't leave my daughter let alone for one night, but to imagine, you know, hitting somebody with my car and knowing that really it was an accident but even if I drive them to the hospital, you know, I may get separated from my daughter for years.
KING: So you might say in the same circumstances, you might have done the same thing?
CALLER: No, I would have to go to the hospital, I would have to, I mean, I could never -- I just couldn't do what she did. I mean, to a sense I -- you know, I don't want to say I understand it, because I don't think that that was right, but I would have to go to the hospital. But it would be very sad, because...
KING: I understand.
CALLER: You would probably still go down for involuntary vehicular homicide.
KING: Brandon, in other words, that woman, while she did the wrong thing, according to the caller, may have been between a rock and a hard place. Can you understand that at all?
BIGGS: I think at first surely there would have been a lot of confusion and not knowing what to do, but I think absolutely the right thing would have been to stop and get help, call for help, or to drive directly to the hospital.
KING: San Antonio, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry. This is San Antonio, and I would like to tell Brandon that I do understand what he's been through in some ways, because bipolar disorder, which I don't believe has been mentioned this evening -- is that correct, that your dad was bipolar? Is that correct, Brandon?
BIGGS: Yes, it is.
CALLER: It's a very difficult disease, and it takes a lot to help these people, and they do not want to help themselves. We have to do something for mental illness, and I admire you very much for how you have held up through all of this.
BIGGS: Thank you.
CALLER: Good guy.
CALLER: Thank you.
KING: Thank you. Brandon, how did you deal with the graphic pictures and testimony that the prosecution had to present? BIGGS: Well, you know, as you can expect, I had not seen any of the photographs or evidence before. And I just had to deal with it piece by piece and minute by minute, and certainly stay close to friends and family who supported me, and stay in prayer. That's the only way I can make it through something like that.
KING: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Mr. King, our condolences goes out to Brandon, and our question is, Brandon, do you feel that the lady that hit your father was sorry for what she had done, or was she just sorry for being caught? And we are so appalled every time that we see her with tears over what she has done, because she is just -- we have no sympathy for her at all. So that is our question, and thank you.
KING: Thank you. All right, Brandon? Did you buy it or did you see it as sorry she was caught?
BIGGS: Well, I think it's probably a little bit of both. It was obvious that she was not wanting to be caught. She was trying to hide the evidence. But I do believe that there was a lot of remorse for what she had done, that she was sorry that it had ever happened. And I would honestly have to say I believe it's a little bit of both.
KING: Brandon, I thank you very much for giving us a half hour to us. We appreciate it. We wish you nothing but the best. Hope to have you on as Reverend Biggs.
BIGGS: Thank you.
KING: Brandon Biggs, his father was Gregory Biggs, the victim in the windshield murder case in Texas. Testified at the trial of his father's killer, Chante Mallard, and she got 50 years in prison.
When we come back, our legal panel will be assembled. Lots to talk about, happenings in the Peterson case, the Kobe Bryant arrest and other items. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALLARD: I have ruined lives for the other people. I have ruined my family's life. I have put people through pain. And I am so truly sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's meet our panel. We'll get some updates on the Scott Peterson case, get into Kobe Bryant matter, as well. One reminder. Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, will be here tomorrow night. Colin Powell, the secretary of state, on Thursday.
Our panel in San Francisco is Ted Rowlands of KTVU. In Atlanta is defense attorney Chris Pixley. In San Francisco is Jim Hammer, assistant district attorney and head of the homicide unit. In San Diego is defense attorney Jan Ronis. And in New York, Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, former judge and district attorney for Westchester County, New York.
All right, Ted, get us up to date. We understand Scott Peterson's attorneys want the police -- the San Francisco police -- to turn over the case file on Evelyn Hernandez. What's that all about?
TED ROWLANDS, KTVU-TV: Well, that'll be discussed July 9, this Wednesday, in Modesto. They issued a subpoena to try to get that case file turned over so that they could take a look at it to see if there was any similarities between the Evelyn Hernandez case and the Laci Peterson case. San Francisco district attorney's office, and specifically, the San Francisco Police Department, has asked that that subpoena be squashed, saying that it could jeopardize their investigation into the Hernandez case. They say the two cases are not related, and they say they're in a position to determine that and they don't want the Hernandez case file made public because it could jeopardize their case. They want to solve their own case and, quite frankly, don't want it out in the media.
KING: Jim Hammer, how could it jeopardize the case?
JIM HAMMER, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCISCO: Well, these kind of cases, Larry, involve leads in the case and witnesses and things they followed up. And in no ongoing murder investigation do the police want their file open. This is really -- if there can be a lucky break for the defense -- and it's hard to talk about other murders being a lucky break, but this is the kind of lead exactly that Geragos has been hoping for, this case and the case in Las Vegas of the man who's been arrested, who was allegedly a serial killer, as well.
KING: Chris Pixley, would you ask for this, what the defense has asked for?
CHRIS PIXLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely, Larry. You want to pursue every possible lead. You know, the defense doesn't have any obligation to try to build their own case of a serial killer or someone that may have been involved in Evelyn Hernandez's murder, as well as Laci Peterson's, but when you have evidence of this kind, these commonalities in the crimes themselves, it's worth looking into. And I think that the defense team is right in going after this information.
It's kind of surprising that the city attorney's office is fighting it so vigorously, when the judge has already ordered -- you know, Judge Beauchesne was asked whether this information should be -- was asked to release this information. The subpoena followed a hearing that Judge Beauchesne had, and presumably, the judges already decided on whether or not this evidence is material.
KING: Judge Pirro, what's the big problem?
JEANINE FERRIS PIRRO, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK: Well, the California evidence code makes it very clear that open homicide investigative files are confidential, and the defendant cannot just go on a fishing expedition and say, You know what? I think I want that file over there, because files contain investigative leads and names of witnesses, subpoenas, search warrants. And there's got to be a materiality. The defendant has to establish that there is something in particular in that case.
KING: But -- but, if you're the...
PIRRO: And by the way, last -- but last week, I had a case in Westchester County where a defendant was convicted of murder after having chopped up a body. Now, does that mean that maybe they ought to subpoena this file, as well? This is a fishing expedition! It's nothing more...
KING: No, but what I mean is -- Judge, what if the defendant -- just -- this is a "What if."
KING: What if the defendant didn't do it, did not do this...
PIRRO: Oh, I'm not...
KING: ... and he told his lawyer he didn't do it? Wouldn't you, as a lawyer for him,. try to find out if somebody else did it and look at these cases?
PIRRO: Without a doubt, Larry.
KING: What if he didn't do it?
PIRRO: Without a doubt. And the jury will ultimately make that decision. But there are rules and there are laws. Specifically, the evidence code makes it clear. You know, you have a victim with autopsy photographs, et cetera. And let's make no mistake here. The lead detective in the Hernandez case, along with the lead detective in the Las Vegas case, have both said it is absurd to try to connect Laci Peterson to their cases. But I think what will happen here is that the judge will look at the files. He will make a decision as to whether or not anything should be revealed to Geragos. And if so, then Geragos will have it.
KING: And Jan, what would you do?
JAN RONIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think the judge is absolutely incorrect. You know, there's more to California law than the evidence code, and there is a right to due process. And this defendant has an absolute right to try to gather evidence which will assist him in his defense. Now, everybody's under a gag order. The judge is suggesting that just because he get's this file, he's going to publicize it in the community, and he'll have to be responsible...
PIRRO: No, I'm not!
RONIS: ... and keep it -- keep it confidential. But he needs that. I mean, as Jim suggested, this has fallen into his lap, and it has a signature very similar to Laci's death. PIRRO: No.
HAMMER: Well, I don't want to buy into the theory that they're the same killer. And in fact, in the Hernandez case, which I can't comment on because it's a San Francisco case, there's a logical suspect in that case. But I think there is this competing constitutional right, Larry, which is the right to fair trial, the right to due process. Even as a DA, I'd have to say if they can make that showing, the judge should turn it over but limit who gets it.
KING: Ted Rowlands...
PIRRO: But Jim the key is...
KING: I want Ted -- hold it, Jeanine. Ted, this Las Vegas case -- this guy's been arrested, right?
ROWLANDS: Right, 29-year-old Perry Monroe (ph) was arrested in Fresno. He's accused of killing a hotel porter in Boulder City, Nevada, right near Las Vegas. Apparently, he had a hacksaw in the room, and he dismembered this individual and the porter's torso was found in a body of water. This, of course, threw out red flags. Again, there was speculation that there could be a connection. Las Vegas PD did contact Modesto police, but they have since said that they believe it's absurd that there is any connection between these two cases.
However, the folks on the defense side and even the prosecution side may be looking into this. They're not commenting because of the gag order. There are some things that are unique. This individual, Perry Monroe, is from the bay area. He grew up in Alameda, which is actually an island in the San Francisco Bay, so he would have knowledge of where Laci's body and Evelyn Hernandez's body were both found. He also was in Davis for a while, where those other bones were found. So there's a lot of speculation around it. What happens from here, we'll have to wait and see, though.
KING: Now, Judge, is that a fishing expedition, or does it look like a logical thing to look into?
PIRRO: Well, the statute requires that you show some materiality, that you say you want something for a particular reason. So for example, you might say, We want to see the autopsy report and see if there is correlation, or, We want to see a surveillance tape. If there's some specificity, then the judge will certainly consider it. I think what will happen here is that the judge will look and make that decision. But most interesting is that in January, the Modesto police had received the San Francisco file and apparently had already looked at the San Francisco case. So it's kind of interesting. I guess maybe the police were covering a lot of other bases instead of just focusing on Scott Peterson.
KING: Chris, do you think they fully investigated other areas?
PIXLEY: I have my own questions about it, Larry. You know, for example, we're talking about this Evelyn Hernandez file and whether it should be turned over. The declaration that was made by the lead investigator in the prosecution's motion to quash this subpoena -- or I should say the city attorney's motion to quash the subpoena -- says that, We're afraid that potential witnesses in the Hernandez file might not come forward if the file, the criminal investigative file, were turned over to the Peterson defense team. Well, this case is more than a year old. The case has gone cold. If they haven't talked to all of the witnesses that they have in this case at this point in time, if they haven't talked to those witnesses and they're aware of them, then they're not doing everything...
KING: I got to get a break. I got to get a break. I'll come back to this. I want to get your thoughts on the Kobe Bryant arrest and the statement made by the district attorney and seems somewhat in conflict with the police, and then we'll get back into both stories when we come back. Don't go away.
KING: The Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant, with an exemplary record, came right to the NBA out of high school -- married, a little baby, bright -- was arrested on some sort of sexual charge in Eagle County in Colorado. That's -- Vail is the principal city in that county. The arrest was made directly by the police, based on information. That information has been held by the judge and not released.
The district attorney had a statement to make. Here's what he said -- Mark Hurlbert. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK HURLBERT, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: As of this time, no charges have been filed on Mr. Bryant. I got the police reports from the sheriff's department today, and after I get done here, I'll start reviewing those police reports and the evidence there to make a filing decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK, Jim Hammer, help us. When police go out and make an arrest, do they have to go to the district attorney first? What do you make of this?
HAMMER: You know, Larry, you brought the most interesting part of the story. Ordinarily, they do go to the district attorney and consult with the DA, and the DA gives them the "go" or the "no go" on it, whether or not there's enough evidence. The back story here is apparently, as alleged by the defense, the DA told him he didn't have enough evidence yet. The sheriff went ahead anyhow with the arrest warrant and arrested. So it's unusual in this kind of case for the DA not to be ready to go, and it does suggest that there was some disagreement between the DA and the sheriff. And the DA's going to take a look at the case and see whether or not he thinks there's enough evidence. So it's very unusual. KING: What do you make of it, Jan Ronis?
RONIS: Well, it looks like the sheriff and the DA are at cross purposes with one another. And if you've been in this business as long as I have, sometimes you read between the lines. And I have a feeling it's probably a weak case and probably won't result in a criminal filing. But that's just my guess, based up on -- not knowing all of the facts, but vast experience.
KING: Judge Pirro, why would a sheriff go ahead and do this without first consulting to see if it's a prosecutable case? What would be the circumstances? What would you guess?
PIRRO: You know, this is a -- it's not an unusual situation. The police make an arrest, but the district attorney ultimately makes the decision as to whether or not to file charges and go forward with the prosecution. There appears to be somewhat of a disagreement here. Either the sheriff's department thought that Kobe Bryant was leaving, they had some reason to file criminal charges. The DA is -- or to make an arrest, whereas the DA was not ready to file criminal charges.
A couple of things may have happened. No. 1, it may be that the district attorney, since he is the person who is charged with proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, wants to meet with the complainant, wants to interview the complainant. There may be forensic or lab tests that are not yet back. There may be more additional work that needs to be done on the case. But this is somewhat unusual. And like the rest of the panel, I mean, I've been in this business for 27 years. There's something going on here, and I think some disagreement. But I think, clearly, from the press conference, they intend to work it out.
KING: Chris Pixley, don't police make arrests all the time without first calling a district attorney? Don't police arrest people today on charges?
PIXLEY: I don't know about all the time, Larry. You know, the question really here that came up at the press conference today that was so interesting, I mean, was what's the urgency here for making this arrest on this 4th of July holiday, rather than waiting to the following week or sometime thereafter, once the DA has given their approval?
And that question was asked directly of the sheriff, and the sheriff said, Well, want to let -- we wanted to let the families of both the victim and the accused work this out and work through this over the holiday weekend. That didn't seem to make really any sense to anyone, and it is an unusual event. Nothing illegal about it, nothing improper. And of course, the DA came forward and said that. But what he also said was, you know, Listen, what's done is done. And there was every indication from the DA that they were not pleased about it.
So yes, it is unusual. And you know, while Judge Pirro offers some very viable explanations for what may have been going on and why the sheriff's department might have gone after him at this point in time, the sheriff himself didn't give such good answers.
KING: Ted Rowlands, you'll agree that this is a major media story? Once a story like this hits, it has a rolling-stone effect of its own, doesn't it?
ROWLANDS: Oh, yes. And especially when you look at Kobe Bryant's reputation. Back when he first came into the league, everybody was talking about him falling into drugs or, you know, falling into this lifestyle -- he's too young. But he stayed away from that. In fact, he was criticized after a few years because he didn't go out and party with rest of him. His reputation is impeccable. That's another draw to it. And of course, he's as big as you get, in terms of NBA stars. So from a media standpoint, it's not going away, especially now that there has been an arrest.
KING: Jim Hammer, does this mean the sheriff believes the complaining witness's story?
HAMMER: I think you're right, Larry. And you know, what might be going on here is this disagreement between the DA -- the DA wasn't ready or thought there wasn't enough. A lot of these cases are one- on-one kind of cases, sexual assault cases, where there is no physical evidence. And it might be an attempt by the sheriff to force the DA to charge the case. And if that's the case, the DA's not going to be very happy about it.
KING: Jan, do you think we're going to learn a lot more, or do you think things are going to be kind of kept under wraps?
RONIS: Well, I think it's going to be kept under wraps. This might be a good illustration of what reasonable doubt is. It looks like, on the one hand, the police or the investigating agents think that they have a case. On the other hand, the DA, who's the one who really applies the law of, in this case, reasonable doubt to the facts, looks like he may want to take a pass on it. So -- but we'll all find out.
PIRRO: You know, Jan...
PIRRO: ... these cases -- you're right, these cases are very difficult to prove. I mean, it's one person's word against another. And unless there is corroborating evidence -- for example, some kind of forensic evidence or someone seeing the complainant leave a room at a particular time, I could understand a concern on the part of the prosecution being able to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. Kobe Bryant is one of my son's heroes. He's 14 years old. I mean, he does have an impeccable reputation, and the DA has to think about that in making the decision to charge and prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.
KING: The tragedy, Chris, is that celebrities are at the mercy of things like this, are they not?
PIXLEY: That's right. You know, the DA today said, Listen, this case is going to be handled the way any other case is handled, that Kobe wouldn't receive any more or less consideration or attention. But of course, they had to call a press conference to say that, and we're already reporting on it. So it's unfortunate for someone in Kobe's position. It's good that we can at least talk about the fact that while there has been an arrest warrant issued -- and that means the judge did see that there was some probable cause -- at the same time, the DA hasn't made their decision just yet.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and go to your phone calls. Anything you want to talk about in the legal area -- the Peterson case, the Kobe Bryant matter. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Let's go to calls for our panel. Tampa, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for your panel is how much, truly, does the influence of the media have on decision making by judicial and law enforcement officials? And also, in cases where there's not the high-profile attention, do you feel that the decisions and perhaps even the effort on officials are truly the same because they are not under the microscope?
KING: Excellent question on both things we're talking about. Who wants to go first, Jan?
RONIS: I'd like to take that one. Oh, I think Kobe Bryant is the Martha Stewart of sports, in that she's got a constituency out there that loves her, and he's got a huge constituency that loves him. And without any other corroborating evidence, it looks like that may be -- you know, a determinating factor as to whether they'll file.
KING: Jim Hammer, what's the effect of a media approach on a public official?
HAMMER: Well, I think, again, especially if the sheriff's office in this case is trying to put pressure on the DA's office, if you think about the DA from his perspective, he doesn't want to lose the biggest case to come his way. And I'd like to take the other side, Larry, and look at the victim in this case. There may not be any physical evidence to corroborate her claim, but if she made a fresh complaint, something right after this alleged event happened, I think that could be powerful evidence. If anything, I think the DA might hold her to a higher standard and make sure he has a rock-solid case more than he might require another case because he knows everyone will be watching this case.
KING: Modesto -- I'm sorry. Someone want to say something? Go ahead.
PIXLEY: I just want to say really quickly that another effect that this can have, the media attention, is on how the DA goes about making the decision, though. I think they'll go -- they'll follow the same standard and they'll go about it in the same way, but there's a real urgency now that wouldn't have been there otherwise, if the sheriff hadn't gone forward and executed that arrest.
KING: Modesto, California. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. I have a question to ask you. I was wondering if they would probably have the trial in Stanislaus County, since there is gag order issued and it'd probably be quite some time before he is tried?
KING: Ted Rowlands, what do you think it's going to get -- do you think that trial's going to be moved, the Peterson case?
ROWLANDS: Well, they're sure going to try to move it, the defense, and I think that the DAs are going to try to keep in it Modesto. There's been a lot of different studies already completed in terms of, Can Peterson get a fair trial in Stanislaus County? The bottom line, most of them, the answer is no. But if you look forward, where can he get a fair trial, nobody really has the answer to that. Los Angeles seems to be the only viable place for it, and of course, that would play right into the defense's hands. So whether or not this judge will allow it, we'll have to wait and see. But the feeling you get is the judge has already made a few statements in court. He would like to keep it at home in Stanislaus County and try him in Modesto.
KING: Judge Pirro, you were a judge. Would you grant the change of venue here?
PIRRO: Well, I -- the question is whether or not, in selecting the jury, you have people who've already made up their minds. And the United States Supreme Court case that talks about a change of venue talks about a jury that is in the process of being picked. You know, I have the ultimate faith in people who say, You know what? I've heard press reports, but I promise to listen to the law and to the facts. It's really up to the judge to make a voir dire worth the effort of both the court and the jurors. But I believe in the good intentions of people who take their jobs very seriously and who make these decisions based upon the law and facts, not upon media reports.
KING: Chris, do you think it has to be moved?
PIXLEY: In all deference to Judge Pirro, I think it does. I understand what she's saying. And it's like anything else in life, Larry. You know, there -- I think the jurors come to this position, into this role, and take it very seriously. By the same token, jurors in Modesto, in particular, have been inundated with day-in day-out discussion of this case. It's on the front of "The Modesto Bee" on a daily basis, and Judge Girolami himself has acknowledged that he reads about it in the paper. So while he has expressed an interest in keeping it in Modesto, I think that there's a pretty good argument for moving it if they can show that a fair trial in Modesto, given the attitudes of the general population there, is going to be difficult to find.
KING: St. Joseph's, Missouri. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. Good evening, Mr. King. KING: Hi.
CALLER: I actually have a comment and a question in regards to Mr. Biggs.
PIRRO: First off, I wanted to tell his son that I can really sympathize with him. My sister was a victim of a heinous crime of being set on fire twice, and the gentleman had ran and was eventually caught. My question to the panel of attorneys, as well as the judge, is with that case, with everything that the viewers have seen on TV, how did this woman, with all the evidence compiled against her, manage to squirm out of a life sentence and only got 50 years, when you know that there were other charges filed against her, such as -- my assumption would be tampering with evidence, concealing evidence? How did she just walk away with 50 years when there should have been more to that? How did she only...
KING: All right, Jim Hammer...
PIRRO: ... get 50 years and not more?
KING: ... do you think 50 was light?
HAMMER: I don't. I think -- having especially heard Mr. Biggs today, Larry, I think you see what the whole system boils down to is the impact these crimes have on victims. I think she'll be out at, what, in her 70s, at this point? And I think her last few years on earth will be walking free, and she'll spend almost the rest of her life in prison. And I think that's frankly justified in the light of what she did to this poor man in those two hours, while he was suffering and dying in her garage.
KING: Judge Pirro, what did you think?
PIRRO: Well, you know, I think this is one of the most horrific crimes I have ever seen. And you know, this defendant stole from a dying man the opportunity to be helped by anyone. She took him into her garage, closed that door and watched him die and bleed to death hanging from a windshield. This is an outrageous, depraved murder! The jury made the right decision. And honestly, I don't think any sentence is too long for this defendant. You know, we talk about a choice, a poor choice. This wasn't something that happened in a split second. She took him home. She plotted on how to get rid of the body. She watched him die for hours, at the very last. Even that's according to the defense. Horrific crime, deserves a very significant punishment.
KING: Thank you all very much, as usual. Always good seeing you. Ted Rowlands of KTVU in San Francisco, one of the best reporters in the game. Chris Pixley, the defense attorney from Atlanta, Georgia. Jim Hammer, assistant district attorney, San Francisco. He heads the homicide unit. Jan Ronis, the defense attorney from San Diego. And Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, the former judge who's district attorney for Westchester County, New York. I'll come back in a couple of moments, tell you about tomorrow night. First, you watch this. Don't go away.
KING: Quite a line-up coming up. Tomorrow night, Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, will be our special guest for the full program. Thursday night, Colin Powell, the secretary of state. Friday night, Queen Noor. How we doing so far? We're in Washington all week.
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