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Panel Discusses America's Obssession With High Profile Criminal Cases

Aired July 26, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, from Jon Benet to Scott Peterson to Kobe Bryant, the headline frenzy over high profile crimes and high price court cases, why do people care so much and does it help or hurt the quest for justice?
Joining us, "COURT TV's" Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor; defense attorney Chris Pixley; criminal defense attorney and "COURT TV" legal analyst Rikki Klieman; Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, District Attorney for Westchester County, New York; and Harvey Levin of "Celebrity Justice," they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. Welcome to this special Saturday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We have an outstanding panel. We're going to discuss a lot of cases that have been in the news and, before we get into some individual cases, we're going to try to find out why these cases are in the news.

By the way, Rikki has a terrific new book out. Rikki Klieman's book is "Fairy Tales Can Come True: How A Driven Woman Changed her Destiny." She's married, by the way, to the police chief of Los Angeles, California.

All right, Rikki, we'll start with you. Why? Why is Laci Peterson's death a story?

RIKKI KLIEMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTY., "COURT TV": Laci Peterson goes in the same column with Jon Benet Ramsey with Chandra Levy with Elizabeth Smart. I think that there's a fascination of people, women, who are beautiful, who are white, who are part of a society that we look at and say, oh my God could this happen to me from my loved one?

There's a fascination with all of these kinds of women. You know there are thousands of people that go missing or are killed who are people of color and we don't hear about those stories in the same way.

KING: But, Harvey, white people also go missing and get killed and we don't hear about them, so who picks what?

HARVEY LEVIN, "CELEBRITY JUSTICE": Absolutely. Well, in terms of the media?

KING: Yes.

LEVIN: I think what the media does is mimic soap operas. I think that the best trials, the riveting trials, are the trials that have, you know, that have love and sex and betrayal and mystery and, you know, in the Kobe Bryant case beautiful people.

I mean it's all what soap opera is about. It's why people watch them day after day for so long. These cases get serialized just like "Days of Our Lives" and that's kind of what we're doing. We're doing real life soap operas in the form of a trial.

KING: Nancy, can we make a case that that could be more important to a viewer than post-war Iraq?

NANCY GRACE, "COURT TV," FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, absolutely. Of course, what the media wants us to be interested in is not always what the public, we, are interested in and I disagree with Rikki on one point. I don't know that it has so much to do with race as money.

When rich people or celebrities of any ilk are involved in a case then the public, myself, are interested. But I'll tell you what I think it boils down to. I think it boils down to this, curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction brought it back.

You look at a good looking guy like O.J. Simpson or Scott Peterson and it's very difficult to accept or imagine that behind an attractive facade is something very nefarious and evil and it captures our attention.

KING: How much, Chris, of this is entertainment?

CHRIS PIXLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, so much of it is entertainment. You know we are an entertainment culture. We get our entertainment from television. We get it from the movies but because we're such heavy entertainment consumers we're sophisticated and that means that, you know, we wouldn't be willing to accept in many cases the storyline that's in these real life cases if it was tried, if it was sold to us as a movie.

But because it's real life, because it's not sold to us as a movie, we suspend judgment and then our interest, as Harvey said, in the mystery behind it all, kicks in.

KING: Pure reality then, this is pure reality?

PIXLEY: This is pure reality, absolutely, and again the mystery matters to us. You know long before there was television we were reading Sherlock Holmes or Shakespeare or Sophocles. It goes back to the beginning of time. We're interested in the mystery.

One of the things I learned early on in my trial career was that if you can get a jury to try to figure it out for themselves, especially as a defense attorney, to try to figure out what the prosecution is not telling them, what the prosecution's got wrong, to figure the crime out on their own then you may very well get them to decide that it's something other than what they're being sold by one or the other attorney.

KING: Judge Pirro, is there a soap opera quality to it as well?

JEANINE FERRIS PIRRO, DIST. ATTY., WESTCHESTER CO., NY: There's no question, Larry. We are a society that loves soap operas and we have the opportunity to not just watch it but to live it and we can find out from day to day something new that's happening every day.

So, there's a soap opera quality and there's also the disconnect quality and, whether it's about race or money and whether it's unpredictable, it really is about a disconnect where we as a society don't expect this to happen to these people.

And so, even though there is an image of someone like a Kobe Bryant to being this incredible guy with a pure reputation, on the other hand the allegation is so inconsistent.

And so, unlike what we believe is the image that we have that we've become fascinated by it all and it's true, it's just like a Greek tragedy where a hero has a flaw and we're constantly looking for that flaw and those tragedies have withstood the test of time.

KING: By the way, this is very informal so you can jump in at any time. How much of it do you think, Rikki, is 24 hour news channels?

KLIEMAN: Oh, a lot of it is 24 hour news channels. I mean we can't help it. I'm part of it. We live to be able to fill air and when you've got a celebrity, that's why I put the Kobe Bryant, O.J. Simpson, all those NFL people, Ray Lewis, Ray Caruth, Ray Chmura. "COURT TV" was in heaven for a year and a half because of those particular celebrity figures.

What happens is you fill air. "COURT TV" does the trial. Other stations fill air and then, to take Chris' point, the public it's why they love to watch things like "Forensic Files" and "CSI." They want to be part of the investigation.

KING: The whodunit?

KLIEMAN: It's a whodunit or it's a why did they do it or how did they do it?

KING: Harvey, can it get a little overboard? Can it get where we find innocent people guilty? Can we presume things too much?

LEVIN: We totally -- well, we do presume things too much. There are so many -- we're covering the Kobe Bryant case every day and this is a very complicated case and...

KING: Of which we know zilch.

LEVIN: Of which, that's the point, of which we know zilch and yet people are already projecting do you think he's going to get a fair trial? Do you think a jury can look at Kobe Bryant and be impartial?

I mean that is so far down the line. We're looking at this case right now in Colorado for my show and I'm telling you there's a big story that hasn't come out yet just about how small towns arrest people and prosecute people and there's so much that we don't know and people just are taking it right down to the line.

Will he go to jail? Well, you know, first there's got to be a preliminary hearing. Then he's got to be tried way, way, way, down the line.

KING: Let's get into that. Nancy we are all, in fact, guilty of it, aren't we? Nancy, do you hear me?

GRACE: Yes, I hear you now. You know what, Larry, I heard something that you two were just saying and it disturbs me and that is we find them guilty. We are not the jury and, Larry, I have tried plenty of cases that were in the evening news and in the paper every single day, cases that neighborhoods, communities were interested in and the jury bases their decision on what they hear in the courtroom.

Us kicking it around does not in my mind change what the jury will choose to believe. So, when we discuss us finding them guilty I don't think that's correct. It's down to 12 jurors and I know everybody on this panel has tried high profile cases.

Another thing, Larry, at the end of the day have you ever gone to bed and something just doesn't sit right with you. That is why we are interested in these cases. We hear various facts.

They filter down to us and we apply our common sense and, Larry, the thing about the human that sets us apart from the animals swinging in the jungle is the thumb and the decision to live in a society with rules and it doesn't sit right at the end of the day when we think somebody broke those rules and are getting away with it.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back I'll ask if someone were to watch 24 hour news all the time could they really serve on a jury. We'll be back. Don't go away.


KING: Chris Pixley, if you were to watch just this program all the time and watch you and Nancy go at it, could you be an objective jurist in the Peterson trial?


PIXLEY: Exactly, you're right. The question is can you be honest about it and, again, I love Nancy for her ideals but I can't disagree more with what she just said about jurors. The fact is jurors take their job very seriously but they come to the jury box with predispositions and with ideas.

And in a Kobe Bryant case that may work very well for the defendant because his image has been so consistently positive. His behavior has been so consistently positive but it doesn't always work for the defendant.

If you're Mike Tyson and the public considers you to be fairly erratic in your behavior and you're on trial for rape it's going to work against you. These people are in our homes and on our television sets for years and there's no way to divorce the perception that we have of them from what we're hearing and the evidence.

KING: Judge, to find a jury member in one of these trials, do you have to find someone who knows nothing about this at all?

PIRRO: Well, you know, with some of these high profile cases, Larry, the truth is you'd have to get someone from Mars to sit on the juries if you wanted someone who knew nothing about the case but I've been a judge and I tried many, many cases, and I really believe in the jury system.

I believe that when individuals go into that jury room to deliberate they base their decision on the facts, on what has occurred in the courtroom, and not on what was spun in the media.

And, by the way, a lot of this, Larry, is entertainment and the public knows it's entertainment. They see it every day. They see Mark Geragos predicting, you know, that it's someone else and we stay tuned to the soap opera. But when it gets right down to it jurors are responsible citizens who recognize that a person's civil liberties are at stake.

GRACE: Larry.

LEVIN: If I may -- if I may...

KING: Hold on, Nancy, first Harvey then you.

LEVIN: I so disagree with the judge and Nancy. This is theater right now. I mean look at what Kobe Bryant's lawyer did at a news conference. That was the beginning of a trial and...

KING: To impact the jury.

LEVIN: Of course. I mean that's precisely...

PIRRO: Of course it is, Harvey.

LEVIN: Nancy, that's precisely, precisely...

PIRRO: Harvey, of course it is and that's what you do in all rape cases where there's an issue of consent. You bring in a beautiful woman. The jury says how could he possibly rape someone when he has this beautiful wife?

LEVIN: But, judge, it's about image.

PIRRO: That is theater for...

LEVIN: It's about image. It is about the image that the prosecutor and the defense are trying to portray and the defense did a brilliant job and this has an impact and, you know, trials are not always about proof. They're about winning and they're trying to win and they're doing a pretty good job of it.


KING: One at a time, Nancy go ahead.

PIRRO: Character evidence in itself can raise a reasonable doubt and so there's no question he's going to play to that, Harvey, and it may work for him.

KING: Nancy.

GRACE: Number one, Harvey, have you ever sat on a jury?

LEVIN: I'm going to sit next week, Nancy. I don't think I'm going to get picked though.

GRACE: Well, let me tell you this. I have had jurors that actually weep, that actually cry during a trial. They get sick to their stomach. They have to ask the bailiff for Pepto Bismol. These jurors take their job very seriously.

If you've ever heard a jury in a deliberation room, you can't hear exactly what they're saying but you can hear them yelling and screaming, some of them laughing, some of them crying during jury deliberations.

LEVIN: But what does that have to do with not being influenced by an image that people try to mold?

GRACE: What that has to do with what we are talking about tonight is this. I don't care what. They may see on TV six weeks before a trial, when they hear that evidence, when they see that defendant take the stand and when they take the oath to be impartial that jury does exactly that and I don't care what you what you would say.

KING: All right, let me get some other folks. Rikki, do you believe that?

KLIEMAN: I think it's a mixture. I think that people who do become jurors really, really want to do the right thing. They do take their oath seriously. They want to believe that they're deciding the case on the evidence.

But the difficulty you have is whatever you bring to the room, whatever you bring to the jury box, as I would put it colloquially, whatever you bring to the party is who you are. It's what's in your head. It's what's in your heart and you can't divorce yourself from whom you are.

So, that's why the lawyers have to take a lot of time in a case like Kobe Bryant just like they would in a Simpson case to go and try and get beneath when they select these jurors to find out what they're really about.

KING: But a case where it's not then, the Peterson case has become things.


KING: The Petersons were not famous, Chris. Do you think that a juror goes in predisposed?

PIXLEY: Absolutely. When a case like this one...

KING: Now on voir dire do they deny it?

PIXLEY: Well, they do. Unfortunately what the jury will tell you is -- and they believe it...

KING: I have no opinion.

PIXLEY: They believe it that they can keep an open mind.

GRACE: But you know better.

PIXLEY: And there isn't really any way to get underneath that and find out whether or not they can. But one of the things though, Nancy, the reality, Larry, is that high profile cases aren't petty offenses.

These are major felonies and as major felonies these trials stretch on for a long period of time and that means what's in someone's mind, what they've read weeks or months before the trial and what they hear over the course of hours and hours of testimony become commingled and they cannot honestly walk into the jury room when it is time for deliberations without having other thoughts.

PIRRO: That's been...

KING: Is the truth, judge, we don't know?

PIRRO: No. You know what, that really is an insult to people who sit on juries every day, Chris. That really underestimates their intelligence. That jury knows what the evidence is. They've watched witnesses. They've analyzed the way they spoke, how they answered questions and they make a decision based upon evidence.

And that's the whole point to the voir dire that Rikki was talking about is to make sure the people understand. And, as a judge, I've instructed jurors time and time again about the fact that nothing that they hear can be considered by them unless it's in the courtroom and I believe that jurors are responsible. They know there's too much at stake.

PIXLEY: Judge, you know that sociologists and psychologists disagree with what you're saying. You understand that.

PIRRO: I know that I've done this for 27 years and I have seen jurors, look, "12 Angry Men" says it all. You go in with one thought. You deliberate honestly with other people.

GRACE: That's right.

PIRRO: And you come out with a totally different analysis.

LEVIN: But do you guys seriously believe, and it's hard to believe that they do, that jurors don't violate their oath every single day when in a high profile case by watching television even though they're told not to?


LEVIN: I mean people are human beings and you can't assume that they're going to be more judicial than the judges who are sitting on the bench. This is a foreign object to them, the courtroom...

GRACE: Larry.

LEVIN: And they haven't been in it before and, you know what, they do the best they can. They do an honorable job but the notion that they're not influenced by both the spotlight and by famous people in that courtroom in their midst is ridiculous.

KING: And by television they've seen.

LEVIN: And by TV.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. Nancy Grace will kick it off when we go around the next round, lots of things to talk about, lots of time left. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with our panel discussing crime and television and its effect on each other in a sense.

All right, Nancy Grace you were going to say about jurors and the like and then we're going to get into some individual cases.

GRACE: Larry, I just think that Harvey and Chris are giving themselves, no offense guys I love you, but I think you're giving yourselves way, way too much credit. You're taking yourself a little too seriously. If you think what you or people like you or people like me on air say to a jury is going to influence them more than the evidence they hear in the courtroom, it is absurd.

LEVIN: Nancy, it's not you and it's not me, it's the people who we interview. It's the lawyers who are orchestrating the press conferences. It's the defendant. It's the victim. It's the families. We become, frankly, in some cases the tools. We become their pawns and, you know what, you can deny it but it's true. The bottom line is these things are carefully crafted especially in high profile...

GRACE: According to you it's true.

LEVIN: Well, listen, in high profile cases why are they wasting their time? Why are they holding press conferences? Why does this look like a Broadway show sometimes?

KING: Why do they issue gag orders?

LEVIN: Well, they issue gag orders because...

KING: They don't want them to do that, right? LEVIN: And because the lawyers have been too effective. That's why they issue gag orders when the judge knows that the lawyers have become too effective in polluting the jury pool.

KING: Let's take it. Panel let's get into it. We're going to go case by case. Let's go to Kobe Bryant. I know we've done it and everyone has. How can we have opinions, Rikki, with such sketchy information?

KLIEMAN: And rumor, pure rumor.

KING: For example, no one knows at all what he is charged specifically with doing to her.

KLIEMAN: That is correct.

KING: Was her clothes ripped? How was she raped? How did she get through to him? What were the circumstances? Nobody knows this. How can we even talk about it logically?

KLIEMAN: Well because we love to talk about it and we don't care apparently if we talk about it logically.

KING: Based on what do we talk about?

KLIEMAN: We talk about it on the basis of rumor. We talk about it sometimes on the basis of an occasional fact. But, one of the things that we like to do, which is really where we started with that part of us that really want to be part of the investigation. We want to know.

So, I mean, I'm sure you got to parties. You go out talking to people on the street...

KING: Everybody talks about it.

KLIEMAN: ...and everybody has an opinion. Everybody is - I've heard stories.

KING: But opinion based on what?

KLIEMAN: Well, and the stories, we've heard stories that may have no reality. You know it's like playing telephone by the time it gets to the other end of the phone you have a whole new story.

KING: Judge, can we have an opinion did he do this or not? Can you have an opinion -- possibly have an opinion on that, I mean based on anything?

PIRRO: You mean the public large or myself?

KING: Did he rape somebody? Did Kobe Bryant rape a girl? Do you have any idea whether that happened or not?

PIRRO: None of us know because none of us have heard the facts. We've never heard the victim. We've never heard the truth tested by cross-examination. None of that will occur and I keep going back to the fact that jurors take their job seriously and we love this gossip game. We love the drama. We're living a live soap opera but, at the same time, we really know that we don't know everything that's going on.

KING: We know that we don't know.

PIRRO: Even the victim's picture on the Internet was the wrong person.

KING: Harvey, you told us you're doing this every night on "Celebrity Justice."

LEVIN: We do it. We have a reporter in Colorado.

KING: Doing what?

LEVIN: Well, I got to tell you something. Number one, there are issues involving this young girl, not to say she's telling the truth, not to say she's lying, but you know what when somebody files a case that quickly there's something that made them do it. I mean this case got filed...

KING: Maybe she got raped?

LEVIN: Well, maybe she did and maybe she didn't but here's the deal. The jury has to decide beyond a reasonable doubt that Kobe Bryant did it or Kobe Bryant wins the case. Now, all we're talking about now is a reasonable doubt and now you have to start looking at how will the victim, the alleged victim, stand up in court.

KING: What facts do you know about her?

LEVIN: Well, we know that this year she overdosed twice.

KING: We don't know that. You've read sources.

LEVIN: Well, no actually. We broke the story.

PIRRO: Well, you may know. We don't know.

LEVIN: We broke the story about what happened on February 25th at the University of Northern Colorado.

KING: Do you know it was her?

LEVIN: We know it was her. We know it was her and we know that...

KING: If someone tries to kill themselves what does that have to do with whether they were raped or not?

LEVIN: It doesn't, Larry. Here's the problem.

KING: So where is the relevance? Will it even come up in court?

LEVIN: You know what, I think that will and I'll tell you why. The relevance is whether her credibility can withstand...

KING: You mean you're less credible if you're depressed?

LEVIN: You're less credible if you're unstable and it doesn't mean she is but it becomes...

KING: You're kidding.

LEVIN: Absolutely not.

KING: You mean then it's OK to rape unstable people?

LEVIN: No. Listen, I am not saying that she did or didn't do it, that he did or didn't do it. That's not the issue. The issue is that her credibility is on the line just as Kobe Bryant's is on the line. This is a classic he said, she said case.

KLIEMAN: If he chooses to say.

LEVIN: Pardon me?

KLIEMAN: If he chooses to say.

LEVIN: If he chooses to say.

KLIEMAN: We assume he will but I don't know.

LEVIN: Do you disagree with me that the credibility becomes an issue?

KLIEMAN: Credibility, of course, is an issue particularly of an alleged rape victim. The issue here is, is it going to come into evidence?

KING: All right, I want to get the judge in. But, Chris, what do you think, could we logically discuss this?

PIXLEY: No, we can't but we're interested in it because it involves people that are either attractive to us. Somehow we admire them. They're wealthy. They're famous. They're beautiful. Kobe is all of those things to and different things to different people but we want to know about him and we've already got our own opinion.

That's why when I say to Nancy, I'm not saying that what happens in the media is more important than the evidence that they hear at trial. I'm just saying that all of our preconceived notions, everything we hear and read influences us.

KING: Is there frankly a tendency, Nancy, on the part of a prosecutor, former prosecutor, to believe a prosecutor or is there a tendency to say Kobe did it if a prosecutor says he did it?

GRACE: Well, it is my tendency to think that prosecutors would not go forward with a case that they don't believe in and, I'll just be blunt with you, Larry, once you pay a defense lawyer and they accept your case they're pretty much stuck with you regardless of whether you did it or didn't do it. They are stuck with you. You are their client from that point on.

So, prosecutors do not have a burden to go forward with a case that they do not believe in and therein lies the difference. Regarding the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant case I am very distressed.

Not only as a former prosecutor but as a crime victim of what is being done to her right now in the media. That is for the courtroom but the reality is that Harvey is correct. Anything touching on her credibility is fair play in that court of law for cross-exam.

KING: We'll be right back. I'll reintroduce the panel and a lot more of our discussion. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to this Saturday night discussion on LARRY KING LIVE of crime, television and the law.

Our panelists are in Sarasota, Nancy Grace, anchor of "CLOSING ARGUMENTS" on "COURT TV" former prosecutor. Here in Los Angeles, the Georgia defense attorney Chris Pixley. In New York is Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, the District Attorney for Westchester County.

Here in Los Angeles is Rikki Klieman, "COURT TV" Legal Analyst, criminal defense attorney and author of the book "Fairy Tales can Come True: How a Driven Woman can Change her Destiny." And, Harvey Levin, Executive Producer of "Celebrity Justice." He's covered several major trials and celebrity cases.

Judge will Kobe - will that be a fair trial there in Eagle County, Colorado?

PIRRO: Larry, I don't think there's any question but that Kobe Bryant will get a fair trial anywhere. I'm not sure that the victim and the prosecution can get a fair trial in this case.

And, I have to go back to what Harvey Levin said. Harvey, you said that you knew that the victim in this case had overdosed. Am I to assume from that, and are our listeners to assume from that, that you had access to medical records that maybe you should not have had access to?

And, Harvey, have you ever thought about the long term effects on victims coming forward, in rape cases especially that are enormously underreported, because it's open season on them? The truth is, Harvey, life happens.

Everybody goes through trauma in their life. It's how they deal with it and from a prosecutor's perspective the issue is can the victim recall? Can the victim relate what happened? Can the victim testify in a courtroom? Anything that happened to her in the past is not negative. This isn't a game. This isn't entertainment. This is foreclosing many victims from ever coming forward.

LEVIN: There is another side to this and, yes, I can answer that. Number one, we got a lot of this from law enforcement and after our report law enforcement was very open about this.

You know, let me make my point. If you're covering a story and you get information that is relevant to a case you don't say, you know, what, I'm not going to do it because somehow I'm going to say, gee, the victim has certain rights and Kobe Bryant doesn't.

If this becomes relevant in tracking down the case because ultimately, you know what, the press I think does do a lot of good in seeing, you know what, if somebody's life is on the line, if somebody's freedom is on the line, if they've been accused of something, well then maybe reporters do have a job to make sure that this is a fair and square prosecution.

PIRRO: Harvey, there's no question that the press does a great deal of good for the public and for victims at large. What I'm saying is you've got medical records that are protected by the doctor/patient privilege. This isn't about relating a story or something that someone said. These are privileged records.

LEVIN: We didn't air records, judge. This is not about records. This is an established fact that is now in newspapers all over the country.

KING: The question is how do these things, Rikki, how do they become known? For example, today the story is Kobe bought his wife a $4 million ring.

KLIEMAN: Well, that is not relevant in a court of law.

KING: But everyone is talking about it.


KING: OK, wow is he doing it to keep the marriage together? Who would spend - does that help him to buy a $4 million ring? It probably hurts him.

KLIEMAN: No it doesn't at this point in time. It hurts him.

KING: I don't think we can relate to that.

KLIEMAN: And one of the things that is a shame for him, if you take his side of the case and I prosecuted and defended a lot of these cases, is you had such a brilliant press conference on the part of his lawyers. It was brilliant. It was people saying about how much remorse he had.

When he's talking to his wife all of his compassion for his family had a great influence on public opinion and then if you go out and buy a gazillion dollar ring that's a stupid thing to do.

KING: So, Chris, all this has balanced effect, right, and does it all balance out in the end?

PIXLEY: I don't think it all balances out in the end.

KING: Because the press is going to jump on them no matter who it is, right?

PIXLEY: Exactly.

KING: The press just cares about the story.

PIXLEY: Exactly. The press does care about the story, although depending on how the press feels about the players in the case they can definitely manipulate the story.

KING: And the L.A. press likes Kobe.

PIXLEY: You know it's interesting that the judge - exactly, the L.A. press likes Kobe and it's interesting that the judge says that Kobe can get a fair trail anywhere in the country. She doesn't know if his accuser can get a fair trial in this case.

Just a minute ago she was saying that we're insulting jurors by suggesting that they bring preconceived notions about individual defendants into the cases. She's got to go one way or the other.

The fact is I think her last statement is the correct one. We do carry this baggage with us in there. It is influenced by pretrial media attention. We learn new things about these people. We form new opinions about them.

LEVIN: Which is not a bad thing to do. It's not a bad thing for people to look at trials with a microscope and see, especially in high profile cases where a lot is at stake, is it being handled correctly?

KING: Nancy, do you kind of have a little liking for the British system which would not permit what we're doing tonight? Once someone is charged you can't cover it.

GRACE: I have no liking for that because in my opinion very often the press brings to light things that otherwise would have been obscured. And, I would point directly to the Skakel trial, the Kennedy cousin trial, that you all, all of us have just finished covering, a case that languished for 25 years, a murder case of a 15- year-old girl, Martha Moxley, until the media got involved. The case went to trial and there was a verdict.

But I heard Harvey say something earlier to which I disagree and that is that Kobe has certain rights - Kobe doesn't have the rights the victim has. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our Constitution is designed specifically to protect the defendant. The defendant is shrouded in unimaginable rights. The victim, however, has none of those rights in a court of law. The victim's voice is the one that is very rarely protected.

KLIEMAN: But, Nancy, you got to deal with the rape shield law.

LEVIN: Nancy, the victim's voice is anonymous. The victim's voice right now is anonymous because she is protected. Kobe Bryant because of this...

GRACE: In a court of law she is not protected by the Constitution. She doesn't have the Fifth Amendment right.

LEVIN: Kobe Bryant is a public - Kobe Bryant is now a publicly accused - accused of a sexual crime. This woman is protected in the public. We're not mentioning her name.

GRACE: Not in court.

LEVIN: What about right, Nancy?

KLIEMAN: But, Nancy, she is protected by the rape shield law. There's no question about that.

KING: The rape shield law being?

GRACE: She doesn't have the right not to take the stand like Kobe does.

KLIEMAN: They can't go into her sexual history. Well, no of course not because she's the accuser. That's our whole system. He's shrouded with the presumption of innocence.

GRACE: Exactly.

KLIEMAN: The government has to prove him guilty.

GRACE: That's exactly correct.

LEVIN: For crying out loud he's accused of being a sexual felon and we're talking about Kobe Bryant has the edge in this case, that's ridiculous. That's ridiculous.

PIRRO: You know I have to agree with Nancy here. You know, the defendant is shrouded with constitutional rights. There are tremendous protections. Even the criminal justice system has its name as the criminal justice system as opposed to the victim justice system.

And so, when we get into that courtroom it's all about protecting the defendant and we have to fight to make sure that prior issues regarding the victim that are not relevant don't come in because it's open season on victims.

And, Chris, I have to say something. You didn't understand me. What I'm saying is that by attacking victims and laying them bear regarding everything that's ever happened in their life it forecloses many other victims from coming forward because there's none of us who doesn't have something that's happened to us that we'd rather not have on the front page of the newspaper. It's the long term effect and I...

PIXLEY: No, you said the accuser can't get a fair trial here, not other victims of future crimes.

PIRRO: I believe that - what I believe is that Kobe Bryant will get a fair trial under all circumstances, under any circumstances. What my concern is is that if this victim is trashed and if she is able to withstand this and to the point where she gets to trial the long term effect on other victims, I think, will be enormous.

KING: All right, I need a break and when we come back we'll talk about the Scott Peterson case and how they think that will be handled when it finally gets to court. Don't go away.


KING: OK, Rikki Klieman, let's turn to the Scott Peterson case.


KING: Has he been prejudged?

KLIEMAN: Of course but he's been prejudged first clearly guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

KING: Slam dunk.

KLIEMAN: Slam dunk, in fact you heard those words slam dunk. But then what happened is Mark Geragos, and I give him credit for it, went out there and with whatever theories that he had whether someone would say they're cockamamie theories or someone would say they were intellectual and definitely grounded in fact, he at least got public opinion to move. He got it to move. The downside of what he did is you watch that trial may be held in Modesto. That is not good for Scott Peterson.

KING: Why would it result in that?

KLIEMAN: Because I think that now it doesn't matter where you put that trial. There's been so much publicity in California about that trial that the judge can say it's not going to make any difference if it's L.A. or Modesto.

KING: Chris.

PIXLEY: On the transfer of venue issue?

KING: On the whole Peterson case.

PIXLEY: The Scott Peterson case, I think, is fascinating to us even though it doesn't involve a celebrity because it has all of the other markings of a Vincent Bugliosi novel or something that we read from Tom Clancy.

I mean you have what seems to be compelling circumstantial evidence on the surface but then you have this crime that doesn't really make sense. Why did this man choose Christmas Eve to murder his wife and unborn child? And, what you also have is as the story unfolds it goes back and forth, as Rikki is saying, and the mystery becomes deeper. That, I think, is what draws people to it and, of course, then the media does affect people's perceptions.

KING: Does it fit "Celebrity Justice" Harvey? LEVIN: No. I mean we're not covering it. We don't try to make people who become infamous part of "Celebrity Justice." It's just not what we do in the show. I mean frankly the celebrity in that case is Mark Geragos.

And, to the extent we've done anything with it, it's because Mark really is a famous lawyer and he's, you know, Mark knows how to work the media better than just about anybody that I've ever seen and he's really helped Scott Peterson.

KING: Nancy, you've been very harsh on this matter. Do you think it will affect Peterson's chance of a fair trial?

GRACE: No, I do not. Two things that you brought up why we empathize with this case, you know, like a lot of creatures put on this earth the human has the ability to empathize or sympathize with others and I don't think there's a single person that could look at that photo of Laci Peterson with those big brown eyes and that big smile and not care about her and care very deeply.

She represents our next door neighbor, our sister, our daughter, and people care very deeply. You asked about prejudgment of Scott Peterson, a lot of the judgment that has taken place regarding Scott Peterson, Larry, is not because of what has been on the media but by Scott Peterson's own words and actions. He has set himself up to be judged by his unusual behavior and I don't find that disturbing at all.

KING: And, Jeanine, what are your thoughts on the Peterson matter?

PIRRO: Well, you know, I think that Mark Geragos continues the live soap opera drama quality to this thing by saying the real killers are out there and so we stay tuned as though we're watching a soap opera.

Mark Geragos, to his credit, I think has turned a lot of the public opinion around and, you know what, maybe in the grand scheme of things that's good because maybe when the jury goes in they'll say, you know, what, we really are going to listen to just the facts.

We really will decide this case based upon what we want to know is the truth because at this point there's so much conflicting stuff out there that those jurors are going to be eager to hear sworn testimony.

KING: Do you think, Jeanine, it will be moved? You're a judge. Would you move this case?

PIRRO: You know given the fact that everyone in this country has heard about Scott Peterson I think that ultimately the dollars will determine the decision here and, what I mean by that is, it would be expensive to move the trial. It would be expensive to bus in jurors from other places. I think in the end it may very well stay in Modesto but, then again, you don't know.

KING: Harvey, have the Ramsey's become a celebrity case?

LEVIN: No. I mean it's, again, it's not something - for our show? No, I mean we really try to stick to the premise of the show but is it a case that has achieved a huge level of fame in this country? In some ways it's a seminal investigation. It really is a stunning investigation.

KING: With what we know now, Rikki, have they been bum rapped, the parents?

KLIEMAN: I think many people would...

KING: More information comes out now.

KLIEMAN: I think more people and a lot more would say that.

KING: The D.A. says it was an intruder.

KLIEMAN: I think that they were two of the people who were the most prejudged in this country of all time and you had these lone voices out there on television saying, wait a minute, wait a minute, and now well maybe really maybe we were wrong, when I say we the collective wisdom or not wisdom of society. Maybe we were wrong all along.

KING: Nancy, do you think the Ramsey's got a bad rap?

GRACE: No, I do not think the Ramsey's have gotten a bad rap. I think possibly the young boy, Burk, did. There were actually legal pundits that pointed the finger at him, which I thought was preposterous.

But simply based on statistics alone, Larry, when a child dies within a home it's an astronomical number, up in the 80 percentile, that the parents are responsible so I think it was natural that suspicion went to the parents and also the perpetrator, whoever that may be, was someone that was not afraid to sit in the home and write a three page ransom note unafraid of being detected. And, with facts like that, I think the suspicion naturally turned toward the parents.

KING: Chris, was it natural to think of them even though facts now coming out that say it may have been unwarranted?

PIXLEY: Yes, that's police investigative work 101.

KING: So, Nancy's right then?

PIXLEY: Nancy is right. It's why Scott Peterson was the prime suspect from day one. It's probably also why as he was being interrogated by the police as they were rummaging through his belongings in his home he wasn't eager to tell them, oh yes, I've been doing something wrong on the side with another woman.

LEVIN: Can I just say one thing? Dominic Dunne says this a lot that when you have a loved one who is murdered you would expect, and I think there's a natural feeling from the public that you would expect somebody to just have this rage that I will do anything. I will come forward. I will talk. I will take a lie detector. I'll do anything. People don't do that and instead they start getting lawyers and backing off and saying I won't talk to the cops.

KING: You create suspicion?

LEVIN: Absolutely.

KING: Yes. We'll be back with our remaining moments and wrap up some of these subjects we've been covering with our outstanding panel right after this.


KING: Do you expect all of this - we'll start and go around, Rikki, to get, I don't know if worse is the word, well let's use worse. Is it going to get worse before it gets better?


KING: Is there going to be more tabloids, more coverage?

KLIEMAN: Of course. Of course and part of that has to do with the fact, again, that we have 24-hour-a-day stations on television plus radio. We can't forget about radio. The print media stays a little bit back. Yes, it will get worse in the sense that rumor and suspicion will become accusation which could become conviction and that does concern me.

KING: Chris?

PIXLEY: Until the public stops watching that's exactly right. We first had tabloids. Now we have 24-hour television and the 24-hour television becomes the new form of the print tabloid.

KING: Who is not interested in a murder?

PIXLEY: Exactly.

KING: Mystery, right?

PIXLEY: Everyone is interested and as long as it gets the ratings then it will continue to be covered.

KING: Nancy, is that you or Jeanine taking a deep breath and wants to say something?

PIRRO: It's Jeanine here.


PIRRO: Larry, it's almost like a pack mentality. You know, we get onto one case and then there's a rumor or something that starts over here and then all the media runs to that issue and then the public latches on to it and we discuss it over water coolers and coffee.

And so, you know, it's kind of like the domino effect. It's the ball that's rolling down a hill. It's going to get worse. There's going to be a lot more, a lot more interest.

And, Harvey, you probably know better than any of us what it is about all of this that attracts the public's attention, even though you deal with celebrities. Laci wasn't a celebrity, you know, and some of these other victims were not celebrities. What is it about it?

LEVIN: Well, my theory is especially when you have celebrities involved in the legal system in issues that affect so many other people in everyday life, I mean we're used to seeing celebrities on red carpets. We're used to seeing them handled, managed very carefully and this is when it gets stripped away and they end up having the same problems that everybody else has.

And, one of the things that I've noticed on my show is that they actually come to us now because they want their cases portrayed in a really human way. They're not hiding from this anymore. They're human beings like everybody else and there is glamour, yes, but there's also reality of everyday life.

KING: Rikki, did it all start with O.J.?

KLIEMAN: I think it probably started with O.J., maybe a little bit before. We have to remember William Kennedy Smith is where I would say it started because that was the advent...

KING: It was only CNN then?

KLIEMAN: Well, it was CNN. It was "COURT TV" but then it moved on. We had Menendez. But, if you want to look at the real explosion of course it was Simpson, as close to 24 hours a day as it could be.

KING: And most people, Chris, are convinced that that was an incorrect verdict?

PIXLEY: Exactly and that's why we got a different result in the civil case.

KING: In the civil case.

PIXLEY: Exactly.

KING: So, was that a case of justice gone awry?

PIXLEY: There are so many opinions out there about whether that was the right conclusion or not. Remember, the criminal case had a different threshold than the civil case did. You had to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

So much of America believes that O.J. Simpson, the case against him, the criminal case against him was proved beyond a reasonable doubt but how many of us actually sat in front of that television screen those nine months and watched all of the goings on in the case. These two did.

KLIEMAN: I did it every day.

LEVIN: I sat there. I sat there every single day. It was justice gone awry.

KING: It was?

LEVIN: It was. I've never seen anything like it.

KING: Was it poorly prosecuted and you're thinking as a layman?

LEVIN: Terribly prosecuted. Listen, Johnny Cochran I think is just one of the best lawyers I've ever seen in my life. The prosecution did one of the worst jobs I've ever seen.

KING: Nancy, would you have liked to have prosecuted that case?

GRACE: Oh, yes, I would definitely have liked to prosecute that case on a simple victim's rights matter. Two things, Larry, you asked why the public is interested in these cases. I think it's very simple, much more simple than we've been discussing and it's a matter of the heart.

I think people see these circumstances and they identify with either the defendant or the victim and they naturally care. That is the human nature to empathize.

And, as far as all of our discussion and discussion of other pundits as well, this has been going on for about 200 years since the first open courtroom in this country, whether people were huddled around their supper table, the local bar, or the town square talking about trials in their community. Nothing has changed and it's not going to affect what 12 people do in the sanctity of a jury deliberation room.

KING: Except don't you think, Judge Pirro, television has changed it?

PIRRO: Clearly, television has changed it but, you know, I've always believed that television is nothing more than a reflection of the technological advances that we've reached. There has always been the right to a public trial.

The public has a right to know and whether it's the town square or whether it's now on CNN or any other network, this is the kind of information that the public is used to hearing from the beginning of history in this country and that they're entitled to hear.

And, I hope that the good news from all of this, Larry, is that people recognize that the criminal justice system is a system that works in this country and that jurors who sit on juries take their job seriously and, hopefully, the victims recognize that they need to come forward and that we support those people who are working in the criminal justice system.

KING: "COURT TV" changed it, didn't it Rikki?

KLIEMAN: I think "COURT TV" changed it.

KING: With showing us trials.

KLIEMAN: I think that's right. I think it was the first reality TV in terms of true showing what goes on in a courtroom. You know it's said that Steve Brill when he founded "COURT TV" had six or 12, I forget the number, of focus groups and all the focus groups, each one said no one will ever watch.

Well, Steve Brill went ahead and founded it anyway and I think that what's happened is people are interested. Nancy will tell you the same thing I will. They're watching the trial. They're e-mailing us. They want to be part of the process. They want to know what Nancy thinks. They want to know what her views are. They want to be part of a team and I think that that really is a good thing for "COURT TV."

KING: Harvey, will the Kobe trial be telecast assuming it goes to trial?

LEVIN: You know it's judge by judge, Larry.

KING: It's strictly an individual judge's decision?

LEVIN: Well, you know, depending on the state. There are some states that just don't allow it at all but my guess is this is not going to see lights, camera, action.

KING: No kidding?

LEVIN: Yes, I really, I just think - I don't think it's going to happen.

KING: Thank you all very much.

Nancy Grace, the anchor for "CLOSING ARGUMENTS" on "COURT TV," former prosecution. Are you vacationing, Nancy?

GRACE: Yes, I am and I was down giving a victim's rights speech and I'm hoping to squeeze out part of a vacation of it.

KING: Chris Pixley the noted defense attorney arguing a case in Los Angeles. He's based in Atlanta; Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, former prosecutor, district attorney now of Westchester County - former judge rather; Rikki Klieman, a "COURT TV" legal analyst, criminal defense attorney, and author of "Fairy Tales can Come True: How a Driven Woman Changed her Destiny;" and Harvey Levin the Executive Producer of "Celebrity Justice," he's covered several major trials and celebrity cases, formerly on the air and doesn't miss being on, we thank them all very much.

Tomorrow night we're going to repeat our special 80th birthday party saluting Bob Dole with a special visit from former President Clinton. That's tomorrow night. We'll be right back and tell you what's coming up. Don't go away.


KING: Stay tuned now for news around the clock on the most trusted name in news CNN. See you tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, goodnight.


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