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Analysis With Wendy Murphy, Jane Weintraub

Aired December 29, 2003 - 14:36   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: From Tate to Jackson to Kobe Bryant to Peterson a number of cases moving to legal ground in the new year. So what's ahead? Let's tap into some legal expertise to find out.
Wendy Murphy and Jane Weintraub join us. Wendy, a former federal prosecutor in Boston. Jane, a criminal defense attorney in Miami. Good to have you both with us.


O'BRIEN: Let's begin with you, Wendy, and talk about Michael Jackson. I don't think he helped his case very much, do you?

WENDY MURPHY, FRM. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's an understatement if ever I've heard one. I think the intention was clear to help his case by making him look pathetic and there were times he certainly did seem pathetic, perhaps even sympathetic in the minds of some.

Look, Miles, he did four things that were very bad for him. No. 1, he reminded us and reiterated for the world and all his potential jurors that he thinks it's just dandy for him to sleep in bed with little boys. We didn't need to be reminded of that, he tried to back off a little by saying, I didn't sleep with this particular child, but even if I did we did -- you know, don't need to hear that he thinks that fine. That killed him.

He also lied three times. He lied about his dislocated shoulders as we heard in the package. There's no question if he had dislocated both his arms he wouldn't be waving his arms to his fans when he came out of the police station. There is no question that is not a dislocated shoulder we're looking at right there.

He lied about being locked in the bathroom 45 minutes. It was widely reported at the time that the whole process took about 30 minutes. You cannot sit in a bathroom for 45 minutes when you had to be finger printed and booked and the paperwork and so on.

And the other really big lie was this bruise on his arm that he claims came from handcuffs. No way is that handcuff injury. Think about where the handcuffs were. His hands are behind his back. The handcuffs are down at his wrists. There is no way you get an injury midway up your forearm, on the front from handcuffs. That is another lie.

This killed the guy's credibility. Mark Geragos has taken leave of his senses letting him do that interview. O'BRIEN: And let's talk about that, Jane. Mark Geragos is a very, very sharp attorney. I were in a peck of trouble I certainly would put him on my Rolodex, I guess...


O'BRIEN: Little bit of misstep here or do you think he counseled Mr. Jackson to say other things and he just got in front of the cameras and he was off to the races talking about who he sleeps with?

JANE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, No. 1 I think it was Michael Jackson's decision to give the interview and not Mark Geragos. I think Mark went with him to counsel him. But I'm sure that it was Michael Jackson's desire to go forward.

No. 2, I disagree with Wendy. I thinks that being reminded that he thinks it's OK to be in bed with children is exactly his point. I mean, Miles, as a mother, of course, I am clearly offended, to say the very least at hearing this.

O'BRIEN: Wait a minute. How can that help, Jane?


WEINTRAUB: He doesn't think there is anything wrong with it. It is not sexual...


O'BRIEN: He is permanently in Neverland then if he thinks that's going to pass muster in a court of law.

WEINTRAUB: But that very well might. And I think that when you look at how bizarre he is, and you look at how weird he is, look at how he was speaking, and when you listen to what he's saying as your looking at him, you almost believe him.

I don't think it's so far-fetched at all. I think he's beyond the weird and bizarre. But I don't think he was lying.

MURPHY: There's no such thing as the weirdness defense to child molestation, Jane. Nice try!

WEINTRAUB: It's a denial.

O'BRIEN: Felonious weirdness is not a charge that I know of.

WEINTRAUB: And as far as being roughed up, I think that being bruised and battered that way, I think it's a possibility. I have to admit that I didn't believe it until I watched the interview myself last night. And as I did, I was taken aback.

And if you put your arms back, Wendy, and you know where they grab you and where hold you is right above your elbow. And he has very skinny arms. I wouldn't rule it out so fast. And being locked in the bathroom, that is typical standard procedure. If Michael Jackson wanted to go in the bathroom, they would have to, for security, lock him in the bathroom. Were things uttered to him? Of course they were. They are all the time.

MURPHY: Jane, 45 minutes.


O'BRIEN: We can pick this apart all day and talk about how they need to clean up their bathroom there.

But let's move on and talk about Lionel Tate, shall we? And I think we've got to start with you, Jane, because it's right in your neck of the woods. You've obviously been following this one very closely. Is this justice, do you think?

WEINTRAUB: I think it is justice. You know, Miles, don't make it so light this. This was a 12-year-old little boy rough housing. And I have to commend...


O'BRIEN: Do you really believe that was rough housing?

WEINTRAUB: I do. You know why? No.1, his mother's a corrections officer, she works in the prison. She heard them, she yelled at them to cut it out.

You know Wendy and I have kids, we both have boys. And sometimes, unfortunately, things get out of a control. This wasn't a who was kid maliciously beating her to a pulp. This was a kid rough housing the little girl. And the mother of Tiffany, the deceased little girl, even she goes along with the plea.

You know, it's not a slap on the wrist, it's very, very strict supervision for the next ten years of his life. And fact that he's already been in for three years, he was the youngest child in the history of the United States to be convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.


O'BRIEN: Wendy, do you agree on this one?

MURPHY: I have to say that I think he was very young, I think he probably deserved around the sentence that he got.

Here's what makes me sick, the fact he was offered this plea before trial, that his mother who does understand the's and should care enough about her son to let him get the treatment he obviously needs, whether this was an intentional brutal act or the act of a kid who's misguided.

He desperately needed treatment. He was offered three years of treatment. His mother said no, his lawyers said no. They gambled with this kid's life. They lost. And now system is supposed to play cleanup?

You know, what criminal justice system lets the defense attorneys gamble with kid's lives?


MURPHY: ... it's how we got here that makes me sick! Defense attorneys gamble all the time and we play cleanup. That insults the integrity of the criminal justice system.

O'BRIEN: So your point is this should have happened at the outset.

MURPHY: Absolutely. And what's the down side for the rest of us when we play cleanup like this, when appellate courts have to pretend that something wrong happened when there's no question this kid got a fair trial and then some?

We get this kind of whimsical sense that the criminal justice system has nothing to do with truth telling, it's all about gamesmanship and winning. And it isn't. There is no accountability with this defense of gamesmanship.


O'BRIEN: We didn't cover nearly as much ground as I thought we would. I apologize for that. We'll have to save that for another segment. We'll have you back if that's OK. Wendy Murphy, Jane Weintraub. Excellent point on the two cases we got to. We appreciate you joining us.


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