The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


A Look at San Quentin

Aired December 16, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Scott Peterson could very well be headed to San Quentin, that notorious overlooking San Francisco Bay, where the bodies of Laci Peterson and then their unborn son were found.

What's it like in there?

We'll ask country legend Merle Haggard who served three years in San Quentin.

Kevin Kemp served 10 years in San Quentin for second degree murder and worked as a clerk on death row two of those years.

And Lieutenant Vernell Crittendon, public information officer at San Quentin, where he's worked for more than 20 years.

Plus Tammi Menendez, tells us what it's like to visit a convicted murderer behind bars. Her husband, Erik Menendez.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Also, with us in Washington is Dr. Jeffrey Ian Ross, criminologist, professor at the University of Baltimore. And author of the book "Behind Bars: Surviving Prison and Convict Criminology."

Let's start with Merle Haggard first. Merle, what did you go to prison for?

MERLE HAGGARD, COUNTRY MUSIC LEGEND: My charges were attempted robbery and escape from the county jail.

KING: What did you do, Merle?

HAGGARD: I did just about everything. I stole cars and stole cars and stole cars. And I was a kid who was incorrigible and by the time I was 19, I turned 19 in prison.

KING: Isn't that a little young for a prison like San Quentin?

HAGGARD: It scared me to death. All I can tell you is it's everything it's supposed to be. KING: Kevin Kemp, you served almost 20 years for second degree murder. Was that a -- we apparently lost Kevin Kemp. We've also lost Lieutenant Crittendon. Now I don't understand what they're telling me. I know that.

Tammi Menendez -- never mind. You visited a convicted double murderer, Erik Menendez, your husband.

How is he doing? Do you get to see him?

TAMMI MENENDEZ, WIFE OF ERIK MENENDEZ: I do see him on a regular basis. He's in administrative segregation right now, so it's Saturday and Sunday visits with him.

KING: And he is in Folsom State Prison, right?


KING: How is his general attitude?

MENENDEZ: He has good attitude about the prison. He really wants to just do his time and try to stay safe and it's hard for him to do that, though, in prison.

KING: He's still working on his appeals, right?

MENENDEZ: We're still working on his appeals, yes.

KING: We're having some technical difficulties, you can tell, with reaching San Quentin's Lieutenant Crittendon and Kevin Kemp. And as soon as they check in, and when we straighten out the ear piece, we'll be able to talk with them.

Merle, what's San Quentin like?

HAGGARD: It's kind of like hotel on the beach. Yes, but it's the scariest place you can ever imagine. I went to San Quentin, like I told you, when I was very young and we pulled up in a bus at night and the walls are like 70 feet high. And there's armed guards everywhere, and if you're not scared, there's something wrong with you. I tell you, it's a bad place to go.

KING: What was your treatment like?

HAGGARD: I didn't receive any bad treatment there. I saw other people treated bad. I also watched people go to the gas chamber and back in those days, they were still executing people. I don't think they've done it in a while, have they?

KING: I think about once every 14 months in California. You were paroled and then you were paroled in 1960 and pardoned by President Reagan in 1972. That must have been a very eventful day for you.

HAGGARD: I tell you, I'm probably the only man you've ever talked to that was sent to San Quentin and made man of the year by the same county seat.

KING: Did the prison help you change?

HAGGARD: I changed while I was there. In spite of myself, I think I -- I came out a better man. I don't think it was because of the place I was at. I think, it was because of my state of mind. I made up my mind, that that wasn't where I wanted to be.

KING: Dr. Ross, what is the purpose of prison? I had a famous psychiatrist tell me once that the number one failure in the history of mankind with regard to concepts is prison. Prison fails.

JEFFREY IAN ROSS, CRIMINOLOGIST, "BEHIND BARS: SURVIVING PRISON: Well, not necessarily. Prisons are set up for three purposes. Number one, to punish an individual. Number two, to protect the community. Number three, to hopefully rehabilitate a person. Right now, because of budget cuts and, I guess, overall philosophy in the United States, there is disproportionate emphasis on protecting the community and punishment.

KING: I think his point was if you emphasize punishment, you're going to have recidivism. You're going to create hardened criminals. Is that true?

ROSS: Probably, probably. I think rehabilitation does take place in prison. And some prisons are better at rehabilitation than others. And some states are better at rehabilitating the prisoners and convicts behind the bars. I think what we really need is education, educational programs. Individuals want to have to change or want to have to change in order to do good or do better and not turn back to a life of crime.

KING: Now, Tammi, you didn't know Erik before he went to prison, right?

You met him by writing to him and meeting him after he was sentenced, right?


KING: What has prison done to him or for him?

MENENDEZ: Well, Erik is on a path of spirituality where he's really has tried to become a better person in prison, and, you know, that's all up to the individual. I don't think that the prison system has helped him with that at all. It's just that he has chosen a path that he wants to do better with his life and try to make a meaning for it.

KING: Merle, how were you separated from death row?

HAGGARD: Death row, at the time I was there, was located on the top of the north block and separated by an alleyway of plumbing and from what was called the shelf.

KING: Did you ever get to see death row prisoners? HAGGARD: I couldn't see them, but I could hear them. We were on a silent system on the shelf and I was there for seven days for making beer. And while I was there I could hear prisoners such as Carol Chessman, I heard him talking about getting a life insurance policy in the mail and that was interesting.

KING: Carol Chessman was later executed.

Do you say you made beer in San Quentin?

HAGGARD: We made beer in San Quentin, just like they make beer at Budweiser, only it was a little better.

KING: And for that, you had to be quiet for seven days?

HAGGARD: Well, they caught me drinking some of my own beer, and I fell in the restroom and they figured I was drunk, so they took me and locked me up in a jail inside of San Quentin. And that was where I decided to change directions in my life.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be right back with Merle Haggard, Tammi Menendez, Dr. Jeffrey Ross. We hope we can connect things to Lieutenant Crittendon and to Kevin Kemp at San Quentin. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is condemned row 2. This is the lion's share of the death row inmates here at San Quentin. There are approximately 450 men housed behind those black doors. This is most likely the long-term residence for Scott Peterson if he was to be given the death sentence.



KING: In San Quentin, Lieutenant Vernell Crittendon. He's public information officer of San Quentin. He's worked in San Quentin for 28 years. What is it like to work there, Vernell?

LT. VERNELL CRITTENDON, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, SAN QUENTIN PRISON: Good evening, Larry. It's been a real experience. It's been a true experience, working here behind the walls of San Quentin for the past 28 years.

KING: Do you get a sense of self-worth? Do you feel you're accomplishing good?

CRITTENDON: I think I definitely am being a positive role model for many of the men behind the walls here. I'm also actively involved in many of our programs that were here. I see a great deal of change that happens to people inside, very similar to your guest, Merle Haggard who I have a photograph of him hanging in my office when he was in his cellblock in north block. I find that same type of revelation that he experienced is what many men inside the walls of San Quentin experience as they mature.

KING: Why? What happens to them?

CRITTENDON: I think that some of the things, it gives them this opportunity to reflect on one's self. They no longer have the distractions they had out there in the communities. They begin to realize that they don't like the person that they are and they look for ways to change. One of the things we've done historically here at San Quentin is provide systems in place for those individuals that want to change their lives, a way to change and send them down the path of change.

KING: Dr. Ross in Washington, does that surprise you?

ROSS: Well, sounds kind of like public relations to me. I think in many prisons, the programs that are being offered are very limited. They're very basic, particularly if we're talking about educational programs or therapeutic programs. But the gentleman you're speaking -- that we're talking with...

KING: Lieutenant Crittendon.

ROSS: Lieutenant Crittendon does have a valid point with respect to outlining how prison is a place where some individuals have time to reflect. There are plenty of distractions inside a prison. There are lots of individuals who are parts of gangs and gang activity continues behind bars. In fact, a lot of gangs are managed behind bars by the individual members and by the leadership behind bars and it's up to a prison system to be able to identify them, separate them and to control that sort of thing. I think, make no bones about it, being able to improve one's self is a lot more difficult behind bars than on the street. Particularly your access to programs and things that can help you improve. You know, take for example the number of books you may be able to have behind bars and in your cell. The controlled environment that you're under when you have to go and take classes. Many, many of the prison systems, the only kind of education past the GED is a correspondence-type course. And for that, you need money. And then you have to depend upon relatives or loved ones or friends to put money in your commissary account and go through a Byzantine fashion in order to pay for it.

KING: Kevin Kemp served almost 20 years for second degree murder, ten of them served in San Quentin. What are you doing now, Kevin?

KEVIN KEMP, SERVED 10 YEARS IN SAN QUENTIN FOR 2ND DEGREE MURDER: Actually, Larry, I'm a minister of music, first of all, and I also go to college. I just completed a course at University of Pacific in Stockton. I talk to youth. I go to California youth authority high schools, colleges and I work in the drug treatment program as a case manager with addicts and ex-convicts. So the training, the things I'm doing now is stuff I trained to do inside prison. I earned a degree in prison and I disagree with the other guests in that the programs are available if the inmate wants to take the initiative to go and take, you know, take advantage of them, especially life term prisoners, which a lot of life term prisoners spend time in college, have degrees and utilize the programs.

KING: But for what purpose, Kevin, if they're not going to get out?

KEMP: Well, I got out. I was a life term prisoner. I had a life top and the governor had said at that time no one would leave. But because of my rehabilitative efforts, and, of course, the grace of God, I was able to get out and earn the right of another chance with society. I'm not sure if I deserved that right, but I believe I was forgiven and I believe God forgave me, I forgave myself and I deserved another chance to go out and now I'm an active participant in society, actually trying to help.

KING: Kevin did you ever work with or visit or be on death row?

KEMP: No, I don't. I worked as a clerk for two years under associate warden, that's in charge of condemned row. I think the term we use now is condemned row in here. I worked in that capacity. And a couple of executions I was a clerk where I would log chronos when the officers would go by and do the checks on the guys. I would log chronos and prepare the archive books after it takes place. There was a lot of sensitive information I wasn't privy to, nor that I wanted to be privy to. But the things I was allowed to do, I did do, yes.

KING: Is there hope on death row of any kind, or are they all waiting on appeals?

KEMP: There's a lot of hope and I think a lot of the hope -- Larry, another thing I did, I worked in the chapel for a lot of years, and I was a clerk. And I would send information to, you know, to the guys on the row and -- upon request and send prayers. I was also the choir director. Anytime we had a program, we would also, via closed circuit TV, pipe in the concerts to death row and I would always have -- condemned row, I'm sorry and I would have the inmates acknowledge and wave just to let them know they were still a part of the church, despite their situation.

KING: Tammi, is there anything plus about prison? Is prison doing anything for Erik? You said Erik has found God. Did he find that in prison?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think it's a reflection of his life and what he's gone through. He -- the prison hasn't helped him with his spirituality or helped him grow other than giving him time to think about things. It's within himself that he has found that. So, you know, you just have to look at the recidivism rate in the prison system to look at a system that's, you know, really needs reform.

KING: Merle, do you agree with that? Do you think we've still got a long way to go? I was asking Merle. Hold on. Merle?

HAGGARD: Say again, Larry?

KING: Do you think we still have a long way to go?

HAGGARD: Oh, I think so. I think that there's a lot of room for improvement. Absolutely.

KING: What was the food like, Merle?

HAGGARD: The food was just -- it wasn't all that bad. I mean, if you could depend on it. The worst thing, I think, in prison, is the loss of privacy.

KING: Explain.

HAGGARD: Well, you're never without somebody there. I mean, there's a cell partner, there's somebody walking by the outside of the cell looking in. There's always somebody with you. I mean, you can't even go to the bathroom alone. There's somebody there.

KING: You mean, when you're going to the bathroom, there's another person standing there or sitting there watching you?

HAGGARD: That's right.

KING: We'll take a ....

HAGGARD: Maybe not watching you...

KING: Certainly there?

HAGGARD: Probably in the room. Yes.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more on the prison system and what Scott Peterson, who will be sentenced in late February, and could very well wind up in San Quentin, might face. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death row inmates in California do have some perks. They have access to television and radio. They can receive care packages of food, and they're afforded limited time in an exercise yard. Still, death row is considered by many to be the hardest time an inmate can serve.


KING: Lieutenant Crittendon, Scott Peterson, when he comes to prison, whether it's life or death row, what will his first days be like?

CRITTENDON: He'll be alone. He'll be having a real adjustment to prison life. He'll be assigned a cell alone. He'll be eating all of his meals alone in that cell. When he goes out to exercise, we're going to put him in a small enclosure, where he'll exercise by himself, and he'll get that opportunity three times a week. Other than that, it will be a life of inactivity.

KING: Can he mingle with any other prisoners?

CRITTENDON: Not until after we've put him through his orientation process, which will go at least 10 days. I wouldn't be surprised if it lasted close to 45 days. And at that point, we will have identified a compatible group of death row inmates that he will be able to socialize with. That is when he goes out for exercise, or if he opts to go involve himself with religious programs, he'll also be able to socialize with that small group of death row inmates. But other than that, he'll spend his time in his cell, alone.

KING: Is the jail that he's in now any kind of a preemptor for it? Will that make it easier, the fact that he's been almost a year in jail?

CRITTENDON: Well, you know, Larry, it's interesting that you ask that, because my belief is that it really doesn't. Because once he arrives here at San Quentin, life behind the walls on death row will settle in, because whatever activity that he's involved in at that moment, he can rest assured that 1,000 months from that day, he knows what he'll be doing, because he'll be doing the exact same activity.

KING: What, Dr. Ross, would you imagine in your studies keeps them going?

ROSS: I think it's hope. I think it's the possibility that one or several appeals may allow them a second chance in court, and that there will be some aspect with respect to the court case that was mounted against him, that was found problematic, and that he gets another shot.

KING: They live with the hope?

ROSS: Live with the hope. And the possibility that either his charges can be dropped, his sentence can be commuted to life, all those kinds of possibilities are in the offing. And he's probably right now thinking whether or not, you know, who could best represent him in terms of an appeal.

KING: Kevin Kemp, what was your hope? What did you rely on?

KEMP: Well, first of all, I relied on Jesus Christ, my lord and savior. And I just tried to do things that I felt was conducive to me being released, and, you know, returning to society. So I stayed away from a lot of the negative stuff, the gangs, and I did all of my time without one disciplinary infraction, because I was focused on going home from the day I got there.

And the doctor talked about hope. There was a lot of hope in the fact -- and belief that I would some day be released. So I lived that. I used to have a philosophy I'd share with other inmates. If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready. So that was my philosophy. And I did everything that was conducive to leaving.

KING: Tammi, does Erik Menendez have any hope?

MENENDEZ: He has a lot of hope, you know. He's focused on his appeal right now. And it looks really good. He's got five issues that are very strong. And that's what he's focused on, the appeal process and the finality of it. KING: Would you say he's optimistic?

MENENDEZ: Yeah, he has to be. I mean, he has to keep that optimistic attitude to get through his time there. And I don't know, you know, if something happens where he doesn't prevail in his appeal, which would be very doubtful in my eyes, then, you know, he'll lose a lot of faith.

KING: Yeah. He's in for life. Does he get -- does he punish much?

MENENDEZ: Punished in prison?

KING: Yeah.

MENENDEZ: Yeah, he's had a lot of incidences in prison. He was beat up by a guard back in '97. It seems like a high-profile inmate does get picked on a lot inside, for whatever reason. He's on a sensitive needs yard. He has to be there for protection, because the gang members would be after him if he was around them.

KING: Merle, before we go to break and then we'll be taking calls from viewers, how did you make beer?

HAGGARD: Well, in the kitchen, you have everything you need. And we had milk cartons in there that we could buy at the canteen, and you just take the ingredients and put it in the milk cartons, and wait a while, and hope somebody doesn't smell it.

KING: And in your case, somebody did.

HAGGARD: Somebody did.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. Reintroduce the panel and go to your phone calls.

Life behind bars. The Peterson case is over. The much-discussed case. Other trials are coming. Blake, he could face this kind of penalties. And Peterson could face death row, and we're looking at San Quentin, one of the strong possibilities of prison he could be sent.

I'll reintroduce the panel and go to your phone calls right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: San Quentin is home to the majority of the 641 death row inmates, including serial killer Richard Ramirez and child murderer Richard Allen Davis. According to a prison spokesman, inmates know Peterson may be coming, and his safety is a concern.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Let's reintroduce our panel discussing prison. In San Quentin is Lieutenant Vernell Crittenden. Vernell is public information officer at San Quentin. And has worked there for 28 years. Kevin Kemp served almost 20 years for second degree murder, ten of them served in San Quentin. Merle Haggard, the world famous country and western artist served three years in San Quentin as a young man, paroled in 1960, pardoned by President Reagan in '72.

In Sacramento, Tammy Menendez, the wife of convicted double murderer Erik Menendez. She married him in prison after he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. He is at Folsom State Prison in Sacramento.

And in Washington is Dr. Jeffrey Ian Ross, criminologist, professor at the University of Baltimore and author of "Behind Bars: Surviving Prison and Convict Criminology."

Before we go to calls, Lieutenant Crittenden, should people be concerned about the safety of Scott Peterson?

CRITTENDON: Well, I believe that one thing you'll find here in the California Department of Corrections, we have a number of high profile cases that have come through. And those individuals have all been kept safe within our prison system. Such people as Charles Manson, who was convicted of the Sharon Tate murders. We also have people like Ramon Salsito (ph), who slit the throats of his 3 baby children, shot his mother-in-law, also killed his wife as well as his sister-in-law. He's safe here on our death row.

KING: Let's go to calls. Ronald Reagan's pardon was in 1982, not '72. So he pardoned him as president, not as governor.

To San Diego, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Hi, Larry. I'm an elementary school teacher and I really try to instill respect and a sense of justice and community with my kids. But since as society in general we really don't get a view of the harsh reality of prison very often, how can we show these children the unbelievable aspects of being punished in this way?

KING: Got a thought, Vernell? Do you think children ought to visit prisons? There was that program years ago called Scared Straight.

CRITTENDON: Well, actually, I don't support that Scared Straight. I don't believe that you can put someone's change of their life style by scaring them. But we have a program that has been much longer than Scared Straight, it's called Squires. And that's San Quentin's utilization of inmates resources and educational services. And we sit and we talk with those young people and we educate them about the choices they make in their lives. We'll will have a lifelong consequence.

But we also feel that education is the key to begin a person on that road to change. That's why here at San Quentin, we have the only accredited high school in our state of California. We are also the only prison in the state of California that has an accredited college program where inmates receive their AA degree, because education is a key to that road to change.

KING: Isn't that the a plus thing, Dr. Ross?

ROSS: Sure, education is extremely important in terms of rehabilitating folks who are behind bars. With respect to Scared Straight, most of the academic, scholarly evidence proved that it had minimal effects.

I think prison tours, having people go to prisons, are extremely important. Also, having folks who are ex-cons come and speak to high school students are extremely important. Having youth workers out on the street talk about the effects of gang life in prison is extremely important.

I think also too, we see too many images in society that reinforce how wonderful and interesting or exciting prison is. And in many respects, it's pretty dull and monotonous. So, I think to the effect -- to the extent that we can work on some of those images and try to implement some of those programs, we can see some noticeable changes among youth who may be going down the wayward path.

KING: One would imagine, Kevin, there's nothing worse than denied your freedom.

KEMP: Repeat, that Larry?

KING: Nothing worse than denying your freedom.

KEMP: Oh, yes. That's very true. You know, all of your power, all of your -- even right now, I struggle with making concrete decisions, because I haven't had -- I hadn't had to make them for so many years.

So, you know, you kind of get caught up in a whole lifestyle and a culture that you kind of lose yourself and you have to be really careful. And that's why volunteerism, people coming in to stay connected to society is so important, because it's very easy to forget, and to see yourself as less than, you know. So you have to be really careful.

KING: Merle did you sing at all in prison? Were you a singer yet, or was this before that began?

HAGGARD: When I went to prison, I had a lot of escapes on my record. And at the time, I was in what they call a closed security and did not get to have a guitar until about a year into my sentence. And finally, I was able to participate in some of the musical functions and finally wound up in what they call the prison band and played for different events every Wednesday night.

KING: Do you think back to that a lot? It was a long time ago you were in prison in San Quentin. Do you think about it?

HAGGARD: I'm 67-years-old, and I was 20-years-old at the time. And I still have dreams. I still have nightmares.

And let me say that it -- to all the children that may be listening, there is nothing, not even a country music career worth going to San Quentin for.

KING: Chilliwack, British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was just wondering with Scott Peterson going to San Quentin, if there was any special preparations being made, because of the publicity of the case?

KING: Vernell, assuming he is sentenced and goes to San Quentin, will they make special preparations?

CRITTENDON: Right now, Warden Brown is looking into this case as we speak, and making some hard decisions on how we're going to best house that inmate. So initially, I believe we will have to isolate him from the rest of the population while we make an assessment of where it would be safe to house the man. And who will be the compatible inmates that we would allow him to socialize with while he's here behind the walls at San Quentin.

KING: Is it a good bet he'll go to San Quentin?

CRITTENDON: Most certainly it is. We serve as a reception center for northern California. Of 18 of the 58 counties, all inmates sentenced to serve state prison time first come to San Quentin. We also have all of the males sentenced to death here in the state of California are assigned to San Quentin.

KING: Buncton, Oklahoma, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. My question is, supposing Scott is sentenced in February, when can we expect him to serve his first day on death row?

KING: Vernell?

CRITTENDON: Well, I think that you're going to find that our process in the state of California is at the county will transport the inmate that is receiving into the department. They'll normally have him here about 48 hours from the date of his sentencing he will be secured inside of San Quentin.

Due to the high notoriety of this particular case, very similar to the Richard Allen Davis case. That was a person sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas. The public will be most certainly alerted the moment he arrives here at San Quentin via the media.

KING: How many prisoners get out every week and how many come in?

CRITTENDON: We receive in, through our reception center processing here at San Quentin, from 18 of the 58 counties, 2,000 new inmates every 30 days come into our prison system. And having a check and balance, that's what Warden Brown wrestles with the most. She wants to make sure that 2,000 process out, either being transferred to other prisons or released out on parole or transferred out to a work furlough program.

KING: The warden is a she?

CRITTENDON: Yes, Warden Jill Brown. She had worked here back in 1981 to 1985 as our business manager, and then promoted around the state of California through various prisons, such as Soledad and Dual Vocational Institute. And we've been fortunate enough to have her return back to San Quentin now in the capacity as warden.

KING: How many inmates at San Quentin?

CRITTENDON: Here at San Quentin, we have approximately 5,800 inmates; 641 of them are males that are serving the death sentence. We have about 1,800 that are in our general population, and we maintain about 3,300 that we have in our reception center processing.

KING: When was the last execution?

CRITTENDON: Our last execution here in the state of California, that occurred from a man received in from San Bernadino County, by the name of Stephen Wayne Anderson. He was executed by lethal injection. And that was on January the 29th, 2002.

KING: Did you ever attend one?

CRITTENDON: I was one of the five staff that wrote our execution procedure, 769, which describes how to carry out an execution by lethal gas. I'm also the event -- special event coordinator, and I work very closely with the execution process. So I've been here for all executions that have taken place since 1978.

KING: How do you get through that?

CRITTENDON: It's a process that I detach myself. I understand that I have a professional responsibility to carry out, and I leave my personal feelings aside, and I carry out my duty.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. I just wanted to ask Merle Haggard, by the way, when were you pardoned? Was it '72 or '82?

HAGGARD: It was '82.

KING: It was President Reagan.

HAGGARD: 1982.

KING: President Reagan.

HAGGARD: President Reagan.

KING: And is it true that Johnny Cash performed at the prison when you were there?

HAGGARD: Johnny Cash performed there in 1958. And I was, in fact, in the audience. Yes, sir.

KING: What was that like?

HAGGARD: It was unbelievable. I wasn't really a large Johnny Cash fan until I saw him perform in person, and he was able to get that complete audience right in his -- the palm of his hand, and he didn't even have a good voice that day. He was just so charismatic that he was overwhelmingly good that day.

KING: By the way, Merle Haggard's new CD is just out, "Unforgettable." Merle Haggard. And Merle is going to be performing New Year's Day at the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California. St. Louis, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Big fan, Larry, Merle. My question is upon arriving on death row, will Scott Peterson ever be allowed visitors from his mother, stepfather, brothers et cetera?

KING: Vernell.

CRITTENDON: Well, you know, all of our inmates in the California Department of Corrections do have the right to have visits, even the death row inmates. What we have here at San Quentin, we provide Monday through Friday, they'll be able to visit with legal counsel. And then family and loved ones who go through a clearing process, once they've been cleared, they'll be approved by the warden to visit and they can visit on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. So yes, death row inmates will have the ability to have visits.

KING: Kevin Kemp, were you frightened in prison? Were you scared of violence, rape?

KEMP: Initially I was, because of a lot of stories that I heard about what happens in there. But what I came to realize real quickly was that prison's about respect, you know. Once you become a respectable person in there, and that you live by your word and you follow the honor code, there are certain things you don't do in prison. You don't tell on nobody. You don't rape nobody. You know, even though it happens. There are certain things you just don't do.

So -- and sometimes, it's difficult to not -- to try not to buy into the code, because it's a survival thing. So I relied a lot, mostly on my religious faith, my love of God. And I'm also a music minister, so that's what I did inside, was teach choirs and teach men to sing. So that kept me out of a lot of the mess.

KING: Tammi, what's it like to be a visitor?

MENENDEZ: A visitor is very difficult to visit the prison. They make it very difficult. Just the process to get in to visit is difficult. It takes about an hour just to get in to the visiting room. And there's always delays. There's lockdowns. There's a lot of things that you have to deal with. Some guards are really friendly and nice. Others, you know, they make your day miserable. So -- and you never know what to expect when you go in.

Once you're in there, you know, it gets better, but it is a long process to get in, and it's difficult.

KING: Dr. Ross, Scott Peterson has proclaimed his innocence. Forget Scott Peterson a minute. What do you imagine it would be like, and we've had over 150 convicted people of death row stature, if that's the correct word, been released since DNA came into evidence. Could you imagine what it would be like to be innocent and in death row, or in life in prison?

ROSS: Very frustrating and very depressing too at the same time.

KING: You'd go nuts.

ROSS: I think he's hoping that perhaps there's some sort of evidence. Right now, he's racking his brain, as is his lawyer, to think of what sort of evidence was not presented that could have been presented, that may somehow absolve him of this case, if not plant the seed of reasonable doubt in case there is another retrial.

Other things too is that he's going to be afforded access to the legal journals. Many of his fellow inmates will have some -- develop some sort of expertise with respect to their own cases in terms of doing an appeal, and hopefully they'll be sharing that kind of expertise with him.

So he'll be spending, I think, a disproportionate amount of his time trying to think, either mentally, or write down and craft his appeal so that it smooths -- smoothes clearly through the judicial system there in California.

KING: Mentally, it must be mind-boggling. Let's say you've been in prison eight years, nine years, 10 years and you didn't do it.

ROSS: Most definitely. And there are many people behind bars who are innocent, and I think in the United States, we automatically assume that everybody who has been convicted of a crime is -- has committed the offense. But that's certainly not true.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments, a few more phone calls as well on this, we hope for you, very informative program. Don't go away.


KING: That Johnny Cash clip you saw was from a 1961 appearance of Cash at San Quentin. Henderson, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Larry, hi. This is Darlene, I'm not Sue.

KING: What's the question? CALLER: This is for Merle Haggard. I have a good question for Merle.

Hi, Merle. Right now, you are sitting face to face with Scott Peterson. What would you advice him and tell him the worst thing that ever happened to you when you were there?

HAGGARD: Well, I couldn't give him many words of wisdom. His case is so much different than mine. And all I can say is that he should give his soul to God.

KING: You got to talk, Merle, with a death row inmate who was later executed, did you not?

HAGGARD: I got to talk to Caryl Chessman, who was the world famous red light bandit that was executed, I think, on circumstantial evidence only.

KING: And he authored a famous book. They got him on kidnapping because he moved someone, like, 20 feet, right?

HAGGARD: Yes. It was not really his style. I really don't think he was guilty. I had a lot of time to think about that.

KING: I would bet. Windsor Locks, Connecticut, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was wondering, what is his daily -- what's Scott Peterson's daily routine going to be like. How is a guy like him, a guy from affluence and he had it all and threw it away. It's so sad. How does they ever acclimate him psychologically?

KING: Vernell, give me a day in the life. What will it be like? What time will he get up in the morning?

CRITTENDON: I think his day starts off with a life of inactivity. It will start at about 6:00 in the morning, when we serve him breakfast inside of his cell, which he'll eat alone. He'll then stay in that condition until we're ready to bring him out for his exercise period. Once he's went through the processing, he'll then be afforded to exercise every day with a compatible group of death row inmates and he'll get out for about five hours a day.

Now, whenever he leaves his cell he will be subject to a body search. He'll also be placed in restraint gear, handcuffs and then he'll be escorted by a correctional officer who will actually have his hands on the inmate. Once he gets down to the exercise yard, he'll be put inside the yard, then the handcuffs will be released and he'll be allowed to exercise and socialize with the other death row inmates we've identified as compatible. Then, at the end of the five-hour period, he'll be escorted back up to his cell through a similar process of being handcuffed and searched.

Once he's back into his assigned cell, there he'll wait for dinner and at dinner time he'll eat it again inside of his cell. He'll get his lunch, a sack lunch which will be served to him at breakfast so he can opt to take it to the yard or eat it when he returns back to his cell. That will make up his day. And then he'll go to sleep and wake up the next morning and start the program all over again.

KING: We thank you all very much. That's the life ahead when you don't do the right thing. Lieutenant Vernell Crittendon, Kevin Kemp, Merle Haggard, Tammy Menendez and Dr. Jeffrey Ian Ross, author of "Behind Bars, Surviving Prison."

That's tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. I'll be right back.


KING: Remember Bernie Goetz, the subway killer, the man who was confronted on a subway and shot some boys in the back. He's the special guest tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.

Joining us now from New York one of my favorite folk. Maybe my favorite folk. Aaron Brown. He's one in a million. He stands out among a crowd. There's a new movie from Clint Eastwood called "Million Dollar Baby." It could be about you.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.