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Shockwaves in Michael Jackson Trial; Alejandro Avila on Trial for Kidnap, Murder of 5-Year-Old
Aired April 5, 2005 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, shockwaves in the Michael Jackson child sex trial. It is raging on in the California courtroom as the jury meets the Jackson 5 -- nope, not the band, the new Jackson 5, five more alleged victims of Michael Jackson`s molestation. They date all the way back to 1993.
And another trial going down in a California courtroom. Alejandro Avila on trial for the kidnap, sex attack and murder of little five-year- old Samantha Runnion. Avila roaming free after a jury let him walk on two earlier child molestation charges.
Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. And I want to thank you for being with us tonight.
July 2002: A little girl, five-year-old Samantha Runnion playing in front of her house. Her grandmother just inside when a man drove up and said he had lost his puppy. Warning, repeat, 911. That is a textbook line used by molesters.
Little Samantha was found molested and dead the next day. Now on trial, for the little girl`s murder, this man, Alejandro Avila. But why was he walking free? Avila had been picked up for two other child molestations.
And in Santa Maria, California, testimony pouring from the witness stand from the son of a former Neverland maid who claims tickling turned to molestation.
Tonight, in Santa Maria, California, from "The Insider," Art Harris; in San Francisco, defense attorney Daniel Horowitz; in New York, defense attorney Tony Locascio; in Atlanta, prosecutor Eleanor Dixon, she is a child molestation expert; in L.A., psychologist Bethany Marshall.
But first, to Santa Maria and "Celebrity Justice" correspondent Jane Velez-Mitchell.
Hello, friend. Bring us up-to-date.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, "CELEBRITY JUSTICE": Well, the woman who took the stand today was Michael Jackson`s personal maid for five years in the late `80s and the early `90s. Her son testified yesterday, claiming he was molested by Michael Jackson.
She said today she never eyeballed any molestation but she saw many things that worried her. She caught her son in a sleeping bag with Michael Jackson. She didn`t like that. She saw evidence that a famous child star spent many nights sleeping over in Michael Jackson`s bedroom at Neverland and when she went to clean up, it looked like only one bed had been used.
She saw the same thing with another boy who grew up to be a well-known choreographer. She said, in fact, she saw Michael Jackson and that boy in bed one time naked, apparently, from the waist up and she said she believed she saw those two, Michael Jackson and this other boy who became choreographer, in the shower.
There was a lot of debate over that, because the shower was fogged up, but she said she saw the underwear outside...
GRACE: Oh, please. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. The shower stall was fogged up, and somebody`s got a problem because she couldn`t see through the fog? But she saw Jackson and the little boy in the shower with their underwear heaped out on the outside? What`s the problem?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the problem is she gave a deposition back in 1994 and she said that she only saw shadows and she couldn`t be sure. She couldn`t say for sure who was in there. And she was much more emphatic today.
And Tom Mesereau took out that deposition and confronted her with it over and over again. And this is a woman whose English is her second language. She said 11 years ago when she gave that depo she was scared, she was intimidated, there were big-time attorneys in the room. Her language was much worse than it is today, her English.
So she said she was a little confused. And who knows if the jury bought that argument.
GRACE: OK. Let me get it straight. Jane Velez-Mitchell is with us, she`s from "Celebrity Justice."
Jane, is this the mother of the 24-year-old young man that testified earlier?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Indeed. This is the mother. He met Michael Jackson because she was the housekeeper. And Michael Jackson said, "Bring your son over." And he began going with his mom to work. She couldn`t afford a babysitter, and so he spent a lot of time with Michael Jackson. She ultimately quit Neverland in 1991.
GRACE: I want to go to prosecutor Eleanor Dixon joining us out of Atlanta. Eleanor specializes in child molestation cases.
Eleanor, if you noticed, this young man, he`s now 24-years-old. He got on the stand and, guess what, Eleanor? Art Harris told me he`s been in court all day long, that this is the first time the young guy`s wife has ever heard the details of child molestation that occurred with him allegedly and Michael Jackson. Explain.
ELEANOR DIXON, PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s not unusual for boys, especially, not to want to talk about abuse that has happened, especially at the hands of somebody who allegedly is a friend of theirs. And many times, it`s never told to anyone especially those closest to them, such as a wife. So it comes out as such a shock when it`s finally told in a courtroom like this.
GRACE: And Eleanor, according to this 24-year-old religious youth worker -- hello, good luck cross-examining this guy, Mesereau, although he tried today. Eleanor, did you ever get that class in law school, the "Sit Down and Shut Up" class? Because I don`t think Mesereau got it.
DIXON: Well, I don`t know that they teach it necessarily, but a good cross-examination, you go in, you make your point, and you sit down. And that`s the way to do a good cross.
GRACE: Let me go back to Art Harris. He is a senior producer at "The Insider." Art`s been in the courtroom from the get-go.
Hey, Art. Today we heard the end of the cross-examine, the now 24- year-old alleged victim of Michael Jackson and from his mom who was a maid there. How did Mesereau`s final cross-examine go on the young man? He had overnight to think about it. What did he learn?
ART HARRIS, "THE INSIDER": Nancy, it was all about money. He obviously read Donald Trump`s "Art of the Deal" and he hit this hard, that this boy had gotten money, the mother had gotten money.
But Nancy, I`ve got to tell you, it was about dueling deals, because Ron Zonen got up. And he made a point of the boy finding money in his clothes. And the boy explained that his story changed over time because, just as your child expert is saying, child sexual abuse expert is saying, boys do not want to disclose.
So to me, as the story came out, as he said that this was the first time he told his wife. She was sitting there, very lovely young woman, with a ponytail in the front row, just very somber. And you know, I think that this witness held his own.
GRACE: Yes, well, from what you`re telling me, he did.
Let me quickly go back to you, art. Didn`t this kid -- I think of him as a boy. That`s how we`ve come to know him. Now he`s 24-years-old, but is it true that he didn`t even know there had been a money settlement to the tune about $2 million until he was 18?
HARRIS: Yes, he was told when he said -- money became an issue when he got to be about 16. He didn`t sign his papers until two years after his mother`s agreement. So he had no idea, Nancy, and to me, that pulled the rug out from under the monetary motive with this boy.
GRACE: Very quickly, back to Jane Velez-Mitchell.
Before we go to break, Jane, so the maid says she sees Jackson and a kid in the shower, shower on, shower door fogged up, and two pair of underwear. Could she describe the underwear outside the shower?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, she did. She said one was a man`s briefs, white. And of course, she cleaned the clothes, so she said she recognized it as Michael Jackson`s underwear. And the other was a little green, neon green, kid`s briefs with little characters on them, little kids characters. And she said she also washed that boy`s underwear, and she recognized that boy`s underwear and heard two voices. The big question is, could she shadows or could she actually see through the fog that it was these two individuals?
GRACE: Daniel Horowitz, I have only got 20 seconds left. But just throw it at me. I`ll take a hard ball. Give me any innocent explanation for Jackson being in the shower with this little boy. And conjure up that mental image of the kid`s underwear with cartoon characters outside the shower. I`m listening.
DANIEL HOROWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, what happened 10 years ago, 15 years ago, even 5 years ago doesn`t matter. He is not on trial for that. It`s very simple.
GRACE: OK. Thank you. Good try, but not exactly a home run. I`m going to give you a commercial break to come up with something a little bit better, except pretend it didn`t happen. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON`S MOTHER: Whoever is a parent, if someone came and molested your son, would you ask him for money? Would you? You can`t answer me. No, you wouldn`t ask him for money, would you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Be careful. That`s Michael Jackson`s mom. Michael Jackson`s been a party to many, many lawsuits himself. So be awfully careful right there.
Welcome back, everybody. As you know, the jury in the Michael Jackson case saw the Martin Bashir documentary. Now, remember, this could become very important in case Michael Jackson exercises his right under the Fifth Amendment and chooses not to take the stand.
Hey, Elizabeth, would you roll that, please?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN BASHIR, BBC DOCUMENTARY HOST: But is it really appropriate for a 44-year-old man to share a bedroom with a child who is not related to him at all?
MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER ACCUSED OF MOLESTATION: That`s a beautiful thing.
BASHIR: That`s not a worrying thing?
JACKSON: Why should it be worrying? Who`s the criminal? Who`s Jack the Ripper in the room? This is a guy trying to help heal a child. I`m sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor. I gave him the bed. See, he has a brother named Star. So him and Star took the bed. And I`m on the floor in the sleeping bag.
BASHIR: Did you ever sleep in the bed with them?
JACKSON: No. But I have slept in a bed with many children. I sleep in the bed with all of them. When Macaulay Culkin were little, Kieran Culkin would sleep on this side, Macaulay Culkin`s on this side. His sister`s in there. We`re all just jamming the bed. And we wake up like dawn and go in the hot air balloon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: OK, now I feel better that he`s explained that. That is from the ABC version of the Martin Bashir documentary. It was shown to the Jackson jury.
Let`s welcome newcomer defense attorney Tony Locascio.
So Tony, can you give me any innocent explanation why Jackson is taking a shower with a little boy butt-naked and why he is trumped up in the bed with a little boy, their underwear lying beside the bed?
TONY LOCASCIO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, the shower theory, that`s foggy at best because we already heard in the cross- examination with the deposition that she couldn`t remember then. In the deposition, she wasn`t sure, because there was too much steam and she wasn`t...
GRACE: OK, Tony, who do you think those little-bitty underwear with the cartoon characters on them belonged to?
LOCASCIO: Well, you know, that`s all well and good. You can say that now, Nancy. But all he`s done...
GRACE: No, I`m asking you a question. Who did they belong to?
LOCASCIO: Who knows? She is the housekeeper. She`s picking up stuff. She sees somebody in there, but she doesn`t mention Michael Jackson, until she gets to the trial of Michael Jackson. Now it`s, all of a sudden, it`s Michael Jackson. Come on.
GRACE: Question, Tony, was it Michael Jackson`s shower in Michael Jackson`s master bedroom in Michael Jackson`s home?
LOCASCIO: Does that mean that it`s Michael Jackson in the shower, Nancy?
GRACE: Yes, pretty much.
LOCASCIO: No, no.
GRACE: Walk like a duck, quack like a duck, look like a duck.
All right, you know what? Give me the explanation, any innocent explanation for him being in bed with a little boy.
LOCASCIO: I think what the jury is going to see, if Michael Jackson certainly takes the stand, is that Michael Jackson is a little kid himself. And that`s going to be the defense argument.
GRACE: OK, do you know little kids that read adult pornography?
LOCASCIO: None that I`m aware of.
GRACE: Oh, OK, thank you. No further questions.
LOCASCIO: Maybe these kids -- maybe these kids went into his briefcase, or his suitcase, and picked them out himself. Remember, we don`t get a time for those fingerprints, Nancy.
GRACE: Thank you.
Back to Jane Velez-Mitchell. Jane, after the maid, the mom, took the stand and described this shower incident, how was the jury reacting?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this jury is so hard to read, Nancy. They take notes when there`s a side bar. They chat amongst themselves, but they`re not mugging for anybody. They`re not rolling their eyes, or shaking their heads or shedding tears. They are really very, very hard to read.
There had even been some rumor that some people had heard them chatting over a fence, and they may have been possibly talking about the case. I find that hard to believe. I`ve heard it from a couple of people now. That`s the only reason I mention it, but overall, aside from that one little urban myth over here, or country myth, we haven`t been able to read them at all.
GRACE: And Art Harris, how did they respond when the boy, the now 24- year-old man, was on the stand? I understand he broke down in tears and had to hold a towel, a cloth to his face.
HARRIS: Nancy, it was a stunning moment. And I remember they were riveted. You know, it`s like Jane said. It`s hard to tell who they`re with, but they were paying attention. And you know, this was a young man whose story resonated.
And you know, getting back to the shower scene, Nancy. You know, guys and the details, and how many people would remember, you know, Spider-Man designs on underwear and having washed Jackson`s briefs, recognize his as the white shorts she remembered from doing the wash.
And she did not say she definitely saw Jackson. She saw shadows and heard two voices she recognized as Jackson and this other boy. So as far as her credibility, she was also, you know, from El Salvador, did not speak English well, and said under redirect that, you know, she was intimidated. She didn`t understand everything and was confused.
GRACE: Let me go to Dr. Bethany Marshall. She`s a psychoanalyst. Dr. Bethany Marshall, I have only ever seen one pair of underwear with Spider-Man on it, and it belonged to my little nephew.
DR. BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Right.
GRACE: He was about eight-years-old at the time. So that`s the image conjured up for me. How often, Bethany, are there false reports of child molestation amongst young boys?
MARSHALL: Very rarely, because children -- what incentive do children really have to lie in a case like this? Look, when you really think about the Michael Jackson in the shower incident, the average pedophile -- and this is pedophiles whose acts are reported -- will commit an act against a child 280 to 380 times over the course of his lifetime.
So what you see is that it`s not unusual to see the pedophile in bed with a kid, in the shower and the kid. And also, what this defense attorney said about Michael Jackson being a little boy, when you work with pedophiles, what you come to see is that pedophiles are preoccupied with the idea that they`re children. They long to return to childhood because they want to be loved by children.
And in the Martin Bashir documentary, he said he was in bed with a little boy to heal him. Pedophiles convert the wish to have sex with the child into the wish to teach the child, love the child, parent the child.
That`s why so many pedophiles give children money. That`s why so many pedophiles teach children. If the allegations against Michael Jackson are true, that`s why he wanted to be called Daddy Michael, because he`s converting the wish to have sex with the child into the wish to parent the child.
GRACE: To Eleanor Dixon, Eleanor, you know, you and I have tried a lot of cases side-by-side. When I was trying cases in Atlanta next to you, we didn`t really have the word "grooming," "grooming the victim." Explain what that is, Eleanor.
DIXON: Grooming the victim is befriending the child, doing things like activities with the child, giving them little gifts, you know, accidentally maybe touching them when you`re wrestling or tickling them a little, and saying, "Oh, this is OK."
So gradually, you get them used to that type of touching and that type of behavior. So that when, oops, I touched you on your private parts, it`s not so surprising. And you get the child ready for more and more sexual activity.
GRACE: You know, that was very succinctly put, Eleanor. I don`t know if you remember that case I tried where the young boy victim, nine-years- old, was mentally handicapped. And the pedophile was grooming him by giving him rolls and rolls of quarters, because the one thing this kid could understand, mentally handicapped, was playing at the arcade.
And the pedophile went from playing arcade with him to kissing him to masturbating him, finally, to aggravated sodomy with this nine-year-old handicapped boy. That was the grooming as they are now calling it in court.
With me out of Atlanta, Eleanor Dixon, an expert in child molestation cases.
Quick break, to "Trial Tracking": Today, prosecutors withdraw a sweetheart deal from convicted killer Danny Pelosi. Pelosi pled guilty to intimidating a witness at his own trial, Pelosi`s murder trial. Pelosi now faces 15 years behind bars, instead of a measly three. That`s on top of the 25-to-life he got for killing his lover`s multimillionaire husband, Ted Ammon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: The moment I started breaking the all-time records of the biggest-selling albums of all-time, they called me weird overnight, strange, wacko. You know, they said I`m a girl, a homosexual. "He wants to buy the elephant man bones. He sleeps in a hypobaric chamber." None of that stuff is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Can you believe somebody called Michael Jackson weird? I wonder if that was before or after he wore his pajamas to court?
That was from the Michael Jackson rebuttal video. It was shot by a Jackson staffer and shown to the jury.
Very quickly, I want to go around the panel.
Jane Velez-Mitchell, what do you anticipate tomorrow?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, actually, there`s a break tomorrow. And it`s because the judge has a meeting. It also happens to be the funeral day for the late, and very noted, attorney Johnnie Cochran. It`s possible that a lot of the attorneys here may be going to that funeral.
And then we pick up the day after. Now, we were supposed to hear from the mother of the other boy who settled famously for more than $20 million and then from some former employees. We don`t know what the shuffle is. We believe that there may be a little last-minute shuffle. So we don`t know the order, but basically people talking about more alleged past acts.
GRACE: Hey, Art Harris, is there any chance this boy, the 1993 alleged victim, the guy that got over $20 million from Jackson, is there any chance he`ll show up at trial?
HARRIS: Nancy, I`m told that he is very reluctant. It`s doubtful. But prosecutors, my sources are telling me, they`re not giving up. They`re going to keep at it. And they do have the lead sex crimes investigator from the LAPD who did investigate and interview this boy.
And one of the things he`ll talk about if he`s called is this secrets. You talked about the things that victims have in common. We heard that from the boy today, talking about the secrets Michael Jackson supposedly asked him to keep when he gave him the $100 bills.
GRACE: Hey, you know, Art, that is another common theme that we`re hearing about paying the kids with $100 bills. What do you think was the high point and the low point today in court, Art?
HARRIS: Nancy, for me, the high point of this boy was when he came back and explained why his story came out in fits and starts over the years, because he was so reluctant. He was embarrassed. He didn`t want people to think he was gay.
This was a very credible victim, from having covered lots of these cases. And his mother, who then discovers the boys and their toys, or at least the toys outside the bathtub, and Michael Jackson and another boy allegedly in the shower.
GRACE: So, Art, I have only got 20 seconds. You are saying that secrets themselves are a part of the pattern we are seeing with Jackson?
HARRIS: They tried to bond, alleged predators, try to bond with their victims. They try to cut the ties with their parents and let themselves become the one, the one solid human relationship that they can then prey upon.
GRACE: A big, big thank you to, not only Art Harris with "The Insider," but Jane Velez-Mitchell.
Jane, we missed you last week with "Celebrity Justice."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks, missed you, too.
GRACE: Of course, we`ll be back with you on Jackson.
Quick break, everybody. We at NANCY GRACE want desperately to solve unsolved homicides, find missing people. Take a look Jesus Tufino-Amaro from Passaic, New Jersey, missing since Feb. 2003, he`s now four-years-old. If you have any information, please call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1-800-THE-LOST.
SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I`m Sophia Choi. Here`s your "Headline Prime Newsbreak."
Thousands of mourners are still pouring into St. Peter`s Basilica to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II. People are waiting in line for as long as eight hours for a final glimpse of the Pope`s body. John Paul will be buried beneath St. Peter`s. Cardinals still have not set a date though for the conclave to choose a new pope.
More than 800 people gathered tonight to remember Terri Schiavo at a Roman Catholic funeral mass arranged by her parents. Schiavo died last week, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed.
President Bush`s lead law enforcers are urging Congress now to renew the Patriot Act. Both Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate Judiciary Committee that the Patriot Act needed because it`s helping fight the war on terror. Gonzales acknowledged concerns some lawmakers had that the law tramples on civil liberties. He told them he`s open to suggestions for changing it.
Well, that`s the news for now. I`m Sophia Choi. Now back to NANCY GRACE.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God, I found a dead body. Please hurry. I`m scared to sit here. There`s another truck up the street, and we want to get out of here. We`re scared.
OPERATOR: What street are you on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m on Killentrel. It`s a main street. It`s not a main street, but the big street. Hey, can I go to my house? I`m really nervous right now. Hey, we`re going to go because I`m scared right now.
And we just got off of work, we pulled up. There was this place we always go to. There was this little girl.
OPERATOR: Hey, Justin, I need you to calm down a little.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
GRACE: The kidnap and murder of a little five-year-old girl, Samantha Runnion, horrified this nation. Samantha first thought she was helping the perp find his puppy. Samantha was kidnapped, molested and murdered.
Alejandro Avila, now on trial for Samantha`s murder -- here`s the kicker -- another jury had just let Avila off on charges of double child molestation.
Tonight, in Santa Ana, California, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Michael Carona, a face you know well, but first to Anaheim, an Orange County Register staff writer, Larry Welborn.
Larry, welcome, friend. Bring us up-to-date.
LARRY WELBORN, ORANGE COUNTRY REGISTER: The prosecution rested their case today after eight rapid-fire days of testimony, much earlier than expected. The central focus for the prosecution was the DNA expert (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the Orange County sheriff`s crime lab who said that Samantha`s DNA was found in the Ford Thunderbird that Mr. Avila was driving, and that his DNA was found underneath her fingernails.
GRACE: To the Sheriff Michael Carona, welcome, Sheriff. It`s nice to see you after all this time.
SHERIFF MICHAEL CARONA, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF: Nice to see you again, Nancy.
GRACE: I remember when you were looking desperately for Samantha. What led you specifically to Avila.
CARONA: The beauty is we used the Amber Alert to get information out to the public. The media was fantastic about broadcasting that widely. And it was one of about 4,000 tips that came in that led us directly to Alejandro Avila.
GRACE: Back to Larry Welborn with the Orange County Register. What do you know about Avila? He has got some very peculiar behavior, right?
WELBORN: Right. He was arrested in 1999 and charged with molesting two girls in Riverside County, including the daughter of his girlfriend. He went on trial and the jury found him on January 7, 2000, not guilty of those charges. But the girls were allowed to testify in this current trial involving Samantha Runnion.
GRACE: Well, regarding unusual behavior, other than the alleged child molestation, this guy never goes barefoot and he wears his underwear in the shower. Ding, ding, ding, red bell of alarm. Am I crazy, Larry, or did that come out?
WELBORN: That was not introduced in testimony in this trial, but what came out today in testimony was that, on his computer, he had 14 child pornography images and 20 videos on the computer that he had access to in his house.
GRACE: Well, tell me then why is it, Larry, that we know about the never going barefoot and the wearing underwear in shower?
WELBORN: I`m not sure, Nancy.
GRACE: OK, that is out there. That is in reports.
Eleanor Dixon to you, have you ever noticed that there was strange or peculiar, odd, behavior on the part of a defendant and child molester before they come into court? Are there warning signs?
DIXON: Sometimes there are, and sometimes there are not warning signs, because a lot of times molesters get their victims by being very friendly, seemingly normal to those kids. So sometimes you will see the signs and a lot of times they are not there.
We would like to be able to go into their homes and see the child pornography that might be there or other things they have. And you have got to remember, too, often times victims don`t report what is happened to them. So there may have been victims before, for example, Samantha Runnion. There could have been who knows how many before he actually killed this little girl?
GRACE: Before he graduated. Well-put, Eleanor.
To Tony Rackauckas, Orange County district attorney. His office is trying this case. Welcome, Tony. It`s great to see you again. Tony, question: How did Avila beat the previous child molestation charge?
TONY RACKAUCKAS, ORANGE COUNTRY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, it was trial that he had in Riverside. And basically, you know, he pled not guilty, went to trial. The two girls testified who were his victims. And of course, you know, as is the case in so many sexual assault cases, their reputation was gone after really through going after the mother in that case, to make her look as bad as possible and make it look like she was conniving to try to get him convicted. And the jury just didn`t convict.
GRACE: Oh, so, in that case, instead of attacking the victim the way we saw in the Robert Blake case, they attacked the victim`s mother, painted her out to be the bad guy. I got it.
You know, I had words with Avila`s defense attorney in the first case. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN POZZA, DEFENDED ALEJANDRO AVILA: We were able to talk to the jurors after they had come back with the acquittal. They basically said there were a number of issues, but certainly the credibility of the children was put into question.
GRACE: You accused them of being coached, didn`t you? I can see it right here in black and white.
POZZA: Well, absolutely. That was absolutely one of our defenses. And I have an ethical obligation to zealously represent my clients. And that`s what I do.
And I don`t have a problem looking at myself in the mirror. Basically, the alleged child pornography found in Mr. Avila`s room was actually one of the things that made the jury feel that this was a set-up, that there was credibility problems.
GRACE: Right. I guess you had nothing to do with them feeling like the kids were lying, the porn was planted, it was all a trump job framing Mr. Avila. And now we`ve got Samantha Runnion dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Very quickly to Daniel Horowitz.
Daniel, you are a veteran defense attorney. What is your defense in this case in light of similar transactions, other little girls that claim Avila molested them, as well?
HOROWITZ: Nancy, this is about the toughest case you can have to defend as a defense attorney, because the jury is going to believe these girls to a preponderance, 51 percent that he molested them. It`s not a beyond a reasonable doubt.
And now you have got this dead, young, precious young girl and DNA pointing to him. All you can say is, "Look, ladies and gentlemen. The penalties are so bad that if this DNA is planted, if it`s experimental, and if the analyst changed his view because there`s a lot of community pressure, then you have to vote not guilty."
Remember, San Diego is the worst place to try a molest case in the state of California. Westerfield knew it, and this gentleman knows it, too.
GRACE: When he`s talking about Westerfield, he`s talking about the attacker in the Danielle van Dam murder case.
Very quickly, back to Sheriff Michael Carona. Sheriff, how was Avila able to lure little Samantha into his car? I remember distinctly, Sheriff, that her mother, Erin Runnion, had schooled her on staying away from strangers.
GRACE: Nancy, you are absolutely right. Samantha did everything the way she was supposed to. She was trained to stay away from strangers.
This was a typical child lure. Mr. Avila got out of his car, asked Samantha and Sarah Ahn to help him look for his dog. And Samantha jumped down off the wall to just try to describe the size of the dog. And in that brief second, Mr. Avila grabbed her, pulled her into the car, and drove off with her screaming, as Sarah Ahn watched it all unfold.
GRACE: To Dr. Bethany Marshall, she`s a psychoanalyst. Dr. Marshall, do you think that in any way Avila wanted to humiliate his little victims?
MARSHALL: Yes, I mean, when you read what really happened on this day, Avila`s girlfriend had just broken up with him. He was distraught. He was humiliated. He felt hurt. What does he do? He victimizes a young child and pushes his humiliation into the child.
And the ultimate act is that he leaves her on a highway in a compromised position, naked. He humiliates her. Offenders often do to the child what they feel has been done to them. And that`s a very important thing to look at.
This guy was also what we call a sadistic pedophile, which is that sadistic pedophiles often use objects to penetrate children rather than using the penis or the fingers, and that`s apparently, if the allegations are true, what he did with one little girl.
And then the likelihood is that the sexual satisfaction in this case was when he saw the little girl screaming and terrified. And that, for him, sexual excitement and seeing a child terrified, refused, and he experienced both at the same time.
GRACE: You`re seeing shots of Samantha Runnion. In a California courtroom, her alleged attacker is on trial for sexual assault, kidnap and murder. Alejandro Avila, just a few short months before Samantha turned up dead, a jury let Avila walk free. Stay with us.
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CARONA: We didn`t realize it at the time, but Samantha was not just our little girl. She became America`s little girl. Samantha was all that was good in the world. And what happened to her is all that was evil in the world.
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ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA RUNNION`S MOTHER: I blame every juror who let him go, every juror who sat on that trial and believed this man over those little girls. I will never understand. And that is why he was out, and that is why his sickness was allowed to do this.
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GRACE: Welcome back. I`m Nancy Grace.
Today in a California courtroom, Alejandro Avila on trial for the murder, the sex attack, and the kidnap of five-year-old Samantha Runnion.
Elizabeth, can you show me a video or a shot -- thank you -- of Samantha? This is a face I`ll never forget.
I want to go back to Larry Welborn who`s the Orange County Register staff writer. Larry, paramedics had been called to the trial twice. Why?
WELBORN: The first time they were called when Alejandro Avila`s mother was on the stand and she had started to shake and twitch and I asked, "Are you all right?" And she said, "I think I`m having a seizure."
So they ended the testimony early, and brought her into the jury room. And the paramedics walked in and treated her for a little bit, and then she was able to walk out on her own power later. Two days later, one of the jurors on the trial, one of the men, said he was feeling faint-hearted and fainted. He asked for paramedics. And we called out and brought them. And they called the trial off for the day.
GRACE: To Sheriff Michael Carona, Sheriff, I guess the mom did have some type of a relapse. Wasn`t she the one that told cops to start with the mother of the defendant that he was shopping at a mall, I believe, at the time of the incident, and in cell-phone records showed that was a lie?
CARONA: Correct. He told his mother that he was shopping over at the Ontario Mills Mall, when actually when we were able to go back and look at the cell-phone records, he was pinging down in South Orange County, some 60 miles away from that area.
GRACE: Sheriff, clear me up on this socks and underwear thing.
CARONA: I`ll do the best I can, Nancy. There was testimony by Elizabeth Vagan (ph) who was Alejandro Avila`s ex-girlfriend. And she testified that he never took his socks off. Even during sex he never took his socks off. But we have no confirmation on the underwear or the shoes.
GRACE: Let me go -- first, before I go to my other guests, take a listen to this.
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POZZA: In saying that I never asked Mr. Avila, there are confidential communications between an attorney and client. So I really can`t even answer whether or not we had discussions about that. Certainly, again, you try to negotiate a plea, but if you have a client who will not accept a plea, you have no other alternative but to go to trial.
GRACE: I believe everyone in our criminal system has a right to a defense, in our system. I, however, personally have a problem with that which I consider to be immoral and just plain wrong. I have got a problem. I don`t want the bad taste in my mouth that I didn`t ask a guy if he did it when there`s the chance he could get out and do it again. That`s what happened in this case. I think it`s wrong.
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GRACE: To Tony Locascio, defense attorney, the attorney first time around for Alejandro Avila said he never asked this guy if he was innocent or guilty, two charges, child molestation. How does a defense attorney do that?
LOCASCIO: It`s a tough question, Nancy.
First of all, this case is disgusting, all right? I agree with everybody on the panel regarding that. It`s a disgusting case, and it is hard to defend. I agree with David out there.
But on those charges and asking your client, frankly, if my client tells me in my face, "Hey, guess what? I did that." Well, I`m going to have a hard time sleeping. It`s going to be difficult for me. But I will tell you, he is guaranteed a fair trial. And that is in our Constitution, as you know. And as a defense attorney, you give the best fair trial you can for your client.
And if a jury -- if a jury convicts him...
GRACE: What I was asking you about, Tony, was whether you can go forward without ever asking your client, "Hey, did you do this?"
To Eleanor Dixon, prosecutor, how often have you heard a defense lawyer say, "Hey, you know, the Constitution says it`s OK"?
DIXON: Well, they say that all the time. They`re saying I`m simply defending my client, and it`s our job to prosecute them and to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt. And it`s very interesting with some of these defense attorneys and the things that they`ll say and ways that they can convince juries that their clients are not guilty.
I have had juries before -- I heard juries say, "Well, you know, we thought the defendant was guilty, but you just didn`t prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt." And that`s a problem in the system. We have to educate jurors about what guilt beyond a reasonable doubt exactly is.
GRACE: Well-put. To Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst, Bethany, can you actually chart the progression of Avila`s acts? Did he get bolder with each victim?
MARSHALL: Yes. He did get bolder. And it`s important to understand that pedophiles have multiple perversions, or what we call multiple paraphilias. He started out with exhibitionism, revealing himself to the little girls, then voyeurism, making them undress and looking at them, then something we call fourtage (ph), which is rubbing one`s genitals against an unwilling victim.
From that, he progressed to inserting a glass vile into a girl. So there it became more sadistic, more aggressive. And by the time he got to little Samantha, to this little girl, he was beginning to act out in a full-blown way on the sadism. And he took sexual delight in seeing her terror.
So this is a very sadistic man. This is a very dangerous man. And I think it`s also important to recognize that the highest rate of recidivism amongst sex offenders is when they have no empathy for the victim and when there is violence involved in the commission of the crime.
GRACE: To Tony Rackauckas, he`s the district attorney in that jurisdiction, I`ve only got a few seconds left, literally. Tony, does he fit the pattern of a predator? And what was actually the cause of death for Samantha?
RACKAUCKAS: Well, he absolutely fits the pattern of the predator. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and asphyxiation. He smothered her, you know.
And by the way, with respect to that last question that you were asking about the progression, I think that there`s something that we really always need to keep in mind. And I have seen over the years that people who have been tried and prosecuted for sexual offense cases in the past don`t want to see their victims testify again.
GRACE: Well-put. Well-put, Tony Rackauckas. Tony is the elected D.A. in that jurisdiction.
Let`s quickly go to "Trial Tracking": And tonight, we need your help. Look at this woman. Her name is Lisa Eatmon, eight months pregnant, found Sunday in New York`s Hudson River shot to death. She dated a man whose wife was found dead on a highway seven years ago.
Last night, the boyfriend, Roscoe Glinton was questioned and released by police. A source says Glinton is a prime suspect as the baby`s father. He was never charged in the `98 death of his wife. If you have any information on this woman -- let`s show a shot, Elizabeth -- please call NYPD Crime Stoppers Hotline, 1-800-577-TIPS.
Local news next for some of you, but we`ll be right back. And remember, live coverage of the Jackson trial tomorrow, 3:00 to 5:00 Eastern, Court TV`s "Closing Arguments." Please stay with us.
GRACE: Welcome back. We are bringing you the latest in the trial out of California on Alejandro Avila, on trial for the murder, the molestation and the kidnap of five-year-old Samantha Runnion.
Hey, Elizabeth, can you show me a shot -- there she is. There`s Samantha.
As we take a look at Samantha, to Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney there, final thoughts?
RACKAUCKAS: Well, you know, the trial`s going well at this point. I think that it`s going to be very important what the jury does in the penalty phase. And we`re just going to do everything that we can to bring justice here for Samantha and the people of our county.
GRACE: To Sheriff Michael Carona. Many people hold him responsible for apprehending Avila. Sheriff?
CARONA: Well, Nancy, I`m happy that the trial is going forward. I`m happy that I think we`re going to end up with a conviction on this particular case.
What I`m sad about is that Erin Runnion is having to listen to everything that happened to Samantha. All of us in the investigation have held that in our heads and our hearts for the last couple of years, and unfortunately now America`s getting to hear that. And that`s the unfortunate part about the criminal justice system, and so is Erin.
GRACE: You know, Daniel Horowitz, defense attorney in California, what`s disturbing to me is clearly juries and judges are not listening to child witnesses.
HOROWITZ: Well, Nancy, they`re listening to child witnesses. The problem is we`re trying to put the genie back in the bottle. We need childhood treatment for sick people like Avila so he doesn`t kill. At this point, it`s just too much. There are false accusers, real accusers. It`s too hard to sort it out.
At the elementary-school level, look for those troubled kids, treat them, and we won`t be here with cases like this as often.
GRACE: Eleanor Dixon, I`ve got 30 seconds left. Final thought?
DIXON: Well, I`m just thinking of the prosecutors and the tough job that they have out in California and everywhere, and just what they have to convey to the jury through these children, and to get those stories out there the best way possible.
I want to thank all of my guests. Larry Welborn, Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Carona, Daniel Horowitz, Tony Locascio, Eleanor Dixon, Bethany Marshall. Earlier, our crew on Jackson, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Art Harris.
But as always, my biggest thank you to you for being with us tonight and inviting all of us into your home.
Coming up, headlines from around the world. I`m Nancy Grace signing off for tonight. Hope to see you right here tomorrow night 8 o`clock sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.