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Nancy Grace for July 19, 2005, CNNHN
Aired July 19, 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, breaking news from the nation`s capital. CNN Headline News has learned that, in less than an hour, President Bush is nominating Judge John G. Roberts to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor. O`Connor, the first woman ever named to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And tonight, breaking news in the case of 9-year-old Jessie Lunsford. The suspect charged with kidnap, rape and murder, today, Florida prosecutors release highly inflammatory documents the size of a phone book, including a long list of prior sex offenses by Jessie`s alleged killer, John Evander Couey. Even Couey`s own family says he victimized them repeatedly and never told police.
And she looks like a beauty queen, she walks like a supermodel, and she talks like a school teacher, because she is one. And Debra Lafave is facing trial for the felony child molestation. Victim, allegedly, a middle-school student, a 14-year-old boy. Defense: Insanity.
Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. And I want to thank you for being with us tonight.
Twenty-four-year-old grade-school teacher and newlywed Debra Lafave had quite the lesson plan. Lafave facing trial for allegedly having repeated sex with a 14-year-old student. Defense: Insanity.
And breaking developments tonight in the Florida murder case of a 9- year-old little girl, Jessie Lunsford. Couey`s family says they`ve known for years he has molested children and never called police. Tonight, more than 800 pages of new documents revealed.
But first, breaking news from the nation`s capital. CNN Headline News has learned President Bush is nominating Judge John G. Roberts to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor. The decision will have a profound impact on the future of our law and on this nation.
With us tonight in Washington, Chris Landau. He`s clerked for both Justices Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, Robert Raben of the Raben Group; in West Palm Beach, Florida, defense attorney Michelle Suskauer; in L.A., defense attorney Debra Opri.
But first, we`re going to CNN correspondent Bob Franken. Bob, bring us up-to-date.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`s been a day of speculation, most of it wrong. A lot of it was centered on Edith Clement, who is a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But that, as the day went on, sort of evaporated. And as the day went on, other names came up.
And then, this evening, we suddenly started hearing again about John Roberts. Now, John Roberts, who clerked for Justice William Rehnquist, has been somebody who has been mentioned all along. He`s a judge now on the very influential D.C. Court of Appeals. It`s really considered almost a junior Supreme Court.
He`s only been on the court for about 20 months or so, has not developed much of a paper trail, which is a kind of thing that can make it easier for him to go through a confirmation. He is well-regarded in conservative circles, but he`s not considered an extremist by many people.
He`s not going to be somebody that the Bush administration`s opponents can really sink their teeth into, at least it doesn`t look that way from the start. He`s 50-years-old, would be considered, if confirmed, to have a long career on the Supreme Court.
So it`s going to be probably relatively positive reviews that are going to come, at least in this first night of the president`s announcement.
One other thing, Nancy, this has been something that developed quicker than most thought. We were expecting that the president would wait a week or two more before making his announcement.
Then it became clear at the beginning of the day that word was spreading it might come today. The president toyed first a while before saying he would do it this evening. The decision now is for John Roberts to be the next nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O`Connor.
GRACE: Of course, we were told all day long -- leaks were cited that Judge Edith Clement out of Louisiana, out of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would be the nominated person. What happened?
FRANKEN: Well, she apparently had met with the president a couple of times. She`s actually a long-time family friend. She`s another one who did not have much of a paper trail. She`d been many years as a district judge, but not that many years on the conservative, very conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
But, for whatever reason, the president decided not to take the advice of many, including, might I add, his wife, Laura Bush, and suggested that a woman should replace a woman, a judge -- a justice, rather, to replace -- excuse me, Sandra Day O`Connor.
So instead, he has gone with John Roberts. John Roberts is somebody who is conservative, but perhaps will not be viewed as extreme conservative.
GRACE: OK. Let`s take a look at what this Supreme Court will be facing in the upcoming sessions. Number one, abortion.
Bob Franken, I`m going to come back to you on that. We all know that the abortion issue is pretty much a litmus test when it comes to opposition to various Supreme Court candidates.
Gay marriage, flag burning, Terri Schiavo-like issues, stem-cell research, a lot of issues are going to come before this court, Iraqi issues as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the terror suspects, for Pete`s sake, and privacy issues.
Look, Bob Franken, the issue over one woman, Terri Schiavo`s case, nearly tore apart Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court will be making decisions on issues like Terri Schiavo. And all along, Sandra Day O`Connor has been the swing vote.
FRANKEN: Well, in the matter of Terri Schiavo, that particular one, you`ll remember that every federal court, from the district court level to the Supreme Court level, said that there was no reason to grant the temporary restraining order. That seemed to be a consensus in the federal judiciary.
John Roberts does not have a particular track record when it comes to social issues. He is known to favor government policies. He is expected to be somebody who would support the president`s war on terror and the various legal issues that have come up surrounding that.
But in the matter of social issues, and particularly the matter of Terri Schiavo, that one seemed to be almost unanimously held by the federal judiciary that it didn`t belong there, no matter what Congress said.
GRACE: You know, that was amazing to me, Bob, that a judge would actually say something is not a matter for a judge. Incredible. What about abortion?
FRANKEN: Abortion is going to be one of those issues where there will not be much to hang a hat on. That, of course, is, you called it a litmus test. Just about everybody who makes a nomination says that there is no litmus test.
Roberts certainly will be asked about that. You can expect that he`s going to say that he can`t be predisposed about any decision. There is a concept, as you well know, in the law called stare decisis. And a large body of judges that that, which means, of course, already decided, that they`re going to continue to allow the Roe v. Wade decision. Some of those who had directly attacked it were not among those who were named, of course.
GRACE: Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would urge him to just think about somebody he`d be really proud to have appointed 10 or 15 years from now. That`s what I tried to do.
I went through this twice. There are always lots of good, qualified people. And the people that are your political opponents will politicize anybody you appoint, anyway. So you need to stay out of that and just -- I think you ought to do something that, you know, when he goes bed the night after he announces it, he`ll be really -- he`ll sleep well and feel good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Well, Bob, I can tell you this much: There`s always going to be people that will hate whoever Bush picks up. You`re going to have the far left hating it and the far right hating it. It looks like Bush is going to go kind of down the middle with this appointment. What do you think?
FRANKEN: Well, some people are going to say that that`s a new middle. First of all...
FRANKEN: ... I should point out that, among the people that he did not take advice from, I can be pretty sure, is William Jefferson Clinton.
But the president, President Clinton, makes an interesting point. The appointments to the Supreme Court are really unpredictable. You can go back, let`s say, to Earl Warren. Earl Warren was a Republican governor and a conservative one in California, appointed by President Eisenhower.
Eisenhower ultimately called him his biggest mistake. Warren was the one who led the activist Supreme Court through the Miranda-Escobedo decisions, you know, the criminal rights decisions, that you know so well, and the civil rights decisions, et cetera. David Souter, another case in point.
So there are going to be some, particularly conservatives, who are a little bit worried that John Roberts does not have a long, written track record, but it`s going to be an interesting confirmation proceeding. And the president, through his press secretary said today, he wants one that is dignified and above partisanship. Well, I`ll believe that when I see it.
GRACE: Hey, let me get Rosie. Rosie, Renee, can you put up that full screen of some of the issues we think that this court may be dealing with?
And I want to go out to Debra Opri as we`re showing this. Debra, it`s very wise of this president, and any president, to name a judge that doesn`t have a lot of written record, a lot of opinions.
It`s just like cross-examination. The more you`ve got in writing, the more you`ve got for fodder on cross. Take a look at these, Debra.
You`re going to have Internet issues coming up, Iraqi issues, terror suspects, privacy, Schiavo-type issues, which you and I discussed. Not only that, I`m very interested in the whole stem-cell research issue, abortion rights, you know that, gay marriage. For Pete`s sake, will flag burning never go away, Deb Opri?
So long story short, these are issues that are going to affect your and my life. This isn`t something happening up on the Capitol that won`t affect us. These people are in for life, Debra.
DEBRA OPRI, JACKSON FAMILY LAWYER: No, this is what I think. I think that gentleman is a little off-kilter when he says Bush is probably not going to follow the counsel of President Clinton. I sure as heck would. Clinton chose two. And they do have a good relationship.
I believe, in the end, in the consensus of determining who will pass the nomination, it will be somebody without such a long paper trail, someone who has the ideology of President Bush. And more than anything, we have the terrorists to fight. And I think that`s the number-one concern of President Bush.
GRACE: Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I`m going to take my time. And I will be thorough and deliberate.
But make no mistake. We have heard a lot of suggestions from members of the United States Senate, a lot. It turns out that many of the senators have got strong opinions one way or the other. And of course, were listening to them.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made it clear that he intends to nominate a fair-minded individual who represents the mainstream of American law and American values. He will appoint someone to the position of high intellect and great legal ability, a person of integrity who will faithfully interpret our Constitution and our laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Very quickly back to Bob Franken, before we take you to down to Susan Candiotti in Florida. Bob Franken, what happened? Bush was saying, "I`m going to take my time. I`m going to take my time. OK. I`ve decided. It`s Roberts." What happened?
FRANKEN: Well, two theories on that. Well, some strategists decided it was better to do it now. The other theory is that the Karl Rove matter was getting to be quite a nuisance. And what better way to take the emphasis off of Karl Rove, since we in the media can only over-cover one story at a time, and switch that -- I wish that was my line.
But at any rate, we are now over-covering. And you can expect that we`re going to over-cover, if you can with such a momentous decision, the Supreme Court nomination. That`s going to sustain us for a few days.
GRACE: Bob Franken, ever the cynic. But hey, he`s been working in Washington for a long time. What do you expect? Bob Franken, thank you so much, friend, for being with us.
Everybody, that announcement is coming down in less than an hour. And if you think this is something that won`t affect your life, how wrong can you be? I`ve memorized so many Supreme Court decisions.
It will affect your life from everything to prescription drugs, to Medicare, to when you get pulled over for a traffic offense and they decide to search your trunk. All right? It will matter.
We`re heading down to Florida and Susan Candiotti, and the latest on the Jessie Lunsford case. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF: John Couey was polygraphed today. And at the end of the polygraph, he says, "You don`t need to tell me the results. I already know what they are. Could I have the investigators come back in?"
And the investigators came back in. He apologized to the investigators for wasting their time. And I`m now going to use the word that you probably waited me to use. John Couey admitted to abducting Jessica and subsequently taking her life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: I don`t know about you, but when I think of Jessie Lunsford, I recall the picture of her in the pink floppy hat. Do we have that, Renee, Jessie in her pink floppy hat, the one that we showed night, after night, after night while everyone was looking for 9-year-old Jessie Lunsford?
Well, a convicted sex offender, as you know, John Evander Couey, now formally charged with not only the rape and murder of the girl, but, according to his confession, he allegedly buried the girl alive, holding nothing but the little stuffed dolphin her dad had won for her at the fair.
There`s the young man we`re talking about, John Evander Couey. Tonight, startling documents the size of a phone book, over 800 pages revealed.
With us tonight, in San Francisco, victims` rights advocate, Marc Klaas, a crime victim himself after the kidnap and murder of his girl, Polly. In New York, psychotherapist Dr. Leslie Austin.
But first, let`s go out to Miami, Florida, CNN correspondent on the case from the get-go, Susan Candiotti is with us. And she has reviewed the 800 pages of newly revealed documents.
It`s all about John Evander Couey, Susan, and what his own family knew about him, but never told police.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Nancy. And I`m going to get to that in a half a second. But because you first mentioned seeing that heart-breaking photograph of Jessica in that pink floppy hat, we also saw that photograph among the 850-page document dropped tonight.
It was among the photographs in the family`s camera that was turned over to police. And they, of course, made that photograph and others that appear to be taken of her at a carnival. And those were put out in the beginning when she was missing. So we got to see those photographs, as well.
Now, on to some of this startling information, certainly very disturbing. Yes, it turns out that, according to John Couey`s own niece -- and by the way, she`s one of the six people that was living in that trailer, one of the six people who didn`t say anything to the police, according to authorities, according to interviews, and didn`t say anything about the fact that he was living there when they came to the door.
In her case, the niece`s case, it was a lie by omission, by her own account. She said, "I just didn`t say anything. It`s not that I lied. I just didn`t say he was there."
GRACE: Oh, brother.
CANDIOTTI: The others flat out said he wasn`t. Now, what she revealed, the niece, is that she, as well as her sister -- and this was also confirmed by their mother -- that they were both sexually molested, she said, by John Couey when she was a little girl, in her case, 7 or 8 years old.
And what happened after both of these incidents? She said that -- and the sister agreed, her mother -- that John Couey was simply thrown out of the house. They gave him the boot. Apparently, police never contacted.
Now, in addition to that, we also learned from Couey`s ex-wife, we also -- we had confirmation from this earlier. Now, she`s saying it in her own words, that her little girl, by a previous marriage, was also, she said, sexually molested by John Couey. The police never contacted.
GRACE: OK. I`ve got make a flow chart here, Susan Candiotti, a flow chart of all the people this guy -- you`re looking at him, John Evander Couey. We know he was convicted on other sex offenses.
All of the family members, the ex-wife, you name it, you had little girls allegedly molested by him. They never told the cops.
And what`s killing me -- what`s killing me, Michelle Suskauer, defense attorney joining us out of Florida, is all these people are just like washing their hands. The police say, "Is anybody else here?" And they all go, "Yes, a convicted sex offender is back there in the bedroom with the door shut. But we`re not going to mention that. We know the little girl across the street is missing."
I don`t understand.
MICHELLE SUSKAUER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, they -- I guess it`s a dirty little secret in their family that they think that he`s just going to go out the door, and then they won`t see him again, and they don`t want to involve the police. He`s going to have a lot of problems with all of this information that`s going to bite him during his trial. Down here, as we call it, Williams Rule evidence, similar fact evidence.
GRACE: But what`s killing me tonight, Michelle, is the family that stood by and turned the other way when they knew this girl across the street, this little 9-year-old girl, was missing, and they had a sex offender that they were covering up for through the wall in the mobile home.
To Susan Candiotti, Susan, what can you tell me about fingerprint evidence?
CANDIOTTI: Yes, some interesting fingerprint evidence also was in this document drop that we got, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, results on testing for fingerprints. And they found Jessica`s fingerprint on a 12-inch Domino pizza box that was in John Couey`s bedroom in that trailer.
Now, there were also two fingerprints identified as Couey`s, also found on that same pizza box. Additionally, they found a single fingerprint from both Couey and Jessica on what`s described as a square glass tabletop, also in Couey`s bedroom.
GRACE: Like a bedside table?
CANDIOTTI: Doesn`t say what -- it just says a square glass tabletop.
GRACE: You know, what? Susan Candiotti, I wish you hadn`t told me that, because now I`m envisioning her reaching out to that bedside table, under God knows what circumstances, and reaching out and touching that table.
Susan Candiotti is with us. She`s been on the John Evander Couey, the Jessie Lunsford case, from the get-go.
You know, Jessie Lunsford`s father is not taking this lying down. He`s been lobbying Washington to get changes in the law, this one man trying to change the law in Washington. He`s trying to get enacted the Child Safety Act of 2005. There will be hearings next Tuesday in Washington -- I`m going to cover that for you -- as a result of Jessie`s death.
But very quickly, to "Trial Tracking." Today, Oneida Isabel Acosta, traveling to Mexico to bring home her children, 18-month-old Bryan, 3-year- old Jennifer Cervantes. Their dad accused of kidnapping the two children after gunning down three relatives July 10th. Rodrigo Cervantes Zavala, apprehended in Puerto Vallarta after slipping through officials` fingers at the Mexican border.
Now, Mexican officials impounded his car over faulty paperwork, but then they let him walk away free with the two toddlers wanted desperately here in the United States. Jennifer and Bryan tonight headed home to their mother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA LUNSFORD`S FATHER: Our children are in danger. Florida, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, it doesn`t matter where you`re from. We need tougher laws to keep our children safe. They`re our next governors.
They are our future. They`re our next cameramen, our next truck drivers, our laborers. It`s all on them. They are what`s going to happen to this world in the future. And we can`t let people take them away from us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: (INAUDIBLE) Mark Lunsford is Jessie Lunsford`s father. And after the murder of his little girl, he`s leading a war on Washington to try to get changes. Will they listen to him? That I can`t tell you.
Quickly down to Susan Candiotti with CNN. She`s been on the case from the get-go. Susan, didn`t I hear you say there were six people in that mobile home and nobody saw Couey with the girl in there?
CANDIOTTI: They said they didn`t see him with her. They said they didn`t hear him. They said they heard no noises at all in there. And the police were pretty hard as they were questioning these people, but they insist they heard, saw, knew nothing.
GRACE: Well, Susan, I`m not surprised, because according to these police transcripts I`ve gotten tonight from Ellie, the reality is, is that they`ve known about molestation for years and years. Half the family got molested by this guy, and nobody lifted a baby finger to call police.
CANDIOTTI: Well, that`s what is so sad here, that one would suspect they thought they could handle the situation themselves, perhaps. Or perhaps they thought he would go away and get help. You`ll remember he even said at one point during police interviews involving a case a long time ago that he wanted help, he asked for help, he didn`t get help.
GRACE: Susan Candiotti has been on the case from the get-go. We`ve got to take a quick break, but we`ll all be right back and bring in the panel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUNSFORD: We need to make it just as tough as we can. We don`t need to water it down now. I don`t mean to put these people so they can register for 10 years and then walk away from it. They need to register for the rest of their lives. They can`t be trusted. They`re raping kids, and we`re turning them loose six years later. Why?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Jessie`s father, leading a battle in Washington to stiffen up laws against child predators.
Susan Candiotti, according to me, this John Evander Couey, he should win an Oscar. Forget about it, Denzel. It`s over! The act this guy pulled off in that mobile home!
CANDIOTTI: Well, remember, Nancy, he claims that he had that little girl, Jessie, in his bedroom, in his closet, for up to two to three days. Now, the police aren`t so sure about that timetable, but during that time, the five people living in that trailer with him claim they heard and saw nothing. And during that time, they said -- the niece says, in particular, he`d walk out into the living room and he`d stand there and watch the TV news reports, local news reports about how Jessica Lunsford was missing, how they were looking for her, and he`d say, Oh, according to the niece, that poor little girl, I hope they find her. And in fact, he even added, at one point, according to the niece, that he thought it was an inside job.
Listen to this excerpt. "We all thought it was an inside job, and Johnny was saying the same thing." Listen to this. "He thought it was the dad doing something."
GRACE: You know, he is so lucky Lunsford can`t get his hands around his neck. Susan Candiotti, what did the autopsy show?
CANDIOTTI: Well, you`ll remember, among other things, of course, that she was sexually assaulted, but also that the contents of her stomach were empty. So I have a question, of course, about -- if they found Jessica`s fingerprints -- since they found it -- her fingerprint on a pizza box, does that mean that she did, indeed, have something to eat? Could her body have perhaps absorbed it in the three-plus weeks before her remains were found? I wonder about that. I`m not an expert, haven`t had a chance to find that out.
GRACE: You know, Susan Candiotti, I`m going to direct you to page 47 of the statements. We`re talking about newly released documents, about 800 pages of documents, in the John Evander Couey case. This is a guy that was a convicted sex offender that wound up catty-cornered across the street from little 9-year-old Jessie Lunsford. On page 47, the relative says, he raped the girl on the bed in the mobile home, that her blood is on the mattress.
CANDIOTTI: That, too, was -- that`s part of the police evidence file that we have seen, so we`ve seen that information before. But in fact, that`s why they went -- when they were questioning, for example, the niece, they said, You mean to tell me that you didn`t hear a little girl being raped in the bedroom? How is that possible? They said no.
GRACE: You know, Leslie Austin is with us tonight, Dr. Austin, psychotherapist. All these people, you just can`t tell me that they were in that little mobile home, six of them, and they didn`t hear one thing going on in that room.
LESLIE AUSTIN, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: No. I`ve got to tell you, I do not believe that story. I`m sorry. I just don`t believe she was there for days and they didn`t know. Either they knew and they`re covering because they didn`t want the police around them for whatever their own reasons were -- maybe they were involved in drugs or whatever -- or she wasn`t there for that length of time and he just wants to be very grandiose and special.
GRACE: To Marc Klaas, victims` rights advocate and founder of Beyondmissing -- Marc, response?
MARC KLAAS, BEYONDMISSING.COM: Well, this is just so unconscionable. What we know is that she was in that trailer for some period of time. Single-wide trailers are, what, 15 by 30 feet, 15 by 40 feet? Six people living in a 400 to 600 square foot space, and nobody saw this?
You know, these people, for over a generation now, have been pimping for Couey. They`ve been bringing their own daughters. They`ve probably been bringing their friends. Hell, they`ve been -- they`ve been having children so that this guy can molest them! They`ll scoot him (ph) away and then they`ll allow him back. Remember, the gal that bought the ticket for him to get out of town turns out to be one of his early victims.
So you know, these people are just sick, terrible, worse than enablers. They`re worse than complicit, they`re his pimps!
GRACE: Well, you know, what kills me is that they all just stood by. They knew they had a registered sex offender in the next room.
KLAAS: They knew everything.
GRACE: And they all are, like, pointing the finger at each other. Look, I`m not taking blame off Couey, Debra Opri. I`m not. And in our justice system, there is no duty under the law to volunteer to help people, to go to police. But to think that this little girl, this baby, was in the next room enduring God only knows what, and they sat on their thumbs!
OPRI: It makes me sick to my stomach. And that district attorney should be prosecuting them -- obstruction of justice, conspiracy. I don`t care that they -- there`s no law that says they have to go to the police. They`re covering up a crime. He had that girl. He was perpetuating a rape. He had kidnapped her. They were covering up a crime. They should be charged. They should be prosecuted to the fullest.
GRACE: And you know, the other thing, Michelle Suskauer -- I know you`re a dyed-in-the-wool defense attorney, but let`s analyze the state case! They don`t need these family members. They can prosecute them. They`ve got DNA. They have fingerprints. They`ve got a confession, which I think will be allowed into evidence. Who needs the family? I say, if they knew about this girl being in there, they should all go down!
SUSKAUER: If they -- if they knew that a crime was committed -- we all think that it`s reasonable that they should have known. But also, we`re also making an assumption, that we`re believing Couey`s statement that this girl was alive for two or three days. What if he killed her, and he had her in the house and she -- you know, she was dead right away? So they may not have known. We don`t know.
But they do need these people. And the reason why is they need to bring in some more of this evidence, some more of that Williams rule evidence that, you know, they were -- this one girl was molested, that the daughter was molested. So they do need it to buttress up the testimony.
GRACE: But they`ve already got molestation convictions with other victims. Believe me, they weren`t his first victims.
SUSKAUER: No. I know that. But it`s also going to help because there`s going to be a question as to whether or not his confession is going to come in. And I know that they have forensic evidence. They have the fingerprints. I don`t know if the blood results have come back. But again, they`re going try to make their case as strong as possible. That`s what the state attorney has decided.
GRACE: Susan Candiotti, do you think that the time has run out for the prosecution to charge the housemates?
CANDIOTTI: Oh, I don`t know. You know, we keep trying to find out whether that will happen, but I don`t think so because we`ve inquired...
GRACE: I don`t, either.
CANDIOTTI: ... about that in the past, and they said that there might still be time. So who knows what will happen.
But you know, Nancy, I just wanted to say one other thing. From time to time I think about this. During the time that Jessie was missing and you did frequent interviews with Mark Lunsford as they were looking for her, you know, it was just yards behind that location where it turns out she was that whole time.
GRACE: Susan, I have thought about it and thought about it and thought about it. And you know who I think is being tortured? Not only Jessie`s father, Mark, but the police. They went there and searched. Apparently, if the girl was still alive and there, they didn`t open one closet.
I don`t know how much of Couey`s statement I believe. I mean, he`s been a liar from the get-go. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUNSFORD: It`s been the worst roller-coaster ride I`ve ever had in my life, and I`m telling you, I`ve been through some things that -- you know, that you just don`t want to have to go through, and this is the worst thing I will ever have to go through in my life. I know it is. And I just -- I`m just -- all I can do is pray that it doesn`t happen to another parent.
It`s pretty sickening that they can live that close to us and where they can reach our children. And I mean, that`s not the way it should be. We`ve got good lawmakers, and they need to tighten this stuff up because it`s not fair. It`s not fair to us, and it`s not fair to our children. Our children are our future. Don`t you think we need to hang onto them and protect them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Yes, I do. I do, Mark.
Susan Candiotti is with us. She has waded through about 800 pages of documents just released today, documents that reveal John Evander Couey allegedly molested at least three of his sisters, girls. Jessie Lunsford`s fingerprints found in the home, also on a pizza box in the mobile home of John Couey. Couey`s former wife says Couey fondled his stepdaughter, when she refused to perform a sex act on him, she (ph) slapped him. I mean, it goes on and on and on.
Susan Candiotti, before I let you go, when does Couey come back to court? And has the Florida prosecutor announced he will seek the death penalty?
CANDIOTTI: No, we haven`t heard that announcement yet. And I believe there are some status conferences coming up. We also haven`t heard yet from his public defender as to whether he has any intention of challenging Couey`s confession. He`s not talking to the media right now.
GRACE: Well, I can tell you right now, Susan, he is. He`s going to challenge the death penalty law. He`s going to call it cruel and unusual punishment. And he`s going to have that -- try to have that confession suppressed, so a jury will never hear about it.
Susan Candiotti on the case from the get-go. Thank you, friend.
We are switching gears and heading to another case out of Florida. She walks like a supermodel. She look like a beauty queen. She talks like a schoolteacher because she is one. And she is facing charges of child molestation. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FITZGIBBONS, LAFAVE`S ATTORNEY: We had hoped to resolve this case without a trial, but obviously, we were unsuccessful. We were hoping to do this not only for Debbie`s sake but for the young man`s sake. But the plea discussions would have required significant prison time for Debbie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Debbie would be Debra LaFave, a 24-year-old reading teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student. This is a shot of her today. Her lawyer basically says she`s just too attractive to send to jail!
All right. Whoa! That`s right. Do we have that, Rosie (ph)? Do we have that? She`s just too cute. Rosie`s not answering. That must mean we don`t have -- we do? Can you play that, please? She`s just too cute to go to jail. And that`s a unique defense. Can you roll that, Rosie? You don`t have it?
OK, I`m going to go to Eban Brown with newsradio 970, WFLA. What went down in court today, Eban?
EBAN BROWN, 970 AM WFLA REPORTER: It was yesterday, actually...
GRACE: Thank you.
BROWN: ... but what happened yesterday -- that`s quite all right. What happened yesterday was the attorneys for Debbie LaFave said, We do not want Debra to go to jail -- to prison that is, to the women`s state penitentiary. And the prosecutors do. So they rejected the plea deal.
GRACE: Well, you know, that`s pretty typical, that the defense doesn`t want the person to go to jail and the prosecution does. But a little more depth. I`m talking insanity plea.
BROWN: They`re looking to mount an insanity plea, now that they can`t reach a deal to keep her out of prison. What that means is that they`re going to have to prove that Debbie LaFave didn`t know right from wrong at the time she committed the crime, allegedly. And the thing about an insanity defense is that you`re admitting you did it, you`re just saying it`s not your fault.
GRACE: OK. A state psychologist -- a state psychologist -- in a 37- page report says this woman was not insane. At least from the waist up, she wasn`t insane. I want to go quickly -- do I still have Marc Klaas with me? OK. I`m going to go then to Debra Opri. Debra, I know you`ve defended a lot of cases, but why is it that we go lighter on female sex predators than on men?
OPRI: First, I would love this woman as my client. I would represent her. First of all, in the insanity defense...
GRACE: ... too cute to go to jail!
OPRI: On the insanity defense, it would fly. She would go in there probably very soon, very young-looking, very frail, a lot thinner. And we would get our own defense psychologist to build a case. As far as the state psychologist, to going along with the checks and balances of the system, they`re going say what they need to say. I think this client, in the end, they should have given her a deal. But I would try this case in an instant.
GRACE: And so would I! But not for the defense.
OPRI: I`d go against you!
GRACE: Take a listen to this.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OWEN LAFAVE, DEBRA LAFAVE`S EX-HUSBAND: I do love her, but I`m hurt and devastated over the situation and, you know, the path our life has taken over the past two months.
I wanted to support my wife because that`s what I believed was the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: OK. That`s LaFave`s husband, Owen LaFave. They were newlyweds, Dr. Austin. Newlyweds. Now, how does that make a guy feel, to know a 14-year-old is beating his time?
AUSTIN: Not so good. Not so good. And now to be pleading an insanity defense, which is going to be extremely hard to prove because these were four separate acts over several weeks` time -- and she`s saying the source of her stress was her sister`s death three years prior. So if she was functioning in other areas of her life and not manic or on spending sprees or showing bad behavior, it`s very difficult to prove that she`s insane now and then she`s fine for two weeks and then she`s insane again when she had sex again and then she`s fine and then she`s gone. Very difficult.
GRACE: Michelle Suskauer, the other issue is she kept the sex with the 14-year-old boy a secret from her husband. She clearly knew it was wrong, or else why keep it a secret?
SUSKAUER: That`s right. You know, I think this is really the defense of last resort. And I don`t think a jury is going to buy this. The only way a jury`s going to buy this is if you have a jury of six men who are going to be looking at her, feeling bad for her, feeling jealous that they weren`t the middle school kid, because this is really Debbie does middle school. That`s what this is all about.
GRACE: Well, wait a minute. Look at that shot. OK, these are -- oh, it`s actually video of the happy day. Before they could reach their one- year anniversary, whoopsie! She had sex with a 14-year-old reading student. Renee (ph), could you please keep running that.
To Eban Brown, he`s a reporter with newsradio 970, WFLA. Does she have a history of mental illness that we know of? She looks sane right there.
BROWN: The only thing that could possibly help the defense in this case was testimony at the court-martial of the Army officer accused of killing her sister, where her mother said that Debbie became a basket case after her sister was killed in that drunk driving accident. That might be the only thing. Everything else seems to point to a normal life, according to everyone who`s been looking at her. She`s -- she had a job. She had a career. She became a teacher. She went to school. She got a degree. She -- she got a husband.
GRACE: Now, let me ask you this. How long ago was the death of her sister?
BROWN: I believe it was a few years prior to this incident, yes.
GRACE: OK. Doctor, jump in.
AUSTIN: Yes. The death was in 2001. And there`s a significant difference between emotional distress because your sister was killed and pleading insanity three or four years later because you`re having sex with an underage teenager.
GRACE: And not just once.
AUSTIN: Not just once.
GRACE: Five times.
AUSTIN: And let`s not minimize that boys...
GRACE: All over the place.
AUSTIN: ... suffer -- boys suffer when they are sexually abused, just as girls do. It is a myth to say, Oh, he was a boy, he was young, he`ll handle it. I`m sorry, female sex offenders are as serious as male sex offenders.
GRACE: Quick break, everybody. We`ll all be back.
But quickly, to tonight`s "All Points Bulletin." FBI and law enforcement across the country on the lookout for this man, Joseph Lombardo. Lombardo, wanted in connection with the murder of Daniel Siefer (ph), a federal witness in an organized crime prosecution. Lombardo, 75, 5-7, 185 pounds, black hair, gray-brown eyes. The FBI offering up to $20,000 for information leading to Lombardo`s arrest. If you have info, call the FBI at 312-431-1333.
Local news next for some of you, but we`ll all be right back. And remember, live coverage of the trial of a multi-millionaire accused of killing his wife tomorrow, 3:00 to 5:00 Eastern, Court TV`s "Closing Arguments."
Please stay with us as we remember Sergeant First Class Neil Prince, just 35, an American hero.
GRACE: We at NANCY GRACE want desperately to help in our own way, solve homicides, find missing people. Take a look at Jason Knapp, 27 years old, disappeared as a college student at Clemson University April `98. If you have any information on Jason Knapp, please call the Carole Sund Carrington Foundation toll-free at 888-813-8389. Please help us.
Very quickly, back to Eban Brown. Eban, do you think there will be a plea deal? And when does LaFave come back to court?
BROWN: We`re not quite sure if there`s going to be a plea deal. Her attorney seems very adamant about no prison time whatsoever.
BROWN: So he`s not going to...
GRACE: Well, that kind of puts the kibosh on a plea deal~!
BROWN: Exactly. He wants no prison time for her, and he`s not going to accept a deal that encompasses -- that doesn`t keep her out of prison. Simply, what`s next is they`re going to -- that court date is December 5. But before that, they`re going to have to convince the judge that this insanity defense is valid. If the judge says this is not a valid defense, they`re going to have to plead not guilty, and they could lose.
GRACE: Debra Opri, best defense?
OPRI: Best defense? Insanity defense and try to get a plea deal. But she`s going to have to do a little bit of jail time. And I`d love to try this case.
GRACE: A little bit of jail time? What about Mary Kay Letourneau, who sold the rights to her wedding to her rape victim? Maybe that`s in the future for LaFave. So you would go with insanity, although it never works?
OPRI: Yes, I think I would.
GRACE: OK. Michelle Suskauer, agree, disagree?
SUSKAUER: No, I wouldn`t go with insanity. I`d be going just -- just the credibility of the boy and just trying to pack that jury on with some men.
GRACE: Now, there`s an upstanding defense! Pack the jury with men and have your client wear a low-cut blouse. OK, Michelle Suskauer...
SUSKAUER: I didn`t say a low-cut blouse.
GRACE: I heard you. Yes, you did. Yes, you did.
SUSKAUER: No, I did not.
GRACE: OK. We`re going to follow the LaFave case, everyone, the alleged victim in this case just 14 years old.
I want to thank all of my guests for being with us tonight. But most of all, I want to thank you for being with us, inviting all of us into your home.
Coming up, headlines from all around the world, Larry on CNN. I`m Nancy Grace, signing off for tonight. See you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 o`clock sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.