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Couey's Trial Set to Begin

Aired July 11, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, America was shocked by 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford's rape and murder and shocked again when the convicted sex offender, accused of burying her alive, had his confession thrown out on the eve of the trial. How much does that hurt the state's case? We've got all the latest news and the heated debate too next on LARRY KING LIVE.
This extraordinary case entered its second day today. Here are some of the details.


KING (voice-over): Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was last seen alive the night of February 23, 2005, when she went to bed in Homohassa Springs, Florida home where the front door had been left unlocked.

MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF JESSICA LUNSFORD: My daughter is coming home. I just don't know when.

KING: Her disappearance made national headlines and three weeks later Jessica's body was found. Authorities said convicted sex offender John Evander Couey, who had been staying with a relative within eyesight of Jessica's home, confessed to kidnapping her and killing her.

Authorities also said he told them where to find the body, buried with her stuffed dolphin behind Couey's half-sister's home. The autopsy determined she had been sexually assaulted and died of asphyxiation.

LUNSFORD: Jessie's home now and she's right here with me.

KING: Outrage of the murder led Florida and eleven other states to toughen laws on sex offenders and now more outrage as Couey's confession has been thrown out by a judge because investigators ignored Couey's requests for an attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, would you take a lie detector test for us?

JOHN EVANDER COUEY: I guess. I want a lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just asking. I'm not asking would you? I'm not saying do it now I'm just saying would you? COUEY: I said I would. I just want to talk to a lawyer. I want a lawyer here present. I want to talk to a lawyer. I mean if people are trying to accuse something I didn't do. I didn't do it, I ain't, you know.


KING: Let's meet our panel. We have different panels in the first and second portions of the show. In Jacksonville, Florida is Mark Gellman, attorney for Mark Lunsford, the father of the rape/murder victim Jessica Lunsford.

In Los Angeles is Mark Geragos, defense attorney, very well known, known nationally in fact.

In Miami is Stacey Honowitz, the prosecutor, the number two person in the sexual battery unit of the Broward County state's attorney's office.

In San Francisco is Mark Klaas. His 12-year-old daughter Polly was kidnapped from her home and murdered in 1993.

In Los Angeles is Jo-Ellen Dimitrius, the well-known jury consultant. She is president of Dimitrius and Associates.

And in Tavares, Florida is Sara Dorsey covering the trial of Jessica Lunsford, the accused murderer John Couey. She's doing it for WTSP.

What's the latest Sara?

SARA DORSEY, WTSP-TV REPORTER: Well, Larry, certainly jury selection isn't going quite as smoothly as Citrus County officials had first expected. They originally thought they could wrap this up by today. Now they're saying it looks like it will be at least Thursday or Friday.

One hundred and two potential jurors have already been interviewed. Sixty-one of those have already been dismissed. Prosecutors are telling us they need at least 20 to 30 more before they can even move on to that next round of questioning.

KING: Mark Gellman, as the attorney for Mr. Lunsford, of course he has no standing in the court but you're there to represent him, are you angry at the investigators who didn't give this guy a lawyer?

MARK GELLMAN, ATTORNEY FOR MARK LUNSFORD: Larry, I think that at the time that they were interviewing Couey and he -- he made the admissions they were just trying to find Jessica and who knows what was going through their mind at the time where he asked for a lawyer?

But, you know, they asked the question. John Couey asked for a lawyer and they didn't give him one. And we were a little bit surprised that the confession was tossed but, you know, they knew that that was a possibility and there's a lot of other solid evidence in the case and moving forward. KING: Stacey Honowitz, did the judge really have no other way to go since you're entitled, once you ask for a lawyer, they're supposed to immediately get one right?

STACEY HONOWITZ, ASST. FLA. STATE ATTY.: Yes, Larry, I don't think anybody was really that surprised when the confession got tossed in this case. Certainly you hear him on tape requesting a lawyer on several occasions.

There are some exceptions. There's a public safety exception when the police officers feel that the public could be harmed if they don't keep questioning even if somebody asks for a lawyer.

But in this case, as Mark just testified or just said, I'm sorry, he just said that, I think they were trying to find her. They didn't know if she was dead or alive at that point, so they kept questioning him in the hopes that they would eventually find her alive and unfortunately they never did.

KING: Let's watch the judge explaining the action of tossing out the confession.


JUDGE RICHARD HOWARD, CITRUS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FLORIDA: No less than eight times I counted the phrase "I want a lawyer. I just want to talk to a lawyer. I want to talk to a lawyer. I want a lawyer present. I want to talk to a lawyer first." "Do you want a lawyer first?" "Yes, sir certain things I'll talk to a lawyer."

So there's like eight times he said that and yet the detective never asked the question, and I know hindsight is better than foresight I guess as it were, why he never clarified it for the polygraph.


KING: Mark Geragos, is this law 101?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, Larry, it sure seems like it. When they play the transcript the only thing that's surprising, I don't think it's that it was thrown out, it's surprising I think that most detectives are well aware of what the law requires and what you have to do.

I think the judge -- and it may be surprising in the sense that it doesn't happen that often and it doesn't happen because most detectives know that as soon as that happens and somebody invokes if you don't have this person squarely within one of the exceptions, you're at risk at having it thrown out.

That having been said, there actually is probably a benefit to the prosecution in this case because the last thing I think the prosecution would want is any tainted conviction if they get it. So, to allow that in would be nothing but a ticking time bomb. So a good prosecutor knows the last thing he wants is a confession that's tainted like this one is and by all accounts they're able to proceed in any event. It's not like when they throw out evidence and then the prosecutor says "I'm unable to proceed."

In this case clearly they are proceeding, so it is certainly not a death no. It's encouraging I supposed from the defense standpoint and actually to some degree it's probably a benefit to the prosecution.

KING: Mark Klaas, as someone who has lost a daughter in a similar fashion to Mr. Lunsford, what's your reaction to this?

MARK KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDER: Well, you know what, everybody knows what he said. Everybody knows what he did. And I don't think it even really matters how this case is disposed, although obviously he needs to be found guilty and he needs to be sentenced to death.

But regardless of where they put this individual I believe he's a dead man walking because I believe even in the most high secure -- the high secure prison you're going to find a code of conduct that doesn't allow for somebody to bury a little girl alive and walk away.

KING: Are you saying, Mr. Klaas, there's no chance of a not guilty?

KLAAS: I'm saying that there's no chance this guy is going to live out the next two years. That's what I'm saying.

KING: What if he were found not guilty?

KLAAS: I don't care where they put him, Larry. I don't think he's going to be found not guilty.

KING: No, what if he were found not guilty? Where are they going to put him? He goes where he wants.

KLAAS: Well, I don't know. He can go where he wants but everybody knows what he did. That's what I'm saying. There are social codes that don't allow for people to steal other people's little girls and then bury them alive.

KING: Now just so we're clear you don't want him killed on the street do you?

KLAAS: I'm with Mark Lunsford on this. I just think he needs to be dead.

KING: All right, Jo-Ellen Dimitrius how much of a problem are they going to have in picking a jury? If you've heard about the confession, you can't serve, right?

JO-ELLEN DIMITRIUS, JURY CONSULTANT: Well that's not necessarily true. From what I understand there have been several people that have said that they did know about the confession but they thought they could still be fair and impartial. Certainly from the defense perspective that would be somebody that I would be very concerned about. And I think it's interesting that the earlier respondent had mentioned that the judge and the attorneys were a little bit flustered because this case was going another two or three days in jury selection.

My goodness, it's a capital case. It is a high profile case around the country. And the fact that it's only taking a week I think is, you know, kudos to the judge that it's only taking a week. So, I'm not at all surprised that it's taking a few extra days.

KING: We'll be back with more about this extraordinary case on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Dan Rather tomorrow night; don't go away.


LUNSFORD: She got ready to go to bed. She was taking a shower and then when she got out of the shower it was time for me to go out for the evening for what I had planned for the evening and she kissed me goodnight. She told me she loved me because that's what we do and that was the last time I seen her.




COUEY: Yeah. It was like, you know, it was the three days or something like that she stayed in the closet and I was feeding her. You know, I wouldn't let her starve, gave her water and stuff like that.


KING: Sara Dorsey, this led to what is called Jessie's Law, right? The Florida legislature passed a bill establishing a mandatory sentence of 25-years-to-life in prison for people convicted of sexual assault against a child aged eleven or under.

DORSEY: Yes, that's correct. That was a law pushed by Mark Lunsford. He's gone all over the country and is trying to pass this law, not only in Florida but in other states. It's something he's trying to get through the legislature in Washington, D.C. right now as well.

KING: Mark Gellman, is the family, is Mark Lunsford convinced they will -- that this trial will run true?

GELLMAN: Larry, they're absolutely convinced of that. The state has some really compelling evidence. Even though the audio taped confessions were tossed, John Couey did confess to at least three people and maybe more that he killed her and they believe that that evidence is going to come in. There's solid DNA evidence. They think that the state won't have any problem getting a conviction here.

KING: Let's show another piece of the accused statements prior to trial. Watch.


COUEY: I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it. Buried her. (INAUDIBLE) plastic bag, plastic baggies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she dead already?

COUEY: No, she was still alive. I buried her alive.


KING: Now, Stacey Honowitz, that what we just heard will not be introduced in court. If a potential juror has just seen that, would that make it very difficult for that potential juror to serve?

HONOWITZ: Well, Larry, I mean think of anybody that saw something like that. How could they possibly then think that they might be able to be fair and impartial hearing that, knowing that it got tossed?

And that's why jury selection does take a long time in a case like this. First of all, it is high profile. Everybody is there. And, second of all, certain evidence has been tossed out.

The media has been talking about it. People do read the newspapers. They do watch television. So, the attorneys have to be very cautious and go very slowly and deliberately in trying to get a fair and impartial jury for this case.

KING: Mark Geragos, with something like this, with 24 hour news stations and Court TV, does this hamper trials?

GERAGOS: Well, yes. In fact, I think that this is precisely the reason that the U.S. needs the comparable to a contempt of court act that they've got in England, which is once the trial starts or once the evidentiary proceedings start they clamp down on this.

The U.S. Supreme Court in a couple of cases on pretrial publicity have talked about this very problem. The fact that when you have a confession that is then reported that it makes it virtually impossible for somebody to get a fair trial.

And, as you indicated, who is going to see that? What potential juror is going to see that tape-recorded confession that's on TV and now go in there and vote not guilty? It's not going to happen. It's impossibility.

KING: Mark Klaas, does that concern you?

KLAAS: Well, sure it concerns me, Larry, as it concerns everybody but I believe that there are an awful lot of people that are not addicted to cable news like all of us probably are and that probably don't watch cable news on a regular basis.

So, you know, they haven't had to move it out of the venue. They haven't -- they are, as Ms. Dimitrius said, they are going to be able to pull in a jury within a week. And I have faith in the jury system. I don't believe the verdicts quite frankly all the time but I certainly am willing to abide by them and think that jurors do the best that they possibly can.

KING: Jo-Ellen, do you think this is going to be a fair trial?

DIMITRIUS: I think it will be in the sense that this judge has taken every precaution to move the venue, to move it two counties away. He is going through obviously what is a much longer process in jury selection.

But the fact remains, and certainly Mark and I think all the other panelists will understand this that a juror ultimately who may know the information about the confession and other things relevant to this case if they really want to be on this case and they can lie and they're very effective in lying, they will ultimately perhaps convince both the prosecutors and the defense that they'd be good jurors and they can fair and impartial.

And therein lies the problem in these types of cases is that there is generally no good way to eliminate somebody who is just lying. And unfortunately because so many people now don't believe in the criminal justice system and so when they get into this situation as a juror they feel like, "Ah-hah, now I can finally make a statement."

KING: Yes. Mr. Gellman, how is Mark Lunsford doing?

GELLMAN: This is a very, very difficult time for the family, Larry. He's been holding up pretty well up until today. I think that the fact that the trial is upon us has really gotten to him and they are -- they're kind of hunkering down now and just waiting for this trial to start. I think they're optimistic that perhaps it will start on Thursday so that they can get some kind of closure here.

KING: We'll be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Mark, what do you want to have if Mr. Couey is guilty of all this, of everything as it appears, what do you want to have happen to him?

LUNSFORD: I'd like to see them bring the electric chair to Florida. From my understanding it's death by lethal injection but, you know, I just want him -- I just want him to die. That's all I want him to do. I just want him to die.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is her dolphin at?

COUEY: It's in there buried with her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the bag with her?

COUEY: Yes, sir. I let her keep it. She wanted to take it with her.


KING: Sara Dorsey of WTSP, is there going to be cameras in the courtroom?

DORSEY: Absolutely. We have one pool camera from both television and newspaper in the courtroom. All of us have our trucks out here in the parking lot and we're watching it from both in the courtroom and out here. So, absolutely, they're very media friendly in Citrus County.

KING: How widely is it being covered?

DORSEY: This portion of it is not as widely as the opening statements are expected to be. It's certainly going to be national news with CNN following it and other national networks. All the locals from both the Tampa Bay area, Orlando, and possibly even up north are going to be down for this.

KING: Stacey, what can be -- the jury be told about the accused prior record if he doesn't take the stand?

HONOWITZ: Well, Larry, there was already a pre-trial motion because the state was attempting to move in some of Couey's prior convictions for the sex acts. And, in Florida we have something that's called the Williams Rule. It's similar fact evidence that the prosecutors have to be able to show almost a signature or a fingerprint to get these other acts in.

These were very remote in time and unfortunately the judge did not let these in for the mere fact in one case they didn't believe there was physical or there was any kind of sexual molestation.

And in the other case he didn't let it in because he didn't think it was fingerprint enough. In other words, you have to be able to show that for motive or identity or absence of mistake, all these different reasons to get it in and in this case they're not going to be able to hear about his prior convictions.

KING: Mark Geragos, do you see any problems with the whole way the law treats all of this? For example, the law that is the Jessica's law is there any problem with that (INAUDIBLE) at eleven years old?

GERAGOS: Well, there's problems from both perspectives I think that both from the prosecution standpoint and from the defense standpoint. I don't know that you're seeing anything. In fact, in this case it looks like so far the judge has done a textbook job on trying to keep this case focused on what the issue is, is did he or is he going to get a fair trial on these issues?

And, does that mean that they're going to bring up his prior acts and does that mean they're going to bring in a confession or this or that? I think the judge has been pretty focused on doing what he considers to be the right thing under the law there, so to that extent he's handled it admirably.

I think the thing that's a problem and what it exposes is, and I hate to be a one note Johnny here, but the fact of the coverage of this I think they underestimated the amount of prejudicial or taint that that would have on the jury pool and that's why it's taken a longer period of time.

That's why I believe so fervently in cases like this that you ought to just shut down the publicity or the reporting on it at a certain point and then just have the trial. I don't think you would have as many issues later on in the event that there's a conviction if you didn't.

Although, you know, Mark Klaas makes a pretty good point. In cases like this there is a code and a lot of these type of accused or later convicted criminals don't survive very long.

KING: Mark Klaas, do you like the idea, some do, of the British system, no coverage?

KLAAS: I can't be too terribly hypocritical here, Larry. I mean I'm part of this whole thing and have been for years commenting on these trials, oftentimes before, during, and after the trial is concluded. So, you know, for me to all of a sudden say I don't think this publicity should exist, I think is wrong.

I think what we need to do is we need people to stand up for the victims in these crimes and I'm not seeing much of that here. This is all about Couey. This guy has been a pervert from day one and it looks like a lot of that evidence is not going to be allowed in and I think that's kind of unfair.

KING: Isn't that because -- isn't that, Mark, because he's the one on trial, Mark Klaas? I mean Lunsford isn't on trial. You're not on trial. He's the one on trial so that's who you focus on.

KLAAS: You know he is absolutely...

KING: How can you focus on anyone else?

KLAAS: Well you can focus on Jessica Lunsford and the fact that this little girl was buried alive.

KING: Yes, but in what way? I know but meaning what, what do you do with it? KLAAS: In what way? In that way, we can't allow these trials to just be about the accused. It's like the -- it's like the victim is nothing more than the currency that drives this criminal justice system...

KING: No, I mean how do you use...

KLAAS: ...and allows these guys to...

KING: How do you use the victim in court?

KLAAS: Pardon me?

KING: She can't testify. It's a horrible way she died. How do you -- I mean he's the one on trial. When you say use her how, how do you want used, do you want pictures of her around the courtroom? What do you want?

KLAAS: I believe there should be pictures of her in the courtroom. I believe she should have a lawyer representing her. Remember, the prosecutor is in effect representing the state. Couey's got people representing him.

The only people that are representing Jessica actually would be her father and other family members that are in there. Yes, I say pictures, I say a lawyer for her, I say a lot more representation than she has because she deserves to be more than currency.

KING: And what role does the lawyer for her play in the courtroom?

KLAAS: To make sure that she is represented, to make sure that people don't forget what happened to her on a regular basis.

KING: Can he object? Can he cross-examine? What do you want him to do?

KLAAS: You know, I'm getting in deep here because I'm not a lawyer myself, Larry, and I'm sure I'll be just absolutely eviscerated by the other people on your panel. But it just seems to me that it's a system that is skewed far more towards the defendants in these crimes than is absolutely necessary.

KING: Jo-Ellen, is this going to be a difficult jury to pick?

DIMITRIUS: I think that it is a difficult jury to pick. And to weigh in on what Mark was talking about in terms of his previous record and the lawyers I'm sure will correct me one way or the other, but certainly in the guilt phase the judge has ruled that none of his previous convictions will come to bear.

However, in a capital case we know that there is a guilt phase and then there's a penalty phase. If, in fact, he is found guilty he moves on to the penalty phase and my guess would be, and again the lawyers can chime in, is that his previous record at that point would come in as a factor in what they call aggravation that the prosecution would present.

KING: Stacey Honowitz, in effect...

GERAGOS: All of that is going to come in.

KING: Stacey Honowitz, in effect you're representing Jessica right, I mean the prosecution represents Jessica?

HONOWITZ: Yes, I mean in theory we always say that we're the state. We don't stand in a courtroom with a big map on ourselves that says Florida. We are in essence representing in that theoretical way the victims because they can't speak on their behalf.

KING: Right.

HONOWITZ: So, as prosecutors we bring this case. We are the state but we do represent them in some sort of way. And I think what Mark was trying to allude to is we talk about all this, Mark Klaas that is, all the publicity, is it fair to the defendant? Is it fair that he does have all this publicity? Will it taint the trial?

And I think what he's trying to say, if I'm not mistaken, is well what about the victims? Don't people have a right to know all about them? And, in so many words we do. We do have a right to know about them and the jury will hear about her.

KING: But, Mark Klaas, don't we know all about Jessica?

KLAAS: You know, we know certain things about Jessica but let's be clear here, Larry, the United States Constitution gives enumerable rights to the defendants in criminal trials but the word victim does not exist. Victims have no equity. Victims have no rights in a courtroom.

KING: Thank you all very much.

Mark Gellman and Mark Klaas, thanks very much and Sara Dorsey thanks for your outstanding job. Mark Geragos and Stacey Honowitz and Jo-Ellen Dimitrius will remain. And we'll add Mickey Sherman and Lisa Bloom to the panel as we continue with this extraordinary case. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy is not a quality person by any means and, you know, he is also to my knowledge a crack head and I don't think we're actually ever going to be able to get a valid timeline about him. He's truly a piece of trash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man has hurt too many people. He's hurt too many children and one of them is my daughter.

LUNSFORD: I hope you rot in hell and I hope you get the death penalty and I hope you can find it somewhere in you to be a man and stand up and take your punishment.


KING: We're back. Mark Geragos remains with us in Los Angeles, the noted defense attorney. In Miami is Stacey Honowitz, the well- known prosecutor. Joining us here in New York, Mickey Sherman, defense attorney. His clients have included Michael Skakel. And Lisa Bloom, Court TV news anchor and commentator, co-anchor of "Bloom & Politan: Open Court." Court TV will have live coverage of the trial of Jessica Lunsford's accused killer, John Couey. And staying with us in Los Angeles is Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, the well-known jury consultant.

Let's bring you up to date with a synopsis here of what the defendant in this case previously had to say in a confession mode, which will not be admitted in court. Watch.


COUEY: Yeah. It was like, you know, it was like three days or something like that she stayed in the closet and I was feeding her. You know, I wouldn't let her starve, gave her water and stuff like that.

I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it. Buried her. (inaudible). Plastic bag, plastic baggies.

DETECTIVE: Was she dead already?

COUEY: No. She was still alive. I buried her alive.

DETECTIVE: Where's her dolphin at?

COUEY: In there buried with her.

DETECTIVE: In the bag with her?

COUEY: Yes, sir. I let her keep it. She wanted to take it with it.

DETECTIVE: John, would you take a lie detector test for us?

COUEY: I guess. I want a lawyer.

DETECTIVE: I'm just asking. I'm just asking. Would you? I'm not saying now, I'm just saying would you.

COUEY: I said I would. I just want to talk to a lawyer. I want a lawyer here present. I want to talk to a lawyer. I mean, if people are trying to accuse something I didn't do, I didn't do it. I ain't gonna, you know.


KING: We're back. Lisa Bloom just said she doesn't think the police made a mistake.

BLOOM: I think they were wrong constitutionally, but not wrong morally, Larry. A 9-year-old girl was missing. Possibly buried alive. Possibly still alive at the time they're asking this guy questions. They have a strong suspicion he's the guy that did it.

Now, he does invoke his right to an attorney. They keep asking him questions after that. Where is Jessica? Where is Jessica? Ultimately, he says where she is buried. They immediately go out there and find her. Unfortunately, she's dead at that point.

They knew that the confession that came after he invoked his right to an attorney was not going to come in at trial, but they decided to continue asking the questions, because they thought they might be saving a girl's life. You tell me that's wrong?

KING: Constitution, then, doesn't -- it don't mean anything?

BLOOM: It means it's not coming in at trial. That's what the judge ruled. That's the appropriate ruling. But they didn't beat the guy. They didn't put stakes under his fingernails. A 9-year-old girl was missing. The whole country was looking for her.

MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's the same as if they beat the confession out of him.

BLOOM: No, it isn't the same. They asked him questions.

SHERMAN: Bottom line is it doesn't come into evidence. And that's -- but I understand what you're saying. And I appreciate what you're saying.

BLOOM: What if they had found her still alive after that?

SHERMAN: Then more power to them. But if you're going to do that, you're going to roll the dice. You've got to swallow the bitter pill that you're losing that confession.


BLOOM: They've swallowed that. They have swallowed that.

KING: And you agree the judge made the correct decision?

BLOOM: The judge made the right call, but I think the police did the right thing too.

KING: Mr. Geragos, what do you make of what Ms. Bloom has to say?

GERAGOS: How can you argue with that? I mean, they were looking for her. I don't think at that point that they cared, because they had a pretty good idea of what kind of a case they had put together already. People keep talking about this, but in terms of whether or not this is a linchpin, if -- and I don't know because I haven't seen the evidence -- but if the evidence is what the prosecution claims that it is and what they've leaked out there in terms of -- and what's not been leaked but -- through pretrial motions, this case, with or without a confession, would appear to be a strong prosecution case.

That having been said, the question is, should they have put this confession out into the commerce so that the prospective jurors hear it? I think that that was the mistake. I mean, they could have closed and done a sealed hearing on the confession and not released that, or delayed releasing it until after the trial. You would have solved, I think, one of the problems that's built in here, which is whether or not the jury veneer pool has been tainted.

KING: Stacey Honowitz, if you were the prosecutor in this case, would you be mad at the police?

HONOWITZ: No, absolutely not. You have to remember something, Larry. These guys weren't born yesterday. They're seasoned detectives. Everybody keeps saying this is law 101. Don't you think they know that? There was a purpose, a method to the madness, if you want to say that. They thought that maybe, just maybe she would still be alive and they wanted to get to her.

So the fact that the confession is out, it's done. And thank God there was other pieces of evidence in this case, overwhelming evidence hopefully, that's going to convict this guy.

KING: What, Jo-Ellan, what if they lose the case? The state.

DIMITRIUS: What if they lose the case and they come back, the jury comes back with a not guilty?

KING: Uh-huh.

DIMITRIUS: Well, that's always a possibility.

KING: You think there would be anger at the police? Hey, anything's possible.

DIMITRIUS: No, no, no. There won't be...

GERAGOS: I don't think -- there's not going to be anger at the police. Trust me. If they come back not guilty, the anger is going to be directed at the judge and at the law that says that it has to be excluded.


BLOOM: But you know, there's overwhelming evidence in this case. There's two other confessions that are going to come in.


HONOWITZ: And the DNA evidence.


BLOOM: And the fact that he fled the jurisdiction immediately, changed his appearance, and he talked to a number of people about this.

KING: Mickey -- hold it -- Mickey, would this be a tough defense? SHERMAN: Yes. It's a very tough defense. I mean, even if they have no confessions, nothing, you just look at the guy. The moral outrage generated by the killing of this girl by anybody is enough to backfill any lapses of evidence.

But the problem I have is that this kind of decision, which is the right decision, we all agree with that, gives all of us, the criminal justice people, as we are, a bad name. This is where we hear that everyone gets off by a technicality. It's an aberration. It's an absolute aberration.

BLOOM: No, that's not true.

HONOWITZ: That's not true. That's not true.

SHERMAN: That people get off by a technicality ...


HONOWITZ: Mickey, there was a reason for -- I mean, when the public knows...

KING: One at a time.

HONOWITZ: ... what the reason is -- when the public knows what the reason is, that they were may be trying to save this girl's life, I don't think you're going to hear people walking around saying, oh, it's another technicality.

SHERMAN: Unless he's found not guilty.

HONOWITZ: There was a reason why this was going on.

SHERMAN: Unless he's found -- if he's found not guilty, they're going to have pitchforks and torches to get those police officers.

DIMITRIUS: Larry, the other group that will be found at fault for this is the jury itself. And if in fact, this jury comes back with a not guilty, people will say oh, my God, was this actually tried in Los Angeles?

KING: So now you've just put a taint on a prospective juror. What am I going to do if I don't think they proved it? They're going to kill me.


BLOOM: The defense is going to blame the media if he's found guilty, right, Mark?

GERAGOS: Well, I can guarantee you that the defense probably has already raised that issue.

BLOOM: It's always the media's fault. It's not her blood on his mattress, for example. GERAGOS: Well, listen, Lisa, if there is a situation here where they have problems in jury selection, which they've already had, then one of the solutions would have been to have sealed the hearing on the confession and delayed it.

BLOOM: Just one little problem, though. We have a First Amendment in this country. That's why we don't have the British system.

GERAGOS: Right, the First Amendment...

BLOOM: We have transparency in all parts of our government, including the courts. You know, the public is (inaudible) by the state.

GERAGOS: And the First Amendment is...

BLOOM: They're going to watch the trial on Court TV. They have that right, don't they?

GERAGOS: Lisa, they have the right to watch the trial, and they've got the right to watch the evidence that comes into the trial. That isn't what the problem is. The problem is finding people who haven't been tainted by evidence that's not in the trial. That's where the First Amendment gives out.

SHERMAN: And we don't want a book deal.

BLOOM: No, it's not just that.


KING: Let me get a break. We'll pick that right -- we'll be right back. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the early morning hours, somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30, we recovered Jessica.

MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER: I love everybody for helping, for supporting, for even talking about it. But Jessie's home now, and she's right here with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I love her, and I always have, and I always will.




JEFF DAWSY, SHERIFF, CITRUS COUNTY, FLORIDA: I will tell you that if I had the decision today to who I would send to interview John Couey, I would not change my decision. Those were two excellent investigators. They did not do anything deliberately or maliciously to violate John Couey's rights.


KING: Stacey Honowitz, is there a danger if we listen to that articulate statement by the sheriff that other police will start now saying, I know you asked for a lawyer but I'm not going to give it to you?

HONOWITZ: Well, you always run the risk when one person sees something like that. But you hope that these detectives are well trained, they know what's going on, they can assess their own situation they're involved in, and make a decision.

And like we said before, these detectives made a decision, a conscious decision in this case, to try to find this little girl. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out. The confession got tossed. But we have overwhelming evidence and hopefully he's going to get convicted.

KING: You want to comment?

SHERMAN: I don't know that there's overwhelming evidence. We haven't seen the evidence. Hopefully, there is. Believe me, I'm rooting for the prosecution here. I'll lose my defense lawyer's card. But this man is despicable. But I just have a problem with police officers making that decision unilaterally, whether or not they did it in concert with the district attorney, I doubt. And I can understand their zeal and their hatred for this man, but it just sets a bad tone and other officers may cross that line too.

KING: How do you know, Lisa, that there is a lot of evidence?

BLOOM: Because we know what the evidence is. Florida has Sunshine Laws, and this is all public information. There are several square inches of Jessica Lunsford's blood found on the mattress in his bedroom.

KING: We know that?

BLOOM: We know that. There's no innocent explanation for how that is so. We know that her body was found under the stairs in the trailer where he was living. He told at least two corrections officers that I didn't mean to kill her, which is the same as he said in the confession that is going to be suppressed.

We know that he fled the jurisdiction as a convicted sex offender immediately after she went missing and the police were looking for him and he changed his appearance. That's admissible in court as evidence of guilt. That's enough for a conviction right there, Larry.

KING: Mark Geragos, would you represent this defendant?

GERAGOS: You might as well just dispense with the trial. With the Sunshine Law and with the the idea that all of this is so overwhelming, I don't know that we need a trial. We can just have a phone-in show and convict him and...

BLOOM: ... Well, we're allowed to talk about the evidence.


GERAGOS: That's the end of that.

BLOOM: The defense, by the way, has not offered up anything in response.

GERAGOS: I mean, is the defense supposed to try?

BLOOM: She's buried with a stuffed dolphin. She was found with a stuffed dolphin. Do you really think it's possible that he didn't do it?

GERAGOS: OK, keep yelling. Keep yelling, Lisa, because that's the way you get it.

KING: The defense doesn't have to say anything, do they?

BLOOM: They don't have to say anything, but...

GERAGOS: No, the defense apparently has to try this in the media.

BLOOM: ... We're journalists. We can talk about the evidence and we can use our common sense. When the man explains in detail where she is buried and the kind of stuffed animal that will be clenched in her hands when they find her.

And that's exactly how they find her. We can use our common sense and talk about the evidence. That's what the first amendment says, that's what you're doing this show, that's why we do it on Court TV.

Now the defense may come back with some compelling evidence that somebody else did it. We'll all be back talking about that when that comes out. But as of what we know now it's ...

SHERMAN: Not as loudly.

BLOOM: ... plenty.

HONOWITZ: Hey listen Mark...

KING: ... We sure didn't think Jessica Smart was alive, did we?

BLOOM: Well look, I was never one to jump on that bandwagon and convict that guys.

KING: But a lot of others did.

BLOOM: But a lot of guys have been convicted on less forensic evidence than this guy has. And I think it's important, by the way, for people to understand how serious sex abuse against children is, what these guys look like, that they are out there, they look like the guy next door and that's what publicizing this kind of case is all about.

HONOWITZ: That's why the law is so important down here now, Larry. We all have Jessica Lunsford's law down here. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, we all have to abide by it. Now someone who's molested under the age of 11 is looking at 25 years to life in prison. We didn't have that before. They have to be electronically monitored. We didn't have that before. If someone harbors a sex offender, if someone doesn't tell a police officer a sex offender is living here, now they're going to be charged with a crime.

GERAGOS: Where does Lisa live that this guy lives next door, is my question.

BLOOM: By the way, you don't think child molesters live in every neighborhood in this country? You don't think we have an epidemic of child molesters in this country? This guy has got a long criminal history and if you think they go in the trailer parks Mark, you are sadly deluded.

GERAGOS: Where are you living? Well, those are -- pedophilia -- pedophilia -- those live everywhere. This guy is hardly the guy next door. This gentleman is hardly the gentleman who lives next door, Lisa. This guy is the poster child for every -- he's the poster child for everything that people want to invest in this.

BLOOM: You know, I'm really shocked that you think well-to-do people are not child molesters. You think they are child molesters, you are sadly mistaken.

HONOWITZ: But he does live next door to someone.

GERAGOS: Where do you live?

KING: Hold it. Let Jo-Ellan get a word in. But when we take a break and we come back, Jo-Ellan will get a word in, representing juries everywhere.

Before we go to break, let's check in with Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360," coming up at the top of the hour. What's tonight, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Larry, we're going to have the latest on the train bombings in Mumbai, India. As a result, some rail lines here in the U.S. have boosted security. And in India the death toll is still climbing. We're going to talk to a reporter for our CNN sister network in India, who was actually on his way home on a train when it was hit. We'll look at who might be behind the bombings and a possible connection with al Qaeda.

Also a developing story out of Chicago tonight. At least 120 subway passengers taken to hospitals after a subway train derailed there, leading to a fire. A lot of smoke, a lot of questions. All that and more at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. The long, hot summer. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


MATTHEW LUNSFORD, FATHER OF JESSICA LUNSFORD: And to all the parents out there, I know everybody does, but do it more often. Make sure you get that hug and kiss every day before you leave that house. I did. I got mine. You just make sure you get yours.


KING: Nothing worse than a child -- oh. Jo-Ellan, what were you going to say?

DIMITRIUS: Well you're right, Larry, there is nothing worse than a child dying and dying in the way this child did. But what I was going to say is I think something Mickey referred to earlier, which is the way this man looks.

I think that that is very problematic in that people, jurors around the country will take a look at people and decide if they are more likely guilty or not simply by the way that they look. People aren't -- men aren't necessarily blessed with the good looks of Mickey yourself, Mark, and as a result people are being judged by their looks.

And we know this in all the social science research that we've done, that defendants who are better looking tend to be the ones that get off. So I think that it's a misfortune to just say, well, he looks like he's guilty. I think that that really does a disservice to people out there who aren't so good looking.

BLOOM: What about Scott Peterson? He's a pretty good-looking guy.

KING: Hold on, you interrupted.

SHERMAN: There's a likability factor too. I always say that a criminal trial is not that different from the class election for fifth grade. If you like the person, you've got a leg up. Same with the lawyer.

KING: Wouldn't you agree, Stacey, how a defendant looks matters?

HONOWITZ: You don't want to think that way, but I don't know, I've convicted some pretty good-looking guys.

KING: Logical.

HONOWITZ: So I don't know how that goes. But I think jurors take everything into account. You know, you hope that a jury's not sitting there saying he looks like a pedophile, er go he is a pedophile.

And so quite often when we are picking juries you will ask that question. If that person sitting there is neatly dressed and looks really nice, does that mean that a crime isn't committed? And the other way. But you know, it's common sense to think that people do walk into a courtroom, they take one look at the defendant, and they can make some judgment.

KING: Mark Geragos, I asked you if you would defend this defendant. Would you?

GERAGOS: He's ably represented right now.

KING: That's not the question.

GERAGOS: And I'm engaged in trial.

KING: I'm now going to be the judge in the case. You're instructed to answer that.

GERAGOS: Can't hear you. It must be my earpiece.

KING: I gather you would not defend him or you would do the old Edward Bennett Williams rule, we may turn down a client but never because of its notoriety?

GERAGOS: I don't think that I've ever turned down a client because of their notoriety. So I'll leave it at that.

KING: Do you do defense work, Lisa?

BLOOM: No. I didn't do criminal defense work. I did civil work.

KING: Your mother does defense work.

BLOOM: She's a civil attorney. She represents victims. I worked with her, I represented victims. I would never represent an accused child molester.

KING: She would not represent him?

BLOOM: Absolutely not.

KING: How about if you thought he was innocent?

BLOOM: Well that's different. We only took cases we believed in. And we were different than many lawyers in that regard.

KING: But if you believed him, you would defend an accused molester?

BLOOM: If I believed that he were innocent, yes.

KING: This is a difficult defense, isn't it, Mickey?

SHERMAN: It's near impossible. Again, forget about the fact that so much of this is out there. The confession which is being suppressed by the judge rightfully is still on every network. You know, we can cite it verbatim. KING: How would you, Jo-Ellan, pick the jury for the defendant? What would you want? Twelve molesters.

DIMITRIUS: Well, what I know, what has been shared about information that is relevant to the case, I think quite honestly as an attorney what you do is to evaluate whether it's a guilt phase case or a penalty phase case.

I think that if his lawyers are looking at this reasonably they're going to say this is a penalty phase case. So as a jury consultant I would say what you need to do is to evaluate people's attitudes about the death penalty and to look for those people who are going to have problems themselves personally giving the death penalty to this man.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our -- hold it. We'll be back with our remaining moments right after this.



GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Today with great pride I will sign the Jessica Lunsford Act into law, House bill 1877, as you know, strengthens penalties for offenders who commit sex crimes against children. Florida has some of the toughest laws in the country as it relates to sexual predators and sexual offenders, and this bill will make our laws even tougher.


KING: For more information on the law, by the way, you can contact the For more -- a lot of information on Jessica's law, Does the change of venue matter, Stacey?

HONOWITZ: Yes, well, in this case they were hoping that these jurors a couple counties over, right outside Orlando, really didn't hear as much coverage that's been going on.

I guess we're finding out now through jury selection that what they thought was really happening didn't really take place that they did hear about it. You know, the trial is going to go back into Citrus County, though, once this jury is picked. So I think they had to get out of there in the very beginning.

KING: Mark Geragos, do you expect a long trial?

GERAGOS: No, I don't think so. Long by whose standards? Not by California's standards. This will be the length of a preliminary hearing in California.

KING: Jo-Ellan, when's the jury going to be picked?

DIMITRIUS: I think the jury from everything I've heard will be picked by Thursday and probably openings on Friday. KING: Lisa Bloom, does Court TV go wire to wire with this?

BLOOM: Gavel to gavel coverage as soon as the evidence begins. Opening statements all the way through closings and penalty phase if we get to that point.

KING: So therefore you don't interrupt any other trial -- what if another trial you've been covering?

BLOOM: Well, we do have to take commercial breaks, Larry, but other than that, no.

KING: No, let's say you're been covering a trial and it's going into its final two weeks.

BLOOM: No, this is going to be our priority as soon as it begins. This is a high-profile case. People are interested.

KING: Is this the kind of case, Mickey, that a lot of lawyers talk about?

SHERMAN: Everyone talks about this, and especially now law enforcement will talk about it because perhaps their error, their choice may have impacted -- but it's not a trial. It's a long guilty plea. That's what it is.

BLOOM: A slow plea.

SHERMAN: It's a slow guilty plea.

KING: This is not -- is this plea-able?

SHERMAN: No. Only by a district attorney who doesn't want to run again.

KING: No district attorney's going to sit down and let's work a deal here?

SHERMAN: No. Not unless...

KING: Life in prison.

SHERMAN: ... they want to commit suicide physically and politically.

KING: Thank you all very much. Before we go a final reminder. Tomorrow night, Dan Rather in his first live in-depth interview since the abrupt end of his legendary career at CBS News. He'll answer your e-mails. So if you have a question for Dan Rather, e-mail us at We'll also take phone calls. That's Dan Rather, tomorrow night live. We'll be back in Los Angeles for that. Right now, let's turn things over down the hall a bit to Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360" and big news tonight, Anderson.


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