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Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe Turn to Private Judge

Aired September 6, 2006 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, music icon Michael Jackson in court again. This time, it`s a secret proceeding, a highly incriminating child custody showdown. No way to avoid airing Michael Jackson`s dirty laundry in open court, but hold on! There may be no open court. A-list celebrities and other wealthy litigants can get what`s called a private judge. I don`t think the Constitution mentioned anything about special private judges for the wealthy, and public courtrooms and public judges for the rest of us!
And tonight, breaking developments in a case that sent shockwaves thorough the U.S. real estate business, the stabbing death of a Texas beauty, a realtor found dead inside a model home she was showing for sale. Tonight: Is there an arrest?

But first tonight, Michael Jackson back in court.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s a custody battle coming up with Debbie Rowe. She has pressed forward. She wants to get custody, or at least some visitation, with the two oldest children, who, by the way, don`t even know that she is their mother.


GRACE: Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Is Lady Justice really blind? Do the rich, the elite, the powerful, the A-list celebrities get a private judge, a judge they pay for out of their own pocket to the tune of at least $550 an hour, where the rest of us take a crap shoot and get whoever`s assigned to our case?

Out to Jane Velez-Mitchell, investigative reporter. How many jurisdictions in this country have private judges? And how rich do you have to be to get a private judge on your case?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Nancy, this is a wild story. It is right out of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Let me explain. As you well know...


GRACE: ... famous and in court.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Exactly. The A-listers. This is how they do it. Of course, we all know that Michael Jackson and his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, have been involved a long-running custody dispute over the two children she had for him, Prince Michael and Paris. Of course, he has raised the children. Well, now, finally, that custody battle is in a regular, old-fashioned public courtroom, and today the judge said, Michael, you`re going to have to pay $60,000 in your ex-wife`s legal fees.

But the controversy is, until recently, they had been using a private judge. Now, most people in America don`t know there are such things as private judges and private trials. A couple of years ago, I got a tour of the private trial facility associated with the Jackson case, and it absolutely blew my mind. You walk in, it`s not just coffee and pastries and candy, but each room -- and there are many conference rooms -- is decorated with very expensive antiques, with each having a different cultural theme. They went around the world and collected antiques, so you have the Italian room, which has Italian ball masks. It`s absolutely astounding.

GRACE: Pastries, Italian vases. You know, where I practiced law, they actually bolted the furniture to the ground. I`m checking my little pocket Constitution here, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and I don`t see anything in here about rich, wealthy people, litigants, getting one standard of justice and others getting another.

To Brian Oxman, Jackson family attorney. Why is Michael Jackson using a private judge? And you know, Brian, very often, private judges forget to file the documents for public view. Everything remains private.

BRIAN OXMAN, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: That`s right, Nancy. It is -- because of Michael`s life and the commotion which surrounds, it`s absolutely chaos in most of the court proceedings where he is involved. As a result, both he and Debbie Rowe decided that they would do a private judge, which amounts to a private arbitration, very traditional in our court system and something which results in them keeping their dispute a matter of their own private nature and not letting the public know about it.

GRACE: You know, Jane Velez-Mitchell, investigative reporter, I totally disagree with everything Brian Oxman said. You can`t ask a single litigant in a felony trial if they think chaos isn`t going on. Nobody`s case is more important than someone else`s. I don`t care if you`re a mega- star with a million dollars, your case is not more important than anybody else`s.

Liz, do we have our "Star Chamber" ready? Let`s go out to the "Star Chamber." Now, these are three very well-respected judges that have left the bench. All of them tried major cases in court.

To Gino Brogdon, former judge of the Fulton Superior court. This guy has heard everything from shoplifting to criminal -- murder cases to anti- trust arguments. Gino, question. Have you heard of a private judge that the litigants themselves pay to hear the case?

GINO BROGDON, FORMER JUDGE, FULTON SUPERIOR COURT: Not at all. This is a very weird device. And it`s very scary because it allows people to judge shop. And it plays into the very public paranoia about you get as much justice as you can afford.

GRACE: To Stephen Wellinghorst (ph), former judge in Passaic County. You know, this theory that it is dangerous -- why? Why is it dangerous where you pay for the judge out of your own back pocket?

STEPHEN WELLINGHORST, FORMER JUDGE, PASSAIC COUNTY: Well, Nancy, the perfect example is the Michael Jackson case. You have a man that`s worth millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, and you have a wife -- an ex-wife who`s not worth really that much at all. It`s pretty easy to see which person is going to have the more influence inside that private courtroom.

GRACE: Also joining us tonight, another former judge straight off the bench, Robert Damiano (ph). Sir, thank you for being with us. What are the inherent dangers in rich, wealthy, and elite litigants getting a different sort of judge than the rest of us get?

ROBERT DAMIANO, FORMER JUDGE: Well, Nancy, the perception is going to be that the wealthy litigants will be able to sway in some way the private judge, obviously. And the litigants who will be trying the cases through the normal court system obviously won`t have that type of benefit. But again, that`s perception. Some of these judges, or all of these judges, are retired. They have experience. And they try these cases basically according to the rules of court and try to render a fair and even decision.

GRACE: Going out to Jane Velez-Mitchell and Brian Oxman. It`s really interesting -- to both of you, and I will start with you, Brian Oxman. Why is it Debbie Rowe now wants the children? Why is there a custody battle happening now? We know she gave up her parental rights. She rarely sees the children. I`m not saying Jackson`s the greatest father, but why is she suddenly back in the fray?

OXMAN: There was a court decision handed down just a couple months ago by the California Court of Appeal which says that Debbie Rowe`s rights to the children was improperly terminated. This took place back in 2001. And the Court of Appeals said that you cannot terminate the children`s rights to their parent. There was no investigation by the county authorities. And in addition, most important, the child didn`t have an attorney. And so the Court of Appeals reversed that decision. Debbie Rowe`s parental rights were reinstated. So what we are now having is the aftermath of that. She is seeking custody or visitation, which is more accurate, of the children.

GRACE: Wait a minute. Why were her parental rights terminated? Who terminated her parental rights, Brian Oxman?

OXMAN: Under the Court of Appeal decision, which recited all of the facts which went forward in this case, she had filed a petition, where she said that she wanted to give the children to Michael. And that`s exactly what the Court of Appeal said she could not do.

GRACE: Take a listen to Debbie Rowe herself.


DEBBIE ROWE, MICHAEL JACKSON`S EX-WIFE: My kids don`t call me Mom because I don`t want them to. They`re not -- they`re Michael`s children. It`s not that they`re not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father. I believe that there are people who should be parents, and he`s one of them.


GRACE: That`s a very stark contrast to Rowe`s position today. Rowe testified in this 2003 Fox interview to Michael Jackson`s fitness as a father.

Back out to Jane Velez-Mitchell and Brian Oxman. Jane, it`s amazing to me that she gets -- no offense -- I mean, this is a tough decision, who`s going to be the best parent, Debbie Rowe, who took an $8 million and a house payoff or Michael Jackson, as a parent. Jury`s out on that one.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s so awful. I mean, imagine these kids, with both of these parents. I mean, this is a woman who gave her children away, went to this private judge and said, I don`t want them. I think I would be an intrusion. Now, I`m around, I`m available if they ever wanted to say hello or need me to donate a kidney, but here are my parental rights.

Then, after the molestation scandal broke, she decides, Maybe I want these kids, after all. Then she testifies, theoretically for the prosecution, in Michael Jackson`s criminal trial, but when she takes the stand, she acts more like a defense witness and makes ga-ga eyes at Michael Jackson. Everybody wondered, was there some kind of deal under the table? But apparently not because this custody battle continues on.

GRACE: Let`s go to the lines. Jameel in Georgia. Hi, Jameel.


GRACE: what`s your question, dear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, this is Jameel, and I would like to how does Michael Jackson get a private judge when he is supposedly millions of dollars in debt?

GRACE: You know what, Jameel? Excellent question. I don`t know how anyone gets a private judge, to start with. Plus, we know he owes tons and tons of money.

Let`s take a look at other people that have used so-called private judges in the past. They`re all wealthy. They`re all celebrity A-listers. Jessica Simpson and her ex-husband, Nick Lachey, used a private judge. Eddie Murphy divorced his wife -- private judge. Rod Stewart, his former wife, Rachel (ph), private judge. There are many, many more. Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt -- private judge. Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards -- private judge. Renee Zellweger, Kenny Chesney -- private judge. The list goes on and on.

How come it is, Greg Skordas, defense attorney, we don`t hear of any regular people like you and me paying $550 an hour for a private judge? Did you hear Velez-Mitchell talk about those chambers, Italian vases, pastries? Are you kidding me? I had to pay to get a cup of coffee in the judge`s chambers. They have a little styrofoam cup. And if you wanted a cup of coffee, you darn well better pay, OK? And it was bad coffee, too.

GREG SKORDAS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And you can`t even take it in the courtroom.

GRACE: No way.

SKORDAS: You`ve got to leave it downstairs in the cafeteria. You know, one thing that`s important about these private judges is that both sides pay the fee to the judge. Both sides split the fee equally, and...

GRACE: Oh, please!

SKORDAS: ... both sides agree on the judge.

GRACE: Liz, let me see Skordas right now! There he is. Did you just say both sides pay the judge? Do you think that Rowe is paying and Michael Jackson`s not paying?

SKORDAS: No, no, no. I think both sides are paying equally the price of the judge. She`s got her $8 million and her Beverly Hills mansion, and Michael Jackson`s got whatever he`s got.

GRACE: If she didn`t money, why do you think she`s filing a suit?


GRACE: She doesn`t want those kids back.

SKORDAS: No, she doesn`t want these kids back. And what she`s claiming is that, Gee, I didn`t want them back. I was ready to give them up, but he had this sexual assault trial coming, and maybe I ought to look after my kids, after all. She probably wants more money, but the private judge has to be agreed on by both sides, so she agreed on it. Michael and his attorneys agreed on it. And they actually agreed -- they have to, by California statute -- on who the judge was and how much the judge would be compensated.

GRACE: Out to Jane Velez-Mitchell, investigative reporter. Now, we`re arguing that she may not want the children just because she`s taking them, giving them back, taking them, giving them back. But what -- how are the children treated? Are they in school? Where are they? Do we even know where they are right now?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, last I heard, they are in Ireland, living in a castle with their dad, Michael Jackson, who is visiting Ireland from Bahrain, which has been his home base since he left the United States shortly after his acquittal on the criminal charges. So this is where they are.

And I have to tell you, I have spoken with some bodyguards who have been up close and personal with those kids, and the amazing thing -- and this is a tribute, I think, to children -- they say these kids are remarkably well-balanced, very articulate, very smart, and seem to be enjoying their lives. In other words, they don`t seem to be horribly traumatized. Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss, and children have a tremendous ability to bounce back from anything.

GRACE: To Brian Oxman, Jackson family attorney. We`re throwing around the theory that she doesn`t really want these children. Let`s just get right down to it. Are they his biological children? Are these two kids, two out of three he had with Debbie Rowe -- are they his biological children?

OXMAN: Yes, they are, Nancy. They are his biological children. They were born with Michael Jackson being the father and Debbie Rowe being the mother. And the controversy over all of this is that these people don`t want their laundry...

GRACE: How do you know that? These two never spent a single night together. They never cohabited together. She was his dental hygienist! I mean, according to me, she went above and beyond the duty of a hygienist.

OXMAN: How do I know that?


OXMAN: Because, number one, that is what Michael has told me. Number two, it`s what my eyes tell me when I look at them. I look at their eyes, and they have a particular almond shape to them which is passed down by...

GRACE: I thought their eyes were blue.

OXMAN: The shape of the eyes is this almond-shape eyes. Latoya has it. Janet has it. And these kids have it.

GRACE: Question, Brian. I thought their eyes were blue.

OXMAN: Their color is blue, but my grandfather`s eyes were also blue, mine are brown. I`m not a geneticist...


GRACE: ... colored contacts.

OXMAN: I`m not a geneticist, and I`m not a physician, and they do not wear contacts. But what I can tell you...

GRACE: So Michael Jackson`s children have blue eyes, and you are insisting they`re his biological children.

OXMAN: From everything that I can see and from what everyone in this family has told me, they are his children.

GRACE: OK. Next question. Did he formally adopt them, or how did that work?

OXMAN: No, they were his children born while he was married to Debbie Rowe. Under California law, any time a child is born during a marriage, there is an absolute legal presumption that they belong to the husband, as the father. And that presumption cannot be overturned under any circumstances.

GRACE: Was it a real marriage or a fake marriage, Brian? You`re the family attorney. I mean, did they ever live together? Did they wake up and have coffee together, go, Bye, honey, when they left for the studio and the dental hygienist office?

OXMAN: I know what Debbie Rowe has said. She`s said to me, she`s said it in open court up in Santa Maria. She has been so enamored and in love with Michael her entire life. She is a nice girl. The problem is, they don`t get along, and that is what happens in two thirds of all marriages, and this is just one more of those kinds...

GRACE: Did they ever...

OXMAN: ... of marriages.

GRACE: ... together, Brian?

OXMAN: They had relations together. You betcha they did.

GRACE: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! I didn`t say have sex. I said, Did they live together as man and wife?

OXMAN: Yes, they did.

GRACE: When?

OXMAN: They had several years that they were together as a husband and wife.

GRACE: Where?

OXMAN: They traveled the world together. They were married overseas. And they have been friends for the longest time, even though they`ve been divorced.

GRACE: OK, what was their domicile? What was their joint marital domicile?

OXMAN: Michael has always had Neverland, until he declared that Bahrain was his domicile, and that`s where Debbie was to be domiciled. They lived in many different places around the world.

GRACE: So you`re telling me Debbie Rowe lived with him in Neverland.

OXMAN: She had been there with him, correct. Yes.

GRACE: Lived with him?

OXMAN: I can`t give you these kinds of details, Nancy, because that`s the whole point of this kind of private judging. They don`t want their laundry and their private details...

GRACE: Like the rest of us!

OXMAN: ... discussed in public. It`s not like the rest of us. There are other cases...

GRACE: It is like the rest of us!

OXMAN: There are other cases where we have private judges, very great anti-trust cases...

GRACE: OK. You know, Brian...

OXMAN: ... trade secret cases...

GRACE: Where?

OXMAN: All these have private judges.

GRACE: What other jurisdiction in this country has private judges that you pay for out of your pocket?

OXMAN: The federal courts have the Arbitration Act. The United Nations...

GRACE: That`s not a judge! Arbitration is not a judge.

OXMAN: It most certainly is. These -- in California, there`s over 500 private judges. Six...

GRACE: What other jurisdiction other than California has private judges, the litigants pay for out of their pocket?

OXMAN: New York.

GRACE: They pay off the judges!

OXMAN: New York.


OXMAN: Texas.

GRACE: Absolutely not!

OXMAN: Missouri.


OXMAN: Minnesota.


OXMAN: These places...

GRACE: No, they don`t!

OXMAN: ... have arbitration proceedings with private judges.

GRACE: They don`t have private judges! Arbitration is not the same thing as a private judge in court. Absolutely not!

OXMAN: It is -- Nancy, it`s one and the same.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Jackson is one of the most brilliant entertainers in the world, and I`d like to correct some of you who`ve said that his day is over because it`s not. If Mr. Jackson decides to come back out here, he will be greeted very positively. In fact, I`m sure there are a whole bunch of people looking forward to that when the time comes.


GRACE: I know it`s really hard to believe, but Michael Jackson`s back in court again.

Back out to Brian Oxman, the Jackson family attorney. So you`re telling me a private judge that litigants pay out of their pocket is the same as an arbitration judge?

OXMAN: That is correct. This group that`s handling this case is Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service. They`re called JAMS. They are in 22 different states.

GRACE: OK. Hold on. Let`s go to "Star Chamber." These are well- respected judges that have come off the bench. First to Gino Brogdon. Judge, I think you`re going to agree with me. You`ve been in federal court many, many times, as well as in the bench in the state and superior court. An arbitration is not the same as a private judge, having a judge hear your case.

BROGDON: If it was, Nancy, they would do arbitration. This is very different. To have a judge that you have hired, that you have personally chosen, is very different in terms of the legitimacy, public perception of the legitimacy, and frankly, the way an appellate court may look at it. To have a private judge on your case is different from arbitration.

GRACE: To Stephen Wellinghorst, also a judge off the Passaic County bench. Stephen, it`s not the same. An arbitration is absolutely not the same as a trial or a proceeding in front of a judge. Now, Stephen, in a lot of jurisdictions, you have what`s called sitting judges. They are judges that have retired that are on the county payroll or the government payroll. They don`t play favorites in any way, and they`ve had a long and rich history on the bench. They can come in occasionally. Judge emeritus is what they`re called.

WELLINGHORST: Right. We also have a system where I`m from, in my jurisdiction. They call them retired judges who are on callback, which means that the chief justice of the state supreme court can recall a judge and bring them back into the system, and they`re reappointed on what`s basically a yearly basis. And they can handle cases, but they`re in the court system. It`s not a private matter.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If, say, Debbie Rowe gets partial custody of those two older children, if he doesn`t come back, how will she ever enforce that? This is a man who is spinning out of control, and I just don`t see him pulling it together.


GRACE: Michael Jackson headed back to court. This time, he is locked in a legal struggle with his ex-wife Debbie Rowe. And guess what? He has been paying a California judge, a private judge, they`re called, out of his hip pocket. He`s not in court like the rest of us on this divorce.

Out to Jane Velez-Mitchell, investigative reporter. It`s my understanding that the documents in the case weren`t making their way to the public document, either.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re absolutely right, Nancy. This is one of the problems with these so-called private trials and private judges. Theoretically, they`re supposed to have public access and you`re supposed to keep court files, but as a practical matter, how can you ever attend a hearing if you don`t know when it`s going to happen? So it`s kind of like being trapped in a Kafka novel.

GRACE: Out to Mary in Pennsylvania. Hi, Mary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. How are you?

GRACE: I`m great, dear. What`s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If justice is blind, how come it`s not when it comes to the rich and famous?

GRACE: You know, I have asked that question so many, many times. To Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a veteran attorney. What do you think about this whole private judge business as it relates to Michael Jackson?

LIDA RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, this is nothing but limousine justice. If you can afford to ride in a limousine, then you can afford to buy yourself a private judge. Nancy, this is a disaster waiting to happen. It is creating two systems of justice, one for the rich and the one for the rest of us.

GRACE: I guess it`s not so much where you`re going, Lida, it`s how you get there. Jackson gets there in a limo. The rest of us, a bus.



UNKNOWN FEMALE: His children were taken out of this country, perhaps with their passports not in order. The passports were actually in the hands of a family court judge and that they really should not have left this country. So how then do you bring them back?

The custody issue, all the lawsuits that are pending, I think he`s made some really monumentally bad decisions in the past. And now he`s got to pay the piper.


GRACE: Why does Michael Jackson get to pay a private judge to hear his trial custody proceedings? Why are the documents in that custody proceeding kept secret? Somehow they didn`t make their way to the public docket.

Let`s go out to the line. Sarah in Nebraska. Hi, Sarah.

SARAH: Hello. I work with families whose children have been placed in foster care for various reasons. And my question is why were Michael Jackson`s children never removed from his custody, even temporarily, while he was being charged with child molestation?

GRACE: Very interesting. You know, Gloria Allred actually filed an action to have the children placed in custody. What, Elly (ph)?

ELLY (PH): After the baby dangling incident.

GRACE: Right, after the baby dangling incident. Thank you. And nothing ever came of it. Someone has to have standing, right, Dr. Patricia Sanders?

DR. PATRICIA SANDERS: Yes, there has to be neglect that is shown to be evident.

GRACE: Dangling the baby off a balcony doesn`t qualify?

SANDERS: In my book, it does. But legally, it may not.

GRACE: If they`re not in school or not being tutored, does that qualify?

SANDERS: It can be educational neglect, but I understand these kids, according to the Jackson camp, were home tutored.

GRACE: OK, question. You`re the doctor in this bunch. What`s the deal? What`s the reality regarding recessive genes and blue eye vs. brown eye that we were arguing with Brian Oxman about, Dr. Sanders?

SANDERS: Well, I`m not a geneticist, but I think that unless there are blue-eyed people within the first and second generation of Jackson`s immediate family, then it`s virtually impossible for him to have a biological child that has blue eyes.

GRACE: Brian?

OXMAN: Nancy, Michael has a very interesting history and background, where he is partially Chinese, about one-fourth Chinese. He is also one- fourth American Indian. So he has these genes in his background.

GRACE: You`ve just named two -- we`re talking about blue eyes, Brian. You`re not helping the argument.

OXMAN: I am not a geneticist, Nancy, nor am I going to tell you that I am a doctor to tell whether the children are or are not his.

GRACE: But you said they are.


GRACE: I`m talking about the legality.

OXMAN: From what I see, they are his kids.

GRACE: If they are not his biological children and they have not been adopted, he`s not going to have a leg to stand on, if it`s challenged in court. Is that the document he is trying to keep secret, Brian Oxman?

OXMAN: Not by any stretch of the imagination.

GRACE: Have you seen the document?

OXMAN: These are his kids.

GRACE: Have you seen the documents?

OXMAN: They are born during marriage and there is a legal presumption which is irrebuttable in the state of California that children born during marriage belong to the father as the biological father. They can scream, scratch and do whatever they want. They cannot get out of that legal presumption.

GRACE: Brian, you should really be a lawyer, because the way you just put that on me was great. But my question was the documents they`re hiding. Do they have anything to do with who is the biological father of these children? Just a simple question, yes, no, maybe.

OXMAN: No, the answer is no. They do not have anything to do with the biological nature of these children.

GRACE: Well, what do they have to do with? What are they?

OXMAN: The main problem is finances. Last year, 10,000 cases in the state of California were referred by the court system to the JAMS, the judicial arbitration medication service, because people wanted it private.

GRACE: I asked you about the documents.

OXMAN: Michael wants the finances private and he doesn`t want them disclosed all over the world and he has a right to do that.

GRACE: You mean like to the IRS?

OXMAN: That`s not even a problem or a consideration.


OXMAN: It`s to the world which is the problem.

GRACE: Let`s go back to the star chamber. I want to go to a former judge out of Passaic County, Judge Robert Damiano. Sir, again, thank you for being with us.

On our star chamber, these are judges that have not only been trial lawyers, but have sat through the thick and the thin in the battle in the courtroom. Not a bunch of talking heads on this show.

Judge Damiano, when it comes to arbitration, when it comes to withholding documents from the public file, the public docket, what is your opinion?

JUDGE ROBERT DAMIANO: Well, an arbitration, Nancy, although the procedure is similar to a trial, there are many, many differences. As you know, in the litigation process, the discovery process allows all of that documentation to become public because it`s a public forum.

In arbitration, the litigants have an opportunity to keep a lot of that private. And that`s how we end up with these people, I think, selecting the arbitration or the mediation system. They can control both the timing and the publicity.

GRACE: To Jane Velez-Mitchell, investigative reporter. Isn`t it true that because the Jackson documents never made their way to where they were supposed to, this case has landed back in public court?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The fact is, Nancy, that some of the key documents are simply missing from the file. And when this case was kicked back to the regular, old-fashioned public court, the judge said, "Hey, you guys have got to put these key documents," like Debbie Rowe`s motion to terminate her parental rights back in 2001, "you have got to put the documents back in the file so I can see them."

It`s absolutely astounding that you have a case file with key, key documents absolutely nowhere to be found.

GRACE: Let`s go to the line. Shawna in Alabama. Hi, Shawna.

SHAWNA: Hi, Nancy. I would like to know if regular people that get in trouble within the court of law, are they privy to a private judge?

GRACE: What about it, Lita?

LITA: Well, if you can afford a private judge, then you can have one. But regular old people like you and me cannot afford $250 to $500 an hour for these private judges, for $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 in fees just to have your case decided.

GRACE: Lita, in your jurisdiction down in Florida, are there privately paid judges that hear divorce cases, criminal cases and so forth?

LITA: Absolutely not. We do not have private judges. It`s a thing in California. It started in the early 1980s, Nancy.

GRACE: Early 1980s. How did it get started?

LITA: It started because at that time, the judges were complaining that they had too much on their plates to do with what is called discovery, which is the process of...

GRACE: Lita, no offense to you judge that are on the star chamber, but, Lita, have you heard a judge that hasn`t complained about how overworked they are?

LITA: They all complain. And the solution is to get them more help in the public process, not to give some people a pass and say, "Hey, you guys don`t want to be in this dingy public process, you go have a nice, fancy, private process where you can have your art work and your nice conference rooms and you don`t have to deal with the rest of us."

GRACE: You left out the pastries.

LITA: You know, you`re right.

GRACE: What about it, Greg Skortis (ph), agree or disagree?

SKORTIS (PH): I guess I disagree a little bit. These are people who would normally clog up the court system with a lot of time, with a lot of media, with a lot of attention.

GRACE: But wait a minute.

SKORTIS (PH): They`re saving the tax dollars. They`re saving us taxpayers.

GRACE: Clog the system? I don`t know about you, but I carry this pocket Constitution everywhere. And there`s nothing in here about a two- tiered system of justice, where some people that are wealthy or elite have a different type of judge or judiciary than the rest of us do.

Last time I looked, it is a three-pronged system with judiciary, executive and legislative. There`s not two judiciaries, Greg.

SKORTIS (PH): You`re right, you`re right. And it`s important to note...

GRACE: Whoa, that`s not like you at all. You`re giving in just like that?

SKORTIS (PH): Well, I`m not going to give in very much, because I want you to know that this does not apply at all to criminal cases, not in California, not anywhere else in the country. This is part of a civil statute.

GRACE: Well, do you have privately paid judges in Utah?

SKORTIS (PH): We don`t. We have arbitrators and mediators who are privately hired by parties. Once a matter goes to litigation, and this is how I think the other 49 states handle it, where you take it outside of the courtroom, you go to the arbitrator, you let them make a decision and then you take it back in, where the documents...

GRACE: Well, but that`s the thing, though, Greg. This isn`t outside the courtroom. This is within the court system, right, Jane Velez- Mitchell? I mean, all these documents have to be filed in the clerk`s office. This is not an arbitration deal.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. I mean, these are retired judges who hear these cases and, yes, they are paid up to $550 an hour, but they`re supposed to follow certain essential rules of law and then ultimately those files are supposed to be part of our record.

GRACE: OK, Brian Oxman, let`s get back to where the kids are now. This is all allegedly over a custody battle. But let`s just get down to it. Why now? Why is she contesting custody now? I mean, she states openly, "I don`t want the kids," therefore, him.

She got $8 million. A house was thrown in to the deal. She went away. I don`t know where Blanket, the third kid, came from, but that`s a whole other can of worms.

My question is why is she contesting now? What does she want?

OXMAN: This latest case started in 2004. If the people will remember, there was a famous incident at the Ivy Restaurant in Los Angeles, where Debbie Rowe was filmed with Michael`s former advisers. They were agitating her and, as a result, she filed this custody proceeding and there we go.

RICHELLE CAREY, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hello, I`m Richelle Carey. Here`s your HEADLINE PRIME news break. We`re following a standoff at a high school on a Navajo reservation in northeastern, Arizona. A man with gun and five women with knives are holed up at the school. Officials right now don`t know if there are any hostages.

Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be fired. GOP leaders already have allowed debate on the floor, but they`re not allowing the vote and they say they stand behind Rumsfeld.

Space shuttle astronauts are getting a lesson in patience. The launch of Atlantis is pushed back again. Instead of Thursday, NASA says it won`t leave before Friday because of a problem with the shuttle`s power system.

And the statue of Rocky Balboa is returning to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. City officials approved the plan to return the statue to an area near the museum steps, the same ones Sylvester Stallone ran up in that film.

That is the news for now. Keep it here. Thanks for watching. I`m Richelle Carey.


GRACE: Everyone, right now, breaking news. Apparently, in Arizona, authorities say six armed people are holed up inside of a high school in northeastern Arizona. It is unclear right now whether the six are holding students hostage there at the high school or whether the six armed people are students themselves.

We`ll keep you updated on that. But very quickly, to headlines, Glenn Beck. Hi, friend.

GLENN BECK, CNNHN ANCHOR: Coming up, enough with the finger-pointing in Washington. It`s time to figure out how to win in Iraq. Democrats and Republicans are trying to win votes on this issue. Enough.

Also tonight, a look behind the curtain of the man who`s really running Iran. If you thought President Tom was scary, wait until you meet his boss.

And speaking of scared, find out what your college kids are really doing on campus tonight. Don`t miss it.


UNKNOWN MALE: Through forensic evidence, through witness statements, through dogged detective determination, we were able to put together a complete picture that led us in only one direction in this case and that was to this individual.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: We will miss Sarah terribly. No one will ever take the memories that we have of her from us. She was a wonderful daughter, a sister, a friend and, most of all, a mother.

UNKNOWN MALE: So we`re proud today to stand before you and say that, unequivocally, we believe we`ve got the killer in jail.


GRACE: When you hear a police spokesperson say unequivocally in a press conference, count on DNA to be found at the scene. We are talking about the so-called model home murder.

A beautiful, young Texas realtor, a mother of a young boy, found dead in a model home she was showing in an upscale community.

Out to "America`s Most Wanted," Ed Miller. Ed, what`s the latest?

ED MILLER: Well, you got it, Nancy. There definitely is a DNA link. I want to be careful with what we say because the police are very concerned. They don`t want to tamper the supposed juror pool for the upcoming trial.

But there`s a DNA link. In other words, the man that they have picked up, there was some sort of DNA link between him and the crime scene and the woman that was, unfortunately, stabbed 27 times.

GRACE: Very unusual set of circumstances. This was a very high scale community near a set of prestigious boutiques. It was out in an area that was being developed, as you can see it there, and this young lady, Sarah Ann Walker, the mother of two sons, 4 and 15, found dead, there showing this model home. Here`s what police had to say.


UNKNOWN MALE: The day of the murder, we had citizen contacts about an Asian male in a white Mustang. We took that information down. We brought in some other experts and we were able to get a composite drawing.

Two weeks ago, we released that composite drawing and that immediately tickled a nerve or a memory in the back of somebody`s mind and they called the police department. So we interviewed them and through that work, we were able to get a name.

He`s an Asian male, lived in Carrollton-North Dallas area. Actually was arrested last night in North Dallas, off of Frankfurt. But through forensic evidence, through witness statements, through dogged detective determination, we were able to put together a complete picture that led us in only one direction in this case and that was to the this individual.


GRACE: To Dr. Patricia Sanders, apparently the alleged assailant did not even know Sarah Ann Walker, but yet 27 stab wounds suggest a rage killing. How can you have such rage at someone you don`t know?

SANDERS: It can happen easily, Nancy. There are people walking this planet who are sitting on a volcanoes of rage, who have lousy impulse control, and some who even take sadistic pleasure in it.

This man has a history of committing aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping. He has a history of violence. So it might not have taken very much to set him off into a homicidal rage.

GRACE: Joining us tonight is a very special guest. Her name is Nora Almos, a real estate broker, who, upon hearing about cases just like this, has drafted a book called, "Real Estate Women: Don`t be Victims."

Welcome, Nora. Thank you for being with us. How long have you been in real estate and what are your tips?

NORA ALMOS, REAL ESTATE BROKER: I`ve been in real estate, I started my 20th year September 1st.

My tips are to, first, have the person come to your office so that you can pre-qualify them. Get all their information such as name, address, phone number, social security number, driver`s license, check stubs, W-2s.

This way we can pre-qualify them. In other words, we use a formula with all of this information to figure out how much this person can buy.

GRACE: Right. I`m not necessarily talking about what they qualify for. I`m talking about how to protect yourself, especially as a lady realtor.

ALMOS: OK, how we dress when we go show a house. Take this information down about these people. Always be alert. Go in your own car. Always ask them if they`re going to take their wife, if it`s a man calling, because that`s a big red flag if a man calls and he wants you to show him a house. You`re going to ask him if his wife or his fianc' or who is going to go with him.

GRACE: I`ve taken a look at your book called "Real Estate Women: Don`t Be Victims." With us, Nora Almos, real estate broker, 20 years, has created safety tips, tips like when an unfamiliar client calls, have them come to the office first.

Make sure your colleagues know where you`re going. Go in separate cars. Do a dry run of the property. Wear comfortable, loose fitting outfit. Don`t wear jewelry. Carry pepper spray. Never show homes when it is dark or nighttime and if you can be accompanied by another, do so.

With us now, Kelly Brewer, a realtor attacked at an open house and she survived.

Kelly, when you heard about Sarah Ann Walker, it must have brought back the most horrific memories for you. What`s your advice?

KELLY BREWER, REALTOR: It did bring back terrible memories. What happened to Sarah Ann Walker was just, for lack of a better word, horrific. There`s a lot of different things that realtors out there can do.

I think there needs to be a lot more attention paid to the issue of safety realtor. It`s not a topic that has been highlighted very much.

GRACE: Kelly, when you were attacked, it was in the basement. Did you feel uneasy? Did your attacker look to you like a criminal? What tipped you off something was about to happen?

BREWER: No, not initially. When he came to the open house, he came about five minutes after the time it was supposed to end. And he presented very well groomed, very tanned, lots of cologne and there were no signals that went off right then and there.

As time progressed, he engaged me in a lot of conversation and then he ultimately went into the basement, called me into the basement with a question.



UNKNOWN FEMALE: We are clearly pleased with this development. But we also appreciate the fact that in the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty. And we will continue to support law enforcement and criminal justice system as the trial goes on.


GRACE: Breaking developments in the so-called model home murder. Sarah Ann Walker stabbed to death as she showed an upscale home in a pretty well respected community.

Out to Pat Brown, criminal profiler. Considering this guy`s record, what do you think was the motive, Pat?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: It`s really hard to tell, Nancy. I mean, I don`t know that he knew what his motive was.

When you see a woman alone, you have a lot of thoughts that go through your head, if you`re a guy like this. It could be rape, it could be robbery. But the most important thing is she`s alone and he can have his way with her and any way he wants.

And I want to point that out to people. How you present yourself in certain neighborhoods, and whether it`s rich or poor, it doesn`t matter, it`s how the person is seeing you.

Without witnesses around you, they see you as an alone woman and what they can get from you, whether it be rape or if they`re wearing jewelry, whether it can be robbery. Be very aware when you go out how the other person is viewing you, if you have no one else around.

GRACE: Pat, do you believe it`s likely the suspect knew Sarah Ann Walker?

BROWN: It doesn`t appear to be that way. He might have seen her photo around, but, you know, she was coming in off of the street. A lot of real estate people may be very well prepared now when they go to isolated locations or they`re bringing along a client and having them pre-qualified.

But when they`re public locations, I`ve seen real estate women, they`re pushing in their signs on the street and they`re clearly opening up lock boxes. So you know that this is a real estate home that`s about to be showed.

So it`s very easy to just follow somebody into the places. You really have to do a 20...

GRACE: If this was a random burglary, why stab her 27 times?

BROWN: That`s very easy. You know, a lot of people think it`s because of some personal issue. But quite frankly, these guys have a short fuse and all she had to do is say, "No, no," and he`s going to go, "What do you mean, no," and he will go off and he can stab 27 times in maybe seven seconds.

I tried that once and you can stab about three times a second. So it doesn`t take very long if you`re going nuts on somebody. So it doesn`t have to be personal. He`s got rage against society. He`ll have rage against anybody who says no to him.

GRACE: Quick break, everyone, as we stop to remember. Army Sergeant Reyes Ramirez, just 23, Willis, Texas, enlisted straight out of high school. He was on a second tour of duty. Ramirez, a newlywed, expecting his first child with his wife, American hero, Reyes Ramirez.

Thank you for being with us and inviting us into your homes. Nancy Grace, signing off for tonight. See you tomorrow night. Goodnight, friend.


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