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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Discussion of the Book "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt."
Aired February 3, 2007 - 21:00:14 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight Owen LaFave on his ex-wife, the sex criminal teacher.
OWEN LAFAVE, HUSBAND OF DEBRA LAFAVE: She didn't serve any jail time but if it was a male sexual offender he would have gotten three to five years.
KING: Plus, three of America's highest profile attorneys, Mark Geragos. He represented Scott Peterson.
MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The presumption of guilt was overwhelming. They wanted to get onto that jury. And they wanted to get on that jury to fry him.
KING: Attorney Daniel Petrocelli. He got a wrongful death charge for O.J. Simpson, after a criminal trial that shocked the nation.
DANIEL PETROCELLI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They had more evidence on Simpson than you could possibly imagine. And yet, the jury acquitted him.
KING: And Gerry Spence.
GERRY SPENSE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I seated 12 jurors, all of whom said they believed he was guilty. And they acquitted him.
KING: It's an hour that will change maybe the way you looked at America's criminal justice system. "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
There's a new book out that I am very proud to have written the introduction for. It's "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". There you see its cover.
A lot of diverse people contributed to this book giving their thoughts and opinions on this book that is what a reasonable doubt is and what is beyond it.
To discuss it we have Mark Geragos, the famed Los Angeles defense attorney. His clients have included Wynnona Wider, Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson. His contribution to this book is titled, "I Know Beyond a Reasonable Doubt that there was an Armenian Genocide."
Owen LaFave is here in Los Angeles as well, the ex-husband of Debra LaFave -- we said this was a diverse participation -- the former Florida school teacher, convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old male student.
Owen has written a book about the case titled "Gorgeous Disaster". His contribution to this book, which I wrote the introduction, is an essay called, "My Wife the Sex Criminal: Why the Double Standard?"
In Minneapolis, the famed attorney Daniel Petrocelli, who sought and got a civil verdict against O.J. Simpson when the Browns and Goldman's sued Simpson for the wrongful deaths of O.J.'s ex, Nicole, and her friend Ron. His essay in the book is titled, "Outside the Courtroom".
And in San Francisco, our friend Gerry Spence, once was a prosecutor. Best known as a defense attorney. His clients have included Imelda Marcos and the family of the late Karen Silkwood. Gerry's essay in the book is called, "We, the Killers".
He's also a successful author. You'll see if you visit his website, gerryspence.com, and that Gerry with a "G."
"Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" is the title. I wrote the introduction.
Let's begin right with the start with Mark Geragos.
Why did you choose the Armenian genocide to back up the point?
GERAGOS: I'm Armenian. All four of my grandparents fled the genocide. Came to America as a result of the Turk's brutally killing a million and a half Armenians.
It's topical today because now with Turkey trying to get into the European Union, recognizing the Armenian genocide is a precondition that a lot of the European countries have.
In fact, last week we suffered a tremendous loss in the community. There was a story that's international and especially big in Europe is the assassination of Huron Tadink (ph), who was the editor of the paper.
He was an outspoken person talking about the genocide in Turkey. And it's actually criminal in Turkey. Section 301 makes it a crime to denigrate Turkishness. And by saying that there was genocide, that apparently denigrates Turkishness. He was prosecuted.
KING: How does that relate to "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?"
GERAGOS: The Turks never admitted there was genocide. There was a book that talks about beyond a reasonable doubt. Here you've got a crime, a crime against humanity. I know beyond a reasonable doubt that there was genocide.
KING: I'm going to ask each guest to give us their definition, but, first, to explain their article.
Daniel, what did you mean by "Outside the Courtroom?" PETROCELLI: Larry, oftentimes too many people, lawyers included, believe that justice depends solely upon what happens inside the courtroom. And in high-profile cases, case of great public interest, that is not always the case.
And I've had the opportunity to be involved in two such cases. One is the one you mentioned, the Simpson trial, and the other one is the one I finished last year, representing Jeffrey Skilling, the former president of Enron in the criminal trial against him.
And drawing upon those two cases to make the point, I wanted to explain to the readers how what happens outside the courtroom can very much dictate and influence the verdict and the result that occurs inside.
KING: In a sense, you were saying that Mr. Skilling did not get beyond a reasonable doubt -- he did not get that factor?
PETROCELLI: I certainly do not believe that the proof in that case rose to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
But the point that I was trying to make about the Skilling trial, in particular, was that the community pressures and influences that were brought to bear on that trial on all the participants in that trial, in particular the jury, made it very difficult for the jury to hear, understand, receive, and deliberate the evidence with an open mind.
KING: Owen LaFave, were you surprised to be asked to participate?
LAFAVE: Actually, I was. You know, I feel like I'm in great company. I believe if I counted correctly there were 86 contributions and only 17 were attorneys.
I'm not sure if I'm in good company or bad company with those 17. All very well written. But there's, you know, a few on Death row in there and I'm lumped in with the 17.
KING: But you wrote about your wife?
LAFAVE: We talk about beyond a reasonable doubt. I think in her particular circumstance there was -- it was beyond a shadow of a doubt that she did have a sexual relationship with one of her students.
But yet I believe there's a double standard in society, as well as in our legal system. Because, you know, she didn't serve any jail time. If it was a male sexual offender -- Mark and I had a conversation prior to the show tonight that he would have at least gotten three to five years.
KING: So she became the opposite. She got the sole beneficiary double standard.
KING: It went all in her favor?
KING: So she went beyond it...
GERAGOS: She got a real presumption of innocence.
KING: She was really beyond a reasonable doubt.
LAFAVE: You're absolutely right. There was clear DNA evidence and taped conversation. There's an inequal penalty given out and I think that's something as a society we need to readdress.
KING: And Gerry Spence, good to have you back with us, Gerry. You titled yours "We, the Killers. Explain.
SPENCE: Well, beyond a reasonable doubt, as far as I'm concerned, Larry, the death penalty is something that's very savage and un-American and an issue we need to deal with.
And I've talked about it in detail in my essay. About the death penalty, I mean, who really gets penalized? We don't penalize the killer. How do you penalize somebody that you kill?
We certainly penalize his mother, the little old widow sitting back there with nobody to hold her hand while they kill her son.
We punish the kids in the family when the father is executed. We don't punish the killer.
KING: So we kill them.
SPENCE: We kill. And that's hardly any punishment.
KING: Not punishment?
SPENCE: No. What's really punishment is what we do to ourselves. We become killers ourselves.
KING: How does that relate to reasonable doubt, Gerry?
SPENCE: I wondered that when I wrote the piece. And I said, beyond a reasonable doubt, this is something that America has to put aside. And we can't join people like China or join people like Iraq.
SPENCE: And engage in this kind of savage, primal sort of conduct. We have to quit it. We have to quit it now.
KING: We're one of the few countries that still do it.
GERAGOS: I believe only three or four of the civilized -- so- called civilized world.
KING: Let's get a definition.
What is a reasonable doubt, Mark?
GERAGOS: The legal definition is an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge.
KING: Abiding conviction. What does abiding mean.
GERAGOS: Abiding means it's unrelenting, no matter, you're going to still believe it.
A lot of trial lawyers will describe it, and of the people in the book describe it as, can you wake up each morning with the same kind of belief, the same certainty that the decision you made was right.
Other lawyers I've heard in arguments have said, is this something that you would -- based on the information you have, would you make a major decision based on this? Would you buy a house based on this decision, marry somebody based on this decision.
I like based on a witness, do you believe that witness based on a reasonable doubt, would you like that witness baby-sit your kids? So there's all kinds of reasonable doubt definitions.
Somebody -- I wish I could remember who -- I think gave the best and compared it to the justice of the Supreme Court who talked about obscenity. You know it, when you see it. That is ultimately what happens.
That ties into Daniel's comment about outside of the courtroom. Because what happens is beyond a reasonable doubt really is a function of the presumption.
If you have no presumption of innocence, if you start off with a presumption of guilt then beyond a reasonable doubt is very low. It's whatever you think it is because you started off with guilt.
If you've got a presumption of innocence, then it's a really high standard. And you will, as Gerry will talk about with the death panty, how you can put somebody to death if you are adhering to beyond a reasonable doubt.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back to get the opinions of the others while they define it. Fascinating topic. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERAGOS: We're not into arguing reasonable doubt in this case. We've set the bar extremely high. And that's to prove that Scott is not only factually innocent, but to figure out exactly who it is who did this horrible thing to Scott's wife.
KING: The book is "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." By the way, any proceeds I get from having written the introduction go to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.
We have an outstanding panel and a great group of people contributed to this book. John Walsh is in it. Dr. Kevorkian is in it. He's going to get out of jail soon.
PETROCELLI: Fellow Armenian, too.
KING: Daniel Petrocelli, your definition of reasonable doubt?
PETROCELLI: Well, I think Mark hit it on the head. It's a kind of proof you would require such that you wouldn't hesitate in conducting your own affairs, entrusting your child to another person.
Would you hesitate in trusting that child to that babysitter? If you hesitate for even one moment, that's reasonable doubt right there.
And this is what the juries are typically instructed.
Now that said, as Mark points out, it's not as though the juries actually understand and apply that standard. If they did, there would be far, far more acquittals.
They may apply it depending on the outcome they feel the society and the community in which they live are expecting.
You know, take, again, the Skilling case. Houston was expecting, everyone in that town was expecting a conviction. It was asking too much of 12 people to acquit Mr. Skilling and then go back to their communities.
So reasonable doubt played a much lesser role in that trial.
Take the Simpson case by contrast, the criminal case. I heard Owen talk about DNA evidence and taped evidence. Well, they had DNA on Simpson. They had tapes on Simpson. They had more evidence on Simpson than you could possibly imagine. Yet, the jury acquitted him in under four hours.
And that's because what was important in that trial, in the minds of those jurors was not the question of the quality or quantum of the proof, but the question of race. That became a referendum on race relations in this country.
That's what those jurors were wrestling with.
KING: Owen, you believe the woman in a sex case gets a break the man doesn't get?
LAFAVE: Absolutely. It's abundantly clear. Obviously, Mary Kay Letourneau (ph) probably was a catalyst behind the whole movement. But of course, my wife -- and since then, there have been a number of others. But time and time again, and recently in the news, female sexual perpetrators get limited to no jail time. It's a huge disservice.
LAFAVE: There's a number of.
KING: What are you laughing at? Why?
GERAGOS: I'm laughing because it's every male's fantasy. I've said it before. Every male who is sitting in a locker room in a junior high school or a high school has a fantasy about the teacher. And I mentioned it before -- look at Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher."
KING: But don't females -- do those females have a fantasy?
FER: We have a double standard when it comes do that. When you look at it, look how the media portrays when it's a female teacher with the student as versus a male teacher with the student. There's no comparison. The male teacher looks like leach.
LAFAVE: You're right. And it's romanticized. I think part of the problem is society doesn't view the boys as victims. Where I think they are. You know, I did a lot of research when I wrote my book. And I'm also working on a documentary as well. I talked to a number of experts. Talked to a number of victims.
More than half the men out there thought that, good for the boy. Give him a pat on the back.
Once I had the opportunity to sit down in the same room with these people and hear their stories and how their lives are affected, they are victims and these women need to go to jail.
KING: Gerry Spence, what's your definition of reasonable doubt?
SPENCE: I talk to juries. And when I talk to juries I say this. You know, reasonable doubt really isn't for the defendant. It is for you. I want you to be able to go home at night and lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes and say I am -- I'm satisfied. I don't ever have to worry again. I'm applying reasonable doubt. And if there's reasonable I'm going to acquit. And I'm going to sleep the rest of my life.
I think reasonable doubt ought to be viewed from the standpoint that it's not only for the criminal that's being charged, the alleged criminal, but also those who charged him.
KING: If I'm -- I'm a juror. And circumstantial evidence is presented. In other words, there's no eye witness to the scene. And I have to judge what was sitting before me. And two psychiatrists make competing arguments. How do I present it?
If I go into a courtroom, should we go into Baghdad based on the evidence on the evidence of weapons of mass destruction? Could I have had reasonable doubt? SPENCE: I think any reasonable person would have had reasonable doubt about that.
KING: Couldn't we have reasonable doubt on almost anything?
SPENCE: Absolutely. Reasonable doubt -- here's another way I think about reasonable doubt. I go to bed at night. I do a lot of my thinking, as you must see, when I go to bed at night.
And I'm thinking about, did I turn the alarm on. I can't be sure. I'm sure -- I'm not sure. And I have to get up to look. That's reasonable doubt.
KING: That's well put. And we'll take a break and come back.
LAFAVE: It's also old age.
KING: Yes. We'll be back with more. Don't go away.
KING: We're back.
Mark Geragos, how well, then, do juries apply it or what's gone wrong if we know 200 people have been released from death row who did not commit the crime?
GERAGOS: People always forget about the DNA exonerations. The numbers are astronomical.
KING: Did that mean the jury did not -- was not correct?
GERAGOS: Clearly what happened, at least in my experience, is if a jury or jurors come to a case predisposed, no matter how great a lawyer you are, you're not going to be able, in whatever period of time the trial lasts, to get away from all the experiences they built up for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.
And all of a sudden you, as a lawyer, are going to turn them around and reconfiguration the way they think. So what you need to do as a lawyer is to make them understand.
Like Gerry says, it's not for the criminal or the accused criminal, it's for you. You have to make the jury or the juror understand that they are invested in this process as your client is.
And one of the ways to do that is the expression about Edward Bennett Williams. You told me many times that one of the things he thought was most important in any trial is to make the jurors have that feeling that they're for the grace of God for a defendant.
If you can't do that, then it doesn't matter whether the standard is a strong suspicion, which is low; preponderance, which is higher than that; clear and convincing, which most people say, well, clear and convincing, that sounds like a lot of evidence. That's lower than beyond a reasonable doubt. PETROCELLI: Larry, you made the comment in response to Gerry that couldn't you have reasonable Doubt about anything?
PETROCELLI: Well, the truth is, if you had reasonable doubt about a lot of cases, that's a good thing. Keep in mind that criminal cases should be reserved for the most egregious affronts to society. These are crimes against society.
We have a dual justice system in our country, and most can address their grievances by going to civil courts.
Criminal cases should be reserved for the most serious wrongdoing committed by people.
And to protect life and protect liberty and protect people's freedoms, the government should only win and get convictions on very clear-cut cases.
If there's any kind of a close call, like you said, there's two psychiatrists or two psychologists testifying, you don't know who to believe, you can't convict that defendant in that circumstance. That's the way it should be.
KING: Owen, how do you look at reasonable doubt?
LAFAVE: I thought it was interesting a couple of the comments of Mark and Danny and you yourself in your introduction wrote. We tell people to assume innocence. And what you're asking people to do is not only presume that the defendant is innocent, but you're also asking them to leave behind any type of preconceived notions they have or any opinions or really who they are as a person.
And I think it's virtually impossible for that to happen. And, you know that burden of beyond a reasonable doubt and that innocence, I think, is the core to our legal system.
But I think it's almost virtually impossible to actually, you know, have that be exactly true.
KING: Isn't that true, Gerry?
SPENCE: You know, Larry, I have never, ever acquitted a client based on reasonable doubt. If you start talking to juries about reasonable doubt, what they say is, here's the jury.
Let me be the juror a minute. You know, Spence is out there talking about reasonable doubt. That's just a cute lawyer trick. It really means that he's guilty but he hasn't proven him guilty enough. The prosecution hasn't done its job quite well enough. But they know and we know and the defense knows and the defendant knows, everybody knows and we know that he's guilty. So this reasonable doubt is just lawyer talk, and let's get down to the nubbins here and get this case decided in accordance with justice. That's what jurors do. Now, that being the case, I have the responsibility, contrary to the law, contrary to the business of presumption of innocence, I have the duty to prove my client innocent. And if I don't carry that burden, my client is going to be convicted.
KING: I never heard it put that way. Do you agree, Mark?
GERAGOS: There really is no presumption of innocence. There is no presumption of innocence. If you get somebody to be honest with you, when they see you next to your client on that side of the counsel table, virtually everyone will tell you, if they're honest, you know, where there's smoke there's fire. If this guy didn't do it, why would he be here? Or if he didn't do this, he did something else.
So when you're asking jurors, at least my experience, whether or not -- as you sit here, can you presume my client to be innocent and they say, oh, yes.
And you say they just read off 15 charges in the indictment that charged him with all these heinous crimes. Do you have any reaction? And the juror said, oh, no, I have no reaction at all.
You know they're lying through their teeth at you, and you have to understand that.
I don't know about Gerry, but I often prefer a juror that says, yes, when I looked at him, I figured there's something here. Where there's smoke there's fire.
At least then, I have somebody I can engage in an honest dialogue and they're not lying through their teeth at you.
SPENCE: Can I tell a story?
KING: Yes, when we come back, we'll tell the story.
We'll take a break. We'll be right back. The book is "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to this Super Bowl eve edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." We're discussing the book "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." I wrote the introduction.
Owen LaFave has as wonderful book out, "Gorgeous Disaster," the tragic story of Debra LaFave.
All right, Gerry, what's the story?
SPENCE: OK. I'm defending a sheriff of having killed his undercover agent, shot him between his eyes in the back seat of the sheriff's car. It's been publicized all over. It's been on "60 Minutes "and all the rest and everybody says this sheriff ought to be hung for killing his undercover agent. So I go to the jury and I begin to do just what Mark Geragos says. You've read all this. Do you think he's guilty? Oh, no. Well, do you think he's guilty? Well, some of them say, well, yes. A few of them said yes. Some more of them said yes. Then a bunch of them said yes. Then there were three or four that said no.
I turned to my client and said, who should we take on this jury. His name was Ed Cantrell. Ed, do you want me to take the liars that think -- say you're guilty -- or innocent or should we take those that are telling the truth that think that you are guilty?
He said, Gerry, he says, let's go with them that are telling the truth. And I seated 12 jurors, all of whom said they believed he was guilty. And they acquitted him.
PETROCELLI: The more publicized the case is, the more irrelevant concepts like presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt become. Because people who take great interest in reading about upcoming trials, they form their opinions long before they're seated as jurors.
Just as Gerry and Mark are saying, when you talk to these People beforehand, they really fall into two categories. You have the campaigners. Those are the people who want to get on the jury. Okay. Because this is an interesting case. It's a high-profile case. Maybe they can even write a book about it.
In the O.J. trial, everybody wrote books, including the bailiff.
Then you get the other juror, probably the honest person, but doesn't want to have anything to do with this. So he or she might lie to get off the jury. So it becomes exceedingly difficult in cases of great public interest to get 12 good jurors.
And what's more difficult is that with the explosion of the media covering the legal system over the last 10, 15 years, you have like a collision between the world of entertainment and media, and the justice system. It's becoming very, very tough to get good, solid, quality justice delivered in high-profile cases, in particular.
KING: So what does that say, Daniel, for our legal system?
PETROCELLI: Well, I do think some reform would be very useful. I think that federal judges, in particular, need to allow lawyers much more time and leeway to question jurors.
In the O.J. civil trial, for example, when everybody on the planet had an opinion about whether he did it or didn't do it, the judge gave us 30 days.
In the Enron trial, there were three hours. And we had virtually no opportunity to question the jurors.
And the other thing that plays into here is I think more people have to become involved as jurors. Oftentimes you get a certain couple of substrata or segments of society that participate as jurors. And a lot of good people don't serve their jury time. And that's what really needs to change, I think.
KING: Did your wife have a jury trial, Owen?
LAFAVE: No. They had a plea bargain before that. I would like to comment as a layman, not being involved in the legal system and being asked to serve on a jury.
You know, it's unfortunate to say it's a great honor to our country. You look for every way to get out of it. Especially in the a case like the O.J. case or Scott Peterson case where you have media coverage and the potential to sit on a jury day in and day out for the course of six months. That's a huge sacrifice to ask.
And the system weeds out good, potential jurors.
KING: So we don't get the best of the crop?
GERAGOS: It's interesting. California has revamped the jury service recently here and gone to -- it used to be, in the old days, you would be on the hook for 30 days. Everybody had an excuse.
Then it went down to 10. Now you've got one day, one trial. Where everybody comes in. As long as the case is under seven days, nobody gets off for financial hardship.
If you have less than a seven-day case now in California you tend to get a much better cross-section of jurors than you did previously.
That's not the case for what I call the super size cases. In cases as Danny had, in cases like that, where they are lengthy cases and there's pretrial publicity and ongoing publicity, it's virtually impossible to ferret out what I call stealth jurors. These jurors, who want to get on, have got an agenda. If you're not allowed to question them, how do you identify them?
KING: This guy in Missouri, the alleged kidnapper, Gerry, of this 15-year-old boy, kidnapped at 11, held for four years. Can he be presumed innocent?
SPENCE: I don't think anybody in these national cases can be presumed innocent. In the national cases that you're guests have been involved in. Everybody had their mind made up before they went in. It isn't possible.
It really isn't possible today in this huge -- this time of media where no matter what station you're on the television set, that case is being discussed, people are being -- are talking about it. People -- so-called experts tell you what the facts and the law is.
By the time the jury is selected, there isn't any possibility of removing those preconceived ideas from the juror's head.
KING: We'll take a quick break. And we'll be right back with more of our panel. The book is "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." Owen LaFave's book is "Gorgeous Disaster." We'll be right back.
KING: We'll take some individual cases as we get back.
Mark Geragos, was Scott Peterson judged beyond a reasonable doubt?
GERAGOS: No. The presumption was overwhelming. We had jurors who came in there and absolutely had a preconceived notion. They wanted to get onto that jury and they wanted to get on that jury to fry him. And we actually caught three of those jurors in jury selection. I still think a couple got through.
It's on appeal. And I don't have any doubt that the verdict in that case will be reversed on a number of grounds.
And talking about what -- following up on what Dan said, you know, at a certain point in these -- only in the most super sized of case, I think we need to import the Contemptive Court Act that they have in England. Where once you start, there is a clamp down on whatever coverage. And you delay it until after the case is over.
KING: You get fined.
GERAGOS: It gives the judge real teeth with which to do so.
KING: Daniel, did Jeffrey Skilling have the presumption of Innocence?
PETROCELLI: He had no presumption of innocence. The day that he was indicted, Larry, his indictment was announced in a nationally broadcast press conference by, I think, the second highest official of the United States Department of Justice, flanked by a number of other officials pronouncing that they got their man. And that he was a corporate crook.
Now, these are supposed to be officers of the court. And these are supposed to be people who were paid to do justice, not, frankly, to win a case, even though they're public prosecutors.
I mean, they trampled over the presumption of innocence. In jury selection, they argued -- the government did, and convinced the judge, that not only would we have a change of venue -- and we agreed that we would change venue to any city in the country, other than Houston -- we didn't get any jury selection. We didn't get the chance to question jurors at all.
We ended up having jurors on our panel, Larry, who, going in, in their questionnaires, said they thought these guys were guilty.
And afterwards some of the jurors have been interviewed publicly. And at least one said publicly, the only question I had in my mind throughout that whole trial is why they did it.
Now, that is doing an assault to the presumption of innocence. KING: Owen, your wife had complete presumption of innocence, right? She had the reverse of what we're talking about?
GERAGOS: When you look like her, you're presumed innocent.
LAFAVE: I suppose there was a certain element to that.
KING: So you think a beautiful woman has an edge.
GERAGOS: Yes, unless it's a jury trial and you have females in the jury.
LAFAVE: And her case is a little unique. She did end up pleading guilty to her charges and didn't get any jail time. We talked a little bit about reform. Actually, what I would like to see, to take some of the objectivity out of the sentencing, you know, is if you commit a sexual crime, you get a minimum two years.
And of course, you know the Judge and all the parties involved can argue why it should be more or should be less. Not that it should be less, but minimum two years.
PETROCELLI: Larry, on that point that Owen is talking about, about sentencing, another thing that has gone haywire in this country is the sentencing that judges are meted out.
The highest sentences that are given in the federal system, higher than murders, higher than terrorists, higher than kidnaps, are officers and directors of public companies who get accused of securities fraud, cases that wouldn't make it through the civil system.
If they're convicted, though, in the criminal system, they go to jail for life.
KING: Gerry, you had a story about being a prosecutor and on two occasions sought the death penalty, one of them involving prosecuting the Mark Hopkinson murder case. What was that about?
SPENCE: I've hated this death penalty from the time that I first began practicing law 54 years ago. And I can remember as an early prosecutor I got a death penalty case. I was a prosecutor.
And, you know, we've all sinned. And I was a prosecutor, got a death penalty verdict against a sheepherder that shot his roommate while he was asleep. And I just overdid that case. I was just too good for the opposing counsel even when I was a kid.
And, well, come on, there aren't many great lawyers like you've got on your program here sitting with you.
But in the Mark Hopkinson case, which I was appointed on as a special prosecutor, it was a serial killer, in effect, and who killed people while he was in jail, and tortured them through people that worked on his behalf. And I argued to the jury that, you know, I hate the death penalty, I said. The death penalty doesn't do us any good. And I had all the arguments that I mentioned to you at the beginning of this program.
But I want to tell you something, we're entitled to self-defense. And this man can kill while he's behind bars. Maybe we need to defend ourselves. I'll be darned they gave him the death penalty. And I thought I was smart enough -- Gerry Spence thought he was smart enough to figure out a way to get around that death penalty, but I wasn't.
I went to the governor. I wrote to editorials in the newspaper. I did about -- although this man was guilty, and horridly guilty, and did the most heinous things. Nevertheless, they executed him.
KING: We'll be back with out remaining moments discussing "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt," right after this.
KING: We're back with our panel.
Do many countries have, Mark Geragos, presumption of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt?
GERAGOS: No, not a whole lot. In terms of the civilized world, I think we're on a very short list. Most countries have -- there's a lot of European countries have an inquisitorial system. A lot of them have an investigatory system. A lot of them don't have defense lawyers in the framework that they have.
KING: Are we most like Britain?
GERAGOS: Very similar. We have certain fundamental differences. But that is our closest. And that's where our heritage comes from.
KING: Is it true, Daniel Petrocelli -- F. Lee Bailey told me this a long time ago -- that the military court, you're presumed guilty. And you must prove yourself innocent. However, it's a fairer trial because you're judged by people who can put their personal things aside and be disciplined enough to rule on the evidence alone.
PETROCELLI: Right. They're the equivalent of professional jurors rather than lay people. There's been a lot of talk about incorporating that into our modern jury system.
But before we sign off here, Larry, I do want to commend you for...
KING: I still have another segment. I could be wrong. But go ahead.
PETROCELLI: Let me commend you anyway. I want to commend you for putting this collection of essays together in book you've come out with. It's an extraordinary book because it talks about a lot of imperfections and injustices in our system. I mean, the injustices that Mark and Owen and Gerry describe in their essays I find to be very appalling. And at the same time, very enlightening that you can have that kind of a discourse.
Because after all is said and done, we still have the best system in the world. And it's a system that can be made better if the people who work in the system do a better job by the system.
But it's a wonderful diverse array of stories.
KING: Thank you.
PETROCELLI: And as a lawyer reading it, it was a very informative, enjoyable book.
KING: Do you think things will change to your liking, Owen?
LAFAVE: Unfortunately, not. But I hope to be part of that by speaking out, by writing the book "Gorgeous Disaster," working on my documentary and having an opportunity to speak in formats like this.
I'm hoping to just create an awareness when it comes to female sexual predators.
I'd like to believe that by my speaking out, it is doing some good. And there will be some changes.
KING: Are there a lot of them?
LAFAVE: You would be surprised.
KING: Do we know?
LAFAVE: We don't have an actual number. But in the school system, about one-third of all incidences involve female teachers.
KING: Do you think, Mark, that people bring their hatreds to the courtroom?
GERAGOS: Absolutely. Absolutely. When I was talking about stealth jurors, that's what I'm talking. I had experience with jurors who were in there who had, not only agenda, but we've been able to document that they wanted to fry the defendant. And they were lying their way onto a jury in order to do it.
That's what is so scary about this whole concept of this -- the media getting inside of the jury box. Because if that happens, you can't ever, you can't ever get a fair trial. You can't ever have a presumption of innocence.
And that really is one of the scariest things for somebody, who has been in the system nowhere near as long as Gerry, but that's truly the most frightening thing.
If these bloodthirsty bitches can insinuate themselves into the jury box, you've got a real, real problem in America. KING: And now we'll be back with our remaining moments on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." The book, "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." Don't go away.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Rick Sanchez in the CNN Newsroom. Where we've been putting a lot of information together for you tonight. We'll be bringing to you, first of all, family secret, bizarre mystery. Twister tragedy as well that we're going to be focusing on. All this, next in CNN Newsroom. And we're going to bring it to you right here after "LARRY KING LIVE." Stay with us. We look forward to seeing you.
KING: We're back with our panel, all are participants in this book "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." I wrote the introduction.
When a jury comes into a courtroom, Daniel, and the trial is going on, or at the end of the trial, does the judge present to them what beyond a reasonable doubt is?
PETROCELLI: In a very perfunctory way. At the end of the trial, the jurors are given jury instructions, which define what reasonable doubt is. But the judges typically leave it up on the lawyers in closing arguments to explain it.
By then it's too late because the jurors have pretty much made up their mind, and sometimes even before the trial begins, they've made up their mind if they have an agenda.
KING: There is no written thing, this is what beyond a reasonable doubt is.
PETROCELLI: Yes. Each state and federal circuit throughout the country have their own working definition of reasonable doubt along the lines that we were discussing at the outset of the program, which are set forth and what are known as jury instructions that are put in writing and given to the jury at the end of the case.
KING: Is it different federal to civil -- federal to local?
PETROCELLI: The instructions are virtually the same. They pretty much mean the same thing. At the same time, if you ask a juror what does reasonable doubt mean, I don't think they could tell you what it means.
KING: Do you ever here from Debra LaFave?
LAFAVE: No, surprisingly not. We settled our divorce. She's working as a waitress in a cafe in town. She's pretty much dropped off the face of the map, which is good.
KING: What have you done with your life?
LAFAVE: My life has been amazing. I wrote the book "Gorgeous Disaster." I'm working on a featured documentary right now, studying the sexual abuse in our school system.
And, you know, I got remarried. And I'm still doing commercial real estate in Tampa.
KING: What does your wife do? Don't teach?
LAFAVE: No. And she's brunette, both prerequisites. She's a homemaker. We have a newborn son.
Gerry, you stay as active as ever?
SPENCE: Yes. Larry, I'm getting ready to go to Guantanamo to represent some of those poor devils over there, to see whether or not it's possible that we, Americans, who propose and tell the world that we're a democracy and care, see if we can't get some of those basic rights given to ordinary defendants over there.
KING: Have you been retained? I thought a lot of them can't have lawyers, right?
SPENCE: Well, I've been asked to go over there by one of the kids of the JAG Corps. He said, come over and help me. I need help, Mr. Spence. So I'm getting ready to do that.
KING: Have you tried military before?
SPENCE: Never have. At my age, it's just a bright day to learn something new.
KING: Do you still get excited, Mark?
GERAGOS: Every day. It really is -- being a criminal defense lawyer, to my mind, there's no better job. Every day I get to go to court. I'm in trial maybe 200 days a year. I get to talk to juries and I get to cross-examine witnesses.
And it truly is, you know -- I think it's the most noble profession that there is. We sit there. We take a lot of abuse. We are denigrated.
But you are -- yeah, you're hooked with your client and everything else.
When I got into this, I did it because Perry Mason was the good guy. I always thought it was the noblest thing in the world. I always look at it is we stand between a government, pushing the envelope and trampling over you.
KING: We thank you all very much.
Mark Geragos, the famed Los Angeles defense attorney; Owen LaFave, the ex-husband of Debra LaFave and author of "Gorgeous Disaster;" Daniel Petrocelli the well known civil attorney. His essay in my book is "Outside the Courtroom." And Gerry Spence. You can find out all about that new book by going to gerryspence.com.
The book "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" is available everywhere books are sold.
If you're in the market, by the way, for a political thriller, check out "America's Last Days" by Douglas McKinnon. Doug's a syndicated columnist. He used to work at the White House and the Pentagon. A good friend of ours. And he knows his way around Washington. It's a provocative page turner that will have you asking, could this really happen? The book is "America's Last Days" by Douglas McKinnon.
Thanks for joining us. Have a great rest of the weekend.
And my pick is the Indianapolis Colts, 27, the Chicago Bears, 7. Don't get mad, Chicago.
Happy Super Bowl. Good night.
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