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Will Brett Seacat Be Found Guilty?; Jury Selection in George Zimmerman Case; Jodi Arias Trial

Aired June 10, 2013 - 19:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight we`re on verdict watch, the case of handsome hero cop turned accused wife murderer. Did former sheriff`s deputy Brett Seacat think he was so protected by his cop buddies that no one would question his yarn about his beautiful wife`s death?

Now it`s up to the jury to decide. Will jurors buy his story that the mother of two shot herself and torched her own home with her toddler sons inside?

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live.


BRETT SEACAT, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER (via phone): Hurry, hurry! I think she`s dead. I think she shot herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an officer of the law, and he could get away with murder.

SEACAT: I love Vashti.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tried to make it look like she did it, and...

SEACAT (on camera): That is -- that is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(via phone): There`s a fire and my wife -- she shot herself, but she`s in the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only reason that anyone would set the house on fire, to cover up a crime scene. You killed your wife, didn`t you?

SEACAT: No, ma`am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shot her in the head.

SEACAT: Impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the defendant on the stand for a day and a half, either you bought it or you didn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You burned the house down around her.

SEACAT: I would never burn our house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you did it while your two kids, 2 years and 4 years old, were in the house?

SEACAT: Absolutely not.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brett Seacat accused of shooting his estranged wife, Vashti, while she slept and then setting their house on fire as their two boys slept inside of it. He got the kids and the family dog out, but he says, oh, his wife killed herself and set the fire.

Then, while his wife lay dead inside the burning home, it was Brett`s cop buddies who show up to investigate the case, and you can hear them right now, chatting with Brett while his house burns with his dead wife inside. Listen to this.



SEACAT: Right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anybody inside? Is there anybody inside?

SEACAT: There`s my wife.


SEACAT: She`s dead, she shot herself. Her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head`s gone.

I tried to get her out. I tried to get her out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What room was she in, Brett?

SEACAT: That one right there in the corner. That`s where she sleeps. I started to lift her up and her head fell back. I saw that there was blood everywhere.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, it`s time for the jury to decide if Brett committed this cold, calculated murder because Vashti had slapped him with divorce papers two days earlier.

In the dramatic closing arguments a little while ago, the prosecutor did not pull any punches, asking the jury to convict Brett. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That slate is full. Full of evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Brett Seacat committed these murders.

He`s had statements; he`s had testimony; he has had an answer for everything. And now it`s time to give the defendant your answer. Find him guilty as charged.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you think? Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877- 586-7297. Straight out to Ted Rowlands, CNN correspondent, live on the ground in Kansas.

Ted, you were in court for closing arguments today. What were the biggest jaw droppers?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the jury really was riveted on the prosecution`s case when they laid out the 911 chronology, and that was really dramatic. They did a great job of setting this up.

The bottom line is their best argument is common sense. Why on earth would this mother of two kill herself with so much to live for and put her kids in danger by torching the house?

On the other side, the defense, I think, also did a pretty good job in bringing up the fact that the coroner in this case can`t figure out if it`s a homicide or a suicide, so how can you? There`s reasonable doubt here. They also press the depression issues.

But in every case the prosecution had the final word, and they used the 911 tape as a timeline and she -- the prosecutor said, "Go back and listen to it." He claimed that while he was on the phone with 911, he was doing all these different things. Listen to that tape. You can`t hear any of it. Very effective if they listen to that tape. They`re going to get what she`s saying. I think she did a fabulous job.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, the prosecution actually listed all the things that they say Brett did between the time that Vashti was killed and the time he decides to call 911. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if he kills her at 3:15 a.m. and we know that the 911 call didn`t happen until 3:51, actually 3:54, and he`s got plenty of time to stage the crime scene. Got plenty to do. He`s got to stage it outside and inside.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The shots were heard at 3:15 in the morning. And then Brett didn`t call 911 until 3:54. That`s a 39-minute gap.

Now, Vinny Parco, private investigator, the prosecutors claim that he set the scene, placed the gun after he killed his wife so that it would look like she killed herself, hiding her journal, getting rid of the gasoline-covered clothing. He was found without a shirt.

Do you buy the prosecution`s argument, because you`re a private investigator who investigates cases just like this?

VINNY PARCO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: First of all, when women commit suicide they don`t use guns. Usually women, when they commit suicide, use pills. They use pills. They use a knife; they cut themselves; carbon monoxide in a car; very rarely use a gun.

Secondly, if she was going to torch the house with the kids in it, the kids would have been in the room with her. When women commit suicide, and their kids are nearby, they usually have them close to them. They go together.

The other thing is the angle of the bullet. I understand that the angle was such that it was very hard -- the downward angle would have shown that someone shot from a downward -- downward shot. The other thing is, his...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what you`re saying there, Vinny -- hold on. Vinny, you`re saying that, like this, who`s going to kill themselves? And it was a .44, which is a heavy gun.

PARCO: Very heavy gun.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And the prosecution said she would need two hands. So how could two hands, right?

PARCO: Also, when you -- when someone shoots themselves with a gun that close, they would have a tattooing from the gun on their skin. Now, she was burned, so you wouldn`t see the tattoo. So this fire was very convenient.

And also, he wasn`t burned; he had no injuries on him. If he would have picked her up like he said he did or went to the bed, he would have got at least some little burns, some singes. He didn`t have anything like that.


PARCO: I don`t know if they checked him for residue on his hand, because if he fired the gun, he would have had...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, no, no. Jon Leiberman, that is a big controversy in this case, that they did not check his hands for gun residue, because apparently the Kansas FBI doesn`t do that anymore. They consider it a waste of time for some odd reason.

JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, the bottom line is there were mistakes made in this case. One of those mistakes was not checking the hands for gun residue. One was possible other contamination; placing, you know, evidence not in the right containers.

But the bottom line is that this case comes down to credibility. Do you believe Brett Seacat on the stand or do you believe all of Vashti`s friends, their marriage counselors, all of the investigators who really wove a brilliant tale of exactly how this went down?

You know, prosecutors started from days before to show the premeditation, to show everything that Brett Seacat did in order to allegedly kill his wife. I think this jury is going to come back relatively quickly with a guilty.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`ll see if you`re right.

Despite Vashti`s family testifying, as you just heard, that she was upbeat; she was happy; she wasn`t suicidal; she wasn`t depressed, Brett`s defense attorney tried to hammer home the defense claim that Vashti was suicidal and depressed because she was taking diet supplements. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know from Connie Suderman that Vashti Seacat suffered multiple bouts with depression, and they went clear back to her high school days. We also know that HCG, which she was taking, causes depression.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Judy Ho, they are complaining and contending that she was depressed, that she had a history of depression and that she was taking a diet supplement, HCG, that exacerbated that.

But her friends say, no, she had a party planned for the next night where she was going to hang out with girlfriends, and she loved her kids and she wasn`t depressed.

DR. JUDY HO, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Jane, there`s lots of people who are depressed who don`t end up trying to kill themselves. It`s still a very, very small percentage of people who are depressed.

And so we have these reports that she had a lot to live for. When people are suicidal, it`s because they`ve lost all hope in life. There`s nothing to look forward to. And I think some of her friend`s testimonies are showing that she had plenty to look forward to. She had her two kids. She had friends. She had parties. She had people who loved her.

And so I think the prosecution is really trying to make sure that everybody understands that there are a lot of other reasons that Vashti should have been still wanting to live her life out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s another blame-the-victim defense. It seems to be the trend this year. Yes, kill somebody, allegedly, and then blame them, say, they`re the ones at fault.

We`re going to take a short break. On the other side we`re going to debate what could be the strongest points for the defense and the prosecution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She told a friend a week and a half prior to this incident happening that you threatened to kill her.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You threatened to burn the house down, and you threatened to make it look like she did it.

SEACAT: That is -- that is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You killed your wife, didn`t you?

SEACAT: No, ma`am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You shot her in the head.

SEACAT: Impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You burned the house down around her.

SEACAT: I would never burn our house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you did it while your two kids, 2 years and 4 years old, were in the house?

SEACAT: Absolutely not. I would never expose my children to any situation like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have anything further.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you believe that prosecutor, this man is a monster, and he is a former hero cop.

Now, he knew a lot about how fire would destroy evidence, because he also taught crime-scene investigation. And believe it or not -- this is unbelievable -- on the dining room table, in the house that was set on fire, he had a book about how to distinguish between homicide and suicide in fires, which is sort of crazy that he would leave it right out there like that. But he could be very arrogant.

The defense argued that, if the medical examiner could not determine if Vashti was murdered or committed suicide because of the fire damage, then was it reasonable doubt? Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based upon all of her experience, her training, her review of the police reports and everything else, "I can`t tell if this was a suicide or a homicide." Let`s see. Reasonable doubt, that`s what we started off talking about.

Gets up here, on the witness stand in front of the 13 of you, and tells you, "I can`t tell from this evidence. I can`t tell from my review of the police report. I can`t tell from reviewing all of the evidence available to me."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s debate it with our expert panel: Does this create reasonable doubt? And we`re going to start with our very special debate guests tonight, Judge Brenda Hackett [SIC], TV judge and author. Glenda Hackett --

Glenda, Judge, thank you for joining us.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I just want to get your take if there`s a possibility of reasonable doubt here, ma`am.

HATCHETT: Well, I tell you, that is the strongest, in my opinion, Jane. That`s the strongest card he had to play today, is to say that the medical examiner could not decide definitively whether it was suicide or homicide or was a murder.

Let me tell you, jurors do not leave their common sense at the courthouse door. And with all the other evidence here, I don`t know that that`s really enough to raise reasonable doubt, but that`s what defense attorneys have to do. They have to figure out how they get their clients off, and I thought that he played his strongest card saying just that.


HO: Well, you know, if I`m inside a house without a window, then I can`t see what`s outside. If somebody asks me if it`s day or night, I don`t know, but still there`s an objective truth. It`s either day or night outside. And so I see what they are trying to do with, "Hey, I couldn`t tell." The medical examiner, couldn`t tell the reason for the body being the way it was. But so what? There`s still objective truth.

And I agree with the judge. I think you know, the jurors really do take their own experiences, and they`re going to make the judgment for themselves. And the evidence is just overwhelming that Brett really planned all of these steps out and really thought it out with his expert knowledge.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we ask because there have been so many cases recently where overwhelming evidence and still sometimes there`s an acquittal.

Pat Virginia, your question or thought.

CALLER: Yes, ma`am, it`s so nice to talk to you.


CALLER: My thought here is that, No. 1, is that I was an abused wife, and I was married for 12 years in an abused marriage. And I took and I have got shot guns. I`m state certified and a teacher in a safe schools incident, person in Virginia Beach public schools.

There is no way I had shot a .357 magnum. There was no way possible, as a mother and a grandmother, that you would set a fire in a house and shoot yourself and leave your two children or child in the house. If anything, she would have took these two kids, these two little boys, took them to a friend`s house, and then committed suicide. There is no way possible. I do not believe this. I believe this man...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Pat -- Pat, you`ve made some very, very good points. It brings me to something I want to ask Ted Rowlands about. I think another incredible piece of evidence for the prosecution is what was not found in her lungs and in her system, vis-a-vis this fire. Tell us about it.

ROWLANDS: Well, no evidence of smoke inhalation at all. And this is from the person that supposedly set a fire in at least two different spots with gasoline as an accelerant, which is incredibly fast.

The coroner`s report, while they couldn`t determine if it was suicide or homicide definitively, they sure did determine that there was absolutely no smoke inhalation in her lungs and no carbon monoxide in her bloodstream. That would be extremely rare for somebody who is supposedly the fire starter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Vinny Parco, briefly, what do you make of that, as a P.I.?

PARCO: How could this woman shoot herself and start a fire at the same time? It doesn`t make sense. It does not make sense.

And also, the fire killed all the evidence -- supposedly killed a lot of the evidence, that would be indicative of his training and what he knows how to do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, he didn`t do have a very good job if he, indeed, is responsible. Because on the other side of the break, we`re going to talk about the incredibly incriminating things he did before and after this. Unbelievable stuff.



SEACAT: She`s dead, she shot herself. Her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head`s gone.

I tried to get her out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. What room was she in, Brett?

SEACAT: The one right there in the corner, that`s where she sleeps. I started to lift her up, and her head fell back and I saw that there was blood everywhere.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But she never had any ups and downs. I never saw her anything but bubbly and happy and excited. Whatever was coming, she was ready to face it head on. That woman -- I felt like in college, that woman could do anything.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The man now accused of murdering his wife is the one who called 911: "Help, help, I tried to get her out. She committed suicide."

Well, the prosecution today in closing arguments told the jury, "Go back and listen closely to the 911 call, Brett Seacat`s place. And notice the background noises you do not hear." Check this out.


SEACAT: My name is Brett Seacat, my wife is upstairs. I`m going to go upstairs...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told you he was still outside when that phone call was made. Well, if that version of events is accurate, then you should hear the door open when he goes back in. You should hear the door slam behind him when he goes in. You should hear him running up and down the stairs for the two trips that he makes. You should hear him turn the water faucet on. You should hear the water running, that he says he left on.

He`s breathing in smoke. You should hear coughing. You should hear gasping. You don`t hear him dropping his phone. You don`t hear any of the things that you should hear if everything he`s telling you is accurate about what happened that night.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Judge Glenda Hatchett, I think it`s a good argument, but then I wonder. We`re talking to people on the cell phones these days and not going to hear a door slam. Do you think that maybe she pushed it a little too far with that argument or not?

HATCHETT: Jane, I do. Because there`s so many strong points in this case, why muddy the waters with that? We don`t really -- well, we do maybe care, but it`s not really important at that point whether he`s in the house or out of the house.

The whole thing is that you cannot take a gun that heavy, as you so well demonstrated earlier in the show, and shoot yourself at this strange angle. And this is a heavy gun. And I think it was a really good argument.

There`s so many other arguments: No soot in her lungs. How did she -- how did she set this fire and there`s nothing in her lungs in the autopsy? The angle, the fact that the covers are pulled up over her. The fact that she had concerned and talked to her friend a few days before, she had just filed for divorce. I mean, there are just so many things that are blatant about this.

The other thing is that there`s an arrogance on the part of this police officer.


HATCHETT: We`ve seen it, Jane, in so many cases before. I mean, we can -- we can talk about other cases.


HATCHETT: And they think they can get away with anything. And you know that there was probably some deference that night initially in the investigation because of who he was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes, he`s talking to his buddy. It doesn`t sound like he`s really overcome with emotion. His wife is in there dying or dead, rather.

Prosecutors, to your point, Judge, went over a series of extremely, extremely, extremely strange things that this defendant, Brett Seacat, a former cop, did in the days leading up to his wife`s death. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came in and he asked for an overhead projector, which she thought was odd because nobody had asked for one in years. It was also odd because he said he needed it to research a fraud thing, and the defendant didn`t teach fraud.

He torches two hard drives out in the open, says he`s got to get rid of them because there`s personal information on there.

And we also know now that the defendant took the stand and admitted that he was destroying cell phones that day, too.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Destroying evidence. Vinny Parco, briefly, that`s damning evidence that you`re destroying evidence.

PARCO: Yes. It doesn`t look good for. If a jury has half a brain, they`re going to convict him on that alone.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Dr. Judy Ho, I want to ask you this, because Judge Hatchett referred to his arrogance. He was literally forging in his office off of his wife`s note the day before she`s killed. And he`s quoted as saying, through his wife who told a friend, "I`m going to kill you this way. I`m going to make it look like a suicide. I`m going to get away with it." Because according to him firefighters are morons, which I believe they`re heroes.

What do you make of his arrogance?

HO: Well, Jane, he has many of the characteristics of a narcissist. I mean, he really does think that he can get away with this. And he does have some knowledge that most people don`t. I mean, he was an ex-police investigator, so he knows how to cover up evidence, and he used many of those techniques.

But the fact that he waited over 30 minutes to make a 911 call after the shots were heard, that is not a normal psychological reaction. Yet, I think from Brett`s point of view, he thought, "Hey, this is the perfect time to plan everything out. I know I can get away with it as long as I take the steps." And now he is really paying for it. He`s really paying for his narcissistic tendencies.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, people who think they`re smarter than everybody else are often stupider than everybody else.

On the other side, fantastic panel, George Zimmerman. Unbelievable day, the trial is starting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds like a male.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you don`t know why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know why. I think they`re yelling help. But I don`t know.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think they`re yelling help?