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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Michael Jackson's Death Investigation; Jackson Child Custody; Prescription Drug Problems
Aired June 29, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Suzanne.
Tonight, lawsuits begin to fly after Michael Jackson's death -- the courts now trying to decide who wins custody of Jackson's children and control of his millions of dollars. The first legal decisions are already in. We'll be live in Los Angeles with the latest for you.
Also tonight a victory against race bias in America -- the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed a workplace discrimination ruling against 20 firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. Today's landmark high court ruling raises new questions about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the president's choice as the next justice on the Supreme Court. That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.
And Wall Street conman Bernie Madoff facing the people whose lives he destroyed and he faces a judge who shows him absolutely no mercy. Madoff sent off to jail for the rest of his life; one victim says he hopes Madoff ends up in the depths of hell.
We begin tonight with breaking news in the fight over Michael Jackson's children, his fortune, and the circumstances of his death. A Los Angeles judge has given temporary custody of Jackson's three children to his mother. Meanwhile, Jackson's father refusing to set a funeral date for the dead pop star until the results of a second private autopsy are known.
And tonight new activity at Jackson's home -- the Los Angeles Police Department and the coroner's office are now back on the scene after having said that their work there was done. Ted Rowlands has our report.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New photos of Michael Jackson rehearsing just before his death for his upcoming concert series. The pictures seem to affirm what those in attendance have said publicly, that Jackson appeared to be in good health. Outside the Jackson home, Michael's father, Joe, says he still has questions about his son's death.
JOE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FATHER: With the autopsy and the leaks and all of that stuff, you know, we are waiting on the second autopsy. We're waiting on that one.
ROWLANDS: Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician with Michael Jackson, when he died, broke his silence, flatly denying through his attorneys that he may have somehow contributed to Jackson's death by giving him a shot of the prescription drug Demerol.
ED CHERNOFF, DR. MURRAY'S ATTORNEY: We can say this, with clarity, Dr. Murray never prescribed Demerol, never administered Demerol, never saw him -- Michael Jackson -- take Demerol, and that goes as well for OxyContin.
ROWLANDS: And Lou, this investigation, which is still classified as a death investigation, is definitely still going on -- action here at the home where Michael Jackson stopped breathing today LAPD officers and some officers from the coroner's office out here. They just left within the last hour and they said that they were here following up on some information they received and some questions they had about some drugs that were inside the house -- Lou.
DOBBS: And Ted, as far as we know, they discovered nothing in their return to Michael Jackson's home?
ROWLANDS: Well, they gave the -- they gave us the feeling that they already knew what they were coming here to look for and they said the family was very cooperative, and it seemed as though they were not displeased with what they had accomplished here. So whether they -- they wouldn't go into detail of what they found or didn't find, but it wasn't a situation where it looked like they went away not satisfied.
DOBBS: All right Ted, thank you very much -- Ted Rowlands with the latest for us.
We turn now to the future of Michael Jackson's three children. They are 12, 11, and 7 years of age. Today, Michael Jackson's mother, she's 79 years old, Katherine Jackson, was granted temporary custody of those children. She also asked for control over Michael Jackson's estate. This is only the beginning in what will likely be a bitter fight. Kitty Pilgrim has the latest.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who will take care of Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II, now that their father has died? A Los Angeles probate court granted temporary guardianship to the children's grandmother, Katherine Jackson.
Papers filed today stated they have a long, established relationship with the paternal grandmother and are comfortable in her care. The children have been staying at the family compound with Katherine Jackson.
J. JACKSON: We're going to take care of them and give them the education they're supposed to have. We can do that.
PILGRIM: The mother of the two oldest children, Debbie Rowe, was married to Michael Jackson for a short period, but gave up her parental rights in 2001. After she changed her mind two years later, a California appeals court ruled her rights were improperly terminated. The third child, born to a surrogate mother, Prince Michael Jackson, has none listed for his mother's name on legal papers.
Debbie Rowe's lawyer over the weekend issued the statement, "Ms. Rowe requests that Michael's family, and particularly the children, be spared such harmful, sensationalist speculation and that they be able to say good-bye to their loved one in peace." Another key person in the children's life is their longtime nanny, Grace Rawamba (ph), assistant to Jackson for 17 years. Asked about her future role today, Joe Jackson replied...
J. JACKSON: Well, we're looking at that, too, but she -- she's a good friend of the family and good friends with the kids.
PILGRIM: Legal experts today said under California law the oldest child will likely be asked.
PROF. CHARLOTTE GOLDBERG, LOYOLA UNIV. LAW SCHOOL L.A.: The 12- year-old, for sure, could voice his opinion about who he would want to take care of him. The judge has the discretion in California.
PILGRIM: Now Katherine Jackson is also asking to be administrator of Michael Jackson's estate. That is a separate, legal issue will be -- certainly will be complicated. The custody issue, the care of the children could be resolved much more quickly in the interest of providing stability for the children. And if uncontested, legal experts told us it could be even resolved by the next hearing on August 3rd -- Lou.
DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much, Kitty.
Well one thing that may be playing into the custody issue is Michael Jackson's history with claims of child molestation. In 1993, a 13-year-old accused Jackson of molesting him during overnight stays at the Neverland ranch. Jackson reportedly paid a 15 to $20 million settlement -- an amount he claimed was overstated.
Another alleged victim, the son of a maid at Neverland, received a $2.4 million settlement. And in 2005, Jackson went on trial for charges he sexually molested another 13-year-old boy. Jackson's ex- wife and the mother of two of his children took the stand on his behalf. After that three-month trial a jury found Jackson not guilty of all charges.
Well joining me now, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, this is already starting to look like a bit of a mess. Was it to be expected?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Everything Michael Jackson has been involved with over the past decade and a half has been a rancorous, complicated mess -- anything financial and anything personal.
DOBBS: Now, it's unusual, I mean, it seems, that a Los Angeles probate court would immediately award custody of those children to a 79-year-old woman who is Michael -- their grandmother and at the same time she's seeking to be the -- well, she's seeking control of his entire estate simultaneously.
TOOBIN: Well both those decisions are temporary. Both of those could be revisited at any point. But there are a very -- there are a number of curious things that came out in court today. The first is that in that financial submission to the court, Michael Jackson's mother said that as far as she knew, Michael Jackson had no will.
Now, that would be a shocking thing, but if he has no will that guarantees years of litigation about where his money goes. And the other issue is, if Katherine Jackson, Michael's mother, is given custody it raises the issue of what is Joe Jackson's role because Michael Jackson said that Joe Jackson abused him as a child. Are they -- is the court going to give custody to someone that has been an accused abuser -- another issue to be dealt with.
DOBBS: Let's -- all of us listened to Joe Jackson today talking specifically about the children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. JACKSON: This is where they belong. We're the parents and we've got other kids of their size, they love those kids and we love those kids, too. We're going to take care of them and give them the education they're supposed to have. We can do that. And we have the err (ph) enough and the premises large enough to be able to extend all kind of help that they might need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Now Michael Jackson, as we were just discussing, on record, is saying that Joe Jackson was abusive physically and emotionally. How can a court ignore that in regard to his own children in the care of those very same people he accused of abuse?
TOOBIN: A court shouldn't ignore it. A court will have to take that into consideration. There's also going to be the issue of who else is a possible guardian? Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of the children, apparently has next to no relationship with those kids.
TOOBIN: Do he have any -- do these children have any relationship with Jackson's siblings? They are also possible guardians. But certainly Joe Jackson's background would have to be considered by the court. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.
DOBBS: And moving to the -- to the medical issues and the circumstances surrounding his death, which are far more questions than answers right now, but Michael Jackson's private physician, Conrad Murray (ph) apparently with him. His attorney has moved forward today to say there was no denying all of the speculation or allegations that the doctor was trying to give Demerol or OxyContin to Michael Jackson. He's been questioned. How much -- how much of -- how much legal trouble does that doctor, Dr. Murray, appear to be in?
TOOBIN: It's hard -- it's -- I think it's premature to say at this point.
DOBBS: All right.
TOOBIN: Certainly, it's legitimate to ask questions. Was the doctor competent? Was he negligent? Did he do something actively wrong? Those are questions that both the Los Angeles Police Department and the coroner will want answers to, but I think it's fair to say at this point there are just questions and we don't know if the doctor did anything wrong.
DOBBS: And this revisit on the part of both the coroner and the Los Angeles Police Department, when both had said they were absolutely through at the house, does that raise any questions in your mind?
TOOBIN: It shows that they're taking the investigation seriously. Undoubtedly, this is a complicated investigation. Based on my history of covering the Jackson family it's sometimes very hard to get an initial, straight answer, so the fact that he's going back -- that the authorities are going back to ask more questions I don't think that's a surprise at all.
DOBBS: And given the Los Angeles Police Department's history with celebrities and their deaths this -- well...
TOOBIN: Better to take their time.
DOBBS: Yes. It is -- care is the order of the day. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much, as always.
Well live at this hour, the president is speaking to Democratic fund-raiser. President -- fundraisers -- President Obama talking to the national committee, finance committee. We are monitoring, as you can see there, the event. It's going on as we speak at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (ph) and will be continuing throughout this hour and we will be returning to the president and keep you informed.
And right now the president has made his opening remarks, as you can see there and here, thanking his fund-raisers. Since this is the financial committee of the DNC, what else would we expect? But we'll be returning to the president when his remarks turn to politics and the news of the day.
And we'll have much more on Michael Jackson's death and we'll tell you how prescription drugs may have played a very important role in both his life and his death and a historic decision in the landmark racial discrimination case by the Supreme Court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that some court, at some point, would enforce the letter and the spirit of the civil rights laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP) DOBBS: The Supreme Court today meeting that standard, reversing a previous decision made by the president's high court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. We have an exclusive interview with the firefighters and the attorneys for both sides in this historic case.
DOBBS: We have a number of new developments to share with you on Michael Jackson's death. We'll be bringing you that in just a moment.
Also tonight a major Supreme Court ruling on racial discrimination -- the high court ruled that 20 white and Hispanic firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut were discriminated against by the city because of their race. That decision reverses a ruling by the president's nominee for the high court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. We'll have all of the details of this historic case and exclusive interviews.
And a judge today sentenced Bernie Madoff to 150 years in prison. Madoff ran a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. He pleaded guilty to charges that include fraud, perjury, and money laundering. The judge, Denny Chin (ph), gave Madoff the maximum sentence possible. The judge said Madoff's crimes were, quote, "extraordinarily evil and he needed to send a message to potential imitators." Madoff spoke directly to his victims at that sentencing. He said, I'm sorry, I know that doesn't help you.
New questions tonight about whether prescription drugs were a factor or at the center of Michael Jackson's death -- in 1993, Jackson publicly admitted to being addicted to prescription drugs. But recently, Jackson passed an extensive medical exam. Nonetheless, for those with power and money, prescription drugs are often all too easy to access and to hide. Lisa Sylvester reports on this growing problem.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, they were young, they were rich, and they died of accidental overdoses of prescription drugs. It's too early to say if pop star Michael Jackson's death was related to prescription drug as toxicology reports have not been completed. But close friend, Deepak Chopra (ph) told CNN a prescription medication he says Jackson had been taking before his death.
DEEPAK CHOPRA, FRIEND OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Well at one time I knew about OxyContin. I knew that he would get injections of Demerol and other narcotics and I was really desperate to try and help him.
SYLVESTER: Abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise, up 114 percent from 2001 to 2005, the latest numbers available from the Centers for Disease Control.
GARY BOGGS, DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY: The abuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana and in fact is greater than cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens combined. SYLVESTER: Congresswoman Donna Edwards (ph) introduced the Drug Overdose Reduction Act just two weeks ago. It would provide local and state governments with more grant money to tackle the growing problem that affects all age groups.
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: It is across the board and in fact, particularly with young people, with college-aged students, but also with some of our senior citizens who might be taking multiple different drugs and those drugs interact.
SYLVESTER: Now, the world mourns and waits for word on whether prescription drugs contributed to Michael Jackson's death. His family has ordered a second autopsy to help shed some light.
SYLVESTER: And again we have to emphasize we don't know if prescription drugs were a factor in Michael Jackson's death. But Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson, said earlier that the private autopsy is under way and the family is expecting results soon -- Lou.
DOBBS: Lisa, thank you. Lisa Sylvester.
One possible reason for Michael Jackson's use of painkillers is his history of plastic surgery. Over the years his skin lightened until it was completely white. He blamed this at one point on a disease, an autoimmune disorder. He reportedly spent millions of dollars on plastic surgery over the years and most notably the multiple surgeries on his nose and the surgeries on his chin and cheeks. Michael Jackson reportedly under went more than a dozen procedures over the years. Some suggest Jackson suffered from what is called body dysmorphic (ph) disorder, an obsessive dislike of his own looks.
Well, to hear my thoughts on the country's ongoing battle with prescription drugs and other issues, join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon in New York on WOR (ph) 710 radio. And around the country go to loudobbsradio.com to get the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show".
And this hour the president is speaking, as I said, at a reception of Democratic fund-raisers. We are monitoring that event live in Washington, D.C. We'll keep you updated.
Also tonight, reaction from today's landmark Supreme Court decision against the city of New Haven in favor of firefighters who sued the city -- those firefighters and their attorney join me in an exclusive, live interview here and Michael Jackson's battle with prescription drugs and the accusations that they ultimately caused his death -- more on that next.
DOBBS: Joining me now with more on the investigation into Michael Jackson's death and the battles over his children, his estate are Cyril Wecht -- he is one of the country's leading forensic pathologists -- Doctor, good to have you with us.
CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Good evening. Good evening.
DOBBS: Melanie Bromley (ph) the West Coast bureau chief for "Us Weekly" -- good to have you with us -- and Joe Levy, editor in chief...
MELANIE BROMLEY, "US WEEKLY": Hi.
DOBBS: ... of "Maxim" magazine -- great to have you with us.
JOE LEVY, EDITOR "MAXIM": Good to be here.
DOBBS: Let me start if I may -- this investigation now is focusing on Dr. Conrad Murray, as we all know, at least at the initial stages, he was with him apparently when he collapsed. This is what Dr. Murray's attorney had to say here earlier on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: Dr. Murray never prescribed Demerol, never administered Demerol, never saw him -- Michael Jackson -- take Demerol, and that goes as well for OxyContin. So, I think those are just rumors. When toxicology comes back here, that's going to be all cleared up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Dr. Wecht, why is this so important, his physician, why does there seem to be so much interest in him?
WECHT: Well first of all, Lou, of course the answer will be in the field of forensic science and not in the mouths of attorneys or anybody else, so we'll see when the report is issued whether Demerol, Vicodin (ph), OxyContin, heroin, Xanax, whether they are or are not present. Then we'll get to the question of who administered -- from whom was it obtained.
And that will get to the questions dealing with manner of death, accident, suicide, homicide -- that will get to the questions of a whole bunch of lawsuits, of different kinds, the civil and criminal. But the answer as to what was present and indeed what caused Michael Jackson's death that will come from the toxicology lab. It appears that the autopsy did not reveal anything -- that catastrophic pathological nature that would account for sudden death, a myocardial infarction, a cerebral hemorrhage, a pulmonary embolism, an unsuspected infectious process, producing septicemia so those things I assume were not present.
And that means that this is most likely going to be a case of acute combined drug toxicity and then the drugs will be listed. That is what it appears to be. Another case like Anna Nicole and Daniel Smith and Elvis Presley, and Heath Ledger, and now Michael Jackson, cases which are occurring every hour in America somewhere with prescription drugs, not drugs obtained in a dark alley in the middle of the night, but drugs that doctors are writing for, that people are obtaining, and when you are a celebrity, you can get anything you want, any time of day, anywhere.
DOBBS: And Dr. Murray, obviously being the only known physician near him at that time, as I ask specific (INAUDIBLE) the law enforcement's interest in him, you've answered I think very clearly. Joe Levy, here's a man who hadn't released an album in 12 years -- is that correct, 12 years.
LEVY: 2001 I believe is the last record.
LEVY: The -- unfortunately entitled "Invincible" is not in fact invincible at that time.
DOBBS: Yes as none of us is. And that's sometimes forgotten when it comes to the lifestyle of the rich and the famous, but he hadn't toured for 12 years.
LEVY: That's right.
DOBBS: The reaction to his death has been extraordinary, whether one measures it in the circulation of magazines, whether one measures it in the terms of ratings, networks covering his death. It's extraordinary.
LEVY: Michael Jackson is an extraordinarily important figure in the world of popular music and popular culture. To understand his achievements you almost have to imagine the Beatles, James Brown and Elvis Presley as one person.
LEVY: That is what he was able to accomplish at his best. He was able to access that level of melody, rhythm, and sensation all at one time, at its peek, 1979, 1982, "Off the Wall", and "Thriller" there was no one better in popular music. Now it has been a long time since that peak and yet if you were to strip away all the tabloid fuss, the allegations that followed him for so many years, if you were to go back to that last record "Invincible" you would hear a pretty good state-of-the-art R&B record.
DOBBS: We're going to be back with our panel in just one moment as we continue to discuss the death of Michael Jackson.
A reminder, you can follow us on Twitter @loudobbsnews where I comment on the day's breaking news and of course focusing as well on the investigation today into the death of Michael Jackson. We'll be back with our panel here next, as well as an exclusive interview with three of the firefighters who have just won before the U.S. Supreme Court, their racial discrimination case, a case that promises to change the direction of history in this country.
More on Michael Jackson's death as everyone waits for the results of not one, but two autopsies. We'll have the latest for you next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Joining me again, we're with Dr. Cyril Wecht, one of the country's leading forensic pathologists, Melanie Bromley, West Coast bureau chief for "Us Weekly", and Joe Levy, editor in chief "Maxim" magazine. Melanie, let's turn to the estate of Michael Jackson. All sorts of rumors about what it's worth, now the contest as to who will be in charge of it. How much was Michael Jackson worth, as best you can determine, at the time of his death?
BROMLEY: Well, this is a difficult question to answer. You know, people kind of estimate that it was, you know, $300 million in debt $600 million in debt. We really don't know. At the moment, what we do know is that he is potentially, over the next year, will make more money than what he's made in the past 10 years. Michael Jackson, Inc. has been in the red for a very long time, hemorrhaging money mostly because of Michael himself spending it.
Now unfortunately that he's out of the picture it maybe have a chance to actually make some profit and go into the black for the first time. At first, the first thing that's going to happen they're going to have to sort out the finances, find out exactly how much in debt he is, sort that all out and then work on creating some sort of fortune for his children.
DOBBS: Creating some sort of fortune? Are you suggesting there's no money left?
BROMLEY: I mean, of course there will be money. He has the Beatles catalog, for example, there will be money. But without him spending it, it's going to have an opportunity to grow. And, obviously, with the air play and with various things that will happen in the future, there is going to be a chance for that money to grow and for his children to inherit a fairly large fortune.
LEVY: I think there are assets left. I do think it's a legitimate question to ask if there's money left. The Beatles catalog, which he bought for some $47 million to $50 million, could be worth billions now.
DOBBS: Going forward.
LEVY: Billions of dollars. But that money isn't just sitting there. He was a millionaire who, it has been said, spent like a billionaire. And he spent a tremendous amount of his fortune so his principle assets, Neverland Ranch, is owned by someone who came in and bought the debt on it. The Beatles catalog part owned by Sony because he had to take a loan out on it. These assets are there, they're valuable. But is there money sitting in a bank account somewhere for his kids? Quite possibly there isn't.
DOBBS: As best we understand it, does he own that half?
LEVY: He most assuredly does. That asset, which was always there for him to sell he never did. And you're talking about a guy who had a huge concert series scheduled, 50 dates in London, but had to get $5 million advance from the promoter in order to pay off a lawsuit. WECHT: Whatever money is there, in the absence of a will, you're going to be dealing with lawsuits that will go on, I predict, for more than a decade, because all of the attorneys will become involved. And everybody will be looking for something, even one or two point you know could be worth a couple of million. Just look what's go on with Anna Nicole Smith's estate. It's still going on, all these years, before her death and now after her death. It's going to be a protracted battle.
And that comes back, too, to some extent, what the cause of death is going to prove to be, and from whom the drugs were obtained, who was in charge, who were the enablers, that's all going to play out.
DOBBS: Doctor Cyril Wecht, thank you for being with us. Melanie Bromley, thank you very much, of "US Weekly", Joe Levy, thank you very much, editor-in-chief of "Maxim" magazine.
Up next here, more on today's Supreme Court ruling on racial discrimination. A reversal of one of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's decisions. Will that damage her chances of being confirmed to the high court? That's a subject of our face-off debate here next.
And more new developments in the investigation into Michael Jackson's death. The coroner and the Los Angeles Police Department return to Michael Jackson's home. We'll have the very latest for you from the scene.
DOBBS: Well, the Supreme Court, today, ruling that 20 white and Hispanic firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut were discriminated against because of their race. That ruling overturned a decision by the president's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The Supreme Court ruling that the firefighters were unfairly denied promotions because of their race. New Haven tossed out a promotions test when black candidates did not score high enough to be included. Ines Ferre has our report from New Haven.
FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: If you work hard, you can succeed in America.
INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Victory for New Haven's 20 firefighters.
MATTHEW MARCARELLI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: Wasn't just 20 of us, that were fighting this battle, it was firefighters across country. It was worth it, every minute of it. Right, guys?
FERRE: In a 5 to 4 decision the Supreme Court sided with the 19 white and one Latino firefighters. They claimed discrimination after the city tossed out promotional test scores because no African- Americans scored high enough to qualify. The city feared being sued by minorities. New Haven's mayor, John Destefano, was not surprised by the Supreme Court ruling.
MAYOR JOHN DESTEFANO, NEW HAVEN, CONN: I think it's continual erosion of civil rights law by the Supreme Court.
FERRE: Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy concluded that "the city made its employment decision because of race ...Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of those who passed and qualified for promotions."
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsburg found the majority ruling troubling, adding, "Relying so heavily on pencil-and-paper exams to select firefighter is a dubious practice." But plaintiff and firefighter Ben Vargas says being awarded for their efforts is what matters regardless of their race.
LT. BEN VARGAS, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: You work for something that you truly want, it can be obtained. And that goes for Hispanics, as well as blacks, Asians, it doesn't matter.
FERRE: Lou, this case has been followed by firefighters all over the country. In fact, today, some firefighters from different towns and cities were also here in support of the firefighters, saying that they have seen this discrimination in their firehouses. And that's why they feel this case is so important, Lou.
DOBBS: Ines, thank you very much. Ines Ferre, from New Haven, Connecticut.
Up next here, exclusive interviews with some those firefighters and attorneys from both sides.
Also a "Face Off" on what today's decision means for Judge Sotomayor's confirmation. That debate and new details about medications found in the home of Michael Jackson.
DOBBS: More now on today's historic Supreme Court ruling in favor of white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, who had claimed they were victims of racial discrimination when the city of New Haven threw out results of a promotion exam because too few black candidates passed the test. Three of the firefighters who won their case, among those 20, join me now. Frank Ricci, Matt Marcarelli and Ben Vargas, along with their attorney, Karen Torre.
First of all, I want to extend to you congratulations on your hard-fought, long court battle. How does it feel? Karen?
KAREN TORRE, ATTORNEY FOR FIREFIGHTERS: Well, we're so glad. And we're happy and we're -- we feel vindicated. We're delighted. It's been a long day. We're still smiling over it.
DOBBS: Frank, how do you feel?
FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPT.: I feel today we've vindicated the merit system.
DOBBS: One of the things that was said by Justice Ginsburg; that she doesn't think it's appropriate to, I'd like to ask this of you, Matt, because you scored the highest on this exam, she didn't feel that it was appropriate for firefighters to be taking pencil-and-paper tests. What's your reaction to that comment by the justice?
MARCARELLI: Well, honestly, I didn't completely read the dissenting opinion by Justice Ginsburg, but I will say these were not pencil-and-paper tests, and it was clear to us that the five other justices recognized that when they were writing their opinions. These were very comprehensive job-based examinations that reflected the jobs that we do as lieutenants and captains within the New Haven Fire Department.
DOBBS: Ben, your thoughts tonight, after what has been almost a six-year long battle.
LT. BEN VARGAS, NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPT.: Well, I'm happy that we're almost to the finish line. And I'm very pleased with the outcome thus far.
DOBBS: I've got to ask you, what is going to be the feeling, what is the - what will be the reaction within that fire department, because men and women of all races, creeds and religions work together day in and day out? Is this a net positive for the organization, and for the individuals who make it up, or what?
Frank, why don't we start with you?
MARCARELLI: I'd actually like to answer that question.
MARARELLI: I think that what all firefighters, at least within the New Haven Fire Department, hopefully throughout the country, can recognize now is that they're not going to be discriminated against based upon their race when they take an examination in good faith, that they'll be promoted if they top the list of those promotional examinations.
DOBBS: Karen, let me ask you this, these gentlemen won their promotions. They need to have those promotions, you know, absolutely, they need to have those appointments now. They need back pay. What happens now to restore what should have been theirs almost six years ago?
TORRE: Well, I think there will be some time before the case makes its way back here. We'll take a little break. And we look forward -I look forward - to getting these men the badges that they've been deprived of for so long. We'll deal with what else they're entitled to at that point. Right now we'd like to take a little bit of a break.
More importantly, Lou, we look forward to this opinion having the effect of forcing everyone to go back to the rules of the game, the rules of the game are may the best woman or the best man win, and let's not look at skin color or ethnicity. I think this opinion will help end the racial divisions that are caused by laws, or judges' opinions, that wrongfully allow people to use their skin color and their ethnicity to the unfair advantage of other people.
DOBBS: I want to say thank you to all of you. Again, congratulations on your court victory. Karen Torre, Frank Ricci, that his name is affixed to the title of that historic case. Matt Marcarelli, we thank you for being with us. Ben Vargas, we thank you. To all of you, the very best.
Let's hear now from the other side. Victor Bolden the corporation counsel for the city of New Haven.
Victor, good to have you back with us. I know that you have to be disappointed in the outcome of this case, but were you surprised?
VICTOR BOLDEN, CORPORATE COUNSEL, CITY OF NEW HAVEN: Well, thank you, Lou, for having us on the show.
Obviously the city is disappointed in the ruling. Certainly in the context of when they were making the decision they acted in the best interests at the time, and acted based on the legal principles that existed then. And it is certainly disappointing to have the Supreme Court rule otherwise.
Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was landmark legislation and the city was doing its best to follow it. And to have that be considered to be discrimination certainly disappointing.
DOBBS: Disappointing, excuse me, disappointing, but what is next to satisfy the judgment of the Supreme Court today, Victor?
BOLDEN: Well, I'm having a little difficulty hearing you, but I think what -- I think what's important for folks to know is that in a context where the city had been faced with - had had lawsuits in the '70s, '80s, '90s --
DOBBS: Victor, I'm sorry. Let me interrupt you, is what I don't want to retry the case. What is the next step for the city of New Haven to follow out and to carry out the judgment of the Supreme Court?
BOLDEN: Yes, like I said, the city, you know, obviously at time was trying to follow the law. The city going forward will try to follow the law. The matter has been referred back to district court and there will be further proceedings and the matter will be resolved there.
DOBBS: When you say the matter will be resolved, the court outright set aside the previous judgment, it was not remanded, therefore, there is simply the issue that you lost the case. How do you as city acting in good faith follow the high court's ruling?
BOLDEN: Oh, no, I think, like I said, the matter has been referred back to the district court to address any remaining issues and those issues will be addressed at district court.
DOBBS: You're talking about the promotions themselves?
BODEN: Well, I think we're talking about any issues left in the case with respect to relief, those matters are the matters to be taken up with the district court.
DOBBS: You're going to fight the case, that is what you're saying, the city of New Haven will fight the Supreme Court ruling?
BOLDEN: I'm having difficulty hearing you.
DOBBS: You want me to yell it?
BOLDEN: Like I've said, I've made clear.
You're still coming a little fuzzy. But let me just add that the city certainly intends to follow the law. We have read the ruling and we'll review it closely. Once it gets back to district court we'll address matters accordingly.
DOBBS: All right. Victor Bolden, thanks for being with us, we appreciate it.
BOLDEN: Thank you for having me, Lou.
DOBBS: Well, some remarkably honest discussion tonight on the debate over illegal immigration from what many would consider an unlikely source. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York saying straightforwardly, that illegal immigration is wrong and Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration. It is something we do not often hear in this debate from either the left or the right.
Senator Schumer flatly rejecting euphemisms that have, well, been used by many to obfuscate the issue rather than illuminate it. Terms like undocumented worker or migrants. Here is Senator Schumer, making his declaration last week about honest language at the Migration Policy Institute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple. Until the American people are convinced that we will stop future flows of illegal immigration, we will make no progress on dealing with the millions of illegal immigrants who are here now and unrationalizing (ph) our system of legal immigration. It's plain and simple and unavoidable.
When we use phrases like "undocumented workers", we convey a message to the American people that their government is not serious about combating illegal immigration, which the American people overwhelmingly oppose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Well, the senator is obviously trying to assert, with the good faith, honest language, and in that regard, it is something to watch as to whether or not his lead is followed. Using the word, illegal, the expression or term, illegal alien, rather than undocumented worker or migrant, as some news organizations, as well as partisans and advocates in this national debate have done.
Well, we're going to continue our discussion with a Supreme Court's decision on the New Haven 20, as they are called, and what it means for Judge Sotomayor's confirmation. That is a subject of tonight's "Face Off" debate.
Also tonight, the latest developments on the investigation into Michael Jackson's death are coming up here next.
DOBBS: An update now into the investigation of the death of Michael Jackson. Today the assistant chief coroner and several investigators took two large bags of evidence from Michael Jackson's home. The investigators found several medications. It is not clear what the medications are, or how many, or how much of these medications were, in fact, found.
The coroner does say that medications were removed because of new information in the investigation just recently received. Toxicology tests from Michael Jackson's autopsy are expected to take several weeks.
Turning now to our "Face Off" debate, and that is on today's Supreme Court decision in the New Haven firefighter racial discrimination case. That case winning a ruling by the New Haven firefighters, the New Haven 20. And it effectively overturns President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Sotomayor was sitting on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and had ruled for the city of New Haven. The case raises questions about the judge's qualifications, in the minds of many, to sit on the Supreme Court. That is the subject of our "Face Off" tonight and the impact of that historic decision on the judge's nomination.
Joining me now are Ed Whelan, he's president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.
Ed, good to have you with us.
And Dustin McDaniel, attorney general for the state of Arkansas.
Let's start with you, Ed, if we may. This decision, many people, obviously, believe that it will have a major impact in workplaces, particularly government workplaces, across the country. Is this a major slap in the face to Judge Sotomayor, the way in which both the minority opinion and the majority opinions were written?
ED WHELAN, ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Well, I think the main concern that this case has raised about Judge Sotomayor is whether she is committed in practiced to impartiality. What she did below with her procedural shenanigans, that were pointed out by her fellow Clinton appointee, Jose Cabronas, was to try to bury the firefighters' claims and prevent meaningful review. And what we have here is the Supreme Court saying these claims shouldn't be buried in a one paragraph six-sentence order. These are important claims, these firefighters deserve to get a fair shake. And lo and behold, the majority of the court ruled for the firefighters and even the four justices in dissent point out --
DOBBS: Attorney General McDaniel, your thoughts?
DUSTIN MCDANIEL, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ARKANSAS: Well, I think it's a red herring to suggest in any way that a pro curium order is in some way a dereliction of duty from the Circuit Court. When Alito was up for was up for his nomination, he had the exact same circumstance. He had pro curium orders, he had been reversed by the United States Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor was originally appointed by George H.W. Bush, as was Judge Souter. This is in no way a reflection on her competence to serve. And, frankly, in my opinion not going to have any impact on her confirmation. I think she's going to do very, very well and she should.
DOBBS: Ed Whelan, the attorney general makes a strong case here. What's your reaction?
Well, I think he's evidently unfamiliar with the blistering dissent that Judge Cabronas, a Clinton employee wrote from the denial of rehearing on bond. I think what we see here is a concern, it's actually the ugly flip side of President Obama's empathy standards. If it's OK, as President Obama seems to think, to have selected empathy for certain litigants, that invites antipathy for other litigants. I think that's what we've seen here.
MCDANIEL: Lou, I've read the dissent. And as a former police officer, myself, where I was subject to civil service promotional exams, I totally understand what the facts involved are here. And she was not an activist. She followed decades of established law. It was the Roberts courts that changed the law. If we do not want an activist justice, I think we've got a winner with Sotomayor. If we want activists who go for a desired outcome and will change the law and legislate from the bench, that's what we've got in the majority now.
DOBBS: So, Sotomayor is all about - stereo decisis (ph), precedent is going to be embedded in stone with her. Is that what you're saying Mr. Attorney General?
MCDANIEL: That's certainly what the outcome of a congressional review has been of her lengthy record, in a nonpartisan, bipartisan review, that came out recently. She has, in fact, bent over backwards to be one, to be respectful of stereo decisis (ph). This is not an activist judge. This is not someone out on a fringe. This is a good nominee who will follow the law and let policy be dictated by Congress, not by the bench.
DOBBS: Ed Whelan, let me ask you, you surely are not suggesting she would be more of an activist, quote/unquote, if indeed she would be, than say David Souter, whom she replaces? WHELAN: I don't think that comparing one nominee to a justice, who frankly has a lot of flaws is very meaningful. We are entitled to --
DOBBS: Then I withdraw the question immediately.
WHELAN: Well, I think we're entitled to justices who respect the realm of representative government, who don't indulge in policy preferences, either to override what's been done, or to let bad things happen.
I'll point out, it was President Obama's own Justice Department in its amicus brief that said Judge Sotomayor got things wrong on one aspect of the Second Circuit ruling. This notion that somehow what she said reflects decades of precedence, no, what she was trying to do, as Judge Cabronas point out, was bury the firefighters' claims so they wouldn't get a fair hearing. Her shenanigans backfired.
MCDANIEL: In truth the solicitor general did not say that. They agreed with Judge Sotomayor's interpretation of the law, but rather thought that if there needed to be additional developments in the case, it should have been remanded back and Roberts court chose not to do that.
DOBBS: Gentlemen, I have to say, like two terrific attorneys, you're trying to retry the case. We appreciate both your efforts in that regard, also eliminating what we expect from the confirmation process. Ed Whelan, thank you very much. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, thank you very much.
MCDANIEL: Thank you.
WHELAN: Thank you.
DOBBS: We thank you for being with us tonight. And ask you to join us here tomorrow. For all of us, we thank you for watching. Good night from New York. Now Campbell Brown.