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CNN Larry King Live
Interview With Nancy Grace, Marc Klaas, Jan Ronis
Aired July 15, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a shocking crime. Seven-year-old Danielle van Dam stolen from her bed and later found murdered. A sensational trial, a close neighbor, is charged with the little girl's killing, facing possible execution if convicted. His defense has attacked Danielle's grieving parents for their swinging lifestyle and drug use.
Joining us while a judge's vacation puts this compelling case on hold, Court TV's Nancy Grace, former prosecutor; Marc Klaas, his daughter Polly was kidnapped from her home and murdered in 1993 and he's become close to the van Dams during their ordeal; the world- renowned forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee; San Diego criminal defense attorney Jan Ronis; and covering the van Dam murder trial for KGTV in San Diego, Sally Sherry. All that and your phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Just a recap. Danielle was missing, not discovered by -- gone on February 1, discovered on February 27 when her body was found. The subject is a neighbor, arrested Mr. Westerfield. He is charged with murder, kidnapping and possession of kiddie porn. The body was found about 25 miles from her house on February 27. The case is currently on hiatus for a week. The judge, I believe, is on vacation. The defense is presenting its case.
What do you make of that first, Nancy, halting the case?
NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: Well, Larry, that's been a subject of a lot of discussion. You know, I've tried a lot of felony cases, including murder cases, similar to this one and I have never seen a judge take a vacation in the middle of a felony trial. Now, this judge, Larry, Judge Mudd, has been very even-handed. And unlike a lot of judges who are really just political hacks, he's got a history of trying a lot of cases. So he's been great in the courtroom. But I just have never heard of a judge taking off on vacation, Larry!
KING: OK, Jan, he practices in -- he's a judge in your town. What do you make of it?
JAN RONIS, SAN DIEGO DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, he's taken a lot of heat on the local radio shows. I mean, like Nancy says, it is unusual for a judge to take off. And, you know, this jury I'm sure wants to get on with their life. On the other hand, Mr. Westerfield, who knows, he may be acquitted of these charges. He's spending an extra week in jail. But either way, I think it was irresponsible of the judge to take a vacation.
KING: Does it hurt the defense more since they were presenting?
RONIS: You know, I don't know how it plays out because it's so unusual. I don't know if anybody keeps any statistics on it. But in any event, it's unfair to the entire community because it's kind of gripped San Diego the last several weeks.
KING: Marc Klaas, does it surprise you?
MARC KLAAS, DAUGHTER ABDUCTED & MURDERED IN 1993: Well, of course it does, Larry. And so much hinges on this. I mean, so many people are dependent upon what happens here. It just sort of hangs Mr. And Mrs. van Dam and their family out to dry. It does the same thing for Westerfield as for as that goes. And one has to be concerned about the jury pool. They're not sequestered. And certainly the possibility exists if they turn on the TV or open the newspaper or listen to the radio, that they're going to hear something about the trial that may color their decision.
KING: Before we bring Dr. Lee in on the forensic side of all of this, Sally, what are they saying in San Diego?
SALLY SHERRY, KGTV: Well, I know the judge made a big point of saying he has this week vacation scheduled. He said that at the beginning of the trial. He planned it with his wife and he has been saying it all along. And then last week in court, he told the jurors a lot of people are going assume that you're idiots, you're going to forget everything and the last witness you saw on the stand you'll think is the best witness you ever heard from.
But he's saying I have more faith in you, as jurors, I have faith in you that you're going to self-police, and that you're not going to be listening to the radio, watching TV, having conversations with your friends. So, he really made a big point of sticking up for himself for taking this vacation.
KING: But one of them or few of them could be watching this show right now?
RONIS: Well, of course. There's a lot of reasons that I think it's irresponsible, not the least of which what Sally just mentioned. Of course.
KING: Dr. Lee, part of the forensics here is one of the weird aspects, I understand, in the accused vehicles, we find Danielle's fingerprints or the wife's fingerprints, but not his.
DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSICS EXPERT: Yes.
KING: How do you explain that?
LEE: Well, it's kind of a -- which would indicate those fingerprint probably deposit (ph) recently. In theory, we should find his own fingerprint. I don't know exactly how many fingerprint, palm -- many time they palm fingerprint but cannot be identified. In other words, sometime we call smudges, or not enough rich characters to make identification. That's one possibility.
Another possibility, he recently clean the house. Of course, Danielle's fingerprint was deposited later. The third possibility, that's the prosecution try to introduce the jury, say he wore a glove.
KING: Nancy, yes, go ahead.
GRACE: There's one thing about that fingerprint that was found in Westerfield's RV. One palm print, the little girl's palm print, and fingers were found in one place, in the defendant's RV. Right beside his bed, her left palm print and fingerprints. And the defense is going to argue in closing argument, Larry, that this little girl may have wandered into the RV and played house or played kitchen or whatever. But throughout the entire RV, the prints were found in one place, coincidentally, by his bed, directly by the defendant's bed.
KING: Nancy, as a prosecutor, do you tend, therefore, in most cases to believe -- do you tend, in your mind, to convict Mr. Westerfield?
GRACE: Not necessarily on the prints, because I can imagine a little girl wandering into a RV and playing in it, much as if they saw a swimming pool, they might jump in, or a playground, they might play on it. But this is what damns him, in my opinion, and that is one single drop of Danielle van Dam's blood was found on Westerfield's jacket. Between that and the fingerprints and the child's hair in the drain in his RV bathroom, in my opinion, the forensics speak loud and clear.
KING: Is he up against it, Jan?
RONIS: Well, the evidence is undisputed that this young girl had been in his motor home at least -- excuse me, in his residence at least on one occasion. And the motor home was parked out of the neighborhood. In fact, the neighbors were complaining about its presence. And there's a possibility that she could have gone in the motor home and left that print there on an earlier occasion and, in fact, left her hair there. So, I don't think this is -- this is just some of the evidence the prosecution has offered. On the other had, the defense has introduced evidence that there's a likelihood that she was in that motor home and, in fact, had been in the residence.
KING: Marc, you've gotten friendly with the parents, am I correct?
KLAAS: Actually, I spoke to Brenda today. Yes, sir. We belong to the same club of parents of murdered children.
KING: What do you make of the defense putting them on trial for their lifestyle?
KLAAS: Well, you know, you have to expect something like that. We know that part of a vigorous defense is casting doubt on the prosecution's case. But they've taken this to an extreme, and basically put the parents on trial here. And, in fact, you hear much more about the parents' lifestyle and how that has affected their children than hear about this guy Westerfield and how the crime that he's committed has affected the children...
KING: Accused of committing...
KLAAS: And it's like taking a family that's already down for the count and, quite frankly, many families are down for the count in this kind of a situation, and then kicking him in the teeth and stomping him on the back of the head.
KING: How does, Sally, does the community deal with this? As I would imagine, they frown on the lifestyle?
SHERRY: There are definitely people who are outraged by their lifestyle, disgusted by their lifestyle. And I know a lot of people that helped them make their judgment or -- they make judgments on the van Dam's family, definitely.
But there are then definitely people who don't even think lifestyle issues should be an issue. And I know the prosecution really argued to limit the testimony about their lifestyle. But it seems that Friday night, the night they went out dancing at the bar, Brenda and her girlfriend, that, somehow, managed -- allowed hem to bring in a lot of that testimony about the lifestyle they led, the fact they smoked marijuana, the fact that they were drunk, all that kind of thing.
KING: Jan, would you handle it that way if you were the defense team?
RONIS: Well, Marc said that it's an extreme. But, look, the parents had an extreme lifestyle. They may be nice people and certainly they are grieving the loss of their child, but they put their child in harm's way because of that lifestyle, inviting people into the home...
KING: So, it's fair game.
RONIS: It's fair game. And if the judge didn't let this in, I could assure you, in the event there would be a conviction, it would be a reversal. It would have been a reversal.
KING: Because that is part of a defense argument?
RONIS: Well, it's a legitimate, credible one.
LEE: I have another point, Larry.
KING: We'll take a break and come right back with Dr. Lee's point. There's lots to cover. We'll include your phone calls. Robert Wagner tomorrow night. And that, of course, tells you that Austin Powers is coming back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRENDA VAN DAM, MOTHER OF MURDERED GIRL: I started looking around the house, and looking under the bed and looking in the closet. And Damon came upstairs, and he started looking with me. And we were yelling out her name. And -- and then we went downstairs. Damon went out front, and I went out back. But we couldn't find her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're discussing the murder of 9-year-old Danielle van Dam with our panel. We will be including your phone calls. Dr. Henry Lee, who authored "Cracking Cases: The Science of Solving Crimes," wants to say something. Doctor?
LEE: Well, the lifestyle, why the defense attorney tried to introduce that may be to connect and try to explain why those fibers of hair, the fingerprint and the DNA found in the motor vehicle in closing, because they found almost 130 to 250 fibers. That's quite a bit of fibers. However, most the fibers is found in the washing machine. And two spot of blood, one on the carpet, one on his jacket. They try to use his lifestyle because a secondary transfer may happen. In other words, hair fibers may transfer through an intermediary surface.
KING: And by the way, Jan pointed out that the palm print was in the motor vehicle, not in the house.
RONIS: That's correct. Exactly.
KING: All right. We want to show you a couple of quick snippets here and then get the panel's reaction. First, we're going to see Brenda van Dam testifying in court about dancing with Westerfield at a local bar that night. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say were you dancing than occasion. Who were you dancing with?
VAN DAM: All three of the girls were dancing together, and that was basically about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about any guys? Were you dancing with any guys there on the 25th?
VAN DAM: I don't recall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About -- Barbara or Denise (ph)? Do you know if they were dancing with any of the guys there?
VAN DAM: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did you stay?
VAN DAM: Until about 1:30. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if the defendant was still there when you left?
VAN DAM: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
VAN DAM: Because I wasn't keeping track of him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right. That was Brenda van Dam. Now a defense witness. This is Patricia Lepage. She's testifying that Brenda did dance with him that night. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICIA LEPAGE, WESTERFIELD DEFENSE WITNESS: Mr. Westerfield and Mrs. van Dam were dancing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you notice whether or not she appeared to be rubbing herself all over him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those were your words, weren't they?
Well, there was a movie they called -- it was called "Dirty Dancing." So, I guess I had to see that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Nancy Grace, isn't that damaging to the prosecution?
GRACE: Yes, it is. And, of course, it has no significance as to who committed this crime that she may have danced with Westerfield for a fleeting moment on the dance floor, or during a group dance of sorts.
But here's the significance. The defense is going to now be in position in closing argument to suggest to this jury that during that dance, Larry, Brenda van Dam somehow unconsciously transferred her daughter's fiber and hair on to Westerfield, because it was very shortly after those hair and fiber were found in his RV, his motor vehicle. That gives them a peg to hang their hat on. If somebody on that jury wants to acquit, this is the way they can do it. Do I buy it? No. But it's a good argument.
KING: Marc Klaas, though, if he's telling his defense team that he didn't do it, if they have no priors on him doing anything like this and if they believe him, shouldn't they present that as evidence?
KLAAS: Well, again, they have to present what they're going to present as evidence. But you don't make your whole case the vilification of the parents of a little girl who's just been murdered. It can certainly be an element of it. I would think, you know, about this dancing business, Larry, it's if it's a crowded dance floor and there's a lot of people on there gyrating around, the possibility exists that depending on where you're turned, you may appear to be dancing with any individual at any given time.
KING: It gets interesting and interesting, doesn't it, Jan?
RONIS: It does. And what Marc is saying and what Nancy is saying is just part of the dynamic. The dancing was only one aspect of it. But there had been group sex, wife swapping, inviting strangers back into the residence. And this is what they're overlooking. This is what put this child in harm's way, allowing strangers to be into your house, asking...
GRACE: I'm not overlooking it, Jan. I'm not overlooking it. I just don't think it's relevant. I think it's a defense theory trumped up to crucify Brenda van Dam. And it's all to get Westerfield off. That's what this is about. She didn't introduce a predator in to the home.
RONIS: Right, well, there's testimony that they invited strangers to come back to the house that night, that Mrs. van Dam is explaining that she liked this other couple, man and woman, do you want to come back to the residence. So, look, this put the children -- this is an abhorrent lifestyle, these sordid, lurid tales, nobody wants to bring it out. But it certainly contributed or conceivably could have contributed to the death of this child, by inviting strangers in to the house.
KLAAS: You know, downloading child pornography onto your computer is not only an abhorrent lifestyle , but it's also a felony in California.
RONIS: Well, it's a misdemeanor. But keep in mind, it's now, I think, been convincingly proven by the defense that it was the son was the most likely source of the download of that pornography.
GRACE: No. Absolutely not.
GRACE: And, Larry, if you could have seen this...
KING: Hold on. Hold on. How do we know? How do you know whether it was the son or the father?
GRACE: Because it was Westerfield's computer. It was his CD- ROM. Yes, his son lived there every other weekend. But this was his computer. And, Larry, if you had seen this video, it was of a seven or 8-year-old girl, much like Danielle van Dam, being attacked and raped by two adult males, the child was screaming during this video, and Westerfield kept that in his home.
RONIS: No, no. That video was horrible, but there's more credible evidence to suggest it was not downloaded by Mr. Westerfield but, in fact, was downloaded by his son, by the defense expert in that regard.
KING: Sally, you know that community is a rather conservative end of San Diego, going to hold so much against this couple that they might well acquit?
SHERRY: It's a very conservative city. It's a conservative neighborhood that the van Dams live in. And I don't know. An interesting point, though, just to go back to the fiber transfer and the hair transfer, it still doesn't explain the blood drops that were found on David Westerfield's jacket and it doesn't explain the fingerprints either. So I'm not sure how strong that is.
KING: By the way, we're now going to show you a bit of testimony from Cherokee Young describing Brenda van Dam's behavior at the bar that night. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were with your friend Ryan (ph), when did -- what did Brenda say to you with your friend Ryan?
CHEROKEE YOUNG, WESTERFIELD DEFENSE WITNESS: She asked Barbara who these two people were, and Barbara said she didn't know our names, so she didn't say our names. And we were just kind of walking away, and she said, are you together, or something like that. And I said, yes. And then Brenda had made a comment saying, I'd like to take these two home. I wouldn't mind taking these two home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll be right back with our panel, go to your phone calls in a little while. Don't go away.
KING: Going to play you a tape now of Annette Peer, and we'll get Dr. Lee's thoughts. Annette's a forensic scientist in the San Diego Police Department, and she discusses blood stains matching Danielle's DNA that were found on Westerfield's jacket and in the RV. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to ask you initially is with regard to the Caucasian population, what is the approximate likelihood of someone chosen at random in that population having the same DNA genetic types found in both the carpet stain and Danielle van Dam?
ANNETTE PEER, SAN DIEGO P.D. CRIME LAB: That frequency would be in the Caucasian population approximately one in 130 quadrillion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would ask you the same question with regard to the African-American population. What's the approximate likelihood of selecting someone at random from that population and that person having the same genetic profile as found in the carpet and Danielle van Dam? PEER: That would be one in 1.7 quintillion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the Hispanic population, what is the likelihood of someone being chosen at random having that same genetic profile found in both the carpet stain and Danielle van Dam?
PEER: That number would be one in 6.6 quintillion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And Jan Ronis wanted me to ask you, Dr. Lee, if blood has to be wet when it goes on the cloth fabric?
LEE: Yes. The blood has to be in liquid stage and deposit on the surface. Of course, we'd have to look at the pattern. Is that the drop or just a smear? If it's a drop, that's more significant than just a contact smear. With that kind of number, which means that's her blood, or her identical twin's. Since she doesn't have identical twins, means must be hers. This DNA are significant evidence is much more valued than the fabric, although the fiber you found, you know, 250 fibers, but all in washing machine. I did the inventory, about 20 fibers in some washer, about 100 in the linen thing. And all those fibers, it can be a cross-transfer because don't forget that most fiber, carpet fiber, that's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) complex. There may be other apartment (ph) will have the similar type of fabric with DNA that's only hers, nobody else.
KING: Marc, you attended the trial of the person convicted in the killing of your daughter, did you not?
KLAAS: Absolutely, every day. Yes, sir.
KING: OK. We're going to show you Judge Mudd ruling last week that Damon van Dam would be allowed back in to the court. He earlier banned had him. Let's listen to the judge and then I want your thoughts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE WILLIAM MUDD, CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: What lies ahead is extremely, in my opinion, emotional testimony that is going to go to the heart of what they're going to be able to tolerate. So I'm going to be watching very closely. And you should know, Mr. van Dam, that if I get one report of one incident, I will bar you from the courthouse. I simply am not willing to take another chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Marc, is that a correct decision?
KLAAS: Well, Larry, in 1995, California passed a law that allows the families of murder victims to be inside the courtroom. And that's what led the judge to make that decision. I don't imagine he wanted to.
But you know what? Brenda and Damon van Dam are sitting behind David Westerfield. So, I don't know how they can be intimidating this guy with their stares. You know, Damon is 5'7", weighs like 155 pounds. That's not an intimidating individual. We've all seen him on TV. He's a mild-mannered man. And he certainly has to be in that courtroom to represent his daughter, because without him and without Brenda, there's nobody to represent Danielle, only people who represent the state.
KING: But, Marc, if he has emotional reactions, won't the jury see it?
KLAAS: Well, sure they'll see it. But has he had emotional...
KING: So they'll be sympathetic to him?
KLAAS: He hasn't had emotional reactions in the courtroom as far as...
KING: Then what did the judge mean when the judge said, if I notice one thing, you're out?
KLAAS: Well, I think that he's talking about looking -- as far as I know -- looking at either the defense lawyer, who seems to have a real problem with Damon's presence there, and/or Westerfield himself, who should have his back turned to him the vast majority of the time.
KING: Nancy, what do you think of having them in the courtroom?
GRACE: Well, as a crime victim, I wanted to be in the courtroom at the trial of the man that murdered my fiance. I always thought that was one of the single most important things a prosecutor could do is to seek justice for the families of victims. I support them being in the courtroom and Mudd's decision to let them back in.
And, Larry, I wanted to tell you something about that blood Dr. Henry Lee was discussing. The kicker about the blood, the defense can come up with whatever theory they want to about how that blood got on the defendant's jacket and in his RV. But I can't wait to hear their explanation of why at 7:30 a.m. on the Monday morning, Westerfield pulls in to the dry cleaner to have his sheets, his comforter and his jacket with the girl's blood on it cleaned. Pulls up, Larry, to the laundry in that behemoth RV to get the items with her blood on it clean. Now, that's no coincidence.
RONIS: Well, they keep making fun of this, you know, driving this RV. But this is California. People drive their RVs everywhere. So, there -- I think she's thinking like a New Yorker right now.
GRACE: Well, as you know, I'm clearly not a New Yorker. But long story short, I don't care what the man's driving. I care about the girl's blood on the clothes that he was taking to the cleaner the weekend of her disappearance.
KING: Marc, you want to say something?
KLAAS: No. I'm with Nancy on that. I mean, she asked a question and it wasn't addressed.
RONIS: I'll address it. Look, the defense theory is that this young woman had access to his motor home, and it's undisputed that she was in his house on at least one other occasion. And there has been testimony that the motor home was parked in the neighborhood and that other children had access to it, and it's very conceivable that she could have been in there on some earlier occasion, perhaps suffered some kind of injury, and it was only -- it's not like there was blood splattered all over, like we saw in the O.J. case. There was one speck of blood on his jacket and one speck of blood on the carpet of the motor home. And so, that's a very small amount.
There's no dispute that it was her blood. The defense hasn't challenged that. There's no question about it. The question is how it got there. And that's going to be one of the problems for the jury. I mean, there's compelling evidence that it was produced there as a result of some criminal act. On the other hand, there's very compelling evidence that she had an opportunity to be in there and deposit it in some non-criminal way.
KING: Sally, based on what's been happening, and I guess -- I don't know if we're supposed to do this even -- have they polled people to say what they're thinking, those who are watching the progress of this trial?
SHERRY: Everyone seems to have an opinion on it, that's for sure. I mean, there has been intense interest in this case since day one. And I think really for two reasons. One, because it's a terrifying prospect that someone could come in to a house and take a 7-year-old girl. And I know that everyone kind of says that could happen to me.
The second thing is, everything's moved on so quickly. At the beginning of February, Danielle van Dam was reported missing. The end of February, David Westerfield is arrested. A few days later, they find her body, and now he's on trial. So, there's been no break, no lull for people to get disinterested in it. They are very interested in it.
And just from walking around on the streets, walking into grocery stores, everyone comes up to me, maybe because I'm a reporter, but I know it's not just me, it's to everyone, what do you think is going to happen? Do you think he did it? Do you think they going acquit him? Do you think he downloaded that pornography? Do you think it was his son? I mean, there's really been incredible interest. And every day, there are about 30 members of the public who show up to the courtroom to try and get in and watch.
KING: And a lot of people offering both sides, some people thinking that maybe he didn't do it?
SHERRY: Definitely. Definitely. People call in to these talk shows and they're watching every minute of this trial, really paying attention. And a lot of people have their own theories on how someone else could have done it, how someone else could have snuck it, and making a lot of excuses for the fact that David Westerfield may not have done it.
KING: Speaking of calling in, that's just what we're going to do right now. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we're also going to talk and hear from another entomologist talking about another -- we didn't -- we heard from a forensic scientist -- we'll hear from an entomologist when we come back, talking about flies on the body, get Dr. Lee's opinion and go to your phone calls.
We'll re-introduce the panel as well.
And Robert Wagner is with us tomorrow.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: By the way, I said that Danielle van Dam was 9; she was 7 years old.
Let's re-introduce or panel.
In New York is Nancy Grace, the anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV has been doing daily coverage of the van Dam murder trial of David Westerfield, and is herself a former prosecutor.
In San Francisco is Marc Klaas. His 12-year-old daughter Polly was abducted from her home and murdered in 1993. A paroled felon, Richard Allen Davis, convicted of the crime, sentenced to death. He has become close to the van Dam parents during this ordeal. He's founder of the Klaaskids Foundation, an advocate for child protection and crime victims' rights.
In New Haven is Dr. Henry Lee, the world-renowned forensic scientist, author of "Cracking Cases: The Science of Solving Crimes.
In Los Angeles is Jan Ronis, criminal defense attorney who has provided commentary on the van Dam trial for Court TV.
And in San Diego is Sally Sherry, covering the case for KGTV in San Diego.
Before we start going to calls, David Faulkner, a forensic entomologist, testified about flies on the body and the time of death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it the case, based on all of your training and experience, that it's your opinion that, based upon your entomologic findings, that time of death could have between the 16th and the 18th of February?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... keep using "time of death." Use different terminology, and I'll allow the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it your conclusion that the postmortem interval could have been between the 16th and the 18th?
DAVID FAULKNER, FORENSIC ENTOMOLOGIST: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Lee, what's the relevance of that?
LEE: Well, that's kind of a very important aspect, because where the victim was before that period of time after he disappeared, and after she disappeared until the body was found, and because the time of the death is very important.
KING: I see.
LEE: And the interesting thing is they did not find any semen in any place. That's kind of -- can be an important question for a jury to think about. And, of course, defense attorney definitely going to bring (ph) this up. No semen was found.
KING: Let's go to calls.
Sorry, who wanted to -- was that Nancy?
SHERRY: It was Sally.
KING: OK Sally, go ahead.
Well, also an interesting fact is David Westerfield is David Westerfield was under 24-hour surveillance pretty much from February 4 on. And not only police surveillance, but media surveillance.
I mean, we were camped out in that neighborhood. Every single move he made...
KING: So are you saying if that guy's right, he didn't do it?
SHERRY: That's what I think they're trying to prove.
GRACE: Hold on just moment. I've got to clear this up.
That entomologist -- that forensic entomologist stated that the latest the body could have been dumped there was Feb. 16 to 18.
At that time Westerfield was already in custody. But the interesting part about what Henry Lee and Sally said is this: The reason no sperm was found on this child's body, Larry, as horrible as this is to consider, is that the child's mucus membranes were already decomposed -- her mouth, her throat, her anus, her vagina, were gone by the time that little body was discovered.
That could be the reason there was no sperm on indication of attack.
RONIS: We've got to put one thing in perspective. And that is that the entomologist has testified that that body was placed there around the 15th or 16th of February...
GRACE: At the latest.
RONIS: ... long after -- at the latest, long after Mr. Westerfield was considered a suspect, and during the period of time when he was under constant surveillance.
And the defense theory is, and is going to be in closing arguments, that somebody else abducted, killed and dumped that child out there...
KING: Let me get a call.
Tampa, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry.
My question for the panel is: With so much media attention on the van Dam case itself, why wasn't the jury sequestered? And since the jury wasn't sequestered, could this be the basis for an appeal down the road if the defendant is found guilty?
RONIS: Well, I don't think so. Sequestering a jury is really direct. And although I think the -- for example, in the O.J. case there was a sequestration. But I think that was only after deliberations started.
So that's very unusual. The judge has told the jury to self- police. He's taking them at their word that they will. And there hasn't been any evidence yet that they've been contaminated by this intensive media scrutiny of the case.
KING: Does anyone on the panel think he should have been sequestered? Nobody?
All right, do you think so, Marc?
KLAAS: Well, no. In fact, what I was going to say, Larry, is that I have great faith in the jury system. And I think people that go on to juries take their responsibility very, very much to heart, and they're very careful about judiciously listening to the evidence and basing their opinion on what was presented in court.
KING: Wright City, Missouri, hello. CALLER: Hi. My question is, Mr. Westerfield was being so closely watched the day following the kidnapping. How did he dispose of Danielle?
SHERRY: He'd been gone for the whole weekend after she disappeared.
GRACE: That's right, Sally. He was the only one in the entire neighborhood that took a powder. As soon as this child went missing, when they went to Westerfield's home immediately after she was discovered gone, Westerfield was gone.
And as it turns out, he got in this RV and put on, I think, around 300 to 400 miles in one weekend on his RV.
SHERRY: Specifically, the same RV where her blood was found.
And the prosecution has made a big issue out of that, too, saying he went -- if you don't know San Diego, he went from the beach to the desert, to the beach again, and then said he spent the night in the Coronado (ph) Cave. He just went on a crazy route that they say is not logical. It doesn't really make sense. But then they brought on...
KING: Jan, what's the -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
SHERRY: They brought on a lot of people -- the defense brought on a lot of witness who said, it's not that abnormal to actually make that route.
KING: What's the prosecution's theory, Jan, of motive?
RONIS: Well, the prosecution's theory of motive is, obviously, sex. That...
RONIS: Right, that he was a -- he had downloaded this child pornography; that sex was the motive; that he's a pedophile. That he kidnapped and molested and killed this child because of this prurient interest of his in young children.
KING: No prior history of...
RONIS: No prior history.
And now, of course -- and that's why it's important to listen to all sides of the evidence. Now there's a credible thought out there that, in fact, the pornography, which established a motive for this case, was not downloaded by Mr. Westerfield, but his son.
KING: We'll take a break and come back with more phone calls. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Waldorf, Maryland, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question is, will Barbara Easton be called to testify in this trial, and why didn't the prosecution call her to the stand?
GRACE: Well, Barbara Easton, for those who haven't been watching the case every day, is another one of the van Dam friends that was along that night. I frankly think the reason neither side has called Barbara is because she could open up a can of worms that neither wants to explore. For instance, Barbara could go into further evidence of wife-swapping and swinging on the part of the victims' family. As to Westerfield, she could describe his activities that night in a light that could be very unflattering to David Westerfield.
RONIS: Well, if they could have, they would have called her to the stand, and they haven't.
GRACE: I don't think they wanted the risk on what would happen on cross. Either side. She's a mine field.
RONIS: They're not through yet. They might call her.
KING: All right, let's watch Damon van Dam testifying. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON VAN DAM, FATHER OF MURDERED GIRL: Brenda and Barbara came upstairs. I'm not sure if they came upstairs together. I think they did. They came into the room, and Barbara jumped on the bed next to me, on top of the blankets, and I think Brenda went in the bathroom, but I'm not sure. Laid there with Barbara for a minute. Brenda went out of the room, went back downstairs. And after a few minutes of laying with Barbara, I turned the TV off. Snuggled up with her, and we talked for just a minute, and kind of started to doze off when Brenda came back upstairs and asked us to come down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you doing with Barbara?
D. VAN DAM: Kissed her, snuggled her some.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you rub her back or anything like that?
D. VAN DAM: I think I put my arm around her and rubbed her back some, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Marc Klaas, nine years since you went through all of this. In retrospect, what was it like, that waiting?
KLAAS: Larry, not knowing where your child is and having your anonymity just blown away all at the same time is such an incredibly difficult thing to have to go through. You find out that you have absolutely no control over the events in your life, and that, in fact, you're just sitting there waiting for things to happen so that you can react to them.
And for the van Dams in this situation, to have their child kidnapped and then to have their indiscretions or their unconventional choices revealed to the world almost at exactly the same time is just one of the worst things that I can imagine. And then the continual vilification of these very nice people is just more than I personally would like to bear.
KING: Before we take our next call, let's watch Marc Klaas in court.
That's Marc Klaas showing a good deal of anger when the defendant seemed to imply that he, Mr. Klaas, was involved. There's the defendant.
Mr. Klaas, that was some experience for you, wasn't it?
KLAAS: It really was, Larry, and it just goes to point out who has all the rights. This is a guy who had been convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering my little daughter, and he was about to be sentenced to death. He chose not take the stand in his own defense, yet the judge allowed him to say those words where he implicated me in one of the worst ways possible, and then I'm the guy that gets thrown out of the courtroom. It's just unbelievable.
RONIS: If I could just comment real quick. Nobody should have to go through what Mr. Klaas went through and all the other similar situated victims and their families, but that doesn't preclude the possibility that Mr. Westerfield has been unjustly accused of a crime, and it certainly doesn't preclude his right to a fair trial in California, in spite of what Mr. Klaas went through and other people, like I mentioned, similarly situated.
KING: Ashtabula, Ohio, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question is a forensic one. Once the dry cleaning fluid has been put on the blood on the jacket, would or could that not alter the true composition of the blood in it, so would that hinder -- hinder a reliable DNA profile?
KING: Good question. Dr. Lee?
LEE: Excellent question. Excellent question. And early days, the first generation of DNA testing, called FLP (ph), definitely would inhibit the task, and would not yield results. Now we use a third generation FTR (ph), PCR-based test which with a small molecule of DNA, we still can find reliable tests. So if after the laundry sufficient amount of DNA found in the blood stain or semen stain, or any tissue of material with DNA, you still can find DNA -- still can find reliable DNA testing.
KING: To Buchanan, Michigan, hello. CALLER: Hello. My question is also for Dr. Lee. The bug timeline was determined on the supposed first generation of infestation. Is it possible because so much of the torso and pelvis is missing, that the larva there using were actually second or third generation, due to animals removing them?
LEE: Yes, it's a possibility. Also, we don't know the time of the death or you can't really just look at the maggot and determine the time of the death. If the body is storing in no place no insect infestation and no fly, subsequently moved to a place, have a fly lay their egg and the larva and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) developed. So that's a good question. You have to consider all the factor before they used the larva to determine the time of the death.
KING: We'll be back with some more moments and more phone calls for our outstanding panel. Don't go away.
KING: Windsor, Ontario. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. My question is to Sally. It's a three-part question. Have they questioned his children, if he ever touched them inappropriately? And are his children in the courtroom? And have they been asked to testify in his behalf, and do they support him?
SHERRY: Because there is a gag order in the case, I am not aware of what communication is going on between the attorneys and his children. But that is a question that a lot of San Diegans are definitely wondering, and a lot of people wondering. Obviously, his children and his ex-wife would also know if there was something strange going on.
As far as I know, they have not been in the courtroom and, as far as I know, they are not going up onto the stand. But, of course, as I said, there is a gag order. So we never do know exactly who will be testifying in the case, but I think that's a really good point you bring up and it's something a lot of people are wondering about.
KING: Truror, Nova Scotia. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Has the defense team been looking at any other viable suspects or leads in this case?
KING: Jan, do you know?
RONIS: Well, it's not that -- let's put it in perspective. It's the prosecution's obligation to prove the case beyond the reasonable doubt of the accused. And it isn't the defense's obligation to go out and look for other people, although if they were certainly readily available, I'm sure they would present in evidence in that regard.
Indirectly, there have. They've presented evidence that the van Dam home was open to strangers, and was open to sordid and lurid...
KING: They have their own investigators? RONIS: Oh, absolutely.
KING: And who's paying them?
RONIS: Well, that's somewhat unclear, although it looks as though Mr. Westerfield initially retained his attorneys, and then they exhausted the funds that were available, and then they made an application to the court for appointment of the court...
KING: But they get considerably less.
RONIS: Well, they get considerably less, but this trial, I'm sure, is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
KING: Nancy, how much longer does this trial go on?
GRACE: Well, of course, they're off this week and everybody's gone on vacation. But I would anticipate once it kicks back off on Monday morning, the defense has probably got two maybe three days max. Then the state is going to offer a rebuttal. And I would predict that the rebuttal will be in direct response to the forensic entomologist. And another thing about that entomologist, Larry, he could only give the jury the latest possible date that child's body was thrown to the side the road, not the earliest. So it doesn't necessarily preclude Westerfield.
KING: If the opinions, Sally expressed them, Jan, about the people of San Diego are in fact the way the jury's thinking, could we have a hung jury here?
RONIS: Well, I don't know how scientific the analysis is, but I mean, there are opinions going both ways on this. It's just -- the number of people I've talked to, so I think a hung jury is -- I hate to make predictions, but a hung jury certainly wouldn't surprise me.
SHERRY: And the interesting fact about this jury, though, it's very diverse -- ethnically, as far as age goes. I mean, there's some grandparents on it, there is some very young people on it. They seem to get along really well. I see them hanging out every morning together, chit-chatting. And it's hard to know. I know when they watched some of the pornography, the animated video, they were all very upset. Some of them were even crying. And I don't know if that's going to influence them. But it's hard to know how cohesive they are. They look like they are, but they're so different. That's going to be a tough one.
GRACE: Larry, there's not going to be a hung jury. That's my prediction. If they don't buy the girl's blood in the RV, her hair, her fiber, her fingerprints, the fact that the defendant disappeared the weekend she did, that he had the evidence dry-cleaned -- not only that, Larry, he had his RV steam-cleaned, OK, before the police could look at it.
KING: Nancy, so you have found him guilty?
GRACE: Well, I'm waiting to hear what else the defense puts up, but right now, the evidence speaks for itself.
RONIS: The case isn't over yet.
GRACE: I've heard the evidence, Jan.
RONIS: You haven't heard all of the evidence.
GRACE: Can you give me one reason, Jan Ronis, why a man would go have his RV, his entire RV steam cleaned before police could search it?
RONIS: Because he was a neat freak.
GRACE: OK. That's why I say there's not going to be a hung jury.
RONIS: You want another reason?
GRACE: Yeah, if you've got one.
RONIS: There are a lot of reasons.
LEE: If you have the steam clean, how can you still find the fingerprints, also blood stain on the carpet. So it's not really steam cleaned. So they did find some evidence.
GRACE: They did.
LEE: Some 250 fibers. He did not do a good cleaning job.
KING: Bad steam cleaner.
SHERRY: The prosecution implied that he bleached everything in there, because they found containers of bleach in the trash can inside his garage.
KING: Marc, we only have a minute and I know you've studied a lot of this. Do you know why people attack young girls?
KLAAS: Well, they've got a predilection to having sex with them. It's unfortunate.
KING: Why do they kill them?
KLAAS: Why do they kill them? To hide the evidence. To destroy the evidence. Evil exists, Larry. Evil exists, and evil has struck my family and struck the van Dam family and it struck the Smart family.
KING: I thank you all very much. We shall keep abreast of this. Our guests have been Nancy Grace in New York, the anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV. In San Francisco, Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was abducted and killed in 1993. And he's the founder of KlaasKids Foundation, advocate for child protection and crime victims' rights. Dr. Henry Lee, the world renowned forensic scientist in New Haven. Here in Los Angeles, the criminal defense attorney Jan Ronis, and in San Diego, the contributions of Sally Sherry, covering the case for KGTV in San Diego.
We'll come right back to tell you about tomorrow night right after this.
KING: Tomorrow night, one of the more venerable actors in American film history. Robert Wagner will be with us. You know, he has been a screen star for close to 50 years? He keeps on keeping on. There is a new "Austin Powers" coming, and actually, Mr. Wagner is in it. He's made a specialty in those movies, but he's done so many wonderful things. He was a close friend of Spencer Tracy, who was his mentor. Robert Wagner tomorrow night.
Speaking of legends, men in their own time who have succeeded, we turn it over in New York to "NEWSNIGHT" and Aaron Brown. Aaron, welcome back.
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