Is the Legal System Partly to Blame for Samantha Runnion's Death?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, July 23, 2002. Click here to order the complete transcript.

Watch The O'Reilly Factor weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the Radio Factor!

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:   In the Impact segment tonight, is the legal system partially responsible for the death of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion?  Two years ago, Alejandro Avila, now under arrest for the murder of Samantha, was charged and acquitted with molesting two little girls in California, one of whom lived in the same apartment complex that Samantha did. 

First, Avila had a court-appointed attorney, then he hired one John Poza (ph), who got him acquitted.  Joining us now from Riverside, California is Richard Blumenfeld, the supervising deputy public defender for the Riverside County Public Defender's Office, who did have some meetings with Avila.  What did you think of the man? 

RICHARD BLUMENFELD, RIVERSIDE CO. PUBLIC DEFENDER:  To tell you the truth, Bill, I don't have any recollection of Mr. Avila personally.  I know I spoke with him on a couple of occasions, just simply to make sure that he was provided representation until such time as he could retain his own lawyer. 

O'REILLY:  So, he did pay for a lawyer?  He got somebody that was -- couldn't have been cheap, you know.  Did the guy have any assets?  I mean, how did he get assigned to you in the first place? 

BLUMENFELD:  Well, the public defender is appointed as a matter of course in all criminal cases, that is to make sure that an accused had representation...

O'REILLY:  We know that, counselor.  We don't have to go through that.  This is a sophisticated audience watching this program.  The fact of the matter is he came to your office.  You don't remember anything about him, even now? 

BLUMENFELD:  No, I really don't, other than I made two appearances for him and then Mr. Poza (ph) substituted in.  And I provided Mr. Poza (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  Do you have any notes on those appearances?  Do you have notes or anything like that about him? 

BLUMENFELD:  Well, I have some notes that I made, but anything that Mr. Avila told me would, of course, be attorney-client privilege. 

O'REILLY:  Yes, but I just want your impression of the man because he did beat these charges and it looks like now that was a major mistake. 

BLUMENFELD:  Well, I don't know if that's a mistake.  There are obviously several possibilities here.  He may have been innocent of the previous crimes and guilty of this.  He may have been guilty of both of them.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Well, let me some throw some stuff at you and get your reaction to it.  First of all, he's guilty, all right?  We can say that on television because we're analyzing the evidence that we know. 

BLUMENFELD:  I don't concede that. 

O'REILLY:  I know you don't. 

BLUMENFELD:  I think that's tremendously premature. 

O'REILLY:  But not to me.  I got -- we -- our sources tell us there's DNA on the scene, his DNA on the scene.  You think it's a coincidence that one of the girls that charges him with molestation, 9-year-old, lived in the same complex as Samantha did?  I don't think that's a coincidence.  Same color car. 

BLUMENFELD:  I don't know anything about that. 

O'REILLY:  Well, I just told you what it is. 

BLUMENFELD:  I don't know that they could have DNA results this quick.  I don't know what they have.  Do you know what they have? 

O'REILLY:  Yes, I know what they have.  Fox...

BLUMENFELD:  Have they told you what they have in the way of forensic evidence? 

O'REILLY:  They say that they have DNA linking him up and fiber linking him to the scene.  That's what they told Fox News.

BLUMENFELD:  And what is that supposed to be?  What sort of tests have they done?

O'REILLY:  They didn't get more specific than that, but I believe them.  See, you don't, I do.  That is the difference between us.  Now did you know...


O'REILLY:  In your case, did you know, were you aware that he flunked the lie detector test in your case?  Are you aware of that? 

BLUMENFELD:  When I had the case, there was no lie detector test done. 

O'REILLY:  All right. 

BLUMENFELD:  I had no idea he ever had even submitted to one.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Well, he flunked the lie detector test and if he -- this is an interesting question.  If you knew he had flunked the lie detector test and you had represented him, would that have made any difference to you? 

BLUMENFELD:  Not a bit. 

O'REILLY:  That's what I thought.  See, I think millions of Americans are like me.  We understand the system and the system is good.  Everybody needs a defense.  But you, counselor, don't have to take every case that comes your way.  You know that.  There's a statute that says...


O'REILLY:  No, you don't.


O'REILLY:  There's a statute that says...

BLUMENFELD:  I'm a public defender.

O'REILLY:  You know, I have to educate you lawyers all the time.  There is a statute that says that if you find the case morally repugnant, you don't have to take it.  So, that's flat out on the books.  You can reject a case.  So, don't hide behind that. 

BLUMENFELD:  What book is that that you're referring to, Mr. O'Reilly? 

O'REILLY:  It is in the law books. 

BLUMENFELD:  I am a public defender.  I am appointed.  I represent people who can't afford to hire a lawyer. 

O'REILLY:  And before the case starts, you can go to the judge and say, judge, for reasons of conscience, I can't represent this man.  He'll put another public defender...

BLUMENFELD:  Then I have no business being a public defender. 

O'REILLY:  So, you have to take every case...

BLUMENFELD:  I'm appointed.

O'REILLY:  ... even if you know the guy's guilty, you have to take and try to get him off? 

BLUMENFELD:  I have to do my best to represent him as vigorously as I can within the bounds of ethics. 

O'REILLY:  So, Mr. Blumenfeld, if you know the guy molested...

BLUMENFELD:  I don't lie.  I don't misrepresent...

O'REILLY:  ... nine -- if the guy says to you, I molested these little girls, and you know he did, but he's not going to plead guilty, you still going to try to get him off? 

BLUMENFELD:  I'm still going to represent him and try the case and put people to their proof.

O'REILLY:  That's reprehensible, counselor.  That's disgusting and reprehensible. 

BLUMENFELD:  No, it isn't.  That's what the obligation of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) require me to do.

O'REILLY:  No, it isn't.  If you know he is guilty, then you won't -- and you won't put him on the stand because he'd perjure himself. 

BLUMENFELD:  I will not put him on the stand...

O'REILLY:  That's right. 

BLUMENFELD:  I will not put him on the stand to let him perjure himself.

O'REILLY:  But you know he's guilty of molesting two kids.  You're still going to try to get him off and put him on the street, that's disgusting. 

BLUMENFELD:  I am going to put the people to their proof, which is what in a civilized society the law requires of me. 

O'REILLY:  Right.  But it is not morally repugnant, right? 

BLUMENFELD:  If, you, Mr. O'Reilly, went to a -- Mr. O'Reilly, give me a second.  If you went to a doctor because you had a loathsome disease.  And the doctor said to you, gee, Mr. O'Reilly, that's really ugly.  I don't think I can treat that, how would you feel?  We are professionals.  We act professionally.  We act responsibly and within the bounds of ethics.  We do not sit in judgment of our clients.  That's why we have juries.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Now, let me answer that.  You compared apples to oranges. 

BLUMENFELD:  That's why we have prosecutors. 

O'REILLY:  No.  If you know...


O'REILLY:  ... that Avila is guilty and molested two girls, 9-years-old, and you try to get him off on whatever technicality or try to shake those girls like his lawyer did and put him back on the street...

BLUMENFELD:  These technicalities...

O'REILLY:  ... and then he kills a little 5-year-old, that's on you, counselor.  Because you can go to the judge and you can say this man is morally repugnant, I can't represent him in good conscience. 

BLUMENFELD:  Mr. O'Reilly, if it were me, I would feel very badly and very conflicted.  I'm a parent, too.  I read the story.  I was as outraged and horrified as anybody else would be who is a parent.  But I have to separate that to be able...

O'REILLY:  No, you don't. 

BLUMENFELD:  ... to do my job.  Yes, I do. 

O'REILLY:  There is a legal statute that says you can bail on that case if it's morally repugnant to you.  Read the books.  It's there.  We researched it and it's there. 

BLUMENFELD:  I don't even -- tell me what the statute is.  Where is the statute?  Just because you say so doesn't make it so.

O'REILLY:  All right.  It's 169-1 or something.  You can find it.  It's there. 

BLUMENFELD:  Dash one of what? 

O'REILLY:  I think we have got it.  And I don't have it off the top of my head, but it's there.  It's in the law.  If you...

BLUMENFELD:  Well, maybe you can find it. 

O'REILLY:  Yes, we found it and we've also read it on this broadcast. 

BLUMENFELD:  If I found a case morally repugnant, I could probably get some kind of dispensation so I wouldn't have to do it.

O'REILLY:  That's right.  Thank you. 

BLUMENFELD:  I could probably do that. 

O'REILLY:  And in a case like this...

BLUMENFELD:  But that would be as a matter of policy, not as a matter of right. 

O'REILLY:  All right, counselor.  I think we all know what the story is now.  But we appreciate you coming on and defending it.  We do. 

BLUMENFELD:  Well, I think you think you know what the story is, but I'm not sure that anyone knows what the story is at this point.

O'REILLY:  We'll let the audience decide.  They're the best arbiters of this. 

Click here to order the complete transcript.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2002 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2002 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.