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Monday night was a difficult programming decision: How much time do we devote to the execution of Tookie Williams? I have done death penalty work as a practicing lawyer and witnessed an execution and thus have little appetite to do much more on it. Frankly, I felt like a voyeur when I witnessed an execution and it was a difficult, but not impossible, task to watch.
But in deciding how to program the show last night, I reminded myself that the decision is not about programming for me. I wanted to program for you, although it does require guessing on our part as to how much you want about any particular topic. I also know that the issue of the death penalty is an important one. I figured we should do some segments on the pending execution, not all of the show on it and thus we did some, and not all. Once the denial for relief by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 9 p.m. Eastern hour, I knew it was over (as did every other lawyer who has handled these cases.) But even with the matter settled for Tookie Williams, about 9:30 p.m. ET, the issue of the death penalty remains important. Should we abolish it? Keep it? Use it sparingly, very sparingly? What about the way it is administered? How is it covered by the media? What about the long time (years) on death row? Is the long time on death row "fair" to the victims? What about the terrible lawyers that some get assigned for their original trials? Etc.
Whether you are pro or con death penalty, you might agree the ritual we have leading up to the actual execution is bizarre. From the ritual of the lockdown of the entire prison, to the movement of the condemned to the special holding cell, to the meeting with the warden to select the last meal (not to exceed $50), the decision by Tookie Williams not to have the final meal, the lawyers and clergy meeting for the last time, waiting for last minute decisions by the courts and governor, the march of the media into the prison, the victims' reps going into the prison, the demonstrators for and against, etc. etc., — it is all rather unusual, to put it gently.
For all those e-mailers who have over the years told me to "go back to CNN," you might want to know that as of Dec. 31, it has been four years since I left CNN and moved to FOX. Technically, CNN hung on to me for another month until the end of January 2002, but they pulled me off the air Dec. 31 when I announced to them I would be leaving at contract's end. It is hard for me to believe that it has been four years — these four years have passed so quickly. By the way, the "go back to CNN" e-mails were plentiful the first two years, but I rarely get them anymore... people have found other things to write me when they don't like me.
Do you know how many times I have been asked about Laura Ingle? Here is the answer — from Laura in an e-mail to me yesterday. I told her I needed an e-mail from her to post for the viewers to answer the question:
E-mail No. 1
What a difference a year makes! I am in New York City during Christmas time, remembering how I had put up a Christmas tree last December while I was at my apartment in Redwood City covering the penalty phase of the Scott Peterson trial. Tonight, I walked to Rockefeller Plaza to look at the big tree, and to check out all the shoppers and ice skaters — it's so beautiful here, and everything that people talk about!
To bring everyone up to speed, I left my job at KFI radio in Los Angeles this summer and was hired to be the Dallas-based correspondent for FOX News Channel. What an opportunity that has been!
My new job entailed being responsible for reporting events in the Southwest. My region included Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and yes, Louisiana. The first day of my new job, Hurricane Katrina hit, and I was off and running in the South. Long story short, I was called by the powers at be from headquarters in New York for an amazing opportunity — to be a correspondent for the new "Geraldo at Large" show on FOX Broadcast. After taking the new job, I have been on the road ever since! It's been such a wild ride, I sometimes, can't even believe I'm really running around with this group of people: Geraldo himself, Laurie Dhue, and Phil Keating. We are the "At Large" Team that is taking viewers behind the scenes of some very interesting stories.
I will usually go to a different city every day. Last week, I was in New York, Dallas, Milwaukee, Green Bay, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, then back to New York. Murder mysteries, missing person cases, follow up investigations to big news events — like "The Texas 7" prison escape, and the burning bus of elderly evacuees from Hurricane Rita.
The Geraldo group has a terrific support staff, that works non-stop every day digging for the best stories, and truly putting all of us "At Large" across the country. This week, Geraldo is in Iraq, and will be anchoring the show from overseas, while the rest of us cover home base. It should be pretty exciting! The show is on FOX Broadcast in many cities — you can check out if you have it in your city, by going to www.geraldoatlarge.com. All of us have a blog to report more detail into the cases we are covering. The Web site also has video of the reports in the archives if you don't get a chance to watch it live, so you never miss a beat!
On another note — I had one of the best experiences ever Friday night in New York! I FINALLY got to meet Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams! I swear, I think I was more excited to meet these two than any other celebrity or rock star I've met along this news reporter journey. Bernie, Ted and Jim Hammer were on Greta's show every night that I was a guest during the Scott Peterson trial and Michael Jackson trial... that equals almost two years! Greta and her husband John had a lovely dinner for the people who work on her show, and I was lucky enough to be invited along with my travel companion/trial watcher/best friend Jim Hammer. We had a blast meeting up with everyone, and also meeting Jeff Brown who is on Greta's panel. I took a few photos to share with you.
I have had such a tremendous opportunity with FOX so far... [some text deleted] I can't wait to see what the year 2006 will bring! See you on the air!
I asked viewers for ideas about how to handle illegal immigration:
E-mail No. 2
We need their work force. If you can’t beat it, control it.
1) Close the borders. 2) Require the Mexican Gov. to establish work licenses (in conjunction with a Mexican passport and a U.S. visa) through private Mexican work contractors to enable people to work in U.S. Jobs are contracted out to U.S. companies or individuals. 3) If someone works through a legal work contract and stays legal with no criminal acts of any kind for three years and contributes to our society let them apply for an accelerated naturalization process requiring a U.S. citizen sponsor, residence, a U.S. state drivers license. 4) For every illegal we “catch” fine Mexico $5000.00 per head from federal funds that we are already giving them. If a U.S. resident or company hires an illegal then fine them the same as the Mexican government, $5000.00 per head.
Clarks Hill, SC
E-mail No. 3
First this is not a new problem. When I was in the Air Force, at Brooks AFB San Antonio, TX. I was on patrol with a Hispanic American and he bet me if we pulled over a construction truck at least half would not have a green card. We checked and sure enough here on an American military base we had illegal persons! How could this be? Then I personally found a person working on base who was a convicted felon. They would only cross our fence in twos because the sign said “No Trespassing.” We need to have signs that say “Do not enter. Use check point for entry” (in Spanish and Arabic). Then recruit people for Minutemen and run shifts without any hold on what they can do and this would help. Also send undercover American Spanish people over to infiltrate the smugglers and report them by picture and address to both sides authorities and have them to some how disappear. Put this in the news and it would also help. Mr. Jose Gonzalez was found in his home dead this morning, cause of death seems to have been an overdose”.
I also know for a fact they get SSN’s from someone because I also worked at Watson Atlas moving and had a guy brag about how the manager hired him, and later found out he was illegal, and then congratulate him on being the first illegal to get away with being hired by Watson Atlas. I worked with the same guy at another job and he was a D.J. at a local Spanish radio station in Round Rock, TX, and stated on the airwaves he wanted to start a revolution to take back Texas and said he had a lot of calls afterwards. His wife would go back across and return 3-4 times a year. He told me how much it cost to be brought back over and also said he paid someone to use their SSN. This will never stop because of our stupid laws regarding this issue.
Concerned in Texas,
Hi, Greta it is me from Fort Worth. Tell your viewers if they don’t like your hair to not watch but listen. LOL Love you, God bless
E-mail No. 4
I feel very strongly about this topic because I deal with Hispanics on a regular basis. I live in Birmingham, AL and the population of them just keep growing. Everywhere you look there is everything in English and Spanish. I know Hispanics aren’t the only illegal immigrants but for myself they are the ones I’m in constant contact with. Anyway, I feel like it’s probably too late to do anything about it even though the government really should. We deal with INS on a regular basis and they have told us numerous times that no these people are not here legally but their hands are tied because of the way the government has it set up. I mean we’d literally have to have 20 or more before they’d do anything because it’s so expensive to house just 1 or 2 and then ship them back when they have a full busload. However, if we don’t get a grip on it they won’t be a minority anymore. I’ll end with this, my opinion is if you are going to come to America fine (it’s a great place and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else) but do it legally. If you want to come work and take our money then pay taxes here and go through immigration and become a U.S. citizen and learn English (we shouldn’t have to know Spanish and have that everywhere we turn)! We’re not here to cater to you but we’re more then willing to help you if you want to be helped. Greta, I could go on and on but since I’m starting to ramble I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for asking a great question and keep up the good work.
E-mail No. 5
We need to boot every illegal alien out of this country, no matter what the cost. This is the only way to stop it. Amnesty hasn't worked in the past, it is like patting them on the wrist and they continue to come. If they enter illegally and get caught they should never be eligible for citizenship. They are driving down the average Americans wages!
My son's car was recently hit by an illegal alien in Texas. He called me from home and I went to the scene, the man didn't have a driver's license and vehicle wasn't insured. He ran for it when I told him I was calling police to report the accident. His employer from a body shop came up to me later to try to get me to stop and offered to fix our car at no cost, I told him no and to stop using illegals in his shop (this happens all the time here, legal aliens helping to hide illegals and the legal just want to make money and don't care about our laws). Anyway I ended up paying to fix my son's car. This is an example of costs that aren't counted in illegal alien costs, I am sure there are more people with stories like mine throughout the country. Also when we bring legal aliens into this country we need to have someone vow to teach them our ways and make sure they learn to speak English. Our country will be weakened with a two-language society. Love your show!
E-mail No. 6
How can it be too late, when very little has ever been done? It is certainly too late to do anything about all the illegals — and God help us, terrorist cells — that have gained access to our country thus far. Some of that can be dealt with by not allowing illegals all the same rights and privileges we as Americans enjoy — driver's licenses, free this, that and everything else. By instituting work programs, amnesty offers — (you don't come forward and comply... we catch you, it's goodbye!) I am all for "Give me your poor, and huddled masses," but it must be done correctly, lawfully, and with the ultimate good of our country in mind — not the "greater good" of allowing anyone in, at any time, in any way they choose, for as long as they wish, without their meeting specific requirements. And as far as the terrorists go, a true American born of Middle Eastern descent would certainly understand if a bit of racial profiling comes into play, as it surely must to keep all of us safe, all of us — that are here now — no matter how they got here previously... just comply, or goodbye... simple. I live very close to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge to Canada — and I often wonder how many people come and go as easily as I did last fall on a trip to Toronto... it's almost a joke — as are the rest of our borders. We need more and better-trained patrols, and frankly, need to seal off our borders completely. It is too easy for anyone at all to gain entrance to the United States. For all of President Bush's tough talk on the war on terrorism — and I support Mr. Bush totally — he needs to get tougher on the border issue.
Watch your show all the time,
E-mail No. 7
You ask: "What do you think we should do (if anything) about illegal immigration? Or is it too late?" This is such a hot topic for me it's best that I leave well enough alone. I have a lot of knowledge on the subject having emigrated to the United States several years ago and having had to go through so many hoops and months to get approval. For a member of my family to emigrate legally to the United States there is nearly and five year waiting period. There are so many illegals in our area now (Metropolitan Washington, D.C.) that I get irritated beyond measure at the way in which our immigration laws have been administered. Legal aliens I am OK with, illegal aliens I am not and choose not to discuss my feelings in print.
And now for some randomly selected e-mails:
E-mail No. 8
I'm troubled by the Lafave case and the double standard. No, not the gender double standard. I'm talking about the "beautiful people" double standard!. Since when does a person's looks absolve them of personal responsibility? Sexual exploitation of young people is all right if the predator is good looking?
E-mail No. 9
I think the judge in the case of Debra Lafave who is making her stand trial is right! Any teacher who has sex with a child under the age of 18 should have the book thrown at them regardless if they are male or female, ugly or "pretty." That statement about her being to "pretty" to go to jail would be like throwing meat to a pack of hungry dogs. Well, the crime fits a hungry dog in my book. That is what she is: a dog! There are so many men out there why does she have to pick out a 14-year-old boy! Not just once but twice... if she is sick then she needs to be put in a mental hospital away from children. If the boy liked the sex — come on he is a boy, what young man would not want to be introduced to sex by a cute blonde young woman? I think our laws need to get hard on these people and not slap them on the hand and say "Oh you are to cute to go to jail, don't do it again" maybe that is what is wrong with the world now days no one has a backbone to stand up and say that is wrong and you must pay for the crime. We are supposed to protect our children, not reward people like Debra Lafave! The world needs to get their act together and convict not reward people like this, as parents we need to stand up and make sure this doesn't happen to another child!
E-mail No. 10
I have to give a sort of different "slant" on this story. Yes, I'm a 60s Democrat, a bit more "middle of the road" than I used to be, but as a mother of boys and I have to say it is different. I realize the fact that as a teacher should be prosecuted, just from the standpoint that she's a teacher, however, I have to say that a 14 year old would have the time of his life were he given the chance to 'be with' Ms. Deb. I cannot believe for a minute that he will be adversely affected because of this, he's the envy of his friends, and as some of the commentators have said, is probably bragging about it. I think my own boys would have benefited from an older woman. Now, I do believe it's different for girls... yes, a man would be brought up on charges were it the same set of circumstances. But, as one of your e-mailers said today, she couldn't have "raped" him, as he couldn't have performed. Let's face it, boys are a walking sack of hormones when they're in their teens. I know I'll probably be shot for having this opinion, but I have to agree with the men who say it's different for boys. I do know that every man I've known over the years who had encounters with older women when in their teens, said it was the best thing that ever happened to them. (And not so the opposite with women)
E-mail No. 11
After reading some of the emails on your blog regarding Debra Lafave, I'm really wondering about what some parents (mostly fathers) want for their sons. The 14 year old was most likely flattered by the attention and enjoyed his sexual encounters with Ms. Lafave, but does anyone really think this relationship was good for him? He had a sexual relationship with a mentally imbalanced teacher, and I don't think you need to be a politically correct left wing fanatic to realize he may have problems forming healthy relationships with women in the future. How would these "just slap him on the back" advocates feel if Debra was an unattractive woman, or if she had a sexually transmittable disease? There are many things 14 year old boys may enjoy, such as, alcohol, drugs, fast cars, skipping school and sex, but that doesn't mean those things are good for them. Even with sexually abusive relationships between girls and men, there may be elements of the relationship that are enjoyable to the girls, such as gifts, flattery and the special attention provided by an adult. That doesn't make those relationships acceptable. The bottom line is that boy had an unhealthy sexual relationship with a teacher, and that's a bad thing, regardless of whether or not he enjoyed it at the time.
A disgusted Mom in Connecticut
E-mail No. 12
Debra Lafave was hired as a trusted teacher to work with students in the capacity for which she was hired. Whenever a teacher breaks that trust, it's more than a woman having a tryst with a student. Debra Lafave broke a trust between the teacher and the student, and also between the teacher and the parent. Case closed, she's history as a teacher!
E-mail No. 13
How do we know that Debra isn’t the victim and she is in love with the teenager like that other case when they got married and had children.
P.S. When I was 14 years old in school, I couldn’t get sex from the students let alone the teacher.
E-mail No. 14
The World Trade Towers were destroyed on 9/11, 2001 and by May 2002 the mayor of New York declared the area cleaned up! What is wrong with the leaders of New Orleans? Why haven't the bulldozers and trucks cleared away all the wreckage left by Katrina these past months? If it can be done in the middle of a large metropolitan area such as New York City surely it can be done in a city the size of New Orleans. Obviously there is no leadership from the governor down to the mayor of New Orleans.
Deer Park, TX
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Greta Van Susteren joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 2002 as the host of the prime-time news and interview program, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (7-8 p.m. ET/PT Mondays through Fridays), which launched in February 2002. On the Record is the highest rated cable news program in the 7 p.m. timeslot.