This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," August 10, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A savage home invasion. Listen to the details of this gruesome story. According to police, on July 23, two men took Dr. William Petit, his wife and their two daughters hostage for hours in their Connecticut home. During the horrible ordeal, they forced the wife of the doctor to go to their local bank and withdraw cash and lots of it. After that, it got worse. The killing began, the wife of the doctor strangled and killed, the couple's daughters killed by smoke inhalation after the home was doused in gasoline and set on fire. The only survivor, the doctor. He was badly beaten but miraculously survived the attack.
The two alleged killers — they met at a drug rehabilitation center after both released from prison. They then went on to be roommates at a halfway house. These career criminals were on parole when these violent crimes were committed. And now they have been charged with multiple crimes, including capital felony murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.
Let's bring in our legal panel for the hour. In Spokane is former LAPD homicide detective Mark Fuhrman. In San Francisco, former prosecutor Jim Hammer. And here in Washington, criminal defense attorneys Ted Williams and Bernie Grimm.
Mark, first to you. Any way to sort of put in words the feeling when police officers arrive on the scene and actually catch two people leaving the scene who have done the most unthinkable crime?
MARK FUHRMAN, FORMER LAPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Well, sure, Great. I mean, you know, the adrenaline, the excitement level knowing that you're possibly going to something that you could not possibly imagine as this bad. But you know, house is on fire and the two young daughters die of smoke inhalation. Can you imagine how the officers feel? They had to deal with two suspects ramming vehicles, trying to get away. They had to deal with this tactical situation. And you know, you just never would know, you'd be second guessing yourself, if that is the time that those two young women died. And that's tragic right there. But then when they go inside and see the circumstances of this case, it's horrific.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I imagine, Ted — you're a former detective — the wife of the doctor got the signal out to the bank when she was withdrawing the cash that there was problems at home. Just trying to figure out — you know, not knowing what's there at home, how do you best investigate it? It's the almost impossible task. I mean, it puts the police in the position to trying to guess.
TED WILLIAMS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It certainly does. And you've got to think about this for a second. The safest place for any human being is their home, their castle. And under the circumstances of having to leave and taking the wife to a bank, and then the wife passing a note or something to the bank teller — just think about the fear. I was thinking about how you walk in the shoes of this wife.
Greta, let me just say, I've said on this show many, many nights that there are cases that call for the death penalty. This is clearly one of them. I would like to be in there to even pull the switch, to be very candid.
VAN SUSTEREN: And who wouldn't like to be the ones who grab these two as they're exiting the house and trying to drive away.
FUHRMAN: Greta, could I...
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. Go ahead.
FUHRMAN: Excuse me. Could I say one thing? You know, what's interesting about this case — and I think Ted will agree with me. I've been on these, and I'm sure he has, where the progression of the crime — they didn't bring a weapon, so their intent wasn't to murder people. Their intent was to burglarize and get money.
I have a feeling that when we know how this case unfolds, we're going to find that this family doesn't have money and jewelry on hand that the suspects could have got, that the thought of waiting until the bank opens and take the wife — they have no weapon. They have no gun. They're holding hostages. They beat the father. The two children die of smoke inhalation. They strangle the woman.
This is a progression of kind of leapfrogging and trying in frustration to get money. I don't think murder was the intent. But I agree with the police in Connecticut. This is a bad combination of suspects.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, plus, it was cranked up considerably because they went out to get the gasoline, apparently, and it gets even worse, is they sexually assaulted the mother and one of the two children. So you know, there's — I don't — Bernie, I'd love to prosecute this one. How about you?
BERNIE GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I mean, you...
VAN SUSTEREN: And we're — we're former — I'm a former, you're a current defense attorney.
GRIMM: Yes. I mean, my instinctual sort of response is everybody's entitled to a defense. The Constitution guarantees it. I don't endorse what they did. I don't want them over my house for dinner. But in this case, like Ted said, I mean, if there's — if you look up death penalty, you're going to see a picture of these two animals.
And Mark's right. If you look at it, the prosecuting attorney, Andrew Whitstein (ph), the supervisor state's attorney, says with respect to one of them, he has no history of violence. I was quite astonished to see it. And if you look at both their records, they're just petty junkies stealing here and there, no history of violence. Then they meet...
VAN SUSTEREN: but they're burglars. Burglars are — I mean, look...
VAN SUSTEREN: Burglary is a high-risk crime. Yes, go ahead, Jim.
JIM HAMMER, FORMER ASST. SAN FRANCISCO DA: Yes, I think what Jim (ph) said about this — people call burglaries non-violent crimes, but occupied burglaries (INAUDIBLE) burglaries in an occupied home, especially at night, I think are some of the most dangerous crimes ever. And a guy who chooses to do it that was, that is opposed to the daytime, where someone might not be around — I think there's a thrill-seeking in this. So although I couldn't have predicted a murder out of this, this guy, when he was sentenced, the judge said that he was a predator, a calculated and cold- blooded predator. That was a couple of years ago. Could this guy have been kept in longer and this family might be alive? That's my question.
VAN SUSTEREN: So where's the — is this — I assume we all agree that somehow the system's broke. You don't have, you know, three murders...
HAMMER: You have two criminals, the older of the two in prison since 1980. Why is this guy committing felony after felony after felony...
WILLIAMS: But the problem you have...
WILLIAMS: Jim, there's a problem here, and it's the system. You cannot lock up...
HAMMER: That's what we're talking about~!
WILLIAMS: They don't have enough space to hold everybody...
HAMMER: I don't want to lock everybody up, Ted. I'm talking about career criminals, and guys who go into nighttime occupied dwellings time and time again. This judge was right, he was a predator. So it's a far step to murder, but a guy who's a predator like this in a dangerous situation ought to be locked up longer.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you the horrible question...
VAN SUSTEREN: Is rehabilitation a joke?
GRIMM: Yes, I mean, I thought about that, and not to interrupt, but yes, it's a joke. This guy's repeatedly in jail. And what Jim's saying, as a career offender, there should have been papers filed and this guy's doing life in prison.
GRIMM: What Ted's saying is every time he gets paroled, there would have been a profile — a psychological exit profile where somebody checked boxes saying, Well, this guy's fine, let him go. Somebody missed the box on this guy.
VAN SUSTEREN: And Mark, you were trying to get in?
FUHRMAN: Well, you know, Jim is looking at this from a prosecutor's eyes. I look through a detective's. Hot (ph) prowl (ph) burglaries is what he's talking about, where the place is occupied. The reason they do this is, well, one, they feel really confident that they can get in and out without being detected, that usually means it will be days, sometimes weeks, until that jewelry that's hidden or the safe is gone into and the burglary will be discovered, which really makes it ineffective for the police to nail down the time of the crime. That's the first thing.
The second thing, in California, you can't carry a weapon or it accelerates the charging. And if you go into a house while it's occupied, it's first degree. So you have one suspect that's very much an in-your- face, I'll confront people if necessary.
FUHRMAN: You got the other guy is a petty drug dealer that breaks windows of cars and steals people's purses. So you know who the leader is here. And I have a feeling that their mental state, their drug state at the time of the crime is going to be...
WILLIAMS: I don't want to hear that. I don't want to hear it...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, and I'll tell you what — the thing that's, you know, the most pointed part about this to me is that this — they had plenty of time to think, you know? I mean, they had plenty of time to back out and...
VAN SUSTEREN: They went out and they got gasoline. I mean, it's, like, you know, this...
VAN SUSTEREN: This is one of the worst crimes — I mean, this was not a spontaneous — they had time to think. But anyway, we're going to move on. Panel, if you'll stand by.
Some people are so twisted. This story will make your blood boil. We've been following the Jennifer Kesse case since the young financial analyst vanished in January of 2006. She had just returned from a Caribbean vacation with her boyfriend, but then she never returned to work. A frantic hunt began. Her car was found at an apartment complex near her home. Surveillance video caught a person of interest parking her car. And since then, nothing.
Now imagine this. Some cruel person or persons have begun to use Jennifer's picture on Internet dating Web sites. They're using her picture on their dating profiles, pretending that Jennifer's face is their on. What can Jennifer's family do? Bernie?
GRIMM: They can absolutely do nothing unless...
VAN SUSTEREN: Big nothing.
GRIMM: Absolutely. Legally, they can do nothing. Now, if it was my child, I could do something, but I'd be doing life in prison. But I don't know if even Hammer would prosecute me on this one. Yes, there's no copyright infringement problem with the picture because it was unprotected, so it is out there in the mainstream, and it's for anybody to pilfer, put up and use in the most depraved, sick, ugly way possibly, and that's what happened.
WILLIAMS: And that's the sad commentary about it. You've got a grieving mother and father, wanting to know what has happened to their daughter, and you've got these low-lives using this in a senior citizen and lesbian Web site. It's just so inappropriate.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Mark, we saw last week — we see people saving lives, like, risking their own lives on the bridge to save others's lives or going up on mountains to try to recover people, and then we see this. There are two sides to humanity, aren't there.
FUHRMAN: Oh, absolutely. But you know, Greta, I see this as a lead in a case that's 18 months cold. Who gave somebody the idea? Who produced the picture? It's kind of been out of the mainstream, so to me, I think that a good detective could develop probably cause for the person that actually entered this, you could probably morph this into a search warrant, at least for the computer, if not the home.
WILLIAMS: Well, Mark, you know, I agree with you on a lot, but I don't agree on this one. I think that it's going to be too remote. I think they clearly should conduct an investigation. But this family is doing something else that's very good. They put out 87,000 decks of cards with Jennifer's picture on it and they put those in prisons. And they may very well be able to get a hit, and somebody in that prison institution may be able to help out.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, her car was...
HAMMER: You know, Greta...
FUHRMAN: You know, Ted...
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, go ahead, Jim.
HAMMER: No, I was going to say if Bernie took some vigilante action, I might be sympathetic to it. But I — as a parent, I would say. But having said that, I think there is (INAUDIBLE) and it's this. There are sick, depraved people out there, but companies own these Web sites. And if that family approaches that company and it doesn't take down that picture or bar it, everybody ought to boycott that site, advertisers, people — they ought to dry the money up for that site. It's absolutely outrageous, what's happening.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's a great point. That's a great point.
GRIMM: Yes, and Jim's right. They ought to, but people won't...
HAMMER: The company — if a company didn't do that, Bernie, though, I think you can do a boycott against that company. I think Greta would run that on this show. Nobody ought to give them a dollar again, if they run - - if they run that picture, the way we shut down Aruba.
FUHRMAN: Let's not forget what Ted said about the playing cards. Which came first? What's the timeline? Did this pop up on the Web site during the production of these playing cards? Did they get distributed and then the Web site? You know, prisoners have access to the Internet, so...
WILLIAMS: Yes, but I think the family...
FUHRMAN: ... where exactly is this coming from?
WILLIAMS: The 87,000 cards are the brainchild, I think, of the family, (INAUDIBLE) family. And I think (INAUDIBLE) because they're putting them into the criminal population there, and that can only help maybe to solve this crime.
GRIMM: Yes, and people say, Well, that's crazy. Why would you give playing cards to people in prison? How do they know what's going on outside? You ask Ted. If you want to find out what the weather's going to be in the next 15 seconds...
GRIMM: ... call the local prison. These guys hold the pulse of what happens on the street. It is just literally amazing.
WILLIAMS: Bernie is right. Some of the smartest people are locked up behind bars, and somebody may very well have the answer to this crime.
HAMMER: Don't they also do plane reservations? I think an airline hired a prison to actually do airplane reservations...
GRIMM: I'm actually going to St. Croix. They're doing mine.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, oddly enough, if there is a silver lining in this very cruel act of putting her picture up on Web sites when she's missing, is the fact that we're talking about it, which means we run the video. Other shows on FOX have been running the video. And the one thing the family has been trying to do is to get the picture out of their daughter, trying to find her.
WILLIAMS: You're absolutely right. You know, I remember the Elizabeth Smart case, where Mr. Smart was out there in front of the camera. It really helped. And it is helpful because we talked about this when this happened on this show years ago — about a year ago.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mark, there's that video of her car, Jennifer Kesse's car, being parked about 1:00 o'clock the day that she disappeared, but there's only a piece of a surveillance video. That really is sort of the best evidence, isn't it, to try to track down whoever knows what happened to her?
FUHRMAN: Well, it sure is. And if you could by any way — if somebody is — maybe they didn't get enough attention, or you know, they're toying with people with this Internet Web site using her picture. Can you imagine what it would be like if you find out who it is, and then they find out that the person they're living with, that provided the picture, saying, This would be funny, and that person just happened to be in that part of Florida at the time of her — you know, her abduction or when she went missing?
I think the lead absolutely has to be followed. And I think at this point in time, I think it's a great thing to work on. You know, I hate to say this, but it's better this occur than nothing occur.
VAN SUSTEREN: And indeed, and every lead should be followed. That's what her parents certainly want.
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