Q & A: Dershowitz, Cochran, Crier
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- As part of Thursday's Pete Rose on Trial broadcast from Harvard Law School, judge Catherine Crier and attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Alan Dershowitz answered questions from ESPN.com users:
ESPN.com: Were you pretty familiar with this controversy before coming into this? Had you ever read the Dowd report before this trial?
Dershowitz: No, I had never read it before this.
ESPN.com: Is your argument first and foremost that: A: Pete Rose should not be in the Hall of Fame or B: Pete Rose bet on baseball?
Dershowitz: My main goal is to convince the jury that Pete Rose bet on baseball. I can't change people's minds about his worthiness for the Hall. All I can do is educate people, expose the facts of the matter that he did bet on baseball games. Getting into the Hall is not so black and white.
Marc, Long Island: Do you feel Pete Rose deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame after he dies, or is his ban from baseball for the life of the game, not just his?
Dershowitz: Yes, that's a good argument. I think he will be inducted eventually.
Rick Krummen, Cincinnati: Even if you can prove that Pete bet on baseball, what does that have to do with being in the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Dershowitz: Rick, you can ask the same question of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Nick Kuper, Chicago: Why is there such a disparity between the fans and the media? The fans overwhelmingly want Pete reinstated, but the media overwhelmingly want the ban to continue.
Dershowitz: Well, plain and simple, I think that the media is more familiar with the facts that prove that Pete Rose bet on baseball.
ESPN.com: You did a really nice job on the cross-examination of Hank Aaron, what did you think about that exchange?
Dershowitz: Yes, that was my proudest moment today. I think a lawyer has to always has himself the question -- Do you try to make the witness your or do you try and attack him? I wanted to make Hank Aaron and Bill Lee my witnesses and I wanted to attack James because I thought he was inaccurate with his criticism of the Dowd report.
Jimmy, Houston: Why would such a high-profile lawyer like you agree to do a mock trial like this? Do you have a special interest in Pete Rose's case? Are you a baseball fan?
Cochran: Well, I am a baseball fan, I'm a real sports fan so I was interested in all this. Beyond that, there are a couple reasons. First, I happen to come to Harvard Law School every year, so I switched a few things around here and there and here I am. It was a great coincidence. Then I found out Alan was involved and he is a good friend of mine. And finally, I think this is a real important issue and it is certainly worthy of discussion.
ESPN.com: Had you read the Dowd report before this trial?
Cochran: No, not before this. I had never read it but I had certainly heard of it. I am very familiar with these types of documents. When a prosecutorial agency like Dowd wants to go after somebody they just get these witnesses -- now I'm not saying that every one of their witnesses were lying -- but I'm saying that you can't rely on people who have an axe to grind. I've seen it so many times, especially working with The Innocence Project. People will say anything and you can't just accept their word as fact.
ESPN.com: So we cannot think of the Dowd report as unbiased truth?
Cochran: No. Absolutely not. In many respects the Dowd is a red herring. The Dowd report was completed by a prosecutorial agency. It's not like these people went around gathering evidence from every angle and every side. They did their own thing. But still, after that whole tilted report, Major League Baseball was still unable to conclude that Pete Rose bet on baseball!
ESPN.com: Are you trying to prove that Pete Rose did not bet on baseball or that he should be in the Hall of Fame?
Cochran: First of all I'm trying to prove that this guy should be in the Hall. Gambling is a tough issue. Who knows, I don't know. He says he bet on other sports, not baseball. I'll say this -- he's a man of great conviction and I'll tell you, it would be so easy for him to say he did it. Everyone is telling him, "Pete, just say you did it!" He says I'm not saying that 'cause I didn't do it. And that right there says a lot. If he said he did it and that he's been lying all along and if he just apologized, I think they'd let him in the Hall right now. It is in his hands, but he hasn't and will not say that.
ESPN.com: Who do you think was the star witness in proving Pete's place in the Hall?
Cochran: Bill Lee. No question, and you know what? I really didn't expect that. You know you meet your witnesses and everybody is pretty reserved, you just don't know what you'll get when they are on the stand. Bill came in there and he was so candid and he just tells it like it is. And I thought Hank Aaron and the other guys did a great job, but Bill just laid it all out there and I think the jury really appreciated that. He cut through everything. He said, Look! People cheat all the time, don't worry about that. He's endured enough punishment, that's enough, drop it, let him in -- and he doesn't even like the guy. That's a pretty credible account. Enough is enough.
ESPN.com: A lot of folks have written in offering clichés like, "He hit the ball, he's in the Hall." Or "He could hit! You must acquit!"
Cochran: Ha ha! There you go. But Alan got me good with his "He bet on the game, there's no Hall of Fame."
John Chung, Seattle: Who bears the burden of proof, Rose (to gain entry into the Hall of Fame, where he has no "right" of entry), or MLB (to prove that he should be deprived of his right to participate in baseball)? And what is the standard of proof?
Crier: We decided in this trial that we were going to "respect the spirit of the law." Obviously this is not a criminal trial -- there is no charge. However, the prosecution would accept the burden of proof for the idea that Pete Rose should not be in the Hall of Fame. Johnnie's position was clearly that they changed the rules after he agreed to something that would have permitted him to be considered for admission into the Hall. So essentially, it is Alan's burden of proof and it is simply by the preponderance of evidence because this would be a civil matter if you were pursuing it.
Peter Hail, Dutch Harbor, Alaska: If Pete Rose is allowed back in baseball, how would this affect players from the past that were banned? What about future players? Would reinstating Rose mean that all players who were banned should be reinstated, and any player in the future, regardless of their actions, will not be banned?
Crier: As for other players, it all depends on when the event occurred and what the charges against them were. The problem that Major League Baseball faces is that the first commissioner's agreement did not make a specific finding that he, in fact, bet on baseball and the rule at that time would have allowed him to apply for admission a year out.
They cannot change those rules ex post facto. The law does not permit that in my book. So, really, they messed up. They made a mistake. The rule should have been in place before hand in order to enforce it on him at the time. When they reached the agreement with Pete Rose in 1989, that was not the rule. Clearly the Dowd report asserts that he bet on his own team but Major League Baseball did not make that finding and therefore he at that time was eligible to make application. So I think he ought to be able to apply -- which does not mean the writers are going to put him in.
Meherab Amaria, Broomfield, Colo.: Is it possible as a settlement between Rose and MLB for him to be allowed to stand for election to the Hall of Fame but not to be allowed back into MLB in any other official capacity?
Crier: I certainly think it is possible for Pete Rose and Major League Baseball to reach some sort of agreement on his application to the Hall. As this case so perfectly illustrates, the commissioner of baseball can make any rule he or she wants at any time, so if they wanted to change something, they can (and have) done so. Therefore, such an agreement could be made. However, I don't anticipate it will occur.
Paul Mocker, Seattle: Here is my proposed solution: Put him in the HOF because he obviously belongs. And, alongside his monument, include a display which has the function of educating the public on the evils of gambling. Such a display should include the facts about Pete's gambling, the history of his ban from baseball, and the reasons Pete compromised the integrity of the game.
My solution satisfies those who feel he belongs in the HOF and those who feel he should be banned by forever linking his great accomplishments on the field with his poor citizenship off the field.
In your eyes, is this a viable solution?
Crier: Yes, a lot of people would like to see Pete Rose enter the Hall of Fame with the stipulation that there is an explanation for the time delay, that there is mention of the gambling allegations, the history of his ban from baseball, etc., so therefore he serves as some sort of teaching instrument. I personally don't think that the Hall of Fame is the place for such a forum. There are so many players that have been in trouble before, who have had all sorts of difficulties, and if you were to call attention to Pete's flaws, you would have to cite Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb and so many others. It would get out of hand. The Hall is not the place for public service announcements. I don't think that is a viable solution.
ESPN.com: Do you think that either the defense or the prosecution would even agree to Pete's admission into the Hall with some kind of disclaimer on the plaque?
Crier: I'm not sure. But I know Pete wouldn't. Since he to this day refuses to admit to betting on baseball, I do not think he will ever be willing to have his entry into the Hall of Fame sullied with a description of "Bet on baseball."
Richard Hadden, Chicago: Judge Crier, can you declare the gambling rule in baseball obsolete? The rule is based on events that happened almost a century ago, at that time the World Series was thrown by the Chicago White Sox for a total of $110,000. Today, it is my assertion that it would take at least $1 billion for any player in any sports to consider such a thing and therefore the rule is obsolete and should be thrown out. I move for a directed verdict up front.
Crier: No, I don't think the gambling rule in baseball is obsolete. The principle of the rule is just as relevant today as it was nearly a century ago when they threw the 1919 World Series. If you bet on baseball, particularly your own baseball team, you make yourself susceptible to all sorts of influences -- you will feel pressure to throw games, you find yourself inclined to make managerial decisions that are not in the best interest of your team. It's just a very dangerous place to go.
Virgil Flack, Twin Cities, Minn.: Why shouldn't Pete Rose be judged as a ballplayer separate from being a manager?
Crier: Right now the Hall of Fame is based upon the career of an individual in baseball. Had Pete Rose not gone on to become a manager, this issue would never have occurred, but since he did, his entire career must be evaluated as per the league's position on the requirements. In addition to great statistics, there is an integrity requirement which he failed when he violated the cardinal rule of sports. You do not bet on your game.