Scott Peterson recognizes in his appeal that he was not entitled to a perfect trial, but he obviously was entitled to a fair one. This is why a documentary was made about his trial by media.
Click here to read about Trial by Fury, a documentary recently presented at the Palm Springs Film Festival about the Scott Peterson’s case.
On December 3, 2003, he was charged with the murder of his wife and their unborn child by the Stanislaus County District Attorney and he pleaded not guilty.
The media frenzy started on December 26, 2002, right after Laci Peterson was reported missing on December 24. Neighbor Amie Krigbaum called it a media ‘’feeding frenzy.’’ She reported that the entire block in front of the Peterson’s house was blocked off with media as well as satellite trucks and they did not budge for five months.
Eventually, a member of the media used a bullhorn and screamed “you murdered your wife, you murdered your child.” Random people would drive by the home shouting “murderer.” Neighbors were scared for their own safety.
Later on, a huge billboard was erected with the question MAN OR MONSTER and a local radio station was asking motorists and passers-by to call in to answer their question: Was Scott Peterson innocent or guilty?
Scott Peterson was not cooperative
Scott was extremely cooperative in the days following Laci’s disappearance and spoke extensively with police.
He spoke with Detective Douglas Mansfield, Detective Craig Grogan, Detective Allen Brocchini, Detective John Buehler, Captain Christopher Boyer, Officer Jon Evers, and Officer Matthew Spurlock.
He was repeatedly described as cooperative by Spurlock and Evers. Brocchini testified that Scott agreed to sit down with him and review what they had discussed already for hours.
Mansfield also described him as “very cooperative.” He allowed detectives to search his house and warehouse right away and without any warrant. He eventually balked at sharing with them when he realized they were making a case against him.
Scott Peterson was innocent until proven guilty
Even if Brocchini tried to say that he gave Peterson the benefit of the doubt, Greg Reed, who was a friend of Laci and Scott, was told by the police on the evening of December 24, that they already “had a good idea what had happened” in the case and they “thought Scott did it.”
Facts of the case
On December 24, 2002, around 5:15 p.m., Scott called his mother in law Sharon Rocha to check if Laci was at her house. She testified at the Preliminary hearing that she looked at the clock on the stove to confirm the time.
He proceeded to tell her that Laci’s car was in their driveway and their dog McKenzie was in the backyard with its leash on. She had not seen or spoken with Laci that day and suggested he call some of Laci’s friends to see if she was with them.
Scott called her friend Amy who described Scott as “panicked.” He then called some of Laci’s friends and went door-to-door in the neighborhood. Neighbor Amie Krigbaum described Scott as “very, very upset” and “distraught.” Laci’s friends Stacey Boyers and Lori Ellsworth described Scott as “upset” and “panicked.” No one had seen Laci.
Laci’s stepfather, Ron Grantski, called 911 at 5:47 to report that ”his daughter had been missing since this morning.” I found it quite strange that he told the operator that she was missing since the morning. At the time, there was nothing to indicate when she disappeared.
It probably was pure speculation on his part, and it did not seem to raise a red flag at all – contrary to every word that came out of Scott’s mouth.
Scott told detectives that on December 24, 2002, Laci got up around 7 a.m. and watched the Today Show. He got up about an hour later, and when he left, she was mopping the entry-way floor. The cleaning lady was at their house the day before, but they had a messy dog and expected visitors for brunch the next morning.
He mentioned that the Martha Stewart’s show she was watching discussed meringue and cookies, but the detective said it was false and used it as an excuse to sign the affidavit, that cited the lie that convinced a judge to issue a search warrant and led to wiretaps on his phones. In fact, at 9:46 a.m, Martha Stewart did talk about meringue and cookies on her show. He was falsely and conveniently accused of lying to justify recording his conversations.
Scott then drove to his warehouse to pick up the 14 foot aluminum boat he had purchased two weeks before. Once there, he checked his e-mail and cleaned up around the office. It was proven that he assembled a working tool called a mortiser and uploaded other tools in the back of his truck.
He then drove to the Berkeley Marina where he spent over an hour in the water and headed towards Brooks Island mostly to test his new boat.
He had researched fishing in the bay on the Internet and had requested a two-day permit 4 days before, just in case.
His fishing gear box was in the boat. The cops tried to say no fishing bait was found, but Scott was never a bait fisherman.
They made a big deal of Scott fishing when Laci’s step dad had done the same thing, the exact same day, but in a secluded location. Scott had owned several boats in the past so this purchase was no red flag. His decision not to play golf because it was too cold and go fishing instead was very reasonable and indicated no premeditation.
He hooked the boat back to the trailer at about 2:15 p.m. and headed back to Modesto.
He planned to meet Laci at home around 4:00 p.m. and they were going to head to her mother later on in the evening.
The Police investigation
As one of the searching officers, Derrick Letsinger forthrightly conceded, there were no signs at all of “foul play” in the house. Nothing was out of place and there was no smell of bleach or appearance of cover up. Even if the media was saying otherwise.
Right away, the detectives tried to find links to the crime having been committed on the 23rd, but nothing pointed in that direction.
Computer records from the Peterson’s home show that someone was on the internet between 8:40 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. on the morning of December 24th, looking at a garden weather vane, a GAP pro fleece scarf and a sunflower umbrella stand.
While it is certainly conceivable that Scott was looking for these items, and also the sale of a golf bag, it seems far more likely that Laci was the one doing the search.
After all, as several prosecution witnesses noted, it was Laci who had a sunflower tattoo. Plus, Scott never even mentioned the computer to the detectives so it could not have been a planted alibi as he had no clue they would search it.
Police also found Laci’s curling iron out on the bathroom counter. The cleaning lady confirmed that when she cleaned on the 23rd, she put away everything on the bathroom counter.
While it is possible that Laci would have used the curling iron to curl her hair just before going to sleep on December 23rd, the more likely scenario is that she used the iron to curl her hair on the morning of December 24th. Sharon Rocha told detectives that Scott told her he saw Laci curl her hair that morning and she ‘looked cute.’
This date is significant, and explains the prosecutor’s attempt to include December 23rd as a possible date for the crime.
Sometime after 10:30 on the morning of December 24th, 2002, the Medina house across the street from Laci and Scott was burglarized.
Law enforcement wanted to eliminate the possibility of a link between the burglars and her disappearance because it did not fit their scenario of Scott being the guilty party.
Click to read details that tie Laci to the burglary across the street.
Even if the state initially theorized that Scott killed Laci on the night of December 23rd or the early morning hours of December 24th, in closing argument, however, the prosecutor would concede that based on the evidence, he could not prove when the crime occurred.
In criminal cases, the state need not prove motive in order to convict, but prosecutor Rick Distaso took upon himself to explain why a man with no prior criminal history nor history of domestic violence would suddenly kill his wife and unborn child. His theory: Scott did not want to be a father, was strapped for cash and had a mistress. He wanted to be free and decided to plan his wife’s murder by buying a boat and looking at the currents to dump her in the bay.
When his wife and infant’s bodies were found on April 3rd, 2003, on the San Francisco Bay shore in Richmond’s Point Isabel Regional Shoreline park after a huge storm, they arrested Peterson right away and accused him of wanting to flee the country because he had changed his hair color and his car was full of supplies. They called it consciousness of guilt.
On January 9th, 2004, the trial was originally filed in Stanislaus County.
Prior to trial, Peterson had filed a motion to change venue alleging that prejudicial publicity about the case rendered a fair trial impossible in Stanislaus County, but the case was transferred to San Mateo county, only 90 miles away.
The Death qualified jury
The parties agreed on a jury questionnaire; after nearly 1000 jurors had completed their questionnaires, the results showed that 96% of potential jurors had been exposed to publicity about the case and of this group, 45% were willing to admit they had prejudged Peterson’s guilt. The state objected once again to another request for a change of venue and the court denied the motion.
Prospective juror after prospective juror was discharged simply because they wrote in their questionnaires that they were opposed to the death penalty.
No questioning of these jurors was allowed even though every one of them also stated in their questionnaire that they would consider death as an option in the case despite their views on the death penalty.
Instead, each of the jurors was discharged because in the court’s stated view, “if you don’t support the death penalty you cannot be death qualified.” A practice highly contested to this day.
A grandmother and retired secretary was booted out the jury pool for saying that she wanted to infiltrate the jury to find Peterson guilty “Anyone who would defend a wife-killer and a child molester deserves to lose.”
During Voir dire, the prosecutor got rid of a prospective juror because she had prejudged Peterson innocent. The judge had to remind him that you can’t prejudge innocence because according to the law, you are presumed innocent.
And it was only the tip of this jury selection iceberg.
The state admitted that his expert on the movement of bodies in water was not an expert in that field. The dog scent evidence was highly prejudicial and one of the dogs had a dismal record of being wrong 66% of the time when he was tested or used. The fact that ‘Merlin’ the scent dog became the star of the National Enquirer’s articles should be enough to indicate it was a farce.
Another dog named Twist showed no interest for the boat. One of the dogs traced Laci’s scent to the marina, but not to the warehouse or the boat. That makes no sense if the theory of the state is that she was transported in the boat to the warehouse and then, the marina.
The state bet its case on these experts, telling the jury that if they were believed, Scott was a murderer.
In this respect, Peterson states in his appeal, that in the context of the evidence before the jury, the significance of these experts to the outcome of this case cannot be overemphasized. The facts of the case provided to the Court illustrate how in his legal opinion, the evidence was really erroneous.
Chain of guilt or chain of fools
According to Peterson’s appeal, virtually every link in the state’s evidentiary chain of guilt was fundamentally flawed. It was not just that the state failed to establish the time, place and cause of death, or manner of death for that matter because it could have been an accident followed by a cover up, it also stipulates that the evidence the state claimed conclusively established Scott’s guilt was simply unreliable, and should never have been admitted in this capital trial.
Real or imagined evidence
- Concrete at Scott’s warehouse: Rather than rely on fictive descriptions of the photographs of the concrete dust, the actual exhibits given to the jury are the best indicator of the soundness of this evidence. It is fair to say that the circular spaces the prosecution saw on the trailer bed are hardly distinctive in appearance, and looking at the photographs of the trailer, it is difficult to make out any circles rather than simply a collection of concrete detritus. Anyone who has mixed even a small quantity of concrete knows how messy it is. Moreover, Phelps, a competitor of Scott’s told the police that he had seen fence posts and concrete on Scott’s trailer in September. Greg Reed, Scott’s friend, told police that Scott had been doing concrete work in his yard in September.
- Container to make anchors: The container thought to be the one used by Scott at the warehouse to make the anchors turned out to be the wrong size. They never found any suitable container.
- Cement used in Scott and Laci’s driveway: The prosecution expert said the cement missing from the bag found at the warehouse could not be used in the driveway as Peterson suggested, but the defense expert testified it was the same type and he happened to be the one who taught the prosecution expert his trade. So I would defer to his expertise in this instance.
- The burglary across the street from Scott and Laci: The Medina house across the street was burglarized on December 24, the same day Laci disappeared. According to a declaration which the state itself prepared, several weeks after Laci’s disappearance, Lieutenant Xavier Aponte who was a guard at the California Rehabilitation reported a call he had monitored between inmate Shawn Tenbrink and his brother Adam Tenbrink. During the call, Adam’s friend, Steven Todd, admitted Laci saw him burglarizing the Medina home on December 24, 2002. Aponte said he taped this conversation, but it was eventually lost. It is hard not to find this quite convenient.
- If Laci saw Todd burglarizing the Medina house after 10:30 on December 24, then Laci was alive when Scott left that morning and can only be innocent. The fact that the tape got lost is very troubling.
- Neighbor Diane Jackson told police she saw the Medina burglary on December 24. She saw three men outside the home removing a safe. In front of the house she saw a van which she described as “an older model tan or light brown.” Detective Cloward also received a call from Tom Harshman reporting that on December 28, 2002, he saw a woman fitting Laci’s description urinating by the side of the road next to a van and then being pushed into the van. Farfetched maybe, but reality is often stranger than fiction.
- Maybe coincidental that the conversation is lost and the house was burglarized at the same time, but the detectives were eager to say it had nothing to do with Laci’s disappearance.
- Click here to read the letter of Congressman William Dannemeyer.
- The Croton watch: an expensive Croton watch inherited from her grandmother was never found after Laci vanished. A similar watch was pawned at a shop in Modesto on December 31, 2002. The pawnshop slip included a thumb print of the person who pawned the item and it did not belong to Scott. The state never sought the watch and the defense was unable to recover it because the pawnshop did not comply with the subpoena and the person who bought it refused to sell it back.
- McKenzie the dog was found too early for Laci to have met foul play: After the neighbor, Karen Servas, found McKenzie, she put it back in the Peterson’s backyard. Servas herself admitted that she did not check to see if anyone was home, and heard raking sounds like if someone was gardening. Not only could Laci have simply been in the house at the time or in the garden, but Servas herself conceded that she had found McKenzie out loose in the neighborhood on prior occasions. Of course, this witness’ admission that she had found McKenzie outside on other occasions undercuts any suggestion that the dog being outside meant that Laci Peterson had already been killed. There is also the matter of the mailman (Graybill) who said he entered the area around 10:30 to 10:45 in the morning. He said he couldn’t remember anything unusual from 516 Covena, but remembered the gate was open at 523 Covena. He said usually the dog barks at him from behind the gate. On 12-24-02 the gate was open and he did not see nor hear the dog at 523 Covena. It would either mean that Laci went for a walk after Servas found the dog and before the postman delivered the mail or that Servas really found Mckenzie after she came back from running errands. The entire timeline falls into place either way.
- Scott and Laci were in financial trouble: A close look at their finances by certified public accountant Marty Laffer showed that Scott and Laci spent less than they earned each month. In fact, he noted that they paid extra on their mortgage each month. Prosecution witness and TradeCorp accountant Jeff Coleman testified that Scott was set to receive a monthly raise from $5,000 to $5,300-$5,350 in January 2003. And Laci was due to inherit a sizable amount within a few years.
- Scott lied about his affair with Amber: Scott had lied before about affairs and Laci knew it. Amber had a young child so why would he leave his family to hook up with a single mother if he wanted his freedom? She was a distraction and he constantly lied to her also. He obviously did not want Amber to hear about his missing wife and it might have been the reason why he talked to her BEFORE a vigil. This evidence can cut both ways. Either he wanted to keep Amber and was lying to her or he wanted to keep his wife and was afraid her family would find out about his affair. So it is not a flattering quality as a husband, but it did not indicate that he killed his wife. He mentioned that the minute people found out that Gary Condit had an affair with Chandra Levy, they stopped looking for her so he might have wanted to keep Amber on the hook as long as possible – knowing full well what the consequences of their affair would be. And he was right – the hammer fell as soon as it came out.
- Scott lied about his hair: As mentioned by Mark Geragos in his latest book, Scott never said the pool changed his hair color to blonde. Instead, he said that he had colored it and the chlorine made it turn orange. Can you blame the man for wanting to change his appearance and grow a goatee when the media and the public are hounding him? I think most people would have done the same in similar circumstances.
- Scott was fleeing to Mexico: Totally unfounded and unproven. When he was arrested, Scott was going to play golf with his father and brother and the reservation was already made for all of them. He had his brother’s ID because he was getting a discount. He never was driving towards the border. His mom testified about the cash money he had in his possession and the fact that the police kept seizing his cars so he took this one and basically had no home and was living with his belongings in his car. He was making a payment on a truck that the authorities had since four months. He had gone to Mexico six weeks before, on a business trip, and came back. The police always knew exactly where he was. At trial, the defense played a taped conversation between Scott and his older brother Joe during which Scott says that it’s better if he doesn’t go play golf with them because he is being followed by the media, and doesn’t want his picture in the press again. After his brother tells him he will be praying for him, Scott says ‘I could cry for hours.’
- Scott had Viagra and ordered porn channels: In cross-examining the EchoStar cable manager at trial, Geragos pointed out the channels Peterson selected were legal and noted that even the satellite company characterizes the programming as “adult content,” not “pornography.” Sex is often an outlet and does not in any shape or form infer murder.
- Scott did not show emotions: the same thing was said about Michael Morton who was eventually exonerated. This does not mean anything and should never be taken into consideration.
- Witnesses who saw Laci: There were quite a few solid leads and witnesses who told police they saw Laci. Her appearance and her dog were quite distinctive, but the prosecution alleged it was a case of mistaken identity and produced a few women at trial who did not look like her and had a different breed of dog as an excuse to justify ignoring these tips.
- Vivian Mitchell saw Laci and her dog pass by on the morning of December 24. She said, ”I had seen Laci walk by the house several times before. When she walked by on Christmas Eve, I hollered to Bill, Oh look, it’s the lady with the golden retriever.” She was shamelessly ignored by the cops and reporters like Nancy Grace who was canvassing the neighborhood to find anyone willing to say something negative about Peterson and reaffirm that the neighborhood was ‘safe’ in spite of the constant problems reported by local residents. She died before the trial, but her interview with ABC was very compelling. Click here to read it. Homer Maldonado also remembered clearly seeing Laci on December 24 between 9:45 and 10 a.m. ”There’s no question it was her, I said to my wife, did you see that woman? She was really pregnant and having trouble with the dog.” The couple also remembered seeing a tan van at the gas station.
- Click here to read about all the witnesses who reported seeing Laci.
- Laci did not have the energy to walk her dog anymore: Disproved by friends and her mother. She was walking her dog because of her concern with weight gain. Laci walked for hours in San Diego when she visited her in-laws before the tragedy.
- The clothes Laci was wearing: Laci was found dressed in different clothes than what Scott described her wearing before he left the house that morning. Why would he lie about it if he killed her and prepped her up? It could simply mean that she changed before or after her walk. Most sightings were not accompanied by details about what she was wearing. Clothing is a very unreliable method of identification.
- Scott wanted to sell Laci’s car and the house: Laci had complained that her car was very unreliable and ‘a piece of shit.’ They were looking at new cars the week before in Carmel. Laci wanted a safer car for her baby. The police took his car. If Scott thought his wife was abducted from the house and the press was camped there, selling it would be the normal reaction. They kept seizing his cars so he needed money for expenses and for an attorney. Where was he supposed to get it? If Laci was found, I doubt she would have minded these details, and the car was under Scott’s name.
- Scott bought a boat without telling anyone: Laci knew about the boat he bought under his real name and address and at the request of the seller, paid for with cash he took out from their joint account. At the time, he could have picked other options that were either cheaper or non registered, but picked a smaller and more expensive boat because it was equipped for fishing. Laci was seen visiting the warehouse so it was not a hush purchase. Brocchini made sure to remove this detail from his official notes when the neighbor told him he saw Laci at the warehouse when the boat was there. The detective tried to make this purchase sound very sinister when in reality, it was not. And Scott did not research currents in the bay because, in fact, the page appeared only a few seconds on the screen while he was browsing for other information on the Internet.
- The Insurance Policy and blood evidence: Detectives Buehler and Brocchini met with Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski and showed them pictures of Amber Frey with Scott and told them that Scott had taken out a $250K life insurance policy on Laci in the summer after she became pregnant. Detectives Grogan and Owen went to San Diego the same day to give similar news to Lee Peterson. They also told the Rochas that they believed Scott was responsible for Laci’s disappearance and that there was blood evidence. Brocchini knew the information was not true and he was aware that the Policy was purchased in April 2001, nearly 20 months before Laci’s disappearance at the request of their mutual friend and it was on each of them. They did that when they bought the home. There never was any blood evidence.
- The pliers with Laci’s hair in it: It was found to be too rusty to have been used recently. They lived together so some of their tools were bound to have their dna, but an apology was presented at trial because the hair could not be identified as belonging to Laci.
- Scott’s tiny cuts on his hand: Were not found to be consistent with anything else than what he described. He did manual work all the time and was transferring tools in his truck and cut himself. There was one little drop of blood inside the car door where he had told the cops they would find it.
- Scott visited the bay when they were searching for Laci: He also visited several other sites they searched. If he took interest in the searches, doesn’t it show he cared?
- Scott made a whistling sound when Sharon Rocha told him the searches came up empty: It cuts both ways. It could have been relief she was not there. He knew by then they were trying to pin this on him. Only Scott could have answered this question. He might have had a simple explanation for this that had nothing to do with the phone call.
- Detective Craig Grogan’s list of 41 reasons why Scott was guilty: Most of it was hogwash and gut feelings. It was mostly a list of lies told by Peterson to avoid embarrassment, and actions taken out of context that Grogan had tried to portray as evidence. Ordering fake diplomas and putting them on the wall is not a reason to be guilty. Talking about diplomas, his colleague, Al Brocchini, had made a point of bragging about the fact that even if he and 3 of his colleagues only had a high school diploma, they had caught a guy with a university degree. Making it sound like a competition and a very unhealthy personal vendetta.
- The Amber Frey’s Tapes: I do not know how they could have expected a confession out of these conversations. Scott was stuck between a rock and a hard place and kept lying. He never admitted anything or offered any insightful information about the case. Amber could have stayed out of it, and did not have to give a press conference. Her participation helped police inflame the public against Scott. If he was a lying cad and could cheat on his beautiful pregnant wife, they hoped the jury would infer that he killed her. The value of the tapes was prejudicial and not probative.
The demonstration video
The state’s theory of how the crime occurred which was that he dropped his wife from his boat in the San Francisco Bay while she was attached to 4 anchors was contradicted in a video made by the defense.
It demonstrated it could not have happened without capsizing, but was not admitted by the Judge.
That same judge allowed the jury to try the boat and make an experiment to see if it was rocky, which is absolutely forbidden.
It is very difficult to even imagine Peterson carrying his pregnant wife in the truck and putting her in his boat before driving to the bay totally unnoticed. Imagine being in a small boat in full view, and trying to dump a dead body with 4 weights attached to its extremities without alerting a living soul, capsizing or hurting yourself physically?
Plus, he had to leave his boat unattended after launching it to go park his car – in full view.
A witness saw him motor by and told his defense team investigator that there was nothing in the boat – why he was not asked to testify is a mystery.
More to the point, he was in very shallow water where a body would have been visible and sonar boats searched there several months without finding Laci’s body. It really boggles the mind.
Not to mention that Peterson had never tried the boat he purchased and had no way of knowing if it would work properly and how it would react on choppy water.
Click here to see the defense video and read an in depth article about the reenactment and the cement anchor made by Scott.
According to the prosecution expert, one of the bodies could have originated from the area where Scott took his boat, but he could not account for the trajectory of the other one.
The fact that he was not an expert in body trajectory said it all. And it is really unlikely that the bodies would have traveled only 2 miles in over 3 1/2 months.
While we are on the subject of demonstrations – nobody wanted to hear about the boat, the witnesses who saw Laci or the computer evidence showing that she was alive in the morning, but reporters like Beth Karas, who is also a lawyer, would publicly try to demonstrate that Laci was in the box of Peterson’s truck – in spite of the impossibility of the removal of a dead body in that position and the obvious DNA footprint it would have left behind.
Everything was allowed and supposedly made sense, if it was to help the prosecution and meant more ratings; even a total reversal of character from a peaceful guy to a monster.
It seems that the irrationality of the ‘pundits’ had no bounds.
It is quite ironic to see someone like Geraldo Rivera still milking the case to this day by reporting on Peterson and saying absurdities like ‘San Quentin is a ‘cushy’ place.
He is still criticizing the man for his 4 dates affair with Amber when he has admitted publicly to being a serial cheater himself. Of his own admission, he has cheated on his first 4 wives and has finally remained faithful to wife no 5 because of his ripe age.
So incongruous that it would require a new song from Alanis Morissette, but with real irony this time.
It’s like a witness when you walk McKenzie
It’s a free ride for all the attorneys
It’s the good advice that was taken away
Who would’ve thought, it figures
The Guilt phase
- The opening statements in the guilt phase began on June 1, 2004.
- The state rested its case-in-chief on October 5, 2004.
- The defense rested its case on October 26, 2004.
- The jury began deliberations on November 3, 2004.
- On November 12, 2004, the jury found Peterson guilty as charged in count one (first degree murder) and guilty of the lesser included offense of second degree murder on count two.
- The jury found the multiple murder special circumstance true.
The jury and the Verdict
Peterson’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, explained that police had combed the Peterson’s home and the San Francisco bay without finding any evidence or clues.
Investigators had tested the boat, canvas boat cover and a tarp without finding any evidence of a crime and there were no signs of struggle in the house. He acknowledged that the work of the prosecution team was well done, but could in no way prove this case.
It was not the job of the defense to explain what happened to Laci, but it was the responsibility of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Laci was murdered by her husband in a premeditated fashion. But in spite of the fact that the scenario presented by the prosecution was full of holes and uncertainties, the jury still found Peterson guilty.
Geragos offered many scenarios to discount the state’s theory, but they were all dismissed. For the record, I thought that he did a bang up job for the first part of the trial but dropped the ball halfway through – it was still plenty to find his client not guilty.
The jury had been sequestered at a local hotel until the verdict and after listening to five months of testimony and a few days of closing arguments as well as lengthy instructions from Judge Alfred Delucchi, they found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder, leading to the death penalty instead of opting for guilty of second-degree murder, which could have meant 15 years to life for each crime.
Considering the media frenzy and the expectations of the lynch mob, it would have taken a very courageous jury to render a verdict other than first-degree murder with the death penalty as a perk.
Judge Delucchi in his instructions, had made it clear that you cannot judge a defendant according to his demeanor, but some of the jurors stubbornly (or maybe due to lack of understanding) ignored his order.
One of the jurors said, ‘’For me, a big part of it was at the end – the verdict – no emotion. No anything. That spoke a thousand words – loud and clear.‘’
Richelle Nice said, responding to a reporter’s question about whether they wanted to hear a statement form Peterson. ‘’I heard enough from him.’’ Meaning if Scott didn’t talk at trial, he was guilty.
Cardosi said he wanted some kind of reaction from Peterson. ‘’I still would have liked to see, I don’t know if remorse is the right word,’’ he said, ‘’He lost his wife and his child – it didn’t seem to faze him. While that was going on…he is romancing a girlfriend.’’
Jurors Richelle Nice, Cardosi and Gregory Beratlis admitted it was a circumstantial case, but the fact that Laci and Connor were found by the bay sealed the deal even if the dots could not otherwise be connected. Cardosi said there were not many other conclusions, but the jury is not supposed to speculate and find other scenarios. They are supposed to be emotionally detached and go only with evidence.
Most jurors were very critical of his affair. They blamed him for not protecting his wife and child, and some of them said it was difficult to put the pieces together, but they were swayed by his lies and the location where the bodies were found.
Once again, the jurors were not supposed to take this into consideration during deliberations. Their opinion stemmed from anger and not facts.
Richelle Nice was vitriolic in her comments, but never aware, as recounted by the bailiff, that Scott was vomiting constantly and quite upset, but kept it close to the vest in court.
After the trial, she and a fellow juror, told the press using a sardonic tone ” Scottie, San Quentin is your new home!”
Not surprisingly enough, she eventually wrote Peterson in prison and sold his letters to the media. In his reply, Scott showed concern for jurors who had to view graphic photos at trial.
Click to read the insanity of it and for an insight into her strange mind; when Peterson wrote back, her reaction was to ask herself if she should call the police; even if she is the one who wrote and gave him her address. Instead, she called People magazine and made a bundle.
Nice had lied in her jury questionnaire to make sure she would stand in judgment of Scott and it is now part of the appeal.
Click to read When a juror lies during Voir Dire from the San Francisco Public Defender site.
The numerous letters she wrote to him after the verdict sounded obsessed and seemed to stem from her own experience of getting threats against her foetus from her husband’s ex lover.
She also did a couple of stints in a psychiatric hospital after the trial because of mental illness.
How amazing that the jurors wanted to kick out their initial foreman who was a stable physician/lawyer who wanted to deliberate by the book, but they went as far as giving money to Nice so she could stay on the panel. As a mother of 4 with no income, she obviously had an agenda for wanting to remain so badly on the panel.
The first jury foreperson, Gregory Jackson, kept busy taking copious notes, but he was replaced by a firefighter who, even according to Nancy Grace, did not seem to pay attention to the proceedings during the trial. The good doctor asked to be dismissed because he did not feel comfortable anymore after his group demanded to have him replaced.
“When I took the oath, I understood it to mean that I needed to be able to weigh both sides fairly, openly, and given what’s transpired, my individual ability to do that, I think, has been compromised to a degree that I would never know personally whether or not I was giving the community’s verdict, the popular verdict, the expected verdict, the verdict that might – I don’t know – produce the best book.”
– jury foreperson, Gregory Jackson –
This fact alone supports what judge Delucchi said about this case being “an appellate lawyer’s Petri dish”
He ought to know that he could not hide behind his black robe forever after denying a mistrial on the basis of Servas’ flawed timeline – regarding evidence of a confrontation between Laci and the Medina’s burglars.
If jurors were so bent on solving the crime and could not accept that Laci’s disappearance might remain a mystery or a murder not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, I wonder why they did not ask themselves the following questions during deliberations:
Who tells his mistress he lost his wife if he intends for her to go missing?
Who kills his wife on Christmas’ eve knowing full well it will attract media attention?
Who invites his wife’s sister to chill and eat pizza if a murder is planned for that night?
Who will not avoid the media knowing his mistress will be watching the news and blow the whistle on the affair?
Is it not logical that if law enforcement believes Laci to be missing, the investigation will go on until she is found, and Amber Frey will find out?
How could he romance Amber after saying he lost his wife in December ? She would have told the authorities.
Who invents a story about golf and going fishing at the same time if details were planned?
Who will admit to fishing in the Bay if a body was dumped in that location in shallow water?
How could they not find any DNA at all?
What if it is an accident or an unpremeditated act?
He was supposed to pick up a fruit basket on the 24th and mentioned playing golf the night before. What happened to make him change his plans?
Premeditation means plotting and sticking to a specific script ahead of time not to arouse suspicion.
It probably was exactly as he said – it was too cold to play golf with a big jacket and he went on to try his new boat to see how it would perform in the water.
Peterson was a fertilizer salesman and knew the area extremely well. It would have been a piece of cake to dump her body somewhere on farmland and go play golf as if nothing happened.
None of this really made sense and the defense raised a reasonable doubt.
The death penalty
That same panel chose death by lethal injection for Scott instead of life in prison, in spite of the fact that he had no priors and they could not find anyone to say negative things about him before this tragedy.
He was considered a pretty decent individual before the cheating was finally revealed, and Laci had stuck by him in spite of his dalliances.
The minute she found out about Amber, Sharon Rocha came up with the fact that Scott said his wife was missing when he first called her, which she had never mentioned when first interviewed.
In fact, it was Ron Grantski who had used the word missing when calling 911, and had even specified since ‘this morning.’
Lying and cheating on his wife shows poor character, but does not qualify a man for the death penalty.
As hard as the media tried to portray him as a sociopath, it was never confirmed or corroborated in any shape or form by any of his peers or a mental health professional assigned to his case.
Fox in house psychiatrist/buffoon, Keith Ablow, wrote a book and called a man he had never met a sociopath while slandering his poor mother. This is how far the lynch mob was willing to go to get this guy. And how the case had become a cash cow.
A crowd gathered outside the San Mateo County Courthouse broke out in cheers and many drank to the state’s victory when the verdict was broadcast. Almost like at a football game.
Seven of the jurors wrote a book and made money out of this tragedy. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Richelle Nice and John Guinasso were part of it.
Guinasso, aka Juror 8, was a bully who yelled at other jurors and managed to single handedly get rid of 2 jurors who were leaning for the defense by complaining to the judge about the 1st one and intimidating the 2nd one who happened to be the foreperson.
He remained impaneled even if it was reported by a bartender who took the fifth, probably because he was afraid of him, that he was talking about the case at the bar where he worked; he wanted to give Scott the death penalty and write a book.
This case happened during an era when any book written about a high profile case paid astronomical sums of money.
Laci’s mother made a small fortune with her book and donated a portion of it to the Laci and Conner Search and Rescue Fund.
Amber Frey, the so called mistress who dated Scott only 4 times in the course of 6 weeks, made enough money with interviews, her book and movie deal to buy a luxury home and open a spa (which she eventually lost).
Fairly recently, and just in time for Scott’s appeal, Amber’s father told the media that his daughter ”never gotten her life together after she testified against him.”
She was a single mother collecting child support from the wrong father when she met Peterson, and the poor girl never really had her life together to begin with.
She slept with Peterson on the first date, and her babysitter, Shawn Sibley, had to call her in the morning to remind her to pick up her daughter.
Not long after, Amber gave Scott a car seat and the key to her house and asked him to pick up her daughter at day care. The guy who supposedly wanted to get rid of his unborn child was now a babysitter.
Even if at first Scott came across as a nice and trustworthy guy, who does that?
It was undeniably not her first rodeo with guys lying about their wife, so you would have expected a little more savviness and diligence on her part.
Not that Peterson did not deserve the title of king of the crud for lying to her – He knew that he would undeniably hurt Amber and his wife, and he decided to pursue this affair anyway.
But the whole ‘victim’ gimmick from Gloria Allred was ridiculous.
It sure appeared that he was doing a slow fade on Amber during the last couple of weeks before all hell broke loose.
On December 25th, Doug Sibley left a voice message for Scott saying that he should call Amber, and Amber made the two first calls. Would Scott have called her if not from this insistence? On the 26th, Amber called him 14 times.
As bad as the calls were, there was never any heavy romancing in their infamous taped conversations – mostly compliments from Peterson and a lot of whining from Amber about her past, her hopes, her dreams, her kid, her strong desire for a commitment from a guy she hardly knew – all this in a tiny childlike voice that sounded like a pestering puppet.
But the fact that Scott would talk to her like he had no care in the world has to be one of the most damning element of this case.
He had 2 affairs before, and they happened because Laci was away; this time she had told a girlfriend that sex was out of the picture because of her pregnancy.
What did Sibley see in this guy who shamelessly flirted with her at a work convention when he knew that she was engaged and called himself Horny Bastard? She pushed for him to meet Amber and it took him almost 1 month to do so. It smelled more like a hookup than Prince Charming.
The windfall from the trial followed by some therapy should have been enough compensation for the pain she ‘endured during this ordeal.’
Who could forget her taped conversations when she would say in her whiny voice ” What about me Scott? What about me?”
As if her disappointment with the guy could outweigh the plight of a missing pregnant woman.
It was almost as unsavory as having Laci’s photo on her own book cover. A tacky move that infuriated Sharon Rocha. Amber sounded and acted more like a grifter than a victim of circumstances.
Allred also helped her sue for $6 million because some semi-nude photos of her wearing braces resurfaced. I get the humiliation and the desire to stop their publication, but asking for that kind of money is pure chicanery.
In 2005, she was offering self-help workshops called An evening with Amber Frey.
Click to read an hilarious article written by someone who actually paid to hear her speak and called Amber ‘the William Hung of women who boned guys who killed their wives.’
Frey who was looking for ‘the one’ when she met Scott, went on to have a son with chiropractor David Markovich in April, 2004, and in 2006, married Robert Hernandez, a Corrections officer. Her lawyer, mouthpiece, and famous ambulance chaser, Gloria Allred, was invited to the wedding.
She divorced Hernandez in 2008, and was sued in 2011 by Pedro Reynosa for breach of contract when he alleged Frey broke her promise to sign her name on a book and screenplay, which they co-wrote, in 2009. They collaborated on a book called “Memoirs of a Sex Addict”, and the play “Myths of the Flesh.”
Since Peterson’s appeal is on the forefront, Frey herself has been granting media interviews during which she omits to talk about her missionary work for the church and the fact that the book Scott had in his car with her office address on it, was a religious one she had asked him to read and return to her at that address, and not a sinister map to go after her.
Scott was in dire straits and it seems that her calls, as fake as they were, made it possible for him to live a fantasy, as far away as possible from his tragic reality. During their conversations, one could not help notice that Amber sounded as real as he did, so in this strange duo,who was zooming who?
This lady was and still is a complete and utter flake.
Click for an in depth summary of their calls and of Amber Frey’s inflated role in this case.
Scott’s half-sister also made quite a bit of money by selling her new found brother up the river. She gave up her relationship with her natural mother for cash. Her ridiculous claim that Scott drowned Laci in their pool was as unsubstantiated as the other assertions contained in her book.
One only had to check the cold temperature at the time of her disappearance to realize that the pool was not an option.
She was entitled to her opinion, but to have published these allegations for money, and to go as far as visiting Scott in prison after he was found guilty to get more content for her book is beyond reprehensible.
This golden era of litigation TV was not very conducive to honesty and so many people got a free pass while publishing hogwash.
I strongly believe that it should be illegal for jurors to profit in any shape or form from the trial they were chosen to participate in. If this is not a conflict of interest, what is?
It is illegal for non-expert witnesses, but in this case, it did not seem to bother ‘star witness’ Miss Frey who thought she was covered because she went full frontal but only after the trial.
A criminal defendant is entitled to a fair and impartial jury of his peers. When the prospect of money enters in the jury box, it’s not a stretch to surmise that some juror, somewhere, will be more interested in the prospect of cold hard cash than in the thankless job of jury duty. But jurors should be thinking about justice – not how they can profit. One thing is certain: justice should never be for sale.
What about witnesses? They, too, should keep their eye on the ball: They ought to be thinking of telling the truth, not of maximizing their profit. When money enters the picture, there is a very real potential that “star witnesses” with dollars signs in their eyes may color or create “evidence” to maximize their profitability.
After all, much like real celebrities, these courtroom “stars” are made, not born. They know more lurid testimony will make their stories more saleable. The temptation to exaggerate — or outright lie — may prove irresistible.
Click to read Cashing In on High Profile Trials – Amber Frey’s book
And what to say about Noreen Renier, the psychic with no confidentiality clause, who became the media darling as long as she spewed stories about Peterson’s guilt?
She had allegedly been hired by Jackie Peterson to get information on her missing daughter in law, and was in a hurry to spread her conclusions in the media.
She probably profited handsomely from this career revival. I do believe in some psychic profiling, but this woman was actually pretending to solve cases, and was also publishing lucrative books.
It was very convenient to feed the wave of hate against Peterson to collect and go straight to the bank.
Click for an interesting link to some research about Renier.
This case basically became a gold mine for anyone willing to badmouth Scott Peterson.
If not from the tragic death of Laci and her son, and Peterson now living on death row, this case could have been described as Commedia dell’arte – a bunch of buffoons all looking for profit and wanting to see their names in big letters.
And Nancy Disgrace and the poor ghost of her dead fiance were leading the parade.
“This comical town formerly known as Redwood City has earned a new name: Bozo City. What a great place to see judges and prosecutors in bright, red noses, water squirting from their lapels – wrecking everything they touch.”
– Andrea Peyser, New York Post
Peterson is still on death row at San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco and his case is being appealed.
He did not get a fair trial. It is not my place to judge if he is guilty or innocent, but after reviewing the case and its lack of evidence, I can say with certainty that the media frenzy contributed to the distortion of his image and personality.
Without being blind to his troubling behavior, one cannot make a monster out of the man while turning everybody else into victims. Unfortunately, there was plenty of bad behavior on both sides in this case – victim’s family excluded.
The jury in the Scott Peterson’s case decided that having a mistress, lying and going fishing if your wife ends up in the bay was too much of a coincidence. I have seen trials with way more evidence ending in mistrial, acquittal or second degree murder.
Without the media, I doubt that he would have received life without parole or the death penalty.
He had to walk in prison with a target on his back.
A huge price to pay to quench the thirst for blood of the rapacious media eager to fill its pockets while exploiting human beings at their most vulnerable.
Reporter Nancy Mullane got access to San Quentin to write about death row inmates, and ended up taking photos of Scott Peterson in his smaller unit (she said inadvertently) where he has to remain because he would probably be attacked or killed in the bigger unit so that some inmate can make a name for himself.
She used his name to promote her work and was invited on TV shows to bash Peterson, instead of giving a voice to the condemned men living in that horrible and definitely not cushy place.
Click to read Tom Gogola’s excellent article about death row with a mention of Mullane’s visit and TV interview.
The State filed its response to Peterson’s appeal on January 26, 2015 and his attorney has 60 days to reply. Next step will be oral arguments.
State Attorney General’s response. Filed January 26, 2015. Click here to read
Appellant’s response to State Attorney General’s brief. Filed July 23, 2015. Click here
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed on November 24, 2015. They finally go after Geragos! Click here
Trial Transcripts. Click here.
Lousy host, but great interview with Tom Mesereau about Peterson’s poor defense team