Skip to comments.The Changing Tide in the Defense Of Scott Peterson:
Posted on 06/10/2003 3:03:40 AM PDT by runningbear
The Changing Tide in the Defense Of Scott Peterson:
Why Doubt About His Guilt Is Seeming More and More Reasonable
The Changing Tide in the Defense Of Scott Peterson:
Why Doubt About His Guilt Is Seeming More and More Reasonable
By JONNA M. SPILBOR
Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2003
Barely two months ago, bailiffs marched so-called "monster in chains" Scott Peterson before a Modesto judge for arraignment on charges for the double murder of his wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner. In the court of public opinion, Scott Peterson's guilt was a forgone conclusion.
The crowd outside the Stanislaus County Courthouse then was eerily reminiscent of a time in our history when angry townspeople gathered in the village square to mete out justice with stones and pitchforks. Piercing shouts of "Murderer!" could plainly be heard.
Last week, however, as defense attorneys and prosecutors headed back to court to argue motions, the tide of public opinion seemed to shift. The "monster in chains" had transformed into a clean-cut chap in a two piece suit. And press reports concerning information in the autopsy reports for Laci and her child had raised doubts in the minds of many.
According to reports, the baby's body was found with a knotted piece of tape wrapped tightly around its neck in a "noose-like" fashion. The terrible modus operandi seemed not to fit Peterson - who had been depicted as a cheating husband who might have wished his wife would disappear, not a twisted killer capable of using perverse means to kill a helpless unborn child.
Outside the courthouse were curious, quiet onlookers - many of whom were slowly starting to ponder not how Scott Peterson had committed such a heinous crime, but rather, had he indeed committed it in the first place?
The doubt in the public mind made the outcome of the motions at issue - one of which sought to unseal the very autopsy reports that had apparently been partially leaked - seem all the more momentous.
So far, as I will explain, all the rulings have been favorable to the defense. That suggests again - just as the leaked autopsy evidence did - that this will be a decidedly two-sided trial, not the walkover prosecutors had envisioned.
Meanwhile, there have been some dramatic new developments: Famed attorney Gloria Allred has appeared on behalf of Amber Frey. (Frey, as those who have followed the case will know, is the woman with whom Scott was cheating on Laci, and who says he told her he was single.) And members of Laci's family have reportedly moved her possessions out of the house she shared with Scott. I will also explain the likely legal consequences, if any, of these events.
The Controversy Over the Sealing of the Autopsy Results
Originally, prosecution and defense had agreed that the autopsy reports should remain sealed. But once the leak occurred, prosecutors - who blamed the leak on the defense, but did not provide evidence to support their suspicions - changed their mind, and sought to unseal the report on Conner Peterson.
Prosecutors argued that the leak had been a calculated defense tactic meant to bolster a recent theory that a malevolent third-party - perhaps affiliated with a "satanic cult" - committed the killings. The defense continued to support the sealing order, however, and Judge Girolami declined to lift it.
Autopsy findings are normally a matter of public record. However, a provision of California's Evidence Code allows the judge to keep the autopsy reports private. The provision states, in part, that disclosure of "official information" may be shielded from public consumption if there is a "necessity for preserving the confidentiality of the information that outweighs the necessity for disclosure in the interest of justice . . . ."
Defense counsel argued - successfully so - that disclosure of the autopsy findings could affect the arrest of the "real killers" who, according to the defense, "are still out there."
If this argument sounds familiar, it should. Earlier in the week, co-defense counsel Matt Dalton made the same argument before Judge Roger M. Beauchesne - the jurist assigned to handle requests by the media to unseal search warrants and related affidavits. (Incidentally, the search warrant issue was not before the court on Friday morning. Instead, a closed-door conference was conducted in Judge Beauchesne's chambers later in the day. Although neither side offered comment following the meeting, the search warrants and affidavits continue to remain sealed.)
Thus, for now, the status quo will continue. However, the public probably won't have to wait long to hear the full contents of the reports. On July 16, the preliminary hearing in this matter is set to occur. I, for one, am willing to bet the Modesto medical examiner will be one of the first faces we see on the witness stand.
Remember, prosecutors will need to prove Laci's death resulted from a criminal act - rather then being an accident. The cause of death for both victims reportedly remains undetermined. However, the medical examiner has classified the manner of Laci's death as a homicide - giving prosecutors the crucial "criminal act" proof they need. (Reportedly, no manner of death has been designated for baby Conner.)
The Judge Has Declined to Rule on the Gag Order Request Until a Later Time
Prosecutors have sought a gag order preventing the parties' attorneys from discussing the Peterson case. The defense has opposed such an order. Neither party's position is a surprise. After all, what good will it do Scott Peterson to have retained a media-savvy lawyer like Mark Geragos if he isn't allowed to be, well, media savvy?
The prosecution says they have sought a "limited" gag order, but it's not clear exactly what the limits would be. In any event, the judge has refused to put a lid on the leaks just yet - reserving his ruling on this issue for an undisclosed future date.
He was probably wise to do so. Gag orders in cases like these tend to be utterly unenforceable anyway, and thus only to underline the court's ineffectuality in this respect.
That is not - as the prosecution has suggested - because defense attorneys act in bad faith. Rather, it's because the huge press appetite for information in notorious cases like this one - with tabloids paying big money for scoops - creates strong incentives for anyone who's seen the evidence to leak. And how many people, at different levels of authority, likely had access to this autopsy report before it was sealed? It's a losing battle.
Wiretap Evidence: The Judge's Ruling May Turn Out to Be a Bombshell
Thus, the defense achieved two of its goals, at least for now: to seal the autopsy report, and to resist a gag order. The defense also had another goal: It sought evidence as to the government's wiretaps of Scott Peterson's telephone calls. It achieved that one, too. The court ordered all recordings, except those between Scott Peterson and journalists, to be turned over to defense counsel.
Police investigators intercepted more than 3800 telephone calls to or from Scott Peterson. Sixty-nine of them were calls between Peterson and his lawyers. Assuming that Peterson was seeking legal advice in these conversations, as he almost certainly was, they were protected by the attorney-client privilege.
If it is proven that police continued to listen in on these calls even when it was plain that there were protected by the privilege, that would be very serious indeed. A variety of possible sanctions would then be available to the judge.
It goes without saying that prosecutors should not be able to use privileged conversations as evidence in court. But the judge could also go further, to punish the misconduct.
He might for instance, suppress all of the wiretap evidence. Or he might prevent anyone with knowledge of the privileged conversations - or anyone involved in listening in - from testifying.
Indeed, he might even go so far as to disqualify the district attorney from prosecuting the case if the misconduct was grave. For instance, if there was an intentional - rather than merely mistaken or negligent - decision to ignore the attorney-client privilege, and especially if that decision was approved by higher-ups, a strong sanction could be appropriate.
The hearing on this issue will take place on June 26.
Gloria Allred Has Joined the Fray, for Frey
Just when you thought the most talked-about witness in this double-homicide, death penalty case could use a makeover, in walks Gloria Allred, representing Amber Frey.
Frey's image was tainted when she was initially pegged as the "other woman." Then it was purified when it became clear she probably did not know Scott was married when they were involved. But then, in the eyes of some, it was tainted again, when news reports this week mentioned her having posed - sans either pants or taste - in 1999 for a nudie magazine.
Gloria Allred has professed her dedication to protecting the reputation and character of this much-anticipated witness for the State. Under the circumstances, Allred may have the toughest job of all.
Of course, Frey doesn't really need a lawyer - the prosecution reportedly has ruled her out as any kind of suspect. Nor does she have a right to have one appointed for her, since she is not a defendant. But she does have the option to hire one, as she has done.
At Peterson's trial, Allred will be relegated to the cheap seats in the gallery like the rest of the spectators, but may be permitted to sit adjacent to the witness stand while Frey is testifying. Moreover, in the unlikely event that any questions to Frey did get into areas implicating her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Allred could counsel her on whether to invoke that right.
The Rochas' Decision to Take Property from Peterson Home......
Speaking for Laci
June 9 It was on June 9, one year ago, that Laci Peterson broke the news to her family and friends, joyous news, that she couldnt wait to share: she was pregnant. Much later, of course, her family would receive a horribly different piece of news: a phone call on Christmas Eve, that something was wrong. Laci was missing. Ever since, the family of Laci Peterson has been enduring a very public kind of pain, from the months of fruitless searches and countless missing posters, to that terrible discovery on the California coast, to the arrest of their son-in-law Scott. Lacis family spoke to NBCs Katie Couric in their most extensive television interview to date, sharing new details about Lacis life, her husbands actions, and their own hopes for justice.
SHARON ROCHA: Its just moment by moment. Ive said that since December 24, and its still that way. One minute Im fine, and the next minute Im not. Its just, its an impossible situation. Its hard to believe that this even happened.
Katie Couric: I bet you feel like youre living in some kind of horrific nightmare.
Sharon Rocha: Theres many times I wake up in the middle of the night. I wake up and I just start crying because I realize that Lacis gone and that Ill never see her again.
Not a day goes by that Sharon Rocha doesnt think about her grandson, Connor, whod be almost four months old now if he had lived.
Couric: What do you imagine, when you allow yourself.
Rocha: I imagine to be holding her baby. I imagine her feeding her baby and calling me, and saying, Mom, say, now what do I do? She wanted so much to have that baby. She wanted to be a mother.
They were just about to have another family get-together when it happened. A single word struck terror in this family. They heard it Christmas eve. Sharon rocha was preparing a big holiday dinner when the phone rang.
Sharon Rocha: It was Scott. And he said, Hi, Mom. He said, is Laci over there? And I said, no. And he said, well, Lacis missing. I thought that it was odd that he said Lacis missing. Any other time, you know, you would have heard, I dont know where she is, or I cant find her or something to that effect. Scott said Lacis missing. I mean I knew immediately, by hearing the word missing that something terrible had happened.
Something terrible had happened. For five and a half months now, an entire nation has been gripped by the story. A 27-year-old mother-to-be disappears on Christmas eve. Fourteen weeks later, her body and that of her unborn son wash up in San Francisco Bay. Her husband, Scott Peterson, is arrested on two counts of murder, and pleads not guilty.
In the meantime, Laci has become a household name. And for months, shes been seen as a face in a photograph. But her family wants us to know the young woman behind the bright eyes and beaming smile, not just as victim, but as a daughter, sister and friend someone who seemed to be born on a sunny day.
GROWING UP WITH LACI
Sharon Rocha: I would go in in the morning to get her out of her crib and shed just sit there grinning. Just always happy.
Laci Rocha was born in 1975 and grew up in Modesto, Calif. But after her parents divorced when she was two, she spent weekends as a country girl on her fathers dairy farm just outside town.
Amy Rocha (half-sister): You know, just even when you werent in the best of moods, youd get together with her and be in a better mood.
Couric: Did you spend a lot of time together under the same roof?
Amy Rocha: We spent weekends with our dad on the dairy, and you know, did the country thing. So, I was always the tag-along with her and her friends. Those who knew her say she liked being part of a blended family. And the fact she had a doting stepfather, Ron Grantski, who took her on family vacations.
Grantski: My nickname for her, when she was growing up, was J.J. for Jabber Jaws. And we planned a trip, remember that trip, we went on a trip to the caverns up by Sonora. And shes little, maybe five or six years old, and talking all the way up there. And I said, Laci, do you think you can be quiet for 30 seconds? And, sure, how longs 30 seconds? Is it thirty 30 yet?
Time goes by so slowly when youre a kid. But before her family knew it, Laci had grown up. In high school, Van Morrisons Brown Eyed Girl was her favorite.
She was a cheerleader and one of the most popular students in her class. By the time she was 16, Laci had become a striking brown-eyed girl, whod left a striking and indelible impression on everyone at Downey High, like science teacher Bob Starling.
Starling: My first impression, she was short with a bunch of hair that stuck really high and a big, huge smile. That was my first impression. She was one of those kind of special people, that you just never forget.
Couric: You have a book of photographs of your students in that book and theres here picture in the very front.
Starling: She came in and she said, Hey, I need to put my picture in your photo album. Then she came over and interrupted me and said, Every time you open this book, youve got to smile.
Sharon Rocha: From about the time she was two she loved to dance which at times could be a little embarrassing.
Couric: Because it didnt matter where or when?
Sharon Rocha: Exactly. Exactly. Or who was there.
Laci obviously wasnt shy. She knew she wasnt a great dancer or singer, but that didnt stop her. Her friends remember another night she was doing a song from Grease, that time at a karaoke spot.
Kim: She got up there and just absolutely tore this song apart. And we were all just looking at her going, oh my God, is she ever going to stop? When she couldnt do something, she pretended like she could, and she had a good time doing it. And those nights were some of the best nights we had.
Poll: Peterson, Rudolph Guilty
Poll: Peterson, Rudolph Guilty
Monday, June 09, 2003
By Rachel Sternfeld
While the law says "presumed innocent," majorities of Americans have already decided that Scott Peterson and Eric Rudolph (search) are guilty as charged. Both men are accused of murder and, if found guilty, may face the death penalty a punishment favored by a solid majority of Americans in the case of premeditated murder.
Many Americans think Scott Peterson (search) was involved in the murder of his pregnant wife Laci, but fewer think so today than did a month ago. In the latest FOX News poll, conducted June 3-4 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, 58 percent of the public think Peterson was involved, down from 67 percent in early May.
Similarly, the number saying he was definitely involved has dropped 12 percentage points (31 percent now, compared to 43 percent last month). Only five percent think he was not involved (four percent probably and one percent definitely not involved).
In addition, over a third of the public (37 percent) are withholding judgment today, up from 30 percent of respondents who said they were unsure of Scotts involvement in early May.
Despite the large amounts of media attention to the case, a plurality of the public (47 percent) thinks Peterson will get a fair trial. Thirty-six percent say Peterson will not be able to get a fair trial and 17 percent are unsure.
In another case that has captured the attention of the country, 62 percent of Americans think Eric Rudolph is guilty of involvement in the various bombings he has been charged with committing. Thirty-three percent think Rudolph was definitely involved and 29 percent probably involved in the four Georgia and Alabama bombings, including the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
Those living in the South Atlantic region of the country, which includes Georgia, the site of the Olympic bombing, as well as North Carolina where Rudolph was discovered, are the most likely to believe he was involved (74 percent).
Rudolphs clean and healthy appearance when captured has led to speculation that he might have received aid from local people. In the case that Rudolph, a federal fugitive, was being helped, 74 percent of Americans believe those individuals should be charged as accessories to his crimes. Fourteen percent think such people should not be charged and 12 percent are unsure.
The Death Penalty as Punishment
In general, 69 percent say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder and 23 percent oppose the punishment. Men are more likely than women to favor the death penalty (74 percent and 64 percent respectively), as are whites (70 percent) in comparison with nonwhites (59 percent).
However, the largest difference is found in the gap between the major political ....................
(Excerpt) Read more at writ.news.findlaw.com ...
Yeti, if you get pinged, I could of overlooked double typed your name... Will look to make sure .... ;o)
Most murder cases are entirely circumstantial, because very few people kill another person in the presence of third parties.
My armchair expertise tells me that there better be forensic evidence, because simply being a cheat without an airtight alibi shouldn't be grounds for conviction of murder.
Well, they go down a bit when the location is a popular recreation spot as well as an ideal place for anyone to dump a body. I'm not saying he didn't do it, but a defense attorney could probably walk that off. Of course, if he had never been there before that particular day (I don't know), I tend to agree with you.
Roxanne Smart is reminiscent in facial appearance and body type to Amber Frey. Scott may have a "thing" about tall blondes, and his involvement with Laci was just an anomoly. (How's that for wild conjecture?)
Remember that the body was found weeks afterward, very near shore or on it, and the site had been in the news for the entire time.
I don't know if SP is guilty or not but if I were looking for a place to dump a body it would very likely be someplace the papers and internet had associated directly to another suspect.
Regarding an earlier post and FOX news; I'm still watching FOX but the thirty or so minutes each hour of "Laci and her family" coverage is prime time to accomplish other tasks.
Dave's not here.
Sure beats the heck out of "All Hillary! all the time" coverage. If I have to hear that fingernails-across-the-blackboard voice just one more time, I think I'll have to get earplugs, or sew my ears shut, or something. A pox (monkey or any other kind) on her book, and all this coverage.
If it were you...
Quite clever the way you were able to remove the internal organs and open the torso without leaving signs of cutting instruments being used. And that unbelievably believable decomposition job you did was classic, must be that xlarge salt water aquarium you have. One question, did you induce labor and keep the baby frozen until placing it in Richmond? Or was he left inside Laci in the aquarium? And how did you keep the water chilled in the aquarium to the same temperature as the bay waters? /major s
if you also knew that the bodies show up exactly where the suspect had said he would be, would that make the case better?....
Ugh, what a horrifying image you have implanted in my brain! I can see the pasty white thighs and......ooooh, I'm gonna hurl!
just goes to show you what money will buy you.....
about the Laci coverage.....I too, have had enough......I won't watch anymore....not LK, not Fox, nothing, nada.....it's just a soap box for Geragos and I won't give him the pleasure anymore, him and all those re-cycled, battering ram attornies they have on all the channels....
I was surprised to see they had time to talk about Molly Bish this morning....the interview with her mom and dad on CBS was heart-breaking to be sure.....her mom said no parent should have to have their child brought back to them "bone by bone".....