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The Changing Tide in the Defense Of Scott Peterson: ^ | June 10, 2003 | Jonna M. Spilbor

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

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 couldn’t 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. Laci’s family spoke to NBC’s Katie Couric in their most extensive television interview to date, sharing new details about Laci’s life, her husband’s actions, and their own hopes for justice.

SHARON ROCHA: “It’s just moment by moment. I’ve said that since December 24, and it’s still that way. One minute I’m fine, and the next minute I’m not. It’s just, it’s an impossible situation. It’s hard to believe that this even happened.”

Katie Couric: “I bet you feel like you’re living in some kind of horrific nightmare.”

Sharon Rocha: “There’s many times I wake up in the middle of the night. I wake up and I just start crying because I realize that Laci’s gone and that I’ll never see her again.”

Not a day goes by that Sharon Rocha doesn’t think about her grandson, Connor, who’d 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, Laci’s missing. I thought that it was odd that he said Laci’s missing. Any other time, you know, you would have heard, I don’t know where she is, or I can’t find her or something to that effect. Scott said Laci’s 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, she’s 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.


Sharon Rocha: “I would go in in the morning to get her out of her crib and she’d 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 father’s dairy farm just outside town.

Amy Rocha (half-sister): “You know, just even when you weren’t in the best of moods, you’d 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 she’s 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 long’s 30 seconds? Is it thirty 30 yet?”

Time goes by so slowly when you’re a kid. But before her family knew it, Laci had grown up. In high school, Van Morrison’s “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, who’d 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 there’s 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, you’ve 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 didn’t matter where or when?”

Sharon Rocha: “Exactly. Exactly. Or who was there.”

Laci obviously wasn’t shy. She knew she wasn’t a great dancer or singer, but that didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 Scott’s 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).

Rudolph’s 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 ...

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: avoidingchildsupport; baby; babyunborn; conner; deathpenaltytime; dontubelievemyalibi; getarope; ibefishing; laci; lacipeterson; smallbaby; smallchild; sonkiller; unborn; wifekiller
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1 posted on 06/10/2003 3:03:40 AM PDT by runningbear
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To: Rheo; Mystery Y; Searching4Justice; brneyedgirl; Scupoli; sissyjane; TexKat; Lanza; Mrs.Liberty; ...
Pinging ya on a few stories here....
2 posted on 06/10/2003 3:05:03 AM PDT by runningbear (Lurkers beware, Freeping is public opinions based on facts, theories, and news online.......)
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To: Mystery Y; Searching4Justice; brneyedgirl; Texas Eagle; Scupoli; Lanza; Mrs.Liberty; muggs; ...
Pinging ya on a few stories here....
3 posted on 06/10/2003 3:05:37 AM PDT by runningbear (Lurkers beware, Freeping is public opinions based on facts, theories, and news online.......)
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To: WellsFargo94; gopwhit; jra; joyce11111; exlibris; JBCiejka; blondatheart; Mrs Double Tap; r9etb; ...
Pinging ya on a few stories here....

Yeti, if you get pinged, I could of overlooked double typed your name... Will look to make sure .... ;o)

4 posted on 06/10/2003 3:06:55 AM PDT by runningbear (Lurkers beware, Freeping is public opinions based on facts, theories, and news online.......)
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To: runningbear
5 posted on 06/10/2003 3:07:07 AM PDT by pitinkie
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To: runningbear
So far, the case against Scott Peterson is almost entirely circumstantial. Time, location, and opportunity should be strong indicators that the possibility of Scott committing homicide on Laci and unborn son Conner is much higher than mere chance. Motive may be uncertain, but the extramarital activities by Scott do not speak well. What has not been revealed is a firm, inarguable link between the demise of Laci and son Conner, and actions by Scott that contributed to that demise. The prosecution may have this, if sufficient information may be gleaned from the autopsy report, by knowledgeable persons qualified to interpret that report. There may be other forensic evidence, that place Scott and Laci in proximity after the time he left the house on the way to the launch of the fishing boat.

I have watched a lot of TV courtroom dramas too. Makes me almost as good an armchair expert as anybody.
6 posted on 06/10/2003 3:18:20 AM PDT by alloysteel
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To: runningbear
7 posted on 06/10/2003 3:18:42 AM PDT by MEG33
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To: alloysteel
I have seen a lot of live trials on Court TV.It can be as tedious as watching grass grow at times.I am looking forward to the prelim as we may get a look at the evidence we are not aware of.I suspect Scott is guilty but haven't a clue as to the evidence beyond his suspicious behavior and the damning coincidence of his fishing trip and the location of the bodies.
8 posted on 06/10/2003 3:28:03 AM PDT by MEG33
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To: runningbear
Hi, I have lurked since the beginning and just signed up for posting. Will you please add me to your pinging list? You post excellent information, Thank you!
9 posted on 06/10/2003 4:58:53 AM PDT by ftriggerf
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To: runningbear
This is a case of trial by the media and an example of why gag orders should be the norm for all criminal cases. No
defendants freedom or life should be determined by who leaks the most to the press.
10 posted on 06/10/2003 5:00:02 AM PDT by ijcr
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To: alloysteel
So far, the case against Scott Peterson is almost entirely circumstantial.

Most murder cases are entirely circumstantial, because very few people kill another person in the presence of third parties.

11 posted on 06/10/2003 5:02:58 AM PDT by Poohbah (Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!)
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To: runningbear; Devil_Anse; Yeti
Morning rb, all! Thanks rb, for all you do!
Devil, have mail!
12 posted on 06/10/2003 5:13:49 AM PDT by Jackie-O
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To: runningbear
O.J. Lite.
13 posted on 06/10/2003 5:15:23 AM PDT by verity
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To: alloysteel
There may be other forensic evidence, that place Scott and Laci in proximity after the time he left the house on the way to the launch of the fishing boat. I have watched a lot of TV courtroom dramas too. Makes me almost as good an armchair expert as anybody

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.

14 posted on 06/10/2003 5:17:29 AM PDT by Mr. Bird
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To: runningbear
Hey RB,

Just a little note, I was reading Dominic Dunne's column in Vanity Fair last night. He had lunch with Johnny Cochrun, and they touched on the Peterson case. Johnny said the police must have a lot of evidence we don't know about or they would not have asked for the death penalty. So, that's the word from the guy who got the wife murdering OJ off.

I am a little concerned about those body parts found. I guess there was some that got the coroner's attention about Laci and they are testing. If it's her, I am going with SP is a serial killer then, because I will never believe he didn't do it.
15 posted on 06/10/2003 5:25:10 AM PDT by Lanza
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To: runningbear
Personally, I have temporarily quit watching FOX or any other of the "all-Laci, all the time" channels. To me, this is not NEWS, it is sensationalism, and I won't contribute to the hysteria. There are much more "newsworthy" topics to report out there. Are you hearing me, FOX? You're losing me, and from the comments in my family, a whole lot of others as well.
16 posted on 06/10/2003 5:29:29 AM PDT by alwaysconservative (This tag line is optional)
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To: Mr. Bird
How about being at the location where your wife's body is later found the day she disappeared which is hours from your home?

The odds of that are astronomical.
17 posted on 06/10/2003 5:31:45 AM PDT by DB ()
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To: runningbear

Please allow me to apologize for my bad spelling (Cochrun should be Cochran), and my poor grammar. I should have written "there were some body parts" not "there was some." I re-read my post after the fact and saw my errors. I am still drinking my first cup of java, and I am worthless until the second cup.
18 posted on 06/10/2003 5:35:14 AM PDT by Lanza
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To: Lanza
He lived in San Luis Obispo CA when another young woman named Kristen Smart disappeared and was never found. They both went to Cal Poly University at the same time. Scott apparently met Laci there as well.
19 posted on 06/10/2003 5:36:19 AM PDT by DB ()
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To: Lanza
If I posted corrections to all my grammatical errors, I'd be posting corrections to corrections...
20 posted on 06/10/2003 5:37:38 AM PDT by DB ()
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