#15) November 2003
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: November 2003
November 1 The Modesto Bee reports on the previous day’s hearing. The article states that the newspaper has learned through a source that investigators found indications that different cleaning chemicals had been used on the floor, suggesting someone cleaned the floor after Margarita Nava mopped it with water and Pine-Sol on December 23, 2002, then put the mop outside to dry and put the bucket on top of the washing machine with rags that needed to be laundered. A source also says that Scott Peterson attempted to set up a tee time for December 24, 2002, at Del Rio Country Club.
November 2 During the weekend break from Scott Peterson’s preliminary hearing, numerous news agencies recount the testimony and offer opinions. Ron Frey, visiting Modesto over the weekend, issues a warning that Scott Peterson’s defense team would be “very foolish” to attack his daughter on the witness stand. “Amber is one of the victims in this tragedy,” he states. “I hope that Mr. Geragos can show some understanding of what she has been through.” Although his arrival in Modesto and his subsequent statement could logically lead observers to believe that Amber Frey would be testifying soon, he returns to Fresno.
November 3 Ted Rowlands reports that a source has told him that authorities have found similarities between duct tape found with the remains of Laci and Conner Peterson and duct tape with Scott Peterson’s fingerprints used to post a Laci Peterson missing person flyer. Reporting on Mornings on 2, Ted Rowlands says his source has said that prosecutors will probably not introduce the duct tape evidence during the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing resumes for a fourth day of testimony, and a third day of DNA testimony. Lee and Jackie Peterson are the only members of the Peterson family present when Scott Peterson enters the courtroom, although Susan Caudillo and Janey Peterson arrive later. He is wearing a tan suit, a pale blue shirt and a light tie. Kim Petersen joins the Rocha family. More than a dozen seats remain open in the spectator’s gallery, in contrast to previous days. The defense team’s rebuttal DNA expert, William Shields, takes the stand, wearing a tie printed with the double helix DNA model. He states that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing is highly susceptible to contamination, calling it “the biggest danger” when doing mtDNA testing because of the small sample amounts and the kinds of procedures used. “When I sneeze, my DNA really does go into the air,” he remarks. But he also states that even untainted results can narrow identity down to only one in every nine (according to some accounts, one in every eleven) Caucasians—far lower than the one in 112 that Connie Fisher claimed in her testimony. Shields likens the results to saying someone “has a tattoo on their left arm.” He states that, although courts are allowing mtDNA evidence, they are doing so on flawed science with databases built on too few samples and imprecise measures. “I guarantee you,” Shields contends, “the way it is presented is biased against the defendant and it’s wrong.” He cites a 1995 FBI study to determine contamination levels that would not impact results “a very a bad experiment without statistical validity” because only five samples were tested. At 11:00 a.m., Al Girolami calls a break to allow Mark Geragos to use the telephone to check on an ongoing Los Angeles murder trial. At 11:45 a.m., with Geragos still on the phone, Girolami calls a recess until 1:15 p.m. During prosecution cross-examination by Dave Harris, Shields admits he is being paid $4,000 to testify for the defense, that he gets about 60 percent of his income by testifying for the defense in criminal cases, that he is not a forensic scientist and that he has never worked in a crime lab nor personally tested mtDNA. Harris questions Shields about a research paper he wrote, critical of the FBI lab’s analysis methods, that was rejected by a forensic journal. Shields replies that the work was not accepted “because of pressure from people at the FBI.” Harris asks him the ultimate question: whether mtDNA testing is “generally accepted” by the scientific community—”generally accepted” being the standard for admission in a criminal court. Shields refuses to answer, instead contending that he considers himself an “agnostic” on the question, which he says is a legal question, not a scientific one. In one humorous exchange, Harris asks, “You would agree that mitochondrial DNA is something that comes from basic biology?” and Shields replies, “No. It comes from mitochondria.” As the afternoon wears on, Harris continues asking Shields repackaged versions of that same question, at times incorporating previous answers into new queries or simply stating, “Now, let’s go back and start this again.” At one point, an obviously frustrated, red-faced Shields shakes his head and gestures at Harris, demanding, “You’ve been doing this all along—stop misrepresenting what I say.” At this, Girolami asks Shields to “calm down” and he apologizes. According to Court TV, Scott Peterson appears to pay careful attention to the testimony, angling his chair toward the witness stand. Just prior to recess, Geragos asks permission of Girolami to miss the next day’s hearing to appear in a Los Angeles court where he has another client facing murder charges. There, the judge has taken the unusual step of reopening arguments. Geragos states that he wants to be present for arguments about how that jury—currently deadlocked—should be instructed to proceed. Girolami asks Scott Peterson if he is willing to waive his right to keep the preliminary hearing moving forward to accommodate his attorney. “In essence, yes, that’s fine, your honor,” he replies—his only public utterance of the day. Girolami then grants Geragos permission, resulting in plans for an abbreviated hearing for the following day with only Det. Jon Evers set to testify under cross-examination. In the afternoon, the court issues the following notice: “The court anticipates a short day.” Mike Tozzi states that the preliminary hearing is now expected to last into the following week, with a five-day break from sessions starting November 7, 2003, when Al Girolami takes a vacation day. Tozzi notes that the court will be closed November 11, 2003, to recognize Veterans Day. In the afternoon, Jim Brazelton pulls out a camera and aims it at the media gathering in front of Stanislaus County Courthouse. He chuckles when asked if he is capturing the event for posterity, and turns down an offer to have a picture taken with him in it.
November 4 Det. Jon Evers takes the stand for cross-examination by Kirk McAllister during an abbreviated fifth day of testimony. A few seats remain open in the spectator’s gallery. A nearby media overflow room remains full with 27 journalists. Before the hearing starts, a sheriff’s representative offers to seat three more reporters in the courtroom, but only one accepts. Among the most significant revelations by Evers is that—contrary to months of rumors—he encountered no strong smell of bleach when he first entered Scott and Laci Peterson’s home on December 24, 2002. Evers also says he saw no evidence of mopping: “I don’t remember any wet floor,” he tells McAllister. Evers characterizes Scott Peterson as cooperative on that first visit, noting also that there seemed to be no sign of a struggle inside the home. Responding to McAllister’s questions concerning “this business about the rug,” Evers states that he did notice that a rug by the breezeway was “scrunched” up against the door and that Scott Peterson’s explanation for the unusual position was that “the cat and dog must have been playing.” McAllister points out that this information was not in the original report. “I admit that it is omitted in the report because I was in a hurry when I prepared that,” Evers responds to McAllister’s assertion-phrased-as-a-question: “You attempt to put in the important things that you notice or do or hear during the time that you’re doing your investigation, right?” Evers continues to round out testimony he gave last week concerning a bucket containing two mops found outside the home, admitting that the mops and bucket were not concealed from officers, but standing conspicuously outside the front of the home. Evers tells the court that he and other officers checked the contents of Laci Peterson’s purse before hanging it back on a hook in the closet and photographing it as evidence. Evers also clarifies that it was Matt Spurlock who told him that Scott Peterson could not say for what he was fishing when questioned on December 24, 2002. The sarcasm of McAllister shines through when he questions Evers about the evidence-collection procedures during the first night of the investigation. After Evers states that he witnessed a police technician standing in front of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home with a bucket that was being collected without Scott Peterson’s consent, McAllister asks, “Did you ask him if he was going to be doing some cleaning up?” The testimony also covers the Tradecorp Warehouse search, where the issue is a lack of power—specifically, Scott Peterson’s claim that there was none. Evers admits that he made no attempt to turn on the lights because he never saw a light switch. “Did you see a miner’s hat there that Mr. Peterson must have worn to do his work in the office?” McAllister cracks argumentatively, and Rick Distaso follows with an objection. Although it is not immediately clear why, McAllister asks Evers if he smelled alcohol on Scott Peterson. Evers responds that he did not. During the testimony by Evers, Scott Peterson passes notes to McAllister, confers with Pat Harris and looks through police photos of his home. McAllister uses these photos to make points about how the home appeared to be a happy one, with a couple expecting their first child. At the conclusion of testimony, Scott Peterson, wearing a navy blazer and red tie, smiles at family members behind him as he is escorted from the courtroom. Lee Peterson tells reporters that members of the Peterson family are holding up reasonably well despite the stress and travel. The Modesto Bee makes it clear where they believe the defense is heading. An article entitled “Defense Suggests Planted Evidence, Questions Handling” states, “The target of the defense strategy appears to be Modesto police Detective Al Brocchini.” The piece notes that McAllister asked Evers if he was with Brocchini “all the time” as they looked through the home and the Tradecorp Warehouse, to which Evers replied, “We weren’t attached at the hips, no.” The article also notes that McAllister asked Evers if he had ever seen Brocchini leave anything in Scott Peterson’s pickup, house or boat. A Fox News article entitled “Family: Peterson Had Several Affairs” states that Jackie Peterson told relatives and friends she knew Laci Peterson was aware of at least one of Scott Peterson’s affairs and had witnessed the couple arguing over it. According to the article, an anonymous member of the Peterson family characterizes Scott Peterson as a sex addict who has admitted to at least four affairs during his marriage. Contradicting the earlier claims of the family that Scott and Laci Peterson had an “ideal” marriage, the source states, “He has a sexual problem and has a need to sleep with other women.” According to the story, the Peterson family contends that Laci Peterson was aware of the affairs and that, although she would initially get angry, she would forgive and forget. The same article reports that Lee and Jackie Peterson have refinanced their home and sold some of their vehicles to help pay the estimated $1 million cost of Scott Peterson’s defense. The story also states that Scott Peterson has read nearly 10,000 pages of the discovery material in the case as he remains in Stanislaus County Jail. According to the source, he also spends his time doing yoga and “making items out of toothpaste and toilet paper.” Larry King Live reviews the day’s events with panel members Ted Rowlands, Henry Lee, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley and Vinnie Politan, and special guests Gloria Allred and Johnnie Cochran. Kim Brown and Samuel Torres plead guilty to crimes related to their involvement in a scam in which people claimed to be family members of Laci Peterson.
November 5 More than 40 reporters gather to hear the testimony of Det. Al Brocchini, who defense attorneys have suggested planted evidence to frame Scott Peterson. However, at 11:22 a.m., proceedings in the sixth day of the preliminary hearing are called off for the day as Mark Geragos remains in Los Angeles to deal with a hung jury in another murder case. Al Girolami, who had earlier delayed the usual morning start time to 2:30 p.m. to accommodate Geragos, cancels the proceedings after receiving word that Geragos will not be returning. Girolami orders court to resume at 9:30 a.m. the following day.
November 6 Al Girolami is told by Mark Geragos that he recently discovered an internal FBI memo among the 27,000 pages of documents provided to the defense. Geragos states that the memo indicates that federal agents had conducted closed-circuit television surveillance of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home after her disappearance. Geragos states that the defense has not received tapes of this surveillance nor any related documents. He calls any potential tapes “enormously significant,” suggesting that they might contain evidence of the burglary of Rudy and Susan Medina’s home or the later break-in at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home linked to Kim McGregor. Geragos offers that the former crime could have occurred on December 24, 2002—not two days later, as police investigators concluded. “That would tend to undercut some of the clearance, if you will, of the burglars,” Geragos says. Kirk McAllister states that the defense has sent subpoenas to a federal grand jury in Fresno in connection with the investigation. Geragos adds that he will subpoena the FBI for copies of the tapes and seek a motion to dismiss charges against his client if the information is not turned over. Rick Distaso counters that he does not have any FBI surveillance tapes and is unaware of any testimony before a federal grand jury, but offers to provide tapes to the defense if they are received from the FBI. Dave Harris contends that the defense team has not shown how such videos might be used to exonerate Scott Peterson. Det. Al Brocchini takes the stand in what is termed the seventh day of testimony (the sixth day was canceled in its entirety). Although the defense seemed to make headway two days ago with Det. Jon Evers—debunking the bleach and mopping rumors—Brocchini drops some bombshells as he is questioned by Rick Distaso. Paramount among Brocchini’s statements are that, just a little more than two weeks before Laci Peterson vanished, Scott Peterson told Amber Frey he had “lost” his wife and that “this would be the first holiday that he would be without his wife.” To compound the damage, Brocchini also states that, on the very same day, Scott Peterson used cash to buy a boat—the boat that prosecutors are now hinting that he used to dump his wife’s body in the San Francisco Bay. Brocchini also tells the court that Scott Peterson placed romantic calls to Amber Frey in the days immediately after his wife was reported missing, promising they would soon be together: “She heard from him on the 25th, the 26th, the 27th, the 28th…saying he was out of the country and would be able to be with her more exclusively like January 25th,” Brocchini says. Further damaging Scott Peterson’s credibility, Brocchini reports that he investigated his use of a fake name, “Jacqueline Peterson,” when buying the used Mercedes that he was driving when arrested. Brocchini states that when the vehicle’s previous owner questioned Scott Peterson about the name, he replied that “it was ‘A Boy Named Sue’ kinda thing,” referring to the 1969 Johnny Cash hit. Brocchini states that, on December 24, 2002, officers found a hamper full of dirty clothes in Scott and Laci Peterson’s bedroom, but only three items in the washer—those items that Scott Peterson said he had worn fishing. The testimony also calls into question what observers term an “improbable fishing technique” employed by Scott Peterson: trolling for fish in shallow water strewn with trash. Brocchini’s testimony piles up remarks and behavior he found inconsistent with a man who seemingly should have been focused on one thing: finding his missing wife. Among these were his concern that investigators might ding his vehicle door, asking investigators not to tell his Tradecorp boss that he kept his privately owned boat at the office warehouse, calling less than 24 hours into the search to ask if cadaver dogs were being used, questioning whether outboard motor exhaust would render a false positive on a test to determine if he had fired a gun recently and calling the police station early on Christmas morning to inquire about a handgun that had been seized from the glove compartment of his truck. In addition, Brocchini directly contradicts Scott Peterson’s nationally aired claim that he told investigators about Amber Frey during his first interview. According to the Modesto Bee, Scott Peterson listens “dispassionately” as Brocchini testifies. McAllister’s cross-examination paints Brocchini as, if not incompetent, then at least forgetful—despite proclaiming a consuming devotion to the case. Brocchini admits that, when he first searched Scott Peterson’s boat, he did not see a pair of needle-nosed pliers that later appeared to become a cornerstone of the prosecution’s evidence. “I didn’t notice them,” he confesses. Brocchini is questioned about his car keys, which he noticed as missing when he got ready to drive with Scott Peterson to the Tradecorp Warehouse. Brocchini states that, after asking Scott Peterson to unlock his truck, he noticed the keys on the wheel well in the truck bed—a seeming contradiction to his initial police report, wherein he stated that he found the keys under a tarp in the truck bed. When McAllister points out the discrepancy, Brocchini explains that the keys were on the wheel well but partially covered by the tarp. Brocchini admits having left his investigation notebook in the warehouse and not noticing it was gone until he returned after midnight with Scott Peterson to the Modesto Police Department building. McAllister notes numerous evidence photographs taken by Brocchini, many of which are of such poor quality that they could not be entered as prosecution evidence. Brocchini notes that he tested Scott Peterson’s hands for gunshot residue, but does not know what happened to the test results. McAllister also seems to pursue a thread that evidence was seized without due process. Although he tells prosecutors that Scott Peterson had given permission to collect evidence, Brocchini admits to McAllister that the police report confirms only an agreement to photograph the home and to look for evidence. “There’s nothing in your report that reflects any consent to take anything,” McAllister contends. “Nothing in my report,” Brocchini echoes in admission. In fact, he says, when he directed a technician to use an alternative light source to search for and collect samples of any blood in the house, he did no deliberately out of Scott Peterson’s earshot: “I didn’t want him to hear,” he says. “I didn’t want him to know I was taking it.” Possibly setting the stage for a defense argument that he was too close to the case, Brocchini volunteers that he “came to work Christmas Eve and didn’t go home for four and a half months.” As the afternoon wears on, McAllister tells the court that he has “quite a bit” more to ask Brocchini under oath, and the detective is then scheduled to return to the stand on November 12, 2003. According to Court TV, Scott Peterson listens intently during Brocchini’s cross-examination, frequently whispering in the ear of Geragos and writing notes. After the hearing, Geragos meets with a crowd of reporters. Citing the gag order, he refuses to comment on the strength of the case, but states, “All I’m going to say is, today was a very good day.” He also has kind words for McAllister: “Mr. McAllister is a top-flight, A-list lawyer.” He then speaks briefly with Lee and Jackie Peterson just before they leave in their vehicle. Gloria Allred remarks that Brocchini’s retelling of Scott Peterson asking about cadaver dogs so early in the search was eerily reminiscent of Sharon Rocha’s testimony where she noted that Scott Peterson immediately characterized his wife as “missing” rather than simply stating that she was not there, or that he could not find her. Concerning the emotional state of Amber Frey, Allred states, “There is a lot of pressure. It’s a stressful time.” The New York Post releases an article entitled “Scott Tryst Twist” that claims Scott Peterson may have had as many as six extramarital affairs. According to the article, his defense team may try to use this seemingly damaging information in his favor by trying to show that he had no reason to kill Laci Peterson to be with Amber Frey—he had been content for years to run around while married. “It’s hard to say which way that would land,” says John Goold. “Both sides could have different arguments on the issue.”
November 7 On a break from the preliminary hearing, the Modesto Bee and other media outlets discuss the impact of Det. Al Brocchini’s testimony. Reporters from the Modesto Bee interview Scott Peterson’s neighbors for an upcoming story about the FBI surveillance revealed at the previous day’s preliminary hearing. Concerning the surveillance videos that prosecutors had previously claimed they did not possess, Det. Al Brocchini is told by one of the surveillance officers that occasionally when they were bored they would push the record button.
November 8 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Did FBI Film Peterson Home?” that follows up in depth on the November 6, 2003, discussion at the preliminary hearing concerning possible FBI surveillance of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. In the article, one of Scott Peterson’s neighbors reports that the FBI surveillance camera may have been attached to a utility pole sometime in January 2003 when three small, boxlike devices—including one aimed at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home—were spotted just after work was performed by a man identifying himself as a Pacific Gas and Electric subcontractor. That identification raised eyebrows, the article states, because PG&E provides natural gas, not electricity, to the Modesto area. “I told him PG&E is underground,” the neighbor recalls, but says the man brushed aside the comment and continued working on the utility pole from a cherry picker rig rising from the rear of his white truck. Neighbors say they noticed a small box apparently attached to a cross bar on the pole, another about 10 feet off the ground and another attached at the pole’s base. The middle box—still attached—is labeled “SBC-Pacific Bell Telephone Network Interface,” the story states. According to one neighbor, a spur of severed tan wire protruding from this box is the remnant of what used to be a connection to the box formerly at the base of the pole. Neighbors say the man’s vehicle had out-of-state license plates, possibly from Alabama, Georgia or another southern state. Mark Hendrickson, a PG&E spokesperson interviewed for the article, reports that any subcontractors that the company hires are for natural gas work, and they are local businesses. The story suggests that at least some of the equipment attached to the pole may have been installed to provide additional phone service to the many media outlets camped out on Covena Avenue during the height of the Laci Peterson search. This theory is supported by SBC spokesperson Heather Alexander, who also notes that her company rarely uses contractors—especially ones based outside California. The article notes that the internal FBI memo, discovered by the defense team, does not specify when the camera was installed or taken down.
November 9 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Peterson Mailbox Is Alleged” based on information from “well-placed sources.” The article proposes that in late December 2002, Scott Peterson told Amber Frey to send a Christmas present to his private mailbox. According to the article, she was “downcast” at being separated from him over the holidays and discussed exchanging gifts, although he did not rent the private mailbox until December 23, 2002. The story states that Gloria Allred was contacted by a reporter on November 7, 2003, but refused to speak about the private mailbox.
November 10 The Modesto Bee profiles three women who have been working as courtroom sketch artists during Scott Peterson’s preliminary hearing. The article calls the three “women who sprinkle spice in a stew that has become a national media obsession” by producing about 20 images a day of the proceedings. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the post-Peterson life of Brad Saltzman, now running a carbohydrate grocery store in Santa Monica, with plans for other outlets. “I’ve always believed in fate, and that when one door closes, another one opens, and I always thought that something better would happen when I was fired,” Saltzman says in the story. He also reflects on his decision to suggest that Lee and Jackie Peterson stay elsewhere—the call that cost him his position: “Given the circumstances, I think I’d make the same decision again. It wasn’t as if I was a general manager who denied them access. We had become close friends. I charged them $1 a day for the nicest room in the hotel. I screened phone calls and took a lot of my time to visit with them.” Looking ahead, Saltzman says he’s moving on from the “negative energy” of the Scott Peterson case, has lost more than 20 pounds on the Atkins Diet and is excited about his new career: “I think these stores are going to be great.”
November 11 In an article entitled “Murder Hearing Turns to Home,” the Modesto Bee notes that the questions “Who cleaned what, and when did they clean it?” are could play a large part in Scott Peterson’s preliminary hearing. “Much of the six days of testimony in Stanislaus County Superior Court has been devoted to mops, a bucket, towels and laundry,” the article states.
November 12 The eighth day (the seventh day of actual testimony) of the preliminary hearing opens at 9:30 a.m. with further debate over the FBI surveillance tapes. Scott Peterson, wearing a gray suit, is escorted uneventfully into the courtroom. Mark Geragos accuses “rogue” members of law enforcement agencies of withholding “essential” video surveillance tapes from the defense, labeling the matter “a problem of monumental proportions” and suggesting it could lead to a request to dismiss the case. Although last week Rick Distaso stated that he did not have the tapes and referred the defense team to the FBI, he now says that Modesto Police Department officers apparently had the video recordings. “What we have here is nothing more than a shell game in a capital case,” Geragos complains to Al Girolami in a moment the Modesto Bee would later describe as one in which he “fumed in frustration.”The FBI is now saying, ‘Go pound sand.'” Geragos asks Girolami to let him question the officers in court about the tapes, but he notes that prosecutors have promised to turn over the tapes by the end of the day and calls the request “premature.” Distaso maintains that the tapes have little evidentiary value because the camera was used primarily to tip off investigators as to when Scott Peterson left his home. “When they would see the defendant leaving his house, they would follow him,” Distaso explains. Geragos counters that the videos could show the January 19, 2003, burglary at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, but does not explain his logic for how that event ties into Laci Peterson’s disappearance. Later in the day Det. Al Brocchini reveals that he was told by one of the surveillance officers that during times of boredom, they would record events. Bruce Budowle testifies that the conclusion of his FBI colleague, Connie Fisher, is valid, and that the analysis method she used to obtain that conclusion was reliable. He admits that the computer used to analyze the DNA data from a hair found attached to pliers in Scott Peterson’s boat malfunctioned four times during the test, but says that the malfunctions did not affect results because those tests were simply redone. The not-unexpected heated exchanges occur between Budowle and Geragos. “When the machine malfunctions is that a problem?” Geragos questions. “It depends on what you mean by problem,” Budowle replies. “It didn’t work,” Geragos explains. When Geragos suggests that there has been a “sea change” in DNA testing since the FBI’s database was assembled in 1994, Budowle replies, “It’s not as if I’m etching in stone with a chisel.” On two occasions, Budowle complains that Geragos “mixed apples and oranges” in his questioning about DNA. At one point, the exchanges come so furiously that the court reporter asks for clarification from Budowle, who repeats his statement, “‘We can argue back and forth,'” then adds, speaking to the court reporter, “You want to get that in.” According to the Modesto Bee, Scott Peterson appears to be looking over transcripts of testimony as Geragos questions Budowle. Budowle also tells the court that defense expert witness William Shields”doesn’t walk in our circles.” Det. Al Brocchini returns to the stand for continued cross-examination by Kirk McAllister. Brocchini recalls driving Amber Frey to a Radio Shack to purchase a recording device for her phone on December 30, 2002—the day she called the police tip line to say she had been dating Scott Peterson. Brocchini tells the court that Scott Peterson called right after Amber Frey had been trained on how to use the recording equipment. Brocchini testifies that he found even that first conversation telling. “It was after Laci was missing and he wasn’t talking about Laci. He was talking about himself and where he was in Europe,” Brocchini says. After Brocchini provides the date on which Amber Frey began recording, McAllister snaps back with a half-question, half-statement: “You later found out that was a lie?” He offers that she actually began taping two weeks before, which Brocchini says is news to him. “Till it came out of my mouth, you never heard that?” McAllister asks. “Right,” Brocchini replies. The detective admits coaching Amber Frey in her conversations, and acknowledges that some detectives passed her notes while she was on the phone, but stops short of admitting to writing a verbatim script for her to follow. He talks about some plans that were considered, including one where Amber Frey tells Scott Peterson the police are looking at her as a suspect. “We were trying to formulate a plan,” Brocchini testifies. He says he does not recall another scheme that McAllister mentions in which Amber Frey suggests to Scott Peterson that Laci Peterson’s death could have been accidental. “It could have happened,” he admits, “I don’t remember it.” Brocchini states that he successfully enlisted the support of Sharon and Brent Rocha in their phone calls with Scott Peterson. Brocchini also explains how he contacted Scott Peterson’s friends, planting the “seeds of suspicion” (a quote from his report about a conversation with Aaron Fritz) and encouraging them to ask him probing questions. McAllister questions him about the apparently erroneous story, circulated by investigators among Laci Peterson’s friends and family and published in the Modesto Bee, that Scott Peterson had purchased a life insurance policy just before Laci Peterson’s disappearance. Brocchini states that he was acting in good faith and believed the information was true when he passed it on to one of Scott Peterson’s friends. “You were trying to poison his mind against Scott Peterson,” McAllister charges.
November 13 Det. Al Brocchini returns to the stand to lead off the ninth day of Scott Peterson’s preliminary hearing. Kirk McAllister leads off by suggesting to Brocchini that the case became for him a personal vendetta against Scott Peterson. McAllister hints that Aaron Fritz recorded a conversation in which Brocchini stated he was going to “get” Scott Peterson and that the detective also told Mike Richardson that he was going to “take Scott Peterson down.” Brocchini denies making such a statement, saying, “My intent was to catch, to get, whoever got Laci. That was my intent and still is.” McAllister also contends that Brocchini tried to get Scott Peterson fired from his position with Tradecorp, another accusation the detective denies. Brocchini explains that he worked with the company to review expenditures Scott Peterson made to see whether they were work related. Brocchini testifies that Shawn Sibley was told by Scott Peterson that he was single, and that he begged her to set him up with one of her friends—a request she refused until he convinced her that he was interested in a serious relationship. Brocchini tells the court that, soon after meeting Scott Peterson, Sibley learned from a colleague that he was married and confronted him. At that point, Brocchini says, Scott Peterson indicated to Sibley that he was a widower and pleaded with her to not tell Amber Frey: “He said, ‘Look, I’m not married. I lost my wife. Let me break it to Amber.'” Brocchini states that Sibley recalled Scott Peterson sounding “extremely upset like he was crying.” Brocchini also questions the sincerity of the Peterson family’s tip line, noting that he tested the operation by providing a legitimate tip that was not subsequently reported back to the Modesto Police Department. “I was worried a good tip would come in and wouldn’t be followed up on,” he states. McAllister points out that Brocchini made no effort to contact Homer Maldonado or Vivian Mitchell. “You didn’t want to hear what these people had to say because it was inconsistent with your theory,” McAllister charges as the prosecution objects. Mark Geragos takes over questioning and asks Brocchini about the surveillance of Scott Peterson. Brocchini states that Scott Peterson made three trips to San Francisco Bay during the first part of January 2003, each time staring out over the water for a few minutes before driving away. Brocchini tells the court that the defendant never took his own vehicle, and on two occasions, rented vehicles immediately before departing. Brocchini tells the court that, when Scott Peterson discovered police officers were following him during his return trip on January 6, 2003, he began “driving erratically” to try to elude them. Geragos downplays the relevance of the visits as indicators of Scott Peterson’s guilt, pointing out that the day of his first trip coincided with a Modesto Bee report that dive team investigators were searching the area. “If there was that article, it wouldn’t look that suspicious, would it?” Geragos asks. Brocchini admits that he never asked Scott Peterson about the trips. “You’d rather just come to the conclusion that it’s suspicious because he’s returning to the scene,” Geragos remarks. Al Girolami rules the question as argumentative and directs Brocchini to not respond. Brocchini says Scott Peterson had been lying to investigators. Geragos shoots back, “He was lying because you didn’t hear the answers you wanted to hear?” Again, the question is stricken by Girolami. Geragos continues questioning Brocchini about the handling of the hair discovered attached to the pliers found in Scott Peterson’s boat—a hair that the defense says was one hair when it went into the evidence envelope, but showed up as two after it was examined by Brocchini. “Is this a magic envelope?” Geragos quips. Geragos asks Brocchini if he handled one of Laci Peterson’s hairbrushes, but the detective says he did not. According to Court TV, Scott Peterson listens intently to Brocchini‘s testimony and occasionally passes notes to his attorneys. Following Brocchini, Karen Servas takes the stand and retells the events of December 24, 2002. Critical to her testimony is the time she reports putting McKenzie back in Scott and Laci Peterson’s yard: 10:18 a.m. Geragos notes that Servas had at first told investigators she found the dog “at almost exactly 10:30.” In contending for the new time estimate, Servas states that, after that first interview, she retraced her steps after finding a time-stamped store receipt and obtaining her cell phone records. Concerning Scott and Laci Peterson, Servas acknowledges that they seemed to get along well and appeared to be looking forward to parenthood. Following Servas, Amie Krigbaum takes the stand and recalls the events of December 24, 2002, including her conversation with Scott Peterson that evening. Interestingly, she states that he told her he had spent the day golfing. Concluding the afternoon’s proceedings, Det. Phil Owen takes the stand. He recalls viewing Laci Peterson’s remains clad in tan maternity pants, with duct tape around her crotch. He also recounts attending the autopsy of her body. During the discussion of the finding of Laci Peterson’s body, Sharon Rocha leaves the courtroom. Ron Grantski appears to intently watch Scott Peterson. Speaking to reporters after the proceedings, Gloria Allred announces that Jim Brazelton has elected to not call Amber Frey during the preliminary hearing. Although Allred says she was not told the reason for the decision, she speculates that it was made to keep her client from being “made a victim” by the defense. Reading from a prepared statement, she says: “Amber Frey was ready to testify at this preliminary hearing. The district attorney has decided not to call her. Amber Frey has been a victim of Scott Peterson’s deception. The defense might have chosen to revictimize her for doing the right thing—cooperating with law enforcement.” Allred contends there is “no evidence” to support McAllister’s suggestion that Amber Frey began on December 16, 2002, to tape her telephone conversations with Scott Peterson. After Allred addresses the media, a paralegal from Geragos and Geragos hands her a request for telephone records from Amber Frey. Allred declines to discuss the documents with media representatives and does not return calls placed to her later in the day.
November 14 Just when it seems Jim Brazelton made the matter of Amber Frey’s appearance at the preliminary hearing a dead issue, Gloria Allred reveals that Mark Geragos has suggested he is considering calling her client as a witness for the defense. “Mr. Geragos has indicated to me that no final decision has been made,” she tells reporters outside the Stanislaus County Courthouse. “It doesn’t appear that he is going to be making a decision on that prior to Monday. At least that’s what’s been indicated.” Allred points out that even if Amber Frey is called, she may not testify. “My expectation would be that the district attorney would object to such a subpoena, argue against it—that, in fact, the defense’s burden would have to be to prove that her testimony is necessary in order for them to put on an affirmative defense.” Nevertheless, she says, if required by the court to testify, he client will comply, “as any good citizen would.” Concerning the defense team’s request for phone records from Amber Frey, Allred calls the action “much ado about nothing” and states, “It’s rather a bit mysterious as to why they would even do this. It’s my understanding that they have already been provided with those records.” As for Amber Frey and her impact on Scott Peterson’s defense team, Allred shows her typical bravado. “She’s going to tell the truth. They’re going to have to face that day. And if they want to bring it on sooner than later, then that will be their decision, and that of the court, to decide whether it’s appropriate at the preliminary hearing.” As the preliminary hearing enters day 10, Det. Phil Owen returns to the stand to discuss reports of sighting that Geragos contends could “negate an element of the crime.” Owen recalls his interviews with John and Karma Souza, who saw three “suspicious” men in East La Loma Park the morning of December 24, 2002, and with Diana Campos, who saw a woman she believes was Laci Peterson walking with two men that same morning in Moose Park. Owen notes that the descriptions of the persons sighted do not match. He says he did not follow up on these leads, finding the stories not credible because they contradicted other information the detectives had. About Campos, he says, “I felt she was giving me information that was not going in the right direction. I felt like she had been reading reports.” Owen states that he tested red paint found on a buoy in San Francisco Bay and compared it with red paint taken from the outside of Scott Peterson’s boat, but when asked by Geragos during cross-examination whether the paint samples matched, he says he does not know. “Did you ever consider that it was Modesto police that cause the paint transfer?” Geragos asks, noting that the paint transfer may have occurred when officers bumped the boat against a red dolly at the Tradecorp Warehouse or some object at the Modesto Police Department storage area. Geragos continues to raise the prospect that Conner Peterson was born before he was killed, using phrases such as “full-term infant” and “speculation that the baby was 38 to 39 weeks old” while questioning Owen. Owen admits that the medical experts at Conner Peterson’s autopsy debated the age of the fetus. “They were going back and forth on the dates,” Owen testifies. “They were not specific. They needed more time to talk to colleagues.” Although Geragos and Owen spar about the possibility of Conner Peterson being born alive, Al Girolami orders the entire exchange stricken from the record after learning that Owen was not present at the autopsy. Sharon Rocha does not attend the morning’s hearing—the first session she has missed—but returns for the afternoon’s testimony. Later, Rod Oswalt testifies for the prosecution concerning the hair found in the pliers recovered from Scott Peterson’s boat. Oswalt supports that the hair is a match for samples taken from Laci Peterson’s hairbrush. Asked if manipulation by the pliers could have caused them to fray, he replies, “That is entirely possible.” Oswalt calls the hairs “fragments” and says their ends indicate they broke apart. Nevertheless, he admits that he did not come to that conclusion simply by observing the hairs. He notes that the two fragments are different shades of brown, with the longer fragment being light brown and the shorter fragment darker. Oswalt reports that the long fragment’s end closest to the root appears to have been “broken or torn or possibly cut” but with “a very dull blade.” In contrast, the shorter fragment’s end farthest from the root appears “cleanly cut.” Oswalt said. Responding to a lab report that stated the pliers appeared rusted, Oswalt noted that tools can rust quickly if exposed to salt water, and that the pliers had not been examined until February 2003. During cross-examination, Geragos suggests that the hair found in the pliers could have been transferred by a cadaver dog used at both Scott and Laci Peterson’s home and at the Tradecorp Warehouse. Bill Hudlow is the last witness of the day. He testifies regarding the chain of custody of the hair evidence. In the afternoon, Girolami states that he is leaning toward allowing the disputed hair into evidence, but is willing to listen to one more round of arguments. He listens to the prosecution and the defense, but does not rule on the matter before court adjourns at 4:00 p.m. At the close of proceedings, Geragos again pronounces it “a very good day.” He hints that the preliminary hearing could conclude November 17, 2003—13 calendar days longer than prosecutors initially predicted. Gloria Allred tells reporters outside Stanislaus County Superior Court that there is still no word on whether the defense team is going to call Amber Frey. “Mr. Geragos has indicated to me that a final determination has not been made,” she says. “My hope and my expectation would be that the district attorney would object to such a subpoena.” According to Allred, the defense would only be allowed to call Amber Frey if doing so was necessary to prove someone other than Scott Peterson killed Laci Peterson. “I don’t see how it’s going to help them to call Amber Frey,” Allred opines. Meanwhile, media reports surface that Amber Frey has indeed been served with a subpoena.
November 15 Contacted by the New York Post, Mark Geragos refuses to confirm or deny a report by the Fox News Channel that he has issued a subpoena for Amber Frey, but argues that he does have the right to make her testify. “If I want her, they have to produce her,” he says.
November 16 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Jail Tunnel Echoes With Sense of Danger,” which portrays how Scott Peterson travels from his cell to the courtroom each day during the preliminary hearing. The New York Post releases an article entitled “‘Tee’ Twist in Laci-Slay Alibi” that allegedly quotes from an insider at the Del Rio Country Club who claims that Scott Peterson had a tee time of “about 9:00 or 9:30” a.m. on December 24, 2002. “He never called to cancel it,” the source states. “He just didn’t show up. He was such an avid golfer. It seems unusual that he didn’t show up. It seemed that something else intervened.” The story states that officials at the Del Rio Country Club have repeatedly refused to discuss Scott Peterson.
November 17 The preliminary hearing enters day 11. Not unexpectedly, Girolami rules to allow mitochondrial DNA evidence from the hair that investigators found on a pair of pliers in Scott Peterson’s boat. As pathologist Brian Peterson prepares to take the stand, Mark Geragos informs Al Girolami that Scott Peterson wishes to be excused from the courtroom. Girolami confirms with Scott Peterson that it is indeed his wish to leave the proceedings. “Yes, I do not wish to be present during this witness,” Scott Peterson replies in measured tones. Girolami asks if anyone is pressuring him to depart, but Scott Peterson insists, “No, it’s a choice.” Girolami allows him to leave. As bailiffs escort Scott Peterson from the courtroom, he nods grimly to his parents. Among the expert’s revelations are that Laci Peterson’s body had been in the water for months before it was found, but Conner Peterson’s body was probably separated from her remains for no more than “a couple of days” before being found. “My belief is that the uterus was intact at the time this body was deposited in the water,” he states. “I believe Conner was in that uterus.” He further notes that Laci Peterson’s body showed no signs that could indicate a cause of death, and he was unable to determine one. The doctor dismisses the packing tape found around Conner Peterson’s neck as “either flotsam or jetsam” that managed to wash onto the body as it moved through the water. Girolami stops questioning and asks for clarification on how that could have happened. “How could that be an item that floated onto the baby if—I assume two centimeters doesn’t get it over the head?” The doctor is unyielding on the matter, contending that the loop was large enough because the head was collapsing as it decayed, with skull plates overriding. “Depending upon what the baby is brushing up against or washing onto, I see no problem with that happening,” he states. Then Geragos, arms stroking the air as he stands next to the witness stand, sarcastically proposes, “This baby would have had to—what?—be swimming like this, have the tape over the head and then underneath the arm.” Bruce Peterson replies matter-of-factly, “Well, I agree it’s unlikely that that a dead baby would swim.” He is asked about a small rectangle of an unknown substance that shows in a photo taken when Conner Peterson’s body was found, but that seems to have been removed by the time a photograph is taken in the examination room. Geragos suggests it could be a piece of electrical tape, but the doctor says it might be kelp, adding that he did not remove it and cannot be certain. He confirms that tests on Laci Peterson’s remains found the presence of caffeine but no other drugs. He notes that he does not know how long that substance remains in a body after death. When Geragos proposes that a bag found near the bodies could have been used to protect the body, the pathologist agrees it would have provided some protection, but adds, “Based on the condition of the bodies, I don’t think it’s a likely choice and certainly, it’s not my top choice.” He states that, based on measurements of Conner Peterson’s remains, he originally believed it was a full-term fetus, but later decided that the prolonged submersion had swollen the body. He testifies that a forensic anthropologist who examined the body estimated the fetus to be 33 to 38 weeks old, and performed bone measurements that put the estimated age at between 34 and 40 weeks. He notes that the body when found still had a 1/4-inch length of umbilical cord attached. He states that the cord’s end was tattered and frayed—a condition consistent with tearing but not with cutting. “It just fell apart or pulled apart,” he theorizes. “It was not cut.” During this graphic testimony, Jackie Peterson is observed dabbing her eyes with a tissue. Peterson family members cringe as large autopsy photos are inadvertently and briefly exposed to the audience. The Rocha family, also absent for the pathologist’s testimony, returns when Det. Dodge Hendee takes the stand. As Hendee refers to the “Laci Peterson recovery site,” Sharon Rocha’s eyes flash to Scott Peterson, then dart between him and Hendee. Scott Peterson, eyes on Hendee, seems unaware of being watched. Hendee states that he found the controversial hair attached to a pair of pliers in Scott Peterson’s boat. “As soon as I picked it up I thought if this belongs to Laci it could be fairly significant,” Hendee testifies. He describes holding the pliers in an evidence envelope and shaking the hair off the tool. He also admits that, when that envelope was opened weeks later, two hairs were in it. “I didn’t know if it was a hair that broke or whether it was already two hair fragments,” he admits. Hendee also says he noticed a cement anchor with a rebar loop near Scott Peterson’s boat, and evidence that indicated other anchors having been cast: cement powder spilled on the edge of a flatbed trailer, at least five clear circular patches interspersed in the area where the powder was spilled and a plastic one-gallon pitcher nearby that fit perfectly around the one anchor. “The weight apparently came from that pitcher,” Hendee says before Geragos objects. Kirk Stockham then takes the stand to testify about Scott Peterson’s computer use. According to Stockham, Scott Peterson downloaded information about bodies of water in northern California, such as San Francisco Bay and lakes in the Central Valley area around Modesto, including information on currents in central San Francisco Bay. The question still hangs as to whether Amber Frey will be called by Geragos as a witness for the defense. Gloria Allred states, “It was my impression the likelihood is not high, but he had not entirely ruled it out.” Rick Distaso says the prosecution intends to rest its case the following day, when Det. Jon Buehler will be called. Concerning Buehler’s close relationship to her client, Allred states, “It wouldn’t surprise me if he would testify to some of their communications.” Geragos suggests that the question about whether to call Amber Frey indeed rests in what Buehler will say. “Once they put the person on, I’ll make a decision,” he says. Larry King Live discusses the key events of the preliminary hearing with panel members Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Johnnie Cochran, Jeanine Pirro, Chris Pixley, Cyril Wecht and Robi Ludwig, and special guest Gloria Allred. Nancy Grace sums up what she sees as the key testimony: “Let me just cut to the chase, Larry…all this rigmarole about, “Was he in a bag?” and so forth—it’s impossible, based on science. The child was not born normally, vaginally or through C-section, so there’s no way it was floating inside of a bag.”
November 18 Scott Peterson, dressed in a black suit and red tie, enters the courtroom for day 12 of the preliminary hearing. Det. Jon Buehler takes the stand. He mostly speaks about Amber Frey’s relationship with Scott Peterson. Of particular interest and admitted into evidence is a January 6, 2003, call in which he tells Amber Frey that he is married to the missing Laci Peterson. During that conversation, Amber Frey confronts him about his earlier statement about having “lost” his wife, asking, “How did you lose her then before she was lost? Explain that.” He replies, “There’s different kinds of loss,” prompting her to challenge, “Then explain your loss,” but he says only, “I can’t.” The transcript also shows that, when she asks why he waited so long to confess, he says it was because he was “longing to hold on” to her. Buehler shows the court pictures of the couple together at a Christmas party a week before Laci Peterson’s disappearance. As the photographs are displayed, Sharon Rocha begins crying. Buehler also testifies about what Scott Peterson was carrying at the time of his arrest—notably, his brother’s identification, four cell phones, nearly $15,000 in cash and plenty of camping gear. During cross-examination, Mark Geragos suggests that his client was using his brother’s driver’s license to get a discount at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course. The prosecution then calls its final witness, Steve Jacobson. He testifies about his examination of cell phone records showing at least 241 calls (the Modesto Bee will later report, 244 calls) between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey in the 93 days from November 19, 2002, to February 19, 2003 (according to the Modesto Bee, Scott Peterson called Amber Frey 125 times, and she dialed him 119 times). Jacobson also provides details of Scott Peterson’s phone use on the critical day of December 24, 2002, linking nine cell phone calls to the location of specific cellular towers and thereby reconstructing his movements that day. Jacobson’s testimony shows that the calls and locations generally match with Scott Peterson’s account, there is one notable exception: A call at 10:08 a.m. seems to contradict his recollection that he left his home around 9:30 a.m. According to the records presented by Jacobson, Scott Peterson called 911 at 6:10 p.m. the day his wife was reported missing—long after Modesto Police Department officers had already arrived at East La Loma Park and his home. Jacobson reports that there were no calls between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey on that day, which was one of the very few days the two did not speak by phone. Jacobson’s report shows they did speak seven times the next day and 16 times the day after during a time when the search for Laci Peterson was at a peak and Scott Peterson was telling Amber Frey that he was vacationing in Maine and Europe. Jacobson’s report also shows the couple did not speak by phone on February 14, 2003—Valentine’s Day—a contradiction to Amber Frey’s phone records as obtained by the Modesto Bee that may be explained by two facts: Jacobson had only cell phone records and Amber Frey used another phone February 13–15, 2003, when her cell phone was out of service. In the middle of cross-examination, Geragos gets a buzz from his pager: Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is being searched and he is in need of legal representation. Moments after Jacobson steps down, Al Girolami rules that there is enough evidence to warrant a trial of Scott Peterson on two counts of murder. According to Court TV, Scott Peterson sits “stonefaced” as the judge announces the decision. Geragos asks the court to order returned to his client the nearly $15,000 in cash he was carrying when arrested, as well as his Ford F-150 pickup, which was seized in December 2002. “It’s an expensive task for the family to fund this,” Geragos argues. “It isn’t going to get any less expensive.” Prosecutors oppose the action, stating that they intend to introduce the money and truck as evidence at trial. Girolami sets a December 3, 2003, arraignment date, during which he says he will consider a defense request for a change of venue. He asks both sides to consider picking jurors from San Joaquin County and bringing them to Modesto for the trial. Girolami also decides at this point to deny releasing the arrest warrant documents and other case information, but holds off issuing a written decision until December 6, 2003. Leaving the courtroom, Scott Peterson waves and smiles to his parents. Following the proceedings, Geragos argues that San Joaquin County is not far enough away for the trial. “Generically speaking, there’s a problem doing that in a case that is in roughly the same media market,” he states. He tells reporters that he had prepared his client in advance for what many believed was the inevitable outcome of the preliminary hearing. “The standard, unfortunately, in California—and I say it jokingly—is, ‘Is the defendant breathing?” ‘he remarks. On the prosecution side, John Goold concurs: “We expected to get a hold order and that’s what occurred,” he says. “We put on some of the evidence, but not all of it.” Asked about the questioning remarks of Geragos concerning the proposed change of venue to San Joaquin County, Goold says, “You could argue, ‘Where are you going to go anywhere? People are watching this coast to coast.” He also notes that he does not expect a short time to trial, but acknowledges that the defense team is “in the driver’s seat” about how fast things will move. “I really don’t want to get into a crystal ball,” he says. “You saw how long the preliminary has taken. It will take a while for this case to go to trial.” Geragos makes no predictions as to a start date, but does say, “Obviously, we’re gratified at least that we’re this much closer to trial.” Jackie Peterson offers no clue as to her son’s view of the hearing. “We talk about family,” she tells reporters. Media pundits note that the preliminary hearing produced neither the eye-opening testimony hinted at by Jim Brazelton nor the exonerating evidence promised by the defense team. It also did not produce Amber Frey. At about 1:30 p.m., a worker in the criminal division of the clerk’s office receives a telephoned bomb threat. According to Kelly Huston, “He asked if the media was still there for the Scott Peterson hearing. She said, ‘I think so.’ He said, ‘Good! Tell them to turn their cameras on, because I’m going to blow the place up in 20 minutes.'” Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies clear the courthouse. At about 3:00 p.m., the courthouse is reopened. “We’ve become somewhat accustomed to these,” Huston tells the media. Within hours, Geragos is on a plane headed to Santa Barbara County, then another to Las Vegas, where he meets with Michael Jackson and arranges his surrender.
November 19 Mark Geragos confirms that he is now representing embattled pop star Michael Jackson, but refuses to say how taking on a new celebrity client could affect his status as Scott Peterson’s lead attorney. Later, the press reports that Jackson had retained Geragos about 2 months before Scott Peterson was arrested. A KSBW article, quoting Sacramento defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Don Heller, notes that most attorneys’ fees are set so that after a preliminary hearing and before arraignment, they can withdraw services. Concerning Geragos, Heller speculates, “If Jackson comes in with a bigger retainer, at this point, he could bail out of Peterson.”
November 21 The Los Angeles Times releases an article in which experts weigh in on the news that Mark Geragos is taking on Michael Jackson’s case. Although the other attorneys quoted in the story say there could be challenges in handing two high-profile cases simultaneously, and one even suggests, “I’m sure the Peterson family is not happy,” Geragos says he has the situation under control and that the Peterson family members are happy. “Jackie Peterson said, and this is a quote, ‘I’m so happy for Michael Jackson that he gets to have Mark defend him also,'” he says in the article. “Ultimately, it is not much different than what I normally do except there is more dealing with the media.” The Modesto Bee runs a similar article in which Geragos jokingly explains his need to be involved in multiple big cases: “I’ve got attention deficit disorder.” Kirk McAllister states that the Jackson will not adversely affect the defense of Scott Peterson. “Nothing’s going to get compromised just because he’s got another case coming in,” McAllister promises. “It’s not going to change anything.” The article confirms that Lee and Jackie Peterson refinanced their home in July 2003, and estimates the costs of Scott Peterson’s defense thus far at about $100,000. During the third day of a jury trial in Stanislaus County Superior Court, Ronald Fitzgerald pleads guilty to four felony conspiracy crimes for his involvement in a scam in which people claimed to be family members of Laci Peterson.
November 22 The phone calls between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey continue to be a topic of discussion as the Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Phone Calls to Peterson Intrigue Psychologists.”
November 23 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Peterson Versions Collide With Law,” which states that the prosecution in Scott Peterson’s preliminary hearing went well beyond Mark Geragos’ humorous standard of “Is the defendant breathing?” The story says, “They demonstrated more than that, pummeling Peterson’s credibility, raising questions about his alibi and introducing a range of circumstantial evidence that could tie him to the crimes.” Still, Bernie Grimm notes, a jury may be reluctant to bring in a guilty verdict without more compelling evidence. “This case is a collision of common sense and the law,” he suggests. “Common sense will tell you he did it, by the way he acted and the fact that Geragos can’t supply who really did it, but when you apply the law and realize it’s a possible lethal injection, are you going to do that based on a hair in a pair of pliers? There’s just not enough information—unless they’re holding back some bombshell.” Gloria Allred is quoted in the article as saying the prosecution put on a “bare-bones presentation” for the preliminary hearing.
November 24 Asked about the expense of moving Scott Peterson’s trial, John Goold offers no figures. “It’s expensive,” he acknowledges. “It’s expensive to take all the witnesses and all the law enforcement people and all the evidence.” He states that the prosecution has not conceded that moving the trial is inevitable. “If we believe it’s proper to be here, we’ll oppose the motion,” he promises. “We’d like to have the case here if it can be tried here.” Mike Tozzi notes that busing in jurors would be considerably cheaper than moving court personnel, witnesses and attorneys to another county. According to an article in the Modesto Bee, that is not a likely scenario, given that Mark Geragos has already complained that people in neighboring counties are in “roughly the same media market” and bringing in jurors from farther away is also impractical. Tozzi says it would be “premature for the court to comment at this time” concerning whether Al Girolami would continue with the case or another judge would be appointed. Amber Frey’s lawsuit against David Hans Schmidt is postponed, with no new hearing date set.
November 25 Mark Geragos files formal paperwork asking that prosecutors be forced to return Scott Peterson’s truck, seized on December 27, 2002, and the nearly $15,000 taken from him at the time of his arrest. “The property is no longer relevant or necessary to any investigation or action of the prosecution,” Geragos states in the filing. The motion further states that continuing to hold the truck and the cash represents a “severe and undue financial hardship to Mr. Peterson,” although it is clear that they will not be going to Scott Peterson: The motion says that the Peterson family must apply to defense costs both the cash and the proceeds from the sale of the vehicle. Reporters for the Modesto Bee contact Adam Stewart regarding the revelation that Scott Peterson recently secured a $100,000 loan from Lee and Jackie Peterson, using the home he owned jointly with Laci Peterson as collateral. “We’re aware of the transaction,” Stewart says. “We intend to take the appropriate steps in due course.”
November 26 The Modesto Bee breaks the story about Scott Peterson using his home as collateral for a $100,000 loan from his parents. “They could technically have the right to foreclose on the house, which could result in the property going back to them,” Modesto probate attorney John Resso says in the article. According to the account, Lee and Jackie Peterson “could not be reached for comment.”
November 27 With the preliminary hearing over, and overanalyzed, and millions of Americans relaxing to parades, football and turkey, one might expect a slow news day on the Scott Peterson case, but Rita Cosby breaks a story that Amber Frey is four months pregnant. Citing three sources close to Frey, Cosby reports what should be obvious: Scott Peterson is not the father of the child. According to the story, Amber Frey has, since January 2003, been dating a chiropractor with whom she used to work. “They’re thrilled that she’s pregnant and they’re talking about possibly getting married,” Cosby states.
November 30 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Few Bites From Fishermen on Peterson Sturgeon Alibi” that interviews local fishermen concerning Scott Peterson’s fishing alibi. One fisherman notes that sturgeon do not respond to lures but must be attracted through bait because they use their keen sense of smell when looking for food. “If he was using lures, he was not going sturgeon fishing,” says Steve Perkins of Fisherman’s Warehouse in Manteca.