#16) December 2003
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: December 2003
December 1 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Flurry of Legal Motions Coming” that examines the motions that may be decided upon at the time of Scott Peterson’s formal arraignment on December 3, 2003. KNTV releases an article entitled “Filming of Peterson Movie Draws Mixed Reviews” that chronicles the reactions of a sampling of Modestans to the USA Network movie now being filmed in their home town. “I don’t want anymore attention to Modesto,” says one resident. “Why make a movie out of it? We don’t need to glorify it. It’s ridiculous.” Presenting the opposing view is another citizen: “I think it’s a great idea. I’d love to watch it.” The article further paraphrases anonymous “city officials” as saying that the project is a plus for the city, offering an opportunity for it to show itself as a “film-friendly community.” Mark Geragos, having won a victory over the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a separate case in Rhode Island, says, “I hate to say, ‘I told you so,’ but the thing was totally groundless to begin with, and obviously the judge saw through it.” His remarks are in reference to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi, who cleared him along with fellow attorney George Buehler of contempt of court for arranging credit card payments to himself from clients with frozen assets. “One would have hoped the SEC knew the difference between an asset and a debit,” Geragos says. A production team for The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story is in Modesto to capture some outdoor scenes needed to finish off the movie. Crews work by helicopter and on the ground to film a car scene involving police at Tenaya Drive and Santa Cruz Avenue in the airport area, and to capture images of Modesto’s landmarks: the Stanislaus County Library, the State Theatre, the McHenry Museum, the McHenry Mansion and the train depot.
December 2 In a motion to counter the release of Scott Peterson’s truck, the prosecution files a motion in which they describe the significance of the vehicle as evidence in the murder case. The prosecution’s arguments reveal two things they never indicated during the 11 days of preliminary hearing testimony: Scott Peterson was wounded “during, or after, the murder of Laci Peterson,” and Laci Peterson was killed in her home. Rick Distaso specifies that Scott Peterson’s blood was found on a door jamb, a visor and a “map pocket,” and that a “cement-like material” was found in the bed. Distaso notes that samples of the material were collected and are being submitted to the California Department of Justice for testing to “confirm the presence of cement.” The filing calls the truck “an instrument used in the murder of Laci Peterson,” arguing that it was used to transport Laci Peterson’s body to the Tradecorp Warehouse and then to the San Francisco Bay. Distaso asks that the truck be kept in evidence so that future jury members can “physically view the areas where the blood was found.” Media representatives ask Gloria Allred to confirm the rumored pregnancy of Amber Frey. “If she is or is not pregnant, that has no relevancy to what her testimony may be,” Allred replies. “It should have no impact whatsoever on her credibility.” CNN releases a report that says the upcoming formal arraignment “is expected to be a lengthy and hard-fought hearing” during which Mark Geragos will file on Scott Peterson’s behalf “a flurry of motions, including a demand that his trial be moved away from Modesto.” A production team for The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story works for a second day in Modesto.
December 3 At 8:30 a.m., Al Girolami begins hearing arguments during the formal arraignment of Scott Peterson. Jackie and Janey Peterson attend the proceedings. Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski sit on the other side of the aisle. Jackie Peterson leans forward in her front-row seat and says, “Hi, Scott,” when her son is led into the courtroom. He smiles and waves briefly. He is wearing a black suit, white shirt and golden brown tie. A CNN account notes that he appears “thinner after spending nearly seven months behind bars.” Before the hearing gets started, Mark Geragos, Kirk McAllister and Jim Brazelton meet and appear to share what the Modesto Bee later calls a “light moment.” McAllister spends the rest of the hearing seated away from the defendant’s table, and Geragos will later explain that the attorney’s services were “limited for the purposes of the preliminary hearing.” Asked by Girolami to confirm he is maintaining a plea of not guilty, Scott Peterson sits up straight at the defense table and replies in what Court TV calls a “loud, confident” voice, “That’s correct, your honor. I’m innocent.” Girolami sets a January 26, 2004, trial date, to be preceded by change of venue motion hearings on January 6, 2004, and December 12, 2003. Geragos argues again for a “safe harbor provision” in the gag order, allowing attorneys to refute “just plain wrong, wild theories” in media reports, saying such a clause would allow the defense and the prosecution “to try to stick a fork in some completely unfounded rumor or some piece of information that all of a sudden morphs into an urban legend.” He tells Girolami, “I don’t think it’s too much to ask, to contain the misinformation out there.” Dave Harris objects to any lifting or revision of the order. Girolami states, “I think the protective order is still valid, and it will continue,” noting that “the publicity continues even with a lot of other competing headlines.” Charity Kenyon argues on behalf of five California newspapers that evidence used in the preliminary hearing is now a part of the court record and, therefore, should be unsealed. Both the prosecution and the defense object to the unsealing of evidence, particularly to the release of autopsy photographs. “This is this man’s wife and his baby, and they’re gruesome photos,” Geragos argues. “I don’t understand what macabre fascination anybody would have to want to see these things and have them seared into their brain, and what possible purpose it would serve.” Kenyon contends that the newspapers do not intend to publish the photographs, but argues that, on principle, state law requires access to them. Girolami disagrees, saying there is “considerable overriding interest” in keeping the evidence sealed because of the damage it could inflict on the families of the victims. The prosecution and the defense also argue that dissemination of the documents could impact Scott Peterson’s right to a fair trial or compromise the ongoing investigation of the case. Girolami agrees that “there are other things out there; the investigation is continuing.” Most of the rest of the hearing is consumed in arguments over the return-of- property motion filed by the defense team, asking that prosecutors return Scott Peterson’s truck as well as the cash seized from him at the time of his arrest. “It is a financial hit for the family,” Geragos explains. “The problem is there are payments on the truck that have to be made every month. We need the truck back so we do not expend taxpayer funds in the defense of this case.” Prosecutors do not argue against returning the cash, but do ask to keep the truck in evidence. Rick Distaso states that maintenance workers from the Berkeley Marina will be called in at trial to identify the truck. He argues that he wants to show future jurors where Scott Peterson’s blood was found in the truck. He also questions the financial impact, noting, “If we’re going to trial on January 26, we’re talking about a month or two of payments.” Nevertheless, Girolami orders the truck returned, saying he is “satisfied there is nothing unique about that truck” that warrants keeping it. The hearing concludes in less than an hour. After the hearing, Jackie Peterson tells reporters she does not consider the day’s rulings a victory. “When my son walks out the door, I’ll consider that truth and fairness, and what should be happening in America,” she states. Asked if she is concerned about celebrity client Michael Jackson interfering with the focus of Geragos, she replies, “We think he’s great, and we are comfortable with whatever he does.” Mark Geragos claims that relocating the trial is “as close to a foregone conclusion as one can get,” saying he has “voluminous exhibits” to support a change of venue. John Goold acknowledges that court dates are often delayed but promises the prosecution will be ready if the court’s schedule holds fast: “If they stick to that, we’ll stick to it.” He confirms that, although prosecutors want to keep the trial in Modesto, they will not oppose a move if valid survey data shows that Scott Peterson cannot get a fair trial without a change of venue. “There’s no justice in having a trial held somewhere it shouldn’t be held,” he states. Gloria Allred tells reporters that she will not confirm or deny the pregnancy of Amber Frey. “What is important is not whether Amber Frey is pregnant,” she tells reporters. She emphasizes that the focus should be justice for Laci Peterson. Larry King Live reviews the day’s events, with panel members Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley and Robi Ludwig, and special guests Adam Stewart and Gloria Allred. An article about the filming of The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story claims that no one is playing the role of Laci Peterson.
December 4 The Modesto Bee reports that a Christmas tree in the lobby of Modesto’s DoubleTree Hotel has been decorated with tributes to Laci and Conner Peterson and messages to her family. According to the article, the project was organized by contributors to the Websleuths site. The Modesto Bee reports that Ray Simon told a group of Modesto High School alumni that Stanislaus County is preparing to pay $1 million for Scott Peterson’s trial, and much more if he once again calls on a public defender to replace Mark Geragos—a scenario Simon says is likely. “I have it from a good source that it’s highly possible we’ll never see Mr. Geragos again after the preliminary because there’s not enough money to pay him,” he states. “The public defender could be defending Mr. Peterson, and that will come from the taxpayers.” The article notes, however, that Geragos’ “general appearance” at the previous day’s hearing means that “he is the attorney of record for the rest of the case, barring incapacitation.”
December 5 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Friend: Peterson Was Frantic” that reintroduces Greg Reed and his two calls from Scott Peterson on December 24, 2002. Reed notes that there was nothing unusual about the first call. “I could tell he was driving, but I don’t know where,” he says. “I could hear road noise and feedback.” The second call was much different, he remembers. “A few hours later I did get that frantic phone call. I caught up with him and went over to the house.” Reed tells the Bee that he keeps tabs on his former neighbor “a little bit,” mostly through others who visit him in jail. “I just don’t know what to think,” Reed says. “I hope information gets shared that enlightens all of us. I just hope justice prevails.” The story also notes that the reporter sought comments from others close to the case, but with less success: Guy Miligi confirms that he and his wife were close to Laci Peterson but refuses further comment, and Shawn Sibley says she has been hounded by reporters and tells the Bee, “I’m not making any statement.”
December 6 In his written decision denying the release of arrest warrant documents and other case information, Al Girolami states, “There continues to be considerable ongoing investigation that can be, and would be, prejudiced by the release of these documents.” Justifying his decision to withhold the autopsy photographs in particular, he writes, “Certainly the families of the decedents are entitled to considerable deference that these photographs not be made public fodder for the prurient interests of the curious. The court is satisfied that the family’s privacy interests overcome any public right to access to these autopsy photos. Having personally examined the photographs, the court finds that it would be highly disturbing to a family member if this evidence were disseminated to the media, even if copies were not provided.” The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Taping Calls Is Legally Tricky,” with experts’ input on the recorded conversations of Scott Peterson.
December 9 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Media Denied Peterson Evidence” in which experts weigh in on evidence—seen and unseen—in the Scott Peterson case.
December 10 Dave Harris files a four-page motion to request lists of jurors eligible to serve in 2005 in Stanislaus, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties. The Daily American Republic releases a humorous editorial concerning a “list of people we can live without.” Leading the list of people who “have been given way too much publicity for way too little reason” is Scott Peterson. The piece states: “This guy’s guilty. He got together a large amount of money, dyed his hair, and was planning to skip the country after his wife was reported missing. He did too many things to arouse suspicion, not the least of which is his take on the murder of his wife and unborn son: a religious cult did it. That’s the lamest thing I’ve heard since O.J. Simpson said he was going to spend the rest of his life looking for his wife’s real killers before heading off for the golf courses of America to search for them. Let’s try this guy and get him in prison and out of the public consciousness. We can live without him.” In another related piece, ABC News profiles author Steve Oney, whose recent book finds parallels between modern media coverage of crime and the 1913 Leo Frank case in Atlanta. “We delude ourselves when we think that coverage of the Scott Peterson case or the O.J. Simpson case is new,” Oney contends. “With the Leo Frank case, it was constant coverage and constant stimulation.” The article also provides a cautionary tale of a woman in that case who, when interviewed by a police detective, is apparently unable to distinguish between what she has seen and what she has read in the newspapers, leading the detective to conclude, “She is well-read to the extent that she is crazy.”
December 11 Yahoo! Finance reports that Brad Saltzman will donate all profits from the grand opening of his Santa Monica Pure Foods store to the Laci Peterson Fund. Saltzman says he will have Laci Peterson’s photographs prominently displayed with a sign so that shoppers will recognize that proceeds from that day are being donated to her fund. “Opening a national chain of low-carb markets is a direct result of being involved in Laci’s case,” Saltzman says. “Laci in her special way brought so many people together. Donating the profits from our grand opening is the least I can do.”
December 12 At a hearing before Al Girolami, Rick Distaso says the prosecution wants to buy Scott Peterson’s truck and use it as evidence against him. Distaso confirms that the “cement-like material” found in the bed of the truck has been sent to the Department of Justice for testing, but notes that it is important to keep the truck in evidence in case more samples are needed. “The people are willing to pay the fair market value for the truck since money seems to be the issue,” Distaso says in reference to an earlier plea by Mark Geragos that the truck payments were a “financial hit” on the Peterson family—a seemingly disingenuous statement considering the truck was only going to be used to help pay the rumored $1 million tab rung up by Geragos. “Mr. Distaso wants to turn me into a used truck salesman,” Geragos jokes back, bringing a broad smile to Scott Peterson’s face. “Actually, I’m trying to avoid doing that,” Distaso replies. Girolami refuses to broker the deal and does not extend the December 18, 2003, deadline for the truck to be handed over to the defense, leaving it up to the prosecution and the defense to work out a deal. Geragos says he is willing to entertain the prosecution’s offer. Geragos asks for an extension to file a change of venue motion so that he can compile an estimated 8,000 exhibits on disk to submit. He states that he will be backing up his motion by comparing news reports from Stanislaus, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties to media coverage from Los Angeles County—an indication that he is preparing to argue that a large part of Northern California has been tainted by the publicity surrounding the case. Girolami grants an extension until 9:00 a.m. on December 15, 2003. Prosecutors ask for permission to survey former jurors rather than conduct a random sampling, a move to “speed up the process, cost less money and help complete the task because of the time factor.” The prosecution seeks the 2003 jury lists for Stanislaus, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties to, in the words of John Goold, “gauge whatever differences there are in the different locales.” The prosecution states they hope to survey 400 persons off the Stanislaus County jury list. Geragos objects, saying that the jury list still contains ineligible jurors and will require the same kind of screening that a random sampling would. “Why can’t they just get the phone book?” he asks. “I think it just opens a Pandora’s box of problems.” Girolami—citing the previous use of a survey in the court—gives consent to the prosecution to conduct a telephone survey of jurors and grants access to the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 1,000 Stanislaus County jurors from the master list. Although the prosecution asks that Girolami attempt to seat a jury before ruling on the change of venue motion, Geragos argues that such a tactic runs counter to established law. Girolami says he will rule on the matter at a scheduled January 8, 2004, hearing. Geragos suggests that, if his request is denied, he will file an appeal with the Fifth District Court of Appeal. “If the court were to deny it, I still need time to take a writ to the Fifth,” he states. Prosecutors also ask that the defense hand over any evidence that may be produced at trial, the names and addresses of defense witnesses and any statements or reports from witnesses and expert witnesses. According to an account in the Modesto Bee, Scott Peterson appears “at ease” in court, “chatting and apparently sharing a joke with Geragos on several occasions.” Delta Blood Bank employees distribute press packets to reporters covering Scott Peterson’s hearing. Kim Petersen reads a statement from Sharon Rocha announcing a blood drive in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson. “Many people have inquired about an event to honor Laci and Conner over the holidays,” Rocha says in the statement. “We have been blessed by the prayers, cards, e-mails, hugs and support from so many people that it is a privilege to have this opportunity to give something back.” Petersen says that Sharon Rocha had hoped to be there in person to announce the event, but is ill. Benjamin Spindler talks about the importance of donating blood, especially during the holiday season, and says that the blood drive is “memorializing Laci and Conner.”
December 13 At about 4:30 a.m., Modesto Police Department officer Michael DuFour is discovered dead on the floor of his home by his wife, Rebecca, after suffering from flu-like symptoms for several days.
December 14 The Modesto Bee reports on the death of Michael DuFour. Lt. Janelle Flint states that several other officers had been out sick during the past week with flu symptoms, but have been checked on and appear to be alright.
December 15 Early in the morning, just before the 9:00 a.m. deadline imposed by Al Girolami, Mark Geragos files formally to have Scott Peterson’s murder trial moved away from Stanislaus County. “Only a change of venue can ensure that Mr. Peterson obtains the fair and impartial trial to which he is constitutionally entitled,” Geragos writes. “It is unrealistic to expect that any individual bombarded by the frenzy of media reports in Stanislaus County would be able to do so.” According to the motion, a survey commissioned by the defense team shows that 98 percent of the county’s residents are aware of the case, and that 75 percent have already made up their minds about it. “The lynch-mob mentality that has been created in this case has become so poisonous that the nature of the news coverage has in many instances been reduced to nothing more than vilification,” Geragos states in the filing. He calls public opinion on Stanislaus County “downright hostile” toward his client, and points out that even the city’s mayor, Carmen Sabatino, has stated on numerous occasions that Scott Peterson cannot get a fair trial in the relatively lightly populated Stanislaus County. The papers also note the public’s characterization of Laci Peterson as a “posthumous celebrity, loved and cherished by the community” and the contrasting view of Scott Peterson, who has been “demonized as an evil outsider.” Geragos further argues that “the extent and intensity of the publicity in this case is of unprecedented proportions in Northern California.” In a brief interview, he makes no bones about where he wants the trial to be moved: “What I want for Christmas is I want to spend three months in trial in Los Angeles County next year.” Meanwhile, Jim Brazelton says the cost of trying Scott Peterson might result in the Office of the District Attorney filing a lawsuit to get more money from Stanislaus County or billing the county’s Board of Supervisors for “necessary expenses.” Carol Shipley backs up the statement, saying that the office has no choice because of staffing cuts, loss of state grants and a caseload heavy with high-profile trials. “We’re basically feeling we’re being backed into a corner, just by the circumstances,” she says. “We need to do our job.” The Modesto Bee notes that, in addition to the Scott Peterson case, they are also pursuing cases against Carmen Sabatino, Hughson Mayor Bart Conner, three officials from the Medic Alert Foundation in Turlock and 11 persons charged with a series of home-invasion robberies. Shipley says that, even without these headline-making cases, the office would be backlogged because they are working on 61 murder cases—17 of them capital cases. “We’re not even getting by at this point,” she laments. Among the problems, the Bee article states, are a $7.8 million shortfall resulting from a vehicle license fee reduction initiated by Arnold Schwarzenegger and a possible loss of $22 million if the state decides to not reimburse the county for its share of car tax revenues. Patty Hill Thomas says the financial situation is “like quicksand,” with constant changes on the revenue side and no relief on the expense side.
December 16 A 10:00 a.m. deadline—imposed on the defense team by Al Girolami—for filing a motion challenging the order holding Scott Peterson passes without a fling. Various news agencies discuss the previous day’s change-of-venue filing, with experts commenting on the motion’s predicted chance of success. “People want to convict Peterson,” Michael Cardoza says in a San Francisco Chronicle account. The Modesto Bee reports on two surveys that Mark Geragos cited in his argument: a December 2003 survey by Paul Strand, showing that 37.9 percent of respondents admitted predisposition of Scott Peterson’s guilt, and one done in May 2003 by Stephen Schoenthaler in which 59.3 percent thought Scott Peterson was “probably guilty” or “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jim Hammer, noting the trend downward in presumption of guilt, predicts the defense team may not be able to prove a trial relocation is necessary. “If that’s all the evidence they have, then I think Scott Peterson is going to be tried in Modesto,” he states. Schoenthaler argues that the second survey is still “sufficient” to warrant a change of venue.
December 17 In a Modesto Bee article entitled “Peterson Guilt Not a Given, Poll Says,” Stephen Schoenthaler notes that the survey he did and the one done earlier by Paul Strand, though showing different numbers in some ways, were consistent when it came to the percentage of respondents who believed Scott Peterson was not guilty: Strand’s survey showed 2.7 percent, Schoenthaler’s earlier survey showed 3 percent. “They’re totally compatible,” he states. The article explains that Strand’s survey asked only two questions, compared to 36 on Schoenthaler’s. Responding to repeated questioning from reporters, Stanislaus County Superior Court officials post a notice asking journalists to stop calling to inquire about whether the defense team has filed a motion challenging the order holding Scott Peterson—a action that had a court-imposed deadline of 10:00 a.m. on the previous day.
December 18 A Modesto Bee article entitled “Deadline Missed for Defense to Fight Judge’s Holding Order,” discusses the significance of the defense team blowing the December 16, 2003, deadline imposed by Al Girolami for a filing of a motion to challenge the order. “Some judges are very arbitrary about deadlines,” Bradley Brunon says in the story. “If there is a rational explanation for why a deadline isn’t met, particularly in a complex case, most judges are understanding.” Don Shaw writes an editorial in the Modesto Bee about the upcoming USA Network movie based on the Scott Peterson case, calling the movie “inevitable” but asking, “Why in the world was there such a rush?”
December 19 Prosecutors confirm that Scott Peterson’s truck has been returned to his representatives. Sharon Rocha brings two lawsuits against Scott Peterson for the wrongful death of Laci and Conner Peterson. One suit she files as an individual and the other as the administrator of Laci Peterson’s estate. In the filing, Adam Stewart writes that Scott Peterson’s conduct was “willful, wanton and outrageous beyond the ability of ordinary human beings to comprehend.” The two suits seek greater than $5 million for a range of monetary damages, reimbursement for funeral expenses and burial costs, and judgment for “medical and related expenses.” The filing minces no words, claiming that Scott Peterson “planned and prepared to assault, batter and murder Laci D. Peterson” before killing her. The suit argues, “The imposition of substantial punitive and exemplary damages will in this case be both justified and necessary in order to send out a message from this court to all persons in the United States and throughout the world that such vicious and outrageous savagery inflicted by one human being upon another shall be met with the severest of civil penalties.” The Modesto Bee notes that, although a case management conference has been scheduled for April 22, 2004, the civil suits are not likely to proceed until after the criminal trial against Scott Peterson is over. “The family wants to be sure that Scott suffers the greatest of civil and criminal penalties to the greatest extent that our legal system allows,” Adam Stewart says. Concerning Sharon Rocha, he says that she “wants to make sure justice is done, whether it’s in a civil court or a criminal court.” George King grants a preliminary injunction that bars David Hans Schmidt from “commercially exploiting” photographs of Amber Frey.
December 20 The memorial blood drive in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson kicks off at Fred C. Beyer High School.
December 21 A Modesto Bee article entitled, “Peterson Case Reels Them in With Mix of Mystery, Media” chronicles the stories of a handful of the many persons following the Laci Peterson case nationally and internationally. The article notes that the online edition of the Modesto Bee increased from 31 million views in 2002 to 89 million in 2003—44 million of the increase directly attributable to the case. The story also provides the number of articles about the case published in various newspapers so far during 2003: the Modesto Bee has published 563; the Fresno Bee, 233; the Sacramento Bee, 134; the Los Angeles Times, 91; the New York Times, 33; and the Boston Globe, 17. The memorial blood drive in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson continues.
December 22 Six days after a court-imposed deadline, Mark Geragos files a 12-page “995” motion attacking the legitimacy of the holding order and asking that charges against Scott Peterson be dismissed. The Modesto Bee describes the motion as “laced with disparaging comments about police and prosecutors.” Calling the prosecution’s evidence “extraordinarily feeble,” Geragos writes that they were able to prove only that his client was an unfaithful husband who was unlucky enough to be fishing the day his wife disappeared. “The police—from the very beginning—decided that their job was to put Scott Peterson on death row,” Geragos states in the motion. “They deliberately ignored any exculpatory evidence, and from day one worked only toward the goal of putting Scott in the gas chamber.” Geragos states that there was never a “genuine investigation of Laci Peterson’s disappearance.” Indeed, he notes that the “shabby showing” prosecutors made at the preliminary hearing produced “no evidence at all” suggesting a cause of death for either Laci or Conner Peterson and actually did what he failed to do: clear Scott Peterson: “The complete lack of any physical evidence suggesting wrongdoing not only establish that there is no probable cause that Scott committed murder, but in actuality prove that he could not have committed this heinous act.” In the paper, Geragos also addresses the allegations that Scott Peterson was making a run for the Mexican border when arrested, saying it “stretches credulity” that his client would have “stopped on the way to Mexico to play nine or 18 holes” and that he was, in fact, headed in the opposite direction when stopped by officers: “Only the geographically challenged would miss the fact that Scott was headed north, which, then and now, is the direction of the Canadian border.” John Goold, asked by reporters for a response, tells them that he has not reviewed the motion and will not comment on it. “We’ll make our response known and address the applicable law in the paperwork we file,” he says, alluding to a prosecutorial rebuttal expected by January 8, 2004. Court papers are released showing that George King had granted a preliminary injunction to bar David Hans Schmidt from selling photographs of Amber Frey. The memorial blood drive in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson continues.
December 23 The memorial blood drive in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson enters its third and final day. Reuters profiles Mark Geragos as a rising star in the legal profession. “One of Geragos’ greatest strengths may be the way he seamlessly switches roles from indignant defender to first-class schmoozer,” the article states. The story notes that Geragos has claimed that about 10 percent of his workload is done pro bono, often representing low-income Armenian defendants referred to him by an Armenian church in Glendale. The story also answers one of the most common questions about him: His last name “sounds like ‘asparagus.'”
December 24 Lee and Jackie Peterson, waving to passersby, arrive in the afternoon at Scott and Laci Peterson’s Covena Avenue home during a steady drizzle. Lee Peterson says that he and his wife hope to visit with Scott Peterson today. “The kid should not be in jail,” Lee Peterson says. “It’s been a year. You can’t imagine how hard it is on the family.” In a mood the Modesto Bee characterizes as “somber but cordial,” he predicts that his son will be exonerated eventually. An article in the Modesto Bee discusses and analyzes the timeline of December 24, 2002, and its role in helping to solve the crime with which Scott Peterson is charged. “A timeline isn’t important in every case, but it may be particularly important in this case because of the questions that remain unanswered,” Ruth Jones says. “The timeline will be critical in determining whether someone else could have done this.” She also notes that the prosecution and defense will probably put their own slant on the timing. “With most of the evidence in this case, there can be an alternative explanation,” she says. In the same article, John Burris points out that the timeline constructed by witnesses could be erroneous. “There is nothing to independently corroborate the time frame as laid out by the individuals,” he argues. “People can be mistaken.” The article notes critical points about Scott Peterson’s lack of conversation with Amy Rocha, to whom he had made an earlier promise to pick up a gift basket. The story points out that she called him and left a message just after 3:45 p.m., but that he failed to return her call at all that day—even though he had made at least seven calls in less than 2 hours before her message came in, and used his cell phone just 10 minutes after her call was received. The article also points out another important question concerning the timeline: When did Scott Peterson arrive home? The story notes he claimed he arrived home between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m., but that Karen Servas testified she did not see his truck parked in the driveway at 5:05 p.m., and cell phone records showed he was in Livermore—51 miles away—as late as 3:52 p.m., and still had to stop by the Tradecorp Warehouse to unhook the boat and check his e-mail. The piece notes that if Servas was right and Scott Peterson did arrive after 5:05 p.m., he had a very short amount of time to do everything he told investigators he did—empty a mop bucket, undress, load the washing machine, eat pizza, shower and listen to phone messages—before calling Sharon Rocha at 5:17 p.m. An article in the Contra Costa Times continues to analyze the latest developments in the Scott Peterson case, particularly the recent motion by Mark Geragos to have charges against Scott Peterson dismissed. Leonard Ulfelder says, “It’s pretty hard to set aside a holding order. Probably out of 100 times, you might get 10 percent if you’re lucky.” KTVU releases a report entitled “The Peterson Case: One Year Later.”
December 25 The Modesto Bee reports that the Delta Blood Bank brought in 350 pints of blood during its memorial blood drive in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson. Scott Peterson spends his first Christmas behind bars, and Laci Peterson’s friends and family spend their second without her. According to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s website, Scott Peterson will be treated like all other inmates but all will receive with their Christmas meal a special dessert—a cookie.
December 26 The San Francisco Chronicle features Chip Johnson’s recap of the year’s “winners and losers.” Among the winners: “The state DNA crime lab workers in Point Richmond who worked around the clock to identify Laci Peterson and her unborn son.” Johnson notes that “the exacting work of the lab staff prevented hubby Scott Peterson, who is charged with double-murder, from carrying out Plan B,” noting that Scott Peterson was arrested in San Diego “with a new blond hairdo, $15,000 stuffed into his pockets and plans to head for Mexico.” On the losers list is Mark Geragos, who according to Johnson, “While thrashing about for a patsy to take the heat off his client…came up with a wild idea to pin Laci Peterson’s slaying on the denizens and regulars at the Albany Bulb….”