#18) February 2004
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: February 2004
February 1 The Modesto Bee releases an article entitled “Numbers Support Peterson Trial Shift,” which points out that the average San Mateo County resident is older, wealthier, better-educated and more liberal than his Stanislaus County counterpart—all traits that typically favor the defense. The article also points out some little-known statistics: Compared to those living in San Mateo County, residents of Stanislaus County are twice as likely to own boats and more than twice as likely to have fishing licenses, and the percentage of divorced residents—seen as a key factor based on the anger that divorced women using Internet message boards have shown to Scott Peterson—is nearly identical. The San Jose Mercury News runs a profile of Geragos that focuses on his taking on two celebrity cases at once: “The celebrated defense lawyer is out to rescue both the notorious fertilizer salesman and the King of Pop. But he hasn’t saved either one yet—and some say this two-headed legal monster is more than even a superhero can handle, or should.” In the article, Gloria Allred states, “Mr. Geragos may smile and act as though he’s got it all under control. The truth is, he may have it under control and he may not. We’ll have to wait and see.” Vivian Mitchell falls ill.
February 2 As Scott Peterson is brought over for his first appearance in a San Mateo County courtroom, a smiling Don Horsley greets people outside the courthouse, and dozens of deputies mill about. Two deputies greet John Goold, who grew up in the area. Scott Peterson wears a gray suit to the courtroom. Members of the Peterson family sit just behind him, but he does not speak to them. Members of the Rocha family sit across the aisle but also do not communicate with members of the Peterson family. According to Bronwyn Hogan, as few as four members of the public request tickets to the hearing. Circling the block around the Hall of Justice is a truck pulling a KNEW billboard, inviting citizens to vote on Scott Peterson’s guilt or innocence. At 10:11 a.m., the board’s electronic tally shows 62 votes for guilt and 24 for innocence as it is photographed for the Modesto Bee. During the proceedings, Al Delucchi states that he has asked the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department to order the vehicle away from the area. Rochelle Wilcox and Karl Olson argue before Delucchi that it is in the public’s best interest to allow cameras into Scott Peterson’s trial. “Everyone remembers what happened in the O.J. Simpson case,” Wilcox states. “That won’t be the case here.” Olson likens the case to the Super Bowl, pointing out still photographs of that event in that morning’s paper, and arguing that cameras allow newspapers to publish important photos to tell a story of great public interest. The Super Bowl analogy seems to work against Olson, as Delucchi fires back, “This isn’t the Super Bowl.” Mark Geragos counters that broadcasting events would make the trial “a bigger zoo than it already is” and that the media is interested only in their pocketbooks. “What they’re asking for is nothing but ratings,” he tells the court. “They want to sensationalize this. But it’s important for my client, because it’s a matter of life and death.” He dismisses the media attorneys’ suggestions that being able to follow the case would help heal a community torn apart by Laci Peterson’s disappearance and takes the opportunity to echo Delucchi’s disdain for the sports analogy introduced by Olson. “This is not the Super Bowl and not some kind of psychobabble for community catharsis,” Geragos states. Delucchi agrees that the presence of cameras would be a distraction, saying, “It could have a chilling effect on the testimony of witnesses.” The judge notes that jurors and witnesses both “get antsy” when cameras are around. Delucchi also notes that cameras could interfere with maintaining courtroom order, impact on choosing a fair jury and intrude on privacy for witnesses, jurors and family members. He emphasizes, though, that “the print media is welcome” in the courtroom. “This is not going to be a secret trial,” he states. “But there will be no cameras in the courtroom.” Delucchi asks Scott Peterson if he is willing to accept the 1-week delay requested by Mark Geragos. Scott Peterson stands briefly and replies, “Yes. It’s a regrettable necessity, your honor,” referencing the fact that Geragos is defending another murder suspect. Delucchi subsequently approves the postponement. Geragos withdraws his motion to reinstate Richard Arnason as trial judge, stating he did so after examining Delucchi’s “sterling” record and reputation. “I appreciate your confidence, Mr. Geragos,” Delucchi replies. Delucchi denies Scott Peterson’s request to have a laptop computer in his jail cell, predicting “it could lead to mischief later,” but says he may allow him to have a portable compact disc player to listen to dictated versions of court documents. Delucchi sets normal trial hours as 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. During the proceedings, members of the media using the overflow press room in the annex of the old Redwood City Courthouse are unable to receive the audio feed from the courtroom as promised. There are rumors of technical problems or that the microphone was ordered off by Delucchi. Milan Radojevich is caught in the crossfire, and refers all complaints to Hogan, who is in the courtroom and unavailable. “I’m going on in 20 minutes, what am I supposed to do?” complains Lisa Bernard. Later, Hogan says the glitch will not be repeated and blames the low public interest in seating on the weather and the relatively short length of the hearing. Other than the audio feed problem, she says the day went smoothly. She notes that Delucchi ordered the billboard-on-wheels away from the area because “apparently, it was visible from the actual courtroom.” The hearing concludes in 20 minutes. Members of the Peterson family and the Rocha family are led out of the courtroom separately. Speaking to reporters after the proceedings, Geragos comments on his about-face concerning Delucchi. “He’s even and fair,” Geragos says. “That’s all we’re asking for.” When asked if the defense team’s move surprised him, John Goold smiles and tells reporters, “Nothing really surprises me about that anymore.” Geragos also states that questionnaires are being sent to San Mateo County residents, and if the defense finds prejudice, they will request another change of venue. “We don’t know if we’re going to end up in San Mateo,” he cautions. “This could be a way station.” Goold responds to those comments by saying simply, “We’re happy to stay here.”
February 3 John Goold states that his office has not asked for its own poll of San Mateo County residents in response to the Paul Strand poll sponsored by Scott Peterson’s defense team. Goold says he has not heard from Mark Geragos on the subject. “If and when they decide to use it, they’ll let us know when they file a motion,” Goold states. Apparently irritated by multiple defense requests for delays in a 5-year-old embezzlement case against Jeffrey Hambarian, Frank Fasel orders Mark Geragos to appear in Orange County Superior Court and prove from his appointment book that he still has time to handle Hambarian’s defense. “I don’t see why this case should take a back seat to the other trial,” Fasel states to Pat Harris. “After the Peterson case is over, this one won’t be a problem,” he replies, noting that a person in jail and facing death row deserves to be heard before one who is free on bail. Pat Harris supplies Fasel with Geragos’ appointment book, but offers that it probably does not show the complete picture. Fasel concurs. “I agree with the prosecutor that this is insufficient.” Rolling his eyes, he adds, “It sounds like I’m going to be seeing you folks tomorrow.” Contacted later in the day by phone, Geragos defends the delays as routine scheduling hearings that are drawing ire only because of the notoriety of his other clients. “Lawyers juggle cases all the time,” he says. “It’s not unusual.”
February 4 Vivian Mitchell—at one time considered a key defense witness for Scott Peterson—dies at the age of 80 following a brief illness. Contacted about her death, Mark Geragos refuses to speculate on the impact it will have on the case, but does say that she was “a sharp woman, very engaging.” John Goold and Mitchell’s son, Steve Gould, decline to say whether or not she had made a statement under oath concerning the Laci Peterson case. In San Francisco, 25 media members meet once again with Seamus Murphy and another San Mateo County representative to try to work out a deal for space rental. In Orange County Superior Court, Frank Fasel tells Mark Geragos, “This court is going to be way out of line on your priority list as far as in-custody cases, which is what my long-range concern is.” Geragos responds, “I in no way want to diminish the importance of this case,” adding that he wants to keep it on a “short leash.” Fasel orders Geragos and Jeffrey Hambarian to return for a hearing on February 17, 2004. Outside the courtroom, Geragos is more defensive in his remarks. “Most attorneys have more than one case,” he says. “You go ask any lawyer in California if they got more than one case.” In a Los Angeles Times article concerning delays to the Jeffrey Hambarian case, Ed Wallin concurs with Pat Harris that defendants in custody are entitled to priority over those free on bail. “It doesn’t really leave a judge with much choice,” Wallin says. Jill Schall disagrees, saying that “overbooked defense lawyers come along and muddy up the system.” David DeBerry points out that three witnesses against Hambarian have died since he was charged, weakening the prosecution’s case. Those opinons appear for the time being to be moot in the case of Geragos, who announces he is “available” and that “the defense is ready.” Delays to the Hambarian and Brett Williams trials allow him to declare that starting Scott Peterson’s trial immediately would be “fine and dandy.” Not surprisingly, John Goold responds that prosecutors “will be ready to go” if the defense is. “If we need to start doing motions on Tuesday, we’re going to be able to do those motions,” he states. Asked if the prosecution would oppose another venue change, he replies, “We’ll try this case wherever a judge decides it needs to be tried,” but notes that he has still not received official notice that the defense is surveying San Mateo County residents. “We’ve been told by media outlets that they’re doing another survey,” he offers. “We’ve not seen the survey. We’ve not seen the results of the survey.”
February 5 At 2:00 p.m., media members and San Mateo County representatives meet at the San Mateo County Government City to try to finalize a deal for space rental, but the strained relationships make negotiations difficult. Several media outlets, including KGO, KPIX, ABC and CBS have already quit talking to the government and have worked out deals elsewhere. In response to the media’s complaints, county officials present drastically cut prices, cutting the original $51,000 fee to just over $20,000. But media members are further aggravated by the county’s plans to charge for live audio feeds and an $835 a month fee for space in the overflow press room—services that were originally supposed to be free. As the San Mateo County Times later reports, the meeting ends “with angry network representatives taking issue with each line-item of the county’s bill, and county officials shrugging their shoulders.” Mark Geragos faxes paperwork to San Mateo County Superior Court stating that he “is not currently engaged in trial before any court and is prepared to proceed to trial immediately.” A Modesto Bee article states that Jim Brazelton is reportedly under investigation for an incident during which he allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened Modesto Bee reporters Michael Mooney and Garth Stapley, creating a hostile work environment. Contacted to speak about the investigation, Mick Krausnick says only that it is an ongoing personnel matter and, “We’re not going to make any further comment on it.” According to the story’s sources, Brazelton feigned shooting at a wastebasket as he was commenting about Mooney one day in September 2003, shortly after Mooney and Stapley co-authored a piece that detailed credit card expenditures for alcohol made by Brazelton and John Goold in violation of county policy. “It’s a personnel issue,” Brazelton says in the article. “I’m not allowed to comment.” He then adds, “I don’t think Mooney has anything to worry about.”
February 6 The San Mateo Daily Journal releases an article focusing on Scott Peterson’s life in the San Mateo County Jail. The story features an interview with an anonymous inmate just finishing a a five-month stint there. The man states that the 20 minutes a day of recreation time allowed is normally used for showers or phone calls, “you literally can’t see the sun” at any time and the food is “about enough to feed a 3-year-old”: breakfast of a bag of Cheerios, milk and a piece of fruit; lunch of two sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a Kool-Aid packet; and a dinner that changes with the day—Monday, burritos; Tuesday, a soy patty; Wednesday, a hamburger; Thursday, chili; Friday, a chicken patty; Saturday, chicken; and Sunday, a soy patty. The man states that, even though Scott Peterson may feel isolated, it is probably in his best interest because “people in there don’t like people like him,” meaning those accused of killing children. In a separate article, the San Mateo Daily Journal updates the continuing feud between San Mateo County and the media outlets. Undersheriff Greg Munks agrees that without tents to protect, media outlets could eliminate the $14,851 bill for a sheriff’s deputy to patrol 40 hours each week ($371.28 per hour), but noted that if they did not have security, they could not have cabling and, therefore, no could not have live reporting. The article notes that Al Delucchi ruled that the live audio feed could not be tape recorded and had a baliff installed to ensure reporters did not violate the order—passing the $5,573 monthly cost on to the media.
February 7 An article in the San Mateo County Times reports that 401 journalists have applied for credentials to cover Scott Peterson’s trial, and lists 229 of them: 30 from KDTV, 30 from the San Jose Mercury News, 27 from CNN, 24 from NBC, 19 from KPIX, 14 from the San Francisco Chronicle, 13 from the San Mateo County Times, 11 from the Associated Press, 11 from the Modesto Bee, eight from Reuters, eight from Fox News, eight from KCBS, eight from People magazine, five from the Los Angeles Times, four from the National Enquirer, four from Bay City News, three from Newsweek, and one each from GQ magazine and USA Today.
February 8 Jeff Jardine in the Modesto Bee joins the backlash against San Mateo County’s apparent glee and greed concerning the Scott Peterson trial, stating, “Upon landing the trial, San Mateo County and tourism officials quickly made money their No. 1 priority.” The San Francisco Chronicle releases an article recounting some of the most notorious cases in Redwood City history. John Goold states that he is “expecting a real short hearing” the following day, with the trial calendar likely to be the only subject that gets finalized.
February 9 Before the first official day of trial proceedings, the Stanislaus County Office of the District Attorney issues a written statement stating that prosecutors will be making no statements following the hearing—a promise that Jim Brazelton promptly breaks. Mark Geragos files motions to have a sequestered jury and to have separate juries for the guilt and penalty phases. In the documents, he states that “the vast adverse publicity, the abnormally high prejudging of guilt and the strong statistical showings that a death-qualified jury tilts in the favor of the prosecution.” He argues that “the new venue actually appears to be more hostile than Modesto” and predicts “the prejudicial media frenzy is likely to reach an even higher pitch once trial begins.” He files two other motions, asking to exclude from evidence the tesimony of hypnotized witness Kristen Dempewolf and the statements Scott Peterson made to reporters. Geragos states that the media interviews are irrelevant and would “confuse the issues and mislead the jury.” Scott Peterson, wearing a light gray suit, enters the courtroom for a hearing before Al Delucchi, and smiles at Lee, Jackie and Janey Peterson. No members of the Rocha family attend. Delucchi strikes down one special allegation against Scott Peterson accusing him of two multiple murder counts—in essence charging him with multiple murder in the death of Laci Peterson and again with multiple murder in the death of Conner Peterson. The judge concurs with Geragos that the two counts of multiple murder essentially overlap and reading them both “inflates the seriousness of the charges, as if they’re not serious enough as it is.” Prosecutors do not object. Outside the courtroom, Brazelton agrees with Delucchi’s call on eliminating the special allegation redundancy. “If you read it after every count, it gets repetitive and it might influence the jury,” he says. “In all fairness to the defendant, you read it once.” In other matters, prosecutors say they plan to begin presenting witnesses February 11, 2004, concerning the motion to exclude global positioning system evidence. Delucchi agrees to that schedule, and states that he hopes to begin jury selection in about two weeks. The prosecution presents a 35-page questionnaire, but the judge discusses jury selection with both sides, providing them sample questionnaires and encouraging them to develop a short list of straightforward questions. “We need to find twelve independent, reasonable, and fair-minded people who can decide whether Mr. Peterson is guilty of the crimes for which he is charged,” he directs. “It’s the court’s job to find a fair and impartial jury, and I take that job very seriously.” He says he wants to examine about 250 potential jurors each day and immediately excuse anyone with a hardship or other issues. Delucchi orders that reporters be kept from accessing the questionnaires and the names of potential witnesses and jurors. Karl Olson argues again in vain that “justice works best when exposed to public scrutiny.” The prosecution diagrees. “The media has taken great steps to place themselves in the middle of this case,” Dave Harris says. “The media has a right to gain information, but they don’t have the right to interfere with a criminal trial.” Geragos expresses concern that reporters or “fringe elements” would harass witnesses, citing examples in other cases where Internet sites have published the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses, in what he called “the ultimate intimidation.” Geragos further argues that, when names of potential witnesses were released during the preliminary hearing, they were “contacted day and night, harassed—and even their neighbors were contacted day and night.” He says that “witnesses were harassed during the preliminary hearing, just because their name was mentioned in the courtroom.” He points out as an example of “media run amok” two new billboards near freeway entrances close to the courthouse display a photograph of his client and the question, “Man or Monster?” Brazelton concurs that the billboards were “totally inappropriate.” Olson counters that he is not representing the radio station sponsoring those advertisements, but in any case, “the answer to that is not to cut off public access to these proceedings.” Delucchi notes that he has “nothing against the press” but has “a responsibility here to see that Mr. Peterson gets a fair trial.” He tells Olson, “The press will get their witness names when they’re called to testify,” but that jurors’ identities will remain secret for the duration of the trial. “I think that doing this any other way would have a propensity to pollute the potential jury pool,” Delucchi rules. “The defendant’s right to a fair trial outweighs the necessity to release the names.” During the proceedings, Scott Peterson smiles and speaks with his attorneys, but says nothing to the court. The hearing concludes in about 40 minutes. The Peterson family members are escorted from the courtroom by bailiffs and, according to the Modesto Bee, appear to be driven away by a uniformed San Mateo County sheriff’s deputy in an unmarked car. Geragos is uncharacteristically silent after the day’s proceedings. John Goold states, “We do have concerns about sequestering the jury,” but does not detail those concerns. KTVU releases an article, based on Associated Press reports, entitled, “Laci’s Family Angered by Peterson Movie”—a title that belies the article’s major thrust: Dean Cain and Diane Sokolow defending and promoting the USA Network movie, The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story. Meanwhile, San Mateo County issues a written ultimatum to the media—decide in two days and put down a deposit by February 20, 2004, or special services will be cut off. The news release lists the latest rates for services: $3,082 a month for courtyard space and $582 a month for use of the temporary press room. Required deposits are listed as $6,614 for courtyard space and $1,164 for the temporary press room. “All costs that the County proposes to pass on to the media are the direct result of the media’s specialized business needs,” the release states. “The County of San Mateo does not believe taxpayers should bear these extraordinary costs.”
February 10 In a probate court hearing, Sharon Rocha is granted the authority to administer Laci Peterson’s estate. She pans the preview viewing of The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story. “It was so hard to tell the fiction from the facts because it was so inaccurate,” she says. “At least they had our names right.” She is particularly critical of Dee Wallace Stone’s portrayal of her. “I’m just in there crying all the time,” she explains. “That’s Hollywood.” Sharon Rocha notes that some of the characters are fictional, supposedly composites of persons related to the case. “We don’t know who some of the characters were supposed to be,” she states. “It’s obviously just a story. The public doesn’t know all the facts; we don’t know all the facts. Those are going to come out in court.” Ron Grantski criticizes the story’s perspective. “It’s all about Scott,” he notes. “It’s not written from the victim’s perspective.” He says he fears that “some of these people are going to believe this is really what happened.” Adam Stewart says, “There’s nothing legally we can do to prevent them from airing it.” He releases a formal statement from the Rocha family, which states, “We feel the movie offers a poor and inaccurate representation of the facts.” Lee Peterson says he and Jackie Peterson declined an advance viewing, but that does not stop him from offering his opinion. “It’s just bull—no basis in fact,” he says. “It’s just someone making a pile of money off a news story.” Jim Brazelton says, “People are going to watch what they want to watch, and I just hope they can understand and realize that the evidence will be presented in the courtroom, and that’s where the decision should be made.” Sharon Rocha says she is still having a hard time dealing with the loss of Laci Peterson. “It’s still day by day,” she says. “It’s always going to be difficult.” Asked about the strained relations with the Peterson family, Grantski says, “There are no winners in this thing. We love and miss Laci, and they love their son. There are only losers.” Appearing on Morning’s on 2, Dean Cain says he understands why the Rocha family would be upset with The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story, but cannot even imagine the pain they have suffered. “I can’t blame them for feeling that way,” he says. “I can’t even imagine what they feel and what they are going through.” Cain confesses that he had his own doubts about appearing in such a role, especially never having portrayed a real-life character. He says he changed his mind after a conversation with his father, director Christopher Cain, helped him see that the positives—the excellent script, the complexity of the character and the acting challenge—outweighed the potential negatives. He says he then wrestled over whether to play the title role as guilty or innocent. “I had to play him innocent, although there are an awful lot of things he does that make him appear very guilty,” Cain states. He explains that the film’s focus is not so much on Scott Peterson but on the reactions of others as they begin to see him revealed in a different light. Cain says he mimicked his subject only during the recreation of the Diane Sawyer interview. “It was something so contemporary and so widely seen that I wanted to make sure it was exact,” he says. He notes that Scott Peterson “seems to sort of jut his bottom chin out, which gives him an appearance of being pompous and/or cocky. He tends to be sort of stern looking and serious, but in a weird sort of spacy way.” The San Mateo County Times, in their own assessment of the movie, contradicts Cain’s assessment, saying he “creates a character that seems to be the embodiment of evil.” The Modesto Bee suggests in an article that Scott Peterson’s media interviews may not be as irrelevant as Mark Geragos claimed in his filing of the previous day: “Some of Peterson’s comments addressed blood evidence, while others contradicted a Modesto police detective’s later testimony at a preliminary hearing.” Attorneys representing Court TV, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and KNTV file a three-volume exhibit to support an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal, asking to overturn Delucchi’s decision to keep cameras from the courtroom during Scott Peterson’s trial.
February 11 At 9:30 a.m., proceedings continue before Al Delucchi, who hears testimony concerning GPS tracking. Mark Geragos presses Peter Loomis to admit that the GPS technology used to track Scott Peterson “was totally flawed,” possibly because of the way investigators hid the devices on Scott Peterson’s vehicles. Geragos says that there were at least four separate glitches with the system, one of which Loomis seems unaware of. “This is the first time I’ve seen it,” he says. “It’s baffling to me.” Among the anomalies are separate components in a tracking device simultaneously recording that the vehicle was stopped and travelling at 24 miles per hour (mph), vehicles recorded as traveling at improbably high speeds of 225 mph and 489 mph, and devices not functioning at all from January 3 to January 21, 2003, in a vehicle designated “Rover.” Loomis concedes that there were a few abnormalities in the period of January 8–9, 2003, totaling about 11 minutes, meaning that Scott Peterson’s whereabouts could not be pinpointed at all times. Loomis testifies that the devices malfunctioned for about six minutes from a section of Modesto, five minutes north of Fresno and a few seconds in the Bay Area. Nevertheless, he testifies that GPS is “accepted commercial technology,” and that an analysis shows that the system worked as intended for hours and hours of accurate reporting. “I do believe the correct science was used in this case, and that the devices were used to their full capability,” Loomis says. He points out that, even though GPS evidence has not been admitted into evidence in California, maps based solely on GPS technology are commonly used in murder trials. Geragos suggests that police investigators tested their own tracking devices, but they failed. “This machine, at every point, faded and was totally flawed,” Geragos contends. Dave Harris counters that Geragos’ statement is simply untrue. Loomis suggests to Geragos that the disagreement is a matter of semantics. “He calls it an error, you call it a defect, I call it a behavior,” he explains. Trying another approach, Geragos suggests to Loomis that he stands to profit financially if GPS testimony were to be allowed during Scott Peterson’s trial. Loomis replies that he would not benefit directly, but could make money on stock options related to Trimble Navigation’s success. “It makes all the difference in the world to him that this technology gets sanctioned by the court,” Geragos argues before Delucchi. “In a capital case we shouldn’t have capitalistic overtones.” Rick Distaso counters that it is a “silly argument,” since such expert witnesses almost always stand to gain financially. “What better person to come in than the person who was actually involved in building the equipment used in this case?” he asks. Delucchi qualifies Loomis as a GPS expert, allowing him to testify, even though he admits he has had no experience in testing GPS devices on vehicles. During the morning’s testimony, the judge, prosecution and defense take a break to examine a mysterious delivery to the courtroom: a sealed business envelope marked “Urgent: Possible Evidence,” indicating it has information related to the Scott Peterson case. “I don’t see any powder in there,” Delucchi quips as he holds the envelope up to the light. Before departing to his chambers with Scott Peterson and attorneys from both sides, the judge cautions, “This might just be a ruse.” After a brief closed-door meeting, the defense team emerges, smiling and joking, and the hearing continues without any further mention of the letter. Returning from lunch, Jackie Peterson is asked about the proceedings. “All we need is an open-minded [jury] and a fair judge,” she says. Janey Peterson says she is surprised that The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story is generating so much controversy. ” There have been lies out there for 15 months,” she reasons. “I don’t see why everyone is so upset about it.” In the afternoon session, there are about two dozen empty seats in the courtroom. Geragos repeatedly refers to a letter from Orion Electronics, Ltd., referencing bad data that may have been a result of a poorly placed antenna, promoting his ongoing theory that, since the transmitters in his client’s vehicles were hidden, they were also positioned in a way that made transmission more difficult. “One of the things that could’ve been wrong is the covertness of the placement of the device,” he says. He argues that, only by knowing where the transmitters were placed, could a determination be made as to their effectiveness—a suggestion that Distaso flatly rejects. “This case is going to be broadcast across the world, and I don’t think it’s fair to the prosecution and future police investigations to broadcast how this stuff works,” he states. According to a later account in the Modesto Bee, Scott Peterson appears “contemplative” during much of the technical testimony. According to a later account in the San Mateo County Times, Geragos often paces back and forth between his table and the witness stand, frequently waving his arms for emphasis. Al Delucchi extends the gag order imposed by Al Girolami in June 2003. The Rocha family breaks a long public silence when Ron Grantski addresses the media in a mini news conference. He says the family discussed how they should be celebrating the first birthday Conner Peterson. “We shouldn’t be going to court,” he says. “I should be teasing Laci about Conner keeping her up. So as this week progresses into a national story—as it has been for over a year now—we have to deal with the loss of part of our family and memories we will never have. We have to deal with what is, and wonder why.” Asked about the impending movie about the case, Grantski replies, “Our concern is that everybody is a potential jurist, and it could influence a potential jurist.” He says he has been pleased so far with the way Delucchi has handled the case. The prosecution files court documents officially opposing the defense team’s requests for dual juries and jury sequestering. The papers argue that sequestration is a bad idea “because of the great toll it would take on jurors.” Dave Harris writes, “To keep jurors away from their lives for months on end is not a wise choice.”
February 12 Marijke Rowland reviews The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story in the Modesto Bee, stating that it “seems truth beat fiction to the punch” in this case, with so little information coming from the movie that hasn’t been rehashed time after time elsewhere. The review points out what Sharon Rocha alluded to in an earlier interview about the project: The subtitle is a misnomer, as the film has almost nothing to do with Laci Peterson. “Save for the once-ubiquitous missing posters and a few photographs, Laci Peterson never appears,” Rowland informs. A sidebar to the review contrasts the reality of the case against the artistic license taken in the movie.
February 13 The California Broadcasters Association begins negotiations with San Mateo County government in an effort to overcome the impasse between them and the media over the cost of space rental associated with Scott Peterson’s trial. Mike Nevin expresses optimism that the CBA’s efforts signal the end of what has become a public-relations nightmare for the county. “We’re in business,” he says. “It’s happening. It’s a deal.” Mary McMillan echoes those claims. “It’s all in the hands of lawyers now,” she says. “It’s lawyers talking to lawyers.” The Modesto Bee reports that Jim Brazelton sent a letter to Kamala Harris, requesting that Jim Hammer cease commenting on the Scott Peterson case. USA Network airs the premiere of the much-discussed made-for-television movie, The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story. At one point in the film, the ironic title character utters the ironic line, “The media gets its ratings by making me guilty.” David Bianculli reviews the movie for the New York Daily News, criticizing the exploitative timing: “As a drama, The Perfect Husband isn’t good—and its timing is even worse.”
February 14 The San Mateo County Times reports that the California Broadcasters Association is considering putting up a $11,639 payment to settle the conflict between San Mateo County and media outlets over space rental. The CBA’s Joe Berry is guardedly optimistic that they can bring a deal to closure. “It’s still early,” he says. “We just started talking to San Mateo County. But we’re trying very hard to make this happen.” Berry says he hopes to finalize a deal by the time proceedings resume on February 17, 2004.
February 15 The San Francisco Chronicle again examines the causes of the Laci Peterson phenomenon, with various experts weighing in with their views. The article states that 166,000 visitors have come to the official Laci Peterson web site since its inception.
February 17 Hugh Roddis takes the stand to defend his company’s GPS products from an assault by Scott Peterson’s defense team. Presented with evidence that separate tracking devices showed that Scott Peterson’s vehicle was simultaneously going 24 miles per hour (mph) but showing no motion, Roddis explains, “It’s what we call the Cadillac-on-the-freeway effect,” meaning a vibration sensor might not register movement if a vehicle is riding on a smooth surface, but the companion satellite tracking component will still record forward travel. Rick Distaso, through questioning, allows Roddis to explain that the converse could happen: the vibration sensor could record movement even when a vehicle is stationary. “If the unit is parked and somebody is bouncing up and down on the bumper or something, it might register motion?” he asks, receiving an affirmative reply from Roddis. He also explains how impossibly high recorded speeds (one reportedly at 38,800 mph and one reportedly at 19,442 mph) were simply minor anomalies that could have been caused by something as simple as Scott Peterson parking on a longitudinal and latitudinal line. Roddis explains the high speeds recorded: A glitch can temporarily shift the vehicle’s placement about 60 miles away, causing the unit to use the last known position to calculate the vehicle speed. He says that, within minutes, the system recalculates using the vehicle’s actual position to correct the error. “Both experts found all of the tracks and information valid,” Distaso proclaims, referring to Roddis and Peter Loomis. “One of the two devices malfunctioned and was a total failure, right?” Mark Geragos asks. To this question, Roddis does admit that the tracking device placed on the Land Rover never functioned properly from the time it was placed on January 3, 2003. He suggests the problem could have been with the cellular service provider that transmits data from the device to a remote computer, but notes that the device’s data was retrieved after its antenna was replaced. Other problems, he testifies, were caused by a faulty signal antenna, a data microprocessor that was not plugged in correctly and a map—working in conjunction with the tracking devices—that was used incorrectly. A seemingly increduloous Mark Geragos responds: “And you’re comfortable saying everything’s hunky dory?” Roddis tells Geragos, “This track has all the characteristics of a decent track. It wasn’t something that was generated out of thin air.” Roddis puts the glitches in everyday perspective for the court. “Just because there is a flash on the TV during a movie, that short interference doesn’t make the rest of the movie bad,” he reasons. However, Geragos fires back, “But you could kind of miss the plot, couldn’t you?” Geragos asks Roddis why the Federal Aviation Administration has since 1997 considered using GPS for landing commercial aircraft but has not approved doing so. Roddis replies that changing a system is a complex and lengthy process. “You don’t want to crash a plane by accident,” he says. “Well, you don’t want to kill somebody by accident either,” Geragos fires back. Roddis begins to reply, but Geragos interrupts: “This is a death penalty case.” That remark draws an objection from Distaso. Al Delucchi takes Geragos to task for being “argumentative” in his questioning. Delucchi asks Roddis if correct scientific methodology was followed. “I would believe so. Yes,” Roddis replies. The Modesto Bee later reports that, during questioning, Roddis seems flustered and, at one point, repeatedly rubs his hands through the tufts of hair on the side of his head in apparent frustration. At the end of the day, Delucchi rules that the GPS evidence will be admitted at trial, but that prosecutors must share with Scott Peterson’s defense team the location of the transmitters placed on his vehicles. “I think the generic methodology is generally accepted by the scientific community and fundamentally valid,” he rules. Prosecutors initially argue that the location of transmitters needs to remain a secret so as not to compromise future investigations. Delucchi agrees that the location can be passed to Geragos in chambers and off the record. Concerning the question of whether to admit into evidence the testimony of hypnotized witness Kristen Dempewolf, Geragos argues, “It’s not even a close question—there’s no compliance.” Noting that Dempewolf was hypnotized by the unlicensed Dale Pennington, Geragos scoffs, “At best, it’s almost comical.” He suggests that if one were looking for a “primer on how not to do hypnosis, this was it.” Delucchi agrees, saying the hypnosis she underwent was not conducted in accordance with state law because, not only was Pennington unlicensed, he had law enforcement connections and failed to get a statement on her prehypnotic recollections. Geragos, suggesting that all the unbiased jurors in San Mateo County “will fit in a phone booth,” asks the court to wait until after jury selection begins before ruling on whether or not jurors should be sequestered, saying by doing so, the court would have a better grasp on if potential jurors have already been influenced. The judge suggests that delaying a decision on sequestering would not be fair to jurors. “They ought to be told that upfront,” he states. “How about a young mother with two young children locked up with no TV? That would leave a lot of people saying, ‘Take me out,'” In arguing for two juries, Geragos notes that, since his client is innocent he is not concerned about the penalty phase but only in getting jurors for the guilt phase that will not be pro-prosecution. “I’m not worried about the penalty phase,” he tells Delucchi. “The guilt phase is the whole ball of wax here. We don’t care about the penalty phase because my client is innocent. I don’t give one whit about penalty.” Geragos argues that two juries will actually increase the jury pool and that extra jurors will guard against “stealth jurors” who seem to be open at voir dire, but later turn out to be biased. Delucchi says he will decide before jury selection whether jurors will be sequestered and whether two juries will be seated. “The depth of prejudgment against my client is like nothing I’ve seen in 20 years,” Geragos tells the court. “I’m not even asking for a level playing field. We’re just trying to get into the ballpark and play.” Delucchi consoles Geragos by saying, “I’m going to try my darndest—my very best—that during jury selection, you get a level playing field. I understand the gravity of this offense, and I’m not taking it lightly.” At the end of the day’s proceedings, an optimistic Lee Peterson speaks briefly to reporters, predicting ultimate victory: “It’s going to be a blowout, and my kid is going to walk out of here.” He is accompanied by Susan Caudillo. According to a later article in the Modesto Bee, Geragos receives from the Office of the District Attorney some 800 new pages of discovery. The San Francisco Chronicle releases an article discussing attorneys who are working hard making a name for themselves on the air rather than in the courtroom. In a separate article, the newspaper reports that Grace Won has filed court documents seeking to have Ted Rowlands released from a subpoena in the Scott Peterson case, citing California laws that shield journalists from revealing their sources. “The district attorney’s subpoena runs afoul of the California constitution and evidence code which grant journalists a broadly defined immunity from the compelled disclosure of any unpublished information obtained during the course of gathering and disseminating information to the public,” she writes.
February 18 As Mark Geragos makes his way to the courtroom, he is followed and verbally abused by an unidentified woman who accuses him of representing a murderer. As Geragos enters the courtroom, officers detain the woman, then escort her to a bench in a hall and begin lecturing her. In pretrial proceedings before Al Delucchi, Geragos says that the prosecution is holding back information that could clear his client, including “ten different instances that point to other people who may have committed this crime.” He says that prosecutors have documents showing an “extensive” investigation into four unnamed persons, one of whom reportedly claimed responsibility for Laci Peterson’s death. “All of that material gets dumped on me in the last few days on a piecemeal basis,” he complains. “They have reports of interviews with witnesses that have come from as far back as October that they have just dumped on us.” Rick Distaso suggests that Geragos is resurrecting his theory involving suspicious characters in a brown van. “It’s not the brown van,” Geragos counters. “There is a series of seven witnesses who have a complete separate connection to this.” Asking for the court to intervene, Geragos contends that prosecutors only recently informed him that five suspected blood stains on Scott Peterson’s boat were not human and that hair on duct tape found attached to Laci Peterson’s remains did not belong to her husband. “They have report after report after report of investigations that were taking place in December,” Geragos tells Delucchi. “These items are negative for my client. I’ve got pages upon pages of hair comparisons that exclude my client at every single point.” He argues that he has just received some 800 pages of new reports, and without further evidence in hand, he will not have time to prepare for the trial. “I want all the discovery now. I don’t want to play these games any more,” he says. “Why can’t I have everything generated in 2003 before I go to trial in this case?” Dave Harris argues that the information in question consists largely of notes by laboratory technicians and other witnesses and that none of it clears Scott Peterson. “There isn’t anything exculpatory in there because there is no connection between that work and this particular case,” Dave Harris reasons. He states that the prosecution is working with the Department of Justice and the FBI to turn over the reports to the defense team. “We’re doing the best we can,” he says. “We’re going up the chain and saying, “You need to get this done.'” Delucchi admonishes prosecutors, saying, “We’ve got to be ready for trial when the time comes.” He also threatens to delay the trial. “You can’t wait for the last minute before we start picking the jury,” he warns. “I was under the impression that this case is ready for trial and if it’s not, I’m going to have to grant Mr. Geragos a continuance.” Delucchi acknowledges that he is “bothered” that he still has to deal with evidence-sharing issues, and orders both sides to work out a suitable arrangement. “I’m going to have to arbitrarily pick a date and any evidence not presented by then is not getting into the trial, period,” he states. “We can’t do this piecemeal.” He instructs prosecutors, “You’re going to have to get these guys on the ball and get that stuff to Mr. Geragos.” When Geragos suggests that a continuance may mean he then gets entangled in his other cases, though, Deluchhi warns him, “You ain’t going anywhere,” adding jokingly that “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” The defense also complains about prosecutors now adding an obstetrician to an already lengthy witness list. Steve Jacobson, wearing a western-style blazer and carrying a black cowboy hat, testifies that his agents did not record many calls that weren’t related to the case. He say that Scott Peterson made or received more than 3,800 calls during the time the wiretaps were authorized, including 76 calls between him and Kirk McAllister or Gary Ermoian that were not given to prosecutors. Geragos states that 69 of those 76 privileged calls were recorded after an order specifically instructing investigators against monitoring them. Jacobson says that investigators did not violate that order. “No calls between Peterson and his attorney were listened to in their entirety,” he explains. “Two calls were spot-checked.” Jacobson explains wiretapping procedures in detail to the court, stating that he reported on the wiretaps to Wray Ladine and Distaso every three days, but did so without a court reporter present. Geragos on more than one occasion demands that Distaso be called to testify about the conversations, but Delucchi twice shoots down the idea. Geragos asks to hear the 76 recorded conversations his client had with Kirk McAllister. Delucchi then calls a recess at 11:02 a.m. and leaves the courtroom with Jacobson, Scott Peterson and his defense attorneys to listen to recordings of the monitored calls challenged by Geragos—beginning what the San Mateo County Times will later say was a meeting “characterized…as a possible 40-minute closed session” that will end up lasting nearly two full days. The group comes out of the judge’s chambers after lunch. At this point, attorneys on both sides meet with Delucchi behind closed doors. Attorneys from boths sides then meet privately before again joining Delucchi in his chambers. At 3:52 p.m., the judge announces that the session will not reconvene until the next day. Lee Peterson is again accompanied to court only by Susan Caudillo. He reports that Jackie Peterson is “a little ill.” An anonymous woman in Atwater is questioned by Det. Ray Coyle, who asks about her whereabouts on December 31, 2002. She shows pay stubs indicating that she was working in Texas at the time of Laci Peterson’s disappearance. Coyle asks her if she will take a polygraph test. She replies that she will. He tells her that hers is one of about 300 names he is following up on. Upholding Delucchi’s February 2, 2004, decision, The First District Court of Appeal turns down an appeal by attorneys for a group of broadcast networks, who were seeking to have cameras admitted to the courtroom for Scott Peterson’s trial.
February 19 Defense attorneys meet with Al Delucchi in his chambers, presumably discussing the wiretap issue. After about 45 minutes, Steve Jacobson and prosecuting attorneys are summoned to join the discussions. Jacobson admits concerning Amber Frey that he is “suspicious of her cooperation.” The group emerges into the courtroom just long enough for Delucchi to adjourn for the day and announce that testimony will not resume until the following week. New documents entered into evidence show that Scott Peterson returned to the Berkeley Marina area at least five times after his wife was reported missing, including two visits—on January 26 and January 27, 2003—previously undisclosed during the preliminary hearing. The media seizes on these revelations as damaging to Scott Peterson’s case, noting that Mark Geragos had defended his client’s other three San Francisco Bay trips by noting that the Modesto Bee had reported search efforts in progress at the time—a fact not in evidence during the later trips. The Modesto Bee reports that Geragos is unavailable for comment and that John Goold declines. “For me to draw any conclusions, I’d be commenting on the evidence,” he says. Goold is also asked about reports that Det. Ray Coyle questioned an Atwater woman in connection with the Laci Peterson case. “I’m sure if there still is remaining investigation to do, they’re going to be out there doing it,” he replies. “If they stop, the defense will complain that they stopped.” A man calling himself “Citizen Q” comes across a blue tarp by the Albany Bulb—a finding that he will later send to Al Delucchi and proclaim as being possible evidence in the Laci Peterson case.
February 20 In an article entitled “Police Pursuing Peterson Leads,” the Modesto Bee reports that an unidentified Atwater woman has recently been questioned by police investigators, an revelation that fuels speculation that the Modesto Police Department is reacting to Mark Geragos, who berated authorities for withholding information that he said could clear Scott Peterson.
February 21 The Boston Globe releases an article on the Scott Peterson case, focusing largely on the influx of media and how Redwood City is dealing with it. In the article, Anne LeClair states, “The circumstances surrounding this trial are tragic, and we want everyone to know we’re a compassionate county.” She reiterates her denials about having campaigned to have the case moved to San Mateo County, saying that she merely provided Al Girolami with materials “anticipating the fact that he probably needed help” in making his decision. She is also quoted as urging businesses to demonstrate “generosity and hospitality, and not take part in any price gouging.” Concerning the some 400 journalists who have applied for credentials, Bronwyn Hogan states, “They are certainly entitled to be here.” But she indicates the excitement could wear thin. “You get sick and tired of chocolate, too—if you have too much of it,” she adds.
February 22 In a slow news day for the Scott Peterson case, there are several related articles. The Contra Costa Times runs a lengthy piece concerning the parallels between the Laci Peterson case and the murder of Alice Sin. The article features a quote from her friend Mimi Shum and an interview with Alice Sin’s father, Wah Sin. The article states that the elder Sin has temporary custody of the grandson fathered by his slain daughter’s former lover, Raymond Wong, now in prison on other charges but considered a suspect in the murder. “I do not call him Raymond Wong Jr.,” Wah Sin says about the boy. “I call him Billy.” He says he is worried the boy’s father will seek custody once he is released from prison. In response, Raymond Wong’s attorney, Arthur Wachtel, says that his client, “like any father, is going to do what’s in the best interests of his son.” The central theme of the story is the question of why there has been no arrest in the case. In the article, Pinole Police Department Commander John Miner says the case is still being worked, but was delayed because of confusion over which jurisdiction would handle it: Pinole, or Churchill County, Nevada, where Alice Sin’s body was found. Churchill County district attorney Arthur Mallory disputes Miner’s assessment, saying, “There was never any time they said to us, ‘This is your case,’ The only thing we had here was the body. All the planning, the possible forced abduction, the possible murder, all those things very easily happened in California. We were under the impression from the beginning that Contra Costa County was going to take the case.” Contra Costa County deputy district attorney Harold Jewitt confirms he sent the case back to the police in April 2003 for further investigation. Halfway across the country, the Moline Dispatch runs an article about Jone Knapton, who disappeared July 4, 2003, and had her partial remains recovered 6 days later. It is a case that the victim’s sister, Lisa Mickelson, says mirrors the Laci Peterson case, with “the exact same crime, regardless of who did it, detail by detail,” yet with two important differences: no suspect in custody and concern that the case will be forgotten: “People in Illinois know who Laci Peterson is,” Mickelson says. “Do people in California know who Jone Knapton is? No! I want the whole world to know what happened to her.” The Modesto Bee again profiles followers of the Laci Peterson case in an article entitled “The Real Thing Is Hard to Resist.” The Los Angeles Daily News releases a column by television writer Joseph Honig entitled “U.S. Turns to Our State for Perry Mason.” In the piece, Honig writes, “When it comes to courtroom theatrics, California is Spielberg with a gavel.”
February 23 Rick Distaso files a 10-page document opposing the motion by Mark Geragos to have Scott Peterson’s media interviews excluded from evidence. The interviews are important, Distaso writes, because they show Scott Peterson as a habitual liar whose relationship with Amber Frey and the lies he told to deflect blame from himself pointed to his guilt. “The defendant’s statements concerning Amber Frey support motive for the murder,” Distaso writes, pointing out that the defendant made “numerous admissions that evidence his guilt.” Distaso suggests that Scott Peterson lied not only about his affair with Amber Frey but, even after being forced to admit that particular relationship, continued to lie by saying it was the only time he had been involved in adultery, when in fact, he “had at least one other affair with a woman early in his and Laci’s marriage.” In the filing, Distaso states that Scott Peterson also lied about a large item wrapped in a blue tarp that he carried from his house, and that this was part of how he “covered up the murder.” The filing also suggests that evidence at the Tradecorp Warehouse did not match Scott Peterson’s explanation to a television reporter regarding cement work at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, adding that prosecutors intend to call a petrographer at trial to prove that that the cement rings from the warehouse do not match samples from the home. The document also suggests that prosecutors will call witnesses to testify that Laci Peterson did not walk McKenzie after late November 2002, conflicting with Scott Peterson’s suggestions that his wife continued her regular walks. Distaso writes that Scott Peterson lied when he led Diane Sawyer and a television audience to believe he was unable even to open the door to Conner Peterson’s nursery until the boy could be brought home safely—investigators claimed the nursery had been converted into a storage room when they searched the home on February 18, 2003. “Here, some parts of the people’s case is circumstantial,” Distaso states. “Therefore each piece of evidence is important in order for the people to present their case.” Another key to a consciousness of guilt, prosecutors say, is Scott Peterson’s use of past tense, quickly correcting himself, when speaking about his missing wife (“She was—is amazing”) and child (“That was…it’s so hard.”). The prosecution’s bottom line: Scott Peterson, in his interviews, “presents himself, quite strongly, as someone who is lying about his involvement in Laci’s disappearance.” Al Delucchi continues to meet with prosecuting and defense attorneys and investigators involved in the wiretaps of Scott Peterson’s telephones. Steve Hoek and Jesse Tovar meet with the judge in chambers, but leave in the morning without comment to the media. Delucchi rules that Wray Ladine will not be forced to testify. “The court is satisfied that to require Judge Ladine to testify would be contrary to public policy,” he states, noting that judges issue thousands of warrants for things like wiretaps and searches, without recording related meetings. A potential jury questionnaire is the topic of discussion. It is 20 pages long and has 126 questions, hashed out by the judge and attorneys on both sides. Delucchi strikes out more than two pages of questions, including one asking, “Would you like to be a juror in this case?” about which he jokes, “We’d get 99 no’s, so it really doesn’t matter.” In addition to standard background queries about age, ethnicity and hometown, there are questions about what Web sites are typically accessed, what sections of the newspaper are read first, whether The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story has been seen, the number of marriages, the number of divorces, whether a child has been lost, gun ownership, the death penalty, whether one’s religion would be a prohibition to sitting in judgment of another—even a question about the bumper stickers on one’s vehicle. In light of the case against Scott Peterson being circumstantial, the prosecution wants to know about jurors’ perceived ability to give the same weight to circumstantial and direct evidence. There are even questions about the National Enquirer. One of the questions to which Distaso objects involves whether one considers those who have had extramarital affairs “bad people,” arguing that the phrase is vague. “Bad people? What does that mean?” he asks. “Bad moral people? Bad character people?” The defense then agrees to modify the question to read, “Do you have an opinion about any person in an extramarital affair, yes or no. If yes, explain.” Delucchi says he will give prosecutors another chance to add questions the following day. Delucchi predicts that potential jurors may be brought in as soon as March 1, 2004. He gives tentative approval to include questions about jurors’ positions on the death penalty. “I’m assuming that the court is going to deny the motion for separate juries,” Geragos says. “If that is the case, I’m trying to do anything possible to mitigate the problem.” Distaso predicts the prosecution will call about 150 of the more than 400 names on their witness list. When asked if he was going to provide the court with a witness list, Geragos says, “Probably.” At 7:00 p.m., the Redwood City Council meets at City Hall and discusses the parking management plan for the Scott Peterson trial. Although government fees to the media have been lowered since the initial outcry, Rochelle Wilcox is present argue that the council should not expect one group—television stations—to cover the costs of the high-profile trial. The statement is offensive to council member Rosanne Foust. “It fries me, with the size of your organizations, that I have to sit here and debate this,” she fumes. The San Francisco Chronicle releases and article about how Modesto has returned to “business as usual” since the Scott Peterson trial left town. In the article, Mike Tozzi states that he does not miss the hoopla, calling the Laci Peterson case “another death penalty case” despite the national attention. “That’s all it was,” he says. “As sad as the circumstances were.”
February 24 Janey Peterson characterizes as “outright lies” two contentions of the prosecution: Laci Peterson quit her regular walks in late November 2002 and Scott Peterson converted Conner Peterson’s nursery into a storage room long before his body was found. Lee Peterson also blasts the prosecution’s tactics. “They’ve raised lying to a high art, and I’m going to get in trouble for that, but I don’t give a damn.” Also in attendance for the day’s proceedings are Shepard Kopp at the defense table and Jim Brazelton, seated next to Sharon Rocha, Ron Grantski and Brent Rocha. Reacting to the previous day’s formal accusations that Scott Peterson was a liar, Mark Geragos says the statements in the prosecution’s document were themselves mostly untrue. During a heated exchange before Al Delucchi, Geragos calls the prosecution’s filing “scurrilous,” “replete with…out-and-out falsehoods” and “done in bad faith.” Although not specifying what parts of the document were false, he furiously contends there was only one point of the filing: to pollute the jury pool. “It was designed to get headlines,” he fumes, waving newspapers to help prove his argument. “There’s something completely wrong with what they did,” he contends. “It looked like it was something right out of the National Enquirer.” Distaso denies acting in bad faith, stating that the claims made in the filing will be proven during Scott Peterson’s trial. “I had to respond to the motion filed by Mr. Geragos,” Distaso tells the judge. “I will prove that he did it in bad faith,” Geragos boasts. “He knows demonstrably that 70 percent in there is not true.” Distaso begins a counteroffensive. “That is not true,” he fires back. “I can’t sit here and be called—” At this point, Delucchi interrupts and tries to calm the two attorneys. He says he must presume that the prosecution will attempt to prove each point in the filing during trial. Distaso nods in agreement. “I’m not accusing the prosecution of acting in bad faith,” Delucchi says. “I am,” Geragos fires back, threatening to “play tit for tat” by filing similar inflammatory motions. Delucchi then rules that drafts of future motions and other legal papers will have to be reviewed from the bench before being filed publicly “so we don’t pollute the potential jury pool.” Cindee Valentin takes the stand and is grilled by Pat Harris, who gets her to admit that a search test failed when Merlin was unable to find the Tradecorp Warehouse when dropped off only about a block away, instead showing interest in a storage yard that was presumably not related to the case. “Does this mean the purpose of the search has failed?” Pat Harris asks Valentin. “I don’t know what you mean by purpose of the search,” she replies. “You didn’t find the warehouse, did you?” he responds. “In fact, he found a storage yard in the opposite direction, so the test failed, didn’t it?” Valentin admits it did with a one-word reply: “Yes.” Taking a jab at the apparent ineffectiveness of the trailing dog, Pat Harris jokingly asks, “He hit more spots than Paris Hilton on a Saturday night, didn’t he?” The remark draws gasps and laughs from spectators. Valentin also acknowledges that Al Brocchini called off a December 26, 2002, search even though Merlin appeared to her to be accurately following Laci Peterson’s scent. “In spite of the fact a missing woman is out there whose scent is out there, Detective Brocchini made the decision not to track it?” Pat Harris asks. Again, Valentin replies, “Yes.” She seems to further damage the prosecution’s case by admitting that she did not remember changing rubber gloves after collecting Laci Peterson’s possessions and before collecting a brown slipper belonging to Scott Peterson, thereby admitting that she possibly contaminated scents she later provided to Merlin. Although testifying that the dog’s body language suggested the victim left the home in a vehicle, she admits under cross-examination that she has never testified as an expert about dogs trailing subjects in vehicles, and that only three of Merlin’s estimated 300 training runs involved trailing persons in a vehicle. Valentin testifies that Merlin followed a scent from sunglasses taken from Laci Peterson’s purse, following that scent west onto Highland Drive, down a driveway and into the back yard of a home sitting diagonally from the back of the Scott and Laci Peterson’s residence. That path raises a question from Pat Harris. “You didn’t see tire tracks going into the back yard at Highland?” he asks. Valentin explains that a “scent pool” wafting over the fence from the Scott and Laci Peterson residence could have been the reason for the dog’s interest there. Valentin describes the path of the dog on December 26, 2002: down Santa Barbara Avenue to La Loma Avenue, to Yosemite Boulevard, to Santa Rosa Avenue. She states that, near the intersection of Yosemite Boulevard and Santa Rosa Avenue, Merlin indicated that the strength of the scent had waned. “He was showing me that he really didn’t have anything,” she says. This statement apparently prompts Geragos to put his head in his hand and shake it in disbelief, an action he repeats several times during Valentin’s testimony. Valentin further testifies that Merlin went up to locked gates at E&J Gallo Winery, where she asked permission to enter and continue searching. “You have no way of knowing on this Earth that the scent picked up was Laci Peterson, do you?” Pat Harris asks her. “Do you have any evidence you would like to share with this court that Laci Peterson was at the Gallo winery?” Valentin says that she does not. She does say that Merlin was able to pick up Laci Peterson’s scent from the Tradecorp Warehouse and follow it out to California Highway 132. She also testifies that, in a January 3, 2003, search, the scent was picked up on that same highway and followed to Interstate 580. Pat Harris asks her if she was told by Det. Al Brocchini that Scott Peterson was a suspect. “He didn’t say that in so many words,” she replies. “But I figured it out.” In a poignant moment, Dave Harris asks her whether it would have mattered if the dog had been able to find Laci Peterson, Valentin replies, “It would matter to the family,” prompting a tearful response from Sharon Rocha. Valentin confirms to the court that it is her opinion that she was following the scent of Laci Peterson in a vehicle, but acknowledged that she was never instructed to seek Laci Peterson’s scent in East La Loma Park, where Scott Peterson told investigators she may have walked McKenzie the morning she disappeared. She states that Scott Peterson became agitated, which struck her as odd given that she was there to help. “His tone was objectional to the fact that I had a slipper belonging to him,” she says. “My impression was that I’m looking for his lost wife, so his tone threw me—it wasn’t a tone that seemed like he wanted to do everything to find his wife. His tone was more, ‘That’s mine.'” That remark brings a quick objection from the defense, and Delucchi orders the comment stricken from the record. Potentially damaging to the defense is her testimony that Merlin tracked Laci Peterson’s scent 20 miles from the Tradecorp Warehouse to Interstate 580, frequently running to the center of the roadway to sniff the road reflectors—indicating she was traveling by car—and that another dog handler picked up Scott Peterson’s scent traveling the same route. During a break, Brazelton speaks briefly to Geragos.
February 25 Eloise Anderson takes the stand, telling the court that trailing dog Trimble picked up on Laci Peterson’s scent at the Berkeley Marina on December 28, 2002, just four days after she was reported missing. Shep Kopp suggests contamination may have been at work. “Wouldn’t you want to assure yourself that Scott Peterson’s scent wasn’t on the article?” he questions, asking if she had inquired as to whether Scott Peterson had handled the glasses. Anderson replies that she had not. She testifies that, in a separate search conducted on December 27, 2002, she took the cadaver dog Twist to the Tradecorp Warehouse and Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. She says that Twist twice led her to a bathroom located at the back of the Tradecorp Warehouse. At the home, she says, the dog led her to a storage shed behind the house, three times pinpointing a particular location where a can of fertilizer, a blue tarp and a lawnmower had been stored. Al Delucchi says he expects jury selection to be delayed until March 4, 2004, when the first 200 potential jurors will be brought in. The prosecution subpoenas Modesto Bee photographer Bart Ah You, but after hearing from Karl Olson, agrees to wait and see if the defense accepts the authenticity of the photographs without You’s testimony. Roger Beauchesne rules that Scott Peterson is free to sell his story for profit, but calls the ruling tentative and gives Adam Stewart 20 days to return to court with stronger arguments. “It’s a minor setback to victims’ rights, but it’s certainly not the final word on the issue,” Stewart says. “It’s not a complete victory, and it’s not a complete loss.” The ruling is a blow to Sharon Rocha, who had asked the court to keep any such payments in a trust account until a jury returns a verdict in Scott Peterson’s trial. Matt Geragos, representing Scott Peterson in the civil case, neither confirms nor denies that his client is working on a deal, but contends he does have the legal right to do so—even if convicted. He tells reporters the ruling is not unexpected because the suit was based on California’s so-called “Son of Sam” law, found to be unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court. He also suggests Sharon Rocha’s effort is premature, even though it seemed timed to the former statute of limitations on a wrongful death suit. “There’s not even a conviction,” he notes. Stewart says he is relying on a part of the law that was not struck down, and contends Scott Peterson can still be prohibited from selling any property and possessions. Stewart promises an appeal to the Fifth District Court of Appeal if he loses the case before Beauchesne.
February 26 The U.S. House of Representatives passes, in a 254-163, vote the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, dubbed “Laci and Conner’s Law.” Sharon Rocha makes a videotaped plea before the U.S. Senate to follow suit. Mark Geragos and Dave Harris argue before Al Delucchi concerning two motions filed by the defense team, to sequester the jury and to have a separate jury for the penalty phase. Dave Harris suggests that a simple admonishment from the bench will be enough to keep jurors from discussing the case or seeking out media reports about it. Geragos blasts that recommendation. “There’s almost a childlike belief that that is going to work,” he says. “I’ll bet you, within 72 hours, the jurors names will be on the Internet. Some very clever person on the Internet will have complete listing of those jurors’ occupation, marital status, tax status—everything will be available.” He predicts that information will be used by “fringe elements” of the media to hound jurors. “I’ll guarantee you’ll have some radio station with some disc jockey with some bullhorn harassing them when they leave,” he says—a not-too-subtle reference to KFI’s John Kobylt and Kenneth Chiampou. Delucchi counters that sequestering a jury is problematic in an age of cellular phones and is a strain on jurors. “You have a valid concern,” he tells Geragos. “But if I was to tell people you can’t see your loved ones for five months, you can’t watch television, you can’t listen to the radio, you’re going to be locked away in a hotel somewhere…it could have a negative effect on people, who could get resentful that they’ve been locked up.” In a blow to Scott Peterson’s defense team, the judge rules that the jury will not be sequestered. “The jury will be permitted to go home every night with an admonishment, and we’ll see what happens,” the judge says. He admits it is not a perfect solution, and suggests that family, friends and neighbors will still ask jurors about the case. “The only place were we could guarantee this wouldn’t happen is if we park the jury on Mars,” he says. Geragos argues that getting a qualified jury for a capital case will be tedious. “I’m guessing that there will be 30 to 40 percent of the potential jurors against the death penalty out of every 100 you bring in,” he tells Delucchi. “At that rate, you’ll be selecting jurors from here to eternity.” He predicts that “40 to 45 percent are going to be eliminated for no good reason—that reason is that they’re opposed to the death penalty,” adding, “By the time we’re done, we’ll call the whole county of San Mateo.” Dave Harris contends that the defense argument for two juries—to avoid seating an inherently pro-prosecution jury—is based on inaccurate social research, and asks the judge to reject the plea. “They’re asking you not only to reject the U.S. Supreme Court, but to do it with research that is flawed,” he tells Delucchi. “The argument is clear: There should be one jury—that’s the law.” Giving Geragos a virtual pat on the head, Dave Harris tells Delucchi, “Counsel’s impassioned speech is nice, but it’s impractical.” Delucchi echoes the prosecution’s sentiments, saying, “The Supreme Court is not impressed with that argument, Mr. Geragos.” But Geragos fights back. “The Supreme Court was not impressed with the argument to not execute mentally retarded people, and they changed on a dime,” he tells the judge. “All I’m asking is give us a fair trial.” Again, Geragos proclaims his client’s innocence. “Once the evidence gets in this courtroom with a fair jury, he’s going to be acquitted because he’s innocent,” Geragos tells the judge. “I’m just trying to level the playing field,” Geragos says. Referring to Scott Peterson, he says, “This gentleman beside me is fighting with one hand tied behind his back.” Nevertheless, in a double defeat for Geragos, Delucchi also rules against having two juries. “I’m not persuaded by that argument that we can’t have a fair trial without two juries,” he says. “I do believe there is enough of a well of potential jurors in this case that we can seat a fair and impartial jury.” He explains that, “with two juries, we’d still have the same problem, and it would be compounded by the fact that the defendant was already found guilty.” Capt. Christopher Boyer takes the stand and testifies that one dog seeking Laci Peterson’s scent at the Berkeley Marina came up with nothing, yet on the same day—December 28, 2002—another dog alerted. The admission seems to help the defense team’s argument that at least one of the items used by dog handlers, sunglasses belonging to Laci Peterson, may have become contaminated through improper handling—either because they were handled by Scott Peterson or because Cindee Valentin neglected to change rubber gloves after handling an item belonging to him. Boyer states that Ron Seitz, the dog handler who found nothing, had been assigned from a state agency and was not under his direct command. Boyer testifies that he did not ask him to write a report about the lack of findings. “I can’t tell him to write a report for that,” Boyer says. Seitz used a pink slipper to provide Laci Peterson’s scent to his dog, then searched for about 10 or 15 minutes by the marina launch ramp, Boyer says. He then reads the notes Seitz filed on January 3, 2003, with the California Rescue Dog Association. Eloise Anderson’s dog did alert at the marina, Boyer says, recalling that she told him her dog “alerted as much as a trailing dog can at that point,” meaning that, because the dog was at the end of a pier, “They couldn’t go any farther.” Under questioning, Pat Harris gets Boyer to concede that scent-trailing techniques are not hard science. “There is no way to accurately, scientifically know if that trail is what they’re looking for,” Harris contends. “There is if they come up with the subject at the end of the trail,” Boyer replies. “And if they do not come up with the subject at the end of their trail?” Harris asks. “No, sir, scientifically, there isn’t,” Boyer answers. “This isn’t science, is it?” Harris asks. “No, sir,” Boyer confesses. “It’s art.”
February 27 Prosecutors file wiretap documents as evidence, revealing the previously unknown fact that Lee Peterson and Amber Frey were listed in January 2003 as “target subjects” and possible “co-conspirators” with Scott Peterson in the murder of Laci Peterson. The documents do not offer any evidence that authorities proceeded to tap the telephones of the defendant’s father and former mistress, and the instructions were apparently amended to exclude the two just five days later. John Goold, contacted by reporters, says he cannot say why Lee Peterson and Amber Frey may have been listed. Lee Peterson says he is not surprised that authorities were suspicious of him, but was “surprised it was for only five days.” Gloria Allred states that her “heart missed a beat” to hear authorities label her client with such terms, and admits being confused about the timing. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” she says, noting that Amber Frey had called the Modesto Police Department on December 30, 2002, immediately agreed to cooperate with their investigation and was completely cooperative in every way since that time. “If, in fact, her name was crossed out, someone perhaps understood what her true role was and made the correction,” Allred reasons. “That’s logical.” She speculates that the inclusion of her client was simply an oversight, as detectives “had a lot to be dealing with at that crucial time.”
February 28 The Modesto Bee releases an article covering the previous day’s revelation that Lee Peterson and Amber Frey were listed in wiretap documents.
February 29 The San Francisco Chronicle releases an article about jury selection in the Scott Peterson case, with experts Bill Fazio, Karen Fleming, Peter Keane and Jim Collins weighing in. The San Jose Mercury News runs a similar article, with commentary from experts and San Mateo County residents. That article’s sarcastic opening paragraph reads: “To get on the Scott Peterson jury, you have to support the death penalty and be independently wealthy or have a boss who will pay your salary through the 6-month trial. And it would help if you’ve lived in a cave for the past year.” The story states that the jury questionnaire stands at 127 questions, asking jurors to name their favorite cable television program and whether or not they have pets. It also states that Al Delucchi is expecting a mass exodus for hardship, based on the estimated length of the trial and the pay for jurors in San Mateo County running at a paltry $15 per day. The article estimates about half of prospective jurors will be disqualified for hardship and another 40 percent will be dismissed for prejudice. Others, the story states, may be excused because of opposition to the death penalty. The story quotes Mark Geragos speculating on who might be left to serve. “People are going to flee out of here with every excuse in the world,” he says. “Everyone else will probably have an agenda.”