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#19) March 2004

Laci Peterson Case Information:

When: March 2004

 

March 1 In the morning, Al Delucchi meets with attorneys behind closed doors, questioning Kevin Clements and Mike Murman separately about wiretap technology. Some media outlets report that Clements and Murman are testifying for the defense, but later press releases issued by Murman and Pen-Link Ltd. deny that presumption, saying that the defense team merely exercised its option to call them as expert witnesses after the prosecution did not. The announcement that private meetings would continue brings apparent groans of frustration from reporters and observers. “We should be done hopefully this morning with testimony” Delucchi says about the meetings, “but we’ll see.” Brent Rocha and Ron Grantski are in the courtroom, apparently the only members from the Rocha family or the Peterson family to attend the hearing. During the private meetings, Scott Peterson, wearing a tan suit and blue shirt, sits alone at the defense table for long stretches, looking through documents or staring straight ahead. About noon, Clements and Murman depart, and a bailiff announces that court will resume at 1:30 p.m. Clements and Murman complete their testimony by 3:00 p.m. Delucchi says he will have a ruling the following day concerning the admissibility of wiretap and trailing-dog evidence, and stated that jurors will be shown autopsy pictures of Laci and Conner Peterson. “I’ve never seen a murder case where photographs of the decedent are going to be pleasant,” he says, adding that he will address the issue when giving jury instructions. Late in the day, Delucchi and attorneys from both sides work quickly to finalize the jury questionnaire. Delucchi goes page by page through the form, asking attorneys from each side if they have an objection to any question on a page. One key revision: Allowing potential jurors to state they need more information before deciding Scott Peterson’s innocence or guilt, rather than choosing between guilty and not guilty. The San Mateo County Times releases an article entitled “Showman vs. Smalltown Golden Boy,” which contrasts the styles and careers of Mark Geragos and Rick Distaso. “Watching Geragos and Distaso at work in one of the most sensational capital murder trials in recent history is a study in opposites,” the article states. “Though they went to law school at Loyola Marymount, they seem to have come from different worlds.”

March 2 Mark Geragos drops previous requests that Al Delucchi sanction investigators for having monitored privileged phone conversations between Scott Peterson and his defense team, instead arguing that the wiretaps should not have been allowed at all. Delucchi rules to admit wiretap evidence into trial, saying that investigators followed proper procedures when monitoring Scott Peterson’s calls and that any privileged information they heard was “so minimal as to be of no consequence.” Geragos chooses not to call the defense team’s expert witness on dog trailing, Andrew Rebmond. Instead, he argues alone against the process, calling it the work of “complete voodoo” and noting that it has rarely been upheld on appeal. “If you let this in, it is the worst speculation in a capital case,” Geragos tells the court. “You might as well just play ‘pin the tail on the donkey.'” Concerning one dog’s following of a trail to the E&J Gallo Winery, Geragos sardonically suggested, “It could have been scenting the cabernet.” He warns Delucchi that admitting the dog-trailing evidence could be grounds for a reversal of a conviction on appeal. Dave Harris says that dog trailing is an accepted police technique, arguing that the proof of its effectiveness in this case is apparent in that the dogs trailed the victim’s scent for some 85 miles, ending up at a body of water where her body was later found. “That’s a long way for the dogs to go,” he remarks. “And they seem to have made it in the right direction where Laci Peterson ultimately ended up.” In the only evidentiary victory so far for the defense, Delucchi rules to exclude some of the dog-trailing evidence. He allows only the evidence that Laci Peterson’s scent was picked up at the Berkeley Marina, a finding that could be backed up by the discovery of her body on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. The judge notes that the trailing dog, Trimble, has been state-certified in the ability to pick up 4-day-old trails. “That is sufficient,” he says. “Plus, the defendant admits he went to the marina,” noting that dog trailing must be corroborated by other evidence to pass muster in court. The judge says jurors will have to determine the significance of the evidence in the case. “The inference that the jury can draw was that Mrs. Peterson was at the marina on or about the date she disappeared,” he says. Delucchi further states that allowing the other dog-trailing evidence would “inject a cancer” into the trial. “I’m not persuaded that any evidence in and around Modesto can be sufficiently corroborated,” he rules. He notes that “you can’t cross-examine a dog,” making the majority of their findings too “iffy” to be brought in at trial. Delucchi says he will wait until the following week to decide if prosecutors can show the jury four television interviews Scott Peterson gave. The judge adds that he is disappointed that the evidentiary issues could not be settled prior to the beginning of jury selection. “Let’s tidy this up and not waste the jurors’ time,” he directs. The judge and attorneys agree to a final juror questionnaire. Court officials designate the Bee newspapers to coordinate a rotating pool of reporters from several newspapers who will be in the courtroom during jury selection. Sharon Rocha, Ron Grantski and Brent Rocha smile and speak with prosecutors while leaving the courtroom. After the hearing, Lee Peterson says the rulings went as expected. “There was nothing damaging,” he tells reporters. Pen-Link Ltd. issues a press release clarifying that company representative Kevin Clements and company president Mike Murman were not testifying on behalf of Scott Peterson’s team, saying that the defense merely exercised their option to call them as expert witnesses when the prosecution did not. The release states concerning Delucchi’s decision to admit wiretap evidence into trial, “Mr. Murman and Dr. Clements are extremely pleased with this ruling.”

March 4 San Mateo County begins renting from KMart 300 parking spaces at the daily rate of $2.00 per vehicle. Called to the court are the first two rounds of potential jurors, a morning group and an afternoon group. As the first group of 98 (54 women and 44 men) enters the courtroom, Al Delucchi introduces the court staff and attorneys Mark Geragos, Pat Harris, Rick Distaso and Dave Harris. The judge then introduces the defendant to them. “This is Mr. Peterson,” he says simply. Scott Peterson, wearing a tan suit, stands at the defense table and turns partially toward the majority of potential jurors. “Hello,” he says with a slight smile. “Good morning to you.” Also in the courtroom is Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, but notably absent are members of the Rocha and Peterson families, who earlier agreed with Delucchi to skip the first part of jury selection to free seats for prospective jurors. Reportedly, the group ranges in age from young adults to the elderly, but most appear to be middle-aged or older. The group is predominantly white, but with several Asians, a few Latinos and some other ethnic groups represented. There is one apparently African American woman, described in the Modesto Bee as “middle-aged.” Two who were called do not show up. A later account in the Modesto Bee says that the group seems “to represent a relatively broad social and economic cross section.” Although many prospective jurors arrive wearing suits, the pool includes what the San Mateo County Times will later call “a colorful cast of characters.” Members of the group are identified in court only by numbers—part of the court’s effort to shield them from the media, and carry index cards with numbers to identify themselves. Only one newspaper journalist is present—a Bee reporter—owing to the previous day’s decision to have a rotating pool of reporters from several newspapers. The judge warns the group that selected jurors will “be asked to look at some very graphic photographs.” He also reminds them that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and that they could not count it against him if he does not testify in his own defense. “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people like to fool the judge in a case like this,” the judge notes in reference to the expected length of the trial: 5 to 6 months. “If you have a weak or lame excuse, you’re not going to get excused,” he warns. Delucchi’s definition of “hardship” seems broad, but he says he will ask for proof. “If you’re going on a cruise, I want to see your cruise ticket,” he informs the group. He also tells potential jurors they will not be sequestered and speaks about the extensive publicity surrounding the case. “You’ll be able to go home every night,” he promises. “But something comes with that. It’s a warning. Unless you’ve been on Mars, you all know this particular case has had a lot of media coverage.” He then warns them against discussing the case. “You have to scrupulously adhere to this admonition,” he instructs. “I can’t hermetically seal you somewhere and protect you from society. You’re going to get approached…and you have to tell them, ‘I can’t discuss this case.'” Noting the personal nature of many questionnaire topics, Delucchi tells the potential jurors that they will not be asked whether or not they have had an affair. “I doubt if anyone would answer that honestly,” he says, eliciting laughter. “I don’t know if I would,” he remarks, then quickly adds, “I’m not saying that I’ve had an affair.” Delucchi acknowledges that some of the questions may seem senseless or be uncomfortable to answer, but tells the group that the answers are important to ensure a fair jury is seated. “I want you to humor us for a while and answer these questions,” he says. According to the judge’s instructions, potential jurors will be questioned by attorneys out of earshot of other candidates. “We want to know whether or not your mind has been so polluted by what you’ve heard in the press or read in the media that you can’t serve,” Delucchi states. “You have two choices if we get to the penalty phase,” he explains. “The first is life without the possibility of parole. That means Mr. Peterson will spend the rest of his life in prison and never get out.” He then tells them that, if they are to serve on the jury, they must be able to come back with a sentence of death if it is warranted. “If you decide death, you must be willing to accept that he will die.” He adds, “I know it’s difficult to make the tremendous decision we’ve asked you to make.” The judge concludes his instructions after about an hour. Then, at about 10:40 a.m., potential jurors are handed clipboards and pens and begin filling out the extensive questionnaire. After the questionnaires are completed, more than two dozen jurors are asked to meet with Delucchi in his chambers, probably to explain any hardships. Those who need to bring documentation for dismissal are asked to bring their proof the following week. The afternoon group of 99 (47 women and 52 men) enters the courtroom after lunch. By the end of the day, no jurors are seated, but some are dismissed for hardship. The Modesto Bee reports that court officials said as many as 1,500 potential jurors may be called before a jury and alternates can be seated. Recalling the previous week’s dispute before the court, Delucchi asks if he should screen a defense motion before it is filed by Mark Geragos. Geragos promises to use discretion with the paper, saying, “I’m not going to commit misconduct.” Rick Distaso responds, “I’m going to let that roll off my back.” Delucchi, in turn, responds, “You’re learning,” a reference to his previous chiding of Distaso for having “thin skin.” Contacted later by telephone, Geragos tells a reporter asking about strategy, “Generally, I’m looking for someone fair and intelligent who can set aside anything they’ve heard about the case.” Calls by the same reporter to the prosecutor’s office go unanswered. Meanwhile, Don Hansen announces that Stephen Schoenthaler will not be teaching at California State University, Stanislaus, during the spring term. Hansen says there has been progress in the investigation into the research that produced bogus survey results cited by Scott Peterson’s defense. He states that faculty committees have met and “reviewed materials,” but declines to comment on any findings. Hansen’s comments contradict Schoenthaler’s statements made earlier in the week that he was carrying a “full-time load” this term while helping investigators. Hansen explains that the professor had been slated to teach two courses, Advanced Statistics in Criminal Justice and Juvenile Delinquency, but instead has been assigned to other duties.

March 5 Court is not in session, but the jury questionnaire is made public. Ted Rowlands appears on KTVU for the final time before moving to his new position at CNN. Responding to a National Enquirer report that Amber Frey would not testify because of her pregnancy, Gloria Allred says the story is “absolutely, 100 percent false.” “Amber Frey will testify if she is subpoenaed to testify,” Allred tells reporters. “This is a tabloid report and it’s ridiculous.” She says she does not know when her client will be needed. “The prosecution hasn’t even notified us as to when she will be called,” Allred says. “I don’t think they have settled on the order of their witnesses yet.”

March 7 The San Francisco Chronicle releases an article entitled “A Portrait of the Accused,” a mini-biography of Scott Peterson. It is the first such article to appear in a major newspaper since his arrest, but is largely a rehash of previously published information and opinions. The inspiration for the new story is a recent interview given by Lee and Jackie Peterson and Susan Caudillo. Lee Peterson says his son “was like Mr. Perfect.” Lee and Jackie paint a picture of an idyllic family life and decline to answer questions about their son’s affairs, saying that such relationships are common even among “happily married” couples.

March 8 Jury selection continues, with another group of about 100 potential jurors making their way to court in the morning. After introductions by Al Delucchi, Scott Peterson, wearing a light gray suit and light blue shirt, rises and clears his throat. “Hello,” he says. “Good morning to you”—exactly as he had the previous week, only without the half-smile. During the judge’s roughly 30 minute talk with the group, he remarks that jury questionnaires have indicated very few potential jurors spend any time at all watching cable television. “It’s amazing to see how many people say, ‘No, I never look at that,'” he says. Howard Varinsky makes his first appearance at the trial. His counterpart on the defense team, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, also appears in court. Just outside the courtroom, court employees watch the small son of a potential juror who tells Delucchi she has no child care. Delucchi tells the woman she can be dismissed, but must go through the process to prove hardship. When she leaves the courtroom, the boy says goodbye and high-fives a couple of court employees who had given him jelly beans. The judge tells the potential jurors that they have no obligation to speak with reporters. “If you are excused, nobody can force you to discuss this case,” he admonishes. “If you walk out the door, somebody may come up to you, stick a microphone in your face and want to ask you questions about it.” During the afternoon session, Scott Peterson smiles weakly as he greets the potential jurors. Delucchi remarks that it appears as though enough jurors can be found to have a trial. “I think we can find twelve fair and impartial jurors, from viewing the previous questionnaires,” he says, adding that he expects 60 to 70 potential jurors will be found suitable to progress to voir dire. About 200 more potential jurors complete questionnaires, bringing the total to around 400.

March 9 Mark Geragos states, “I need to bring to the court’s attention the prejudgment rate, which I believe is at a level where the court needs to take some action.” He indicates that questionnaires completed by prospective jurors indicate that many of them have prejudged his client. He contends that the prejudgment is “at the Irvin v. Dowd level,” referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1961 overturning of a murder conviction and death sentence because the defendant did not get a fair trial. “I’m going to argue that what we’ve seen from a statistically valid sample here in San Mateo County that there has to be some remedy,” he says. As a remedy, Geragos tells the court he would like to have a second change of venue for the trial. Barring that, he asks Al Delucchi to revisit an earlier ruling against having a second jury seated, or to be granted a larger number of peremptory challenges than the prosecution. Delucchi directs Geragos to file a written motion by March 15, 2004, and tells prosecutors to respond by March 19, 2004. Delucchi says he will hear arguments and make a decision on March 22, 2004, the same day he has promised to rule on a defense motion to bar from trial Scott Peterson’s statements to the media. Moments later, another 99 potential jurors file into the courtroom for the third day of jury selection. At the beginning of the afternoon session, potential jurors are introduced to Scott Peterson, and one of them audibly groans—eliciting laughter from the crowd. About 200 more potential jurors complete questionnaires, bringing the total to around 600. Delucchi states that media attorneys have appealed to the California Supreme Court in their attempt to get cameras allowed in the courtroom for Scott Peterson’s trial.

March 10 Karl Olson files a motion on behalf of several newspapers, asking Al Delucchi to release the filled-out questionnaires of the prospective jurors. Olson argues that, since the potential jurors’ names do not appear on the questionnaire, making the documents public would not violate anyone’s right to privacy. The motion cites two appellate court rulings that made public such questionnaires in other death-penalty cases. The filing also notes that the questionnaires carry a disclaimer that states, “Your written responses are not confidential because the questionnaires are public records.” Mark Geragos has a special welcome for potential jurors: After greeting them, he cups his hand to his ear and awaits their response. Most of the group replies. Scott Peterson receives a generally polite response from many in the group during the morning session, but reaction from the afternoon group is less positive. About 200 more potential jurors complete questionnaires, bringing the total to around 800. The San Mateo Daily Journal reports that Al Delucchi has stated that at least 70 potential jurors are needed to begin a general interview process, and that about 350 of the first 1,000 called have passed the first hurdle and not been dismissed for hardship or opinions about the death penalty or other pertinent issues. However, in the afternoon session, Delucchi for the first time raises his estimate to 80—a change that some see as a response to demands by Geragos to move the trial, have two juries or allow the defense more peremptory challenges. In one of the lighter moments of the day, the mostly bald Delucchi described an imaginary conversation with people at a barbershop, then caught himself and added, “I do get a haircut around the ears.” The judge also takes a couple of shots at cable news programming, saying that, even when there is a lull in the case, they say, “Let’s find something to report about this case, anyway.” At another point, when discussing a questionnaire inquiry regarding cable viewing habits, he says, “We want to know if you have some kind of morbid interest in this case.” Greta Van Susteren receives two phone messages from Mark Geragos, who complains that Ted Williams and Geoffrey Fieger had stated incorrectly on On the Record With Greta Van Susteren that he had lost the Susan McDougal case. Van Susteren returns his call—one that she will later report “did not end well.”

March 11 Eddie Gibson reports that on January 19, 2003, he found Scott and Laci Peterson’s video camera—likely the camera reported stolen during a break-in at the couples’ residence—in a 50-gallon grease barrel in an alley behind his restaurant, Fast Eddie’s MOAB. Gibson says he was told by Det. Doug Ridenour that the videotape recovered from the unit revealed no link to her disappearance. Gibson says that, after he called authorities, Ridenour “came a couple of days later, put the camera and tape in a plastic bag and left.” Contacted by reporters, Lee Peterson states that he does not know whether or not authorities had returned the camera to Scott Peterson prior to his arrest. Adam Stewart, speaking for the Rocha family, says the family has no knowledge about the videotape. Al Delucchi tells prospective jurors that he is going to place their questionnaires under seal, a response to the previous day’s motion by the media to have them be made public. “After we’re done with them, we’re going to file them and keep them under seal to be opened by a reviewing court if that’s the case,” he tells the group. Mark Geragos addresses reporters on the steps of the San Mateo County Hall of Justice before leaving for the airport to return to Los Angeles. He says that a majority of the first prospective jurors have already been dismissed. “We finished the first wave,” he states. “We’ve got through 1,000 jurors…about two-thirds of those have been excused right off the bat for various reasons.” He says that the defense team, including Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, will look through the questionnaires of those remaining to weed out individuals with evidence of bias. “The prosecution and defense will cull out those who made the grade and those who don’t,” he explains. KTVU and the Modesto Bee report that court officials stated that 404 out of the first 600 prospective jurors were excused. Rejecting a proposal to reimburse Stanislaus County and Modesto for the whole cost of Scott Peterson’s investigation and trial, a three-member California Senate budget subcommittee approves a plan that would have the county pay the first $1.4 million—the deductible it would have to come up with to get help from a trial-subsidy fund that small and medium-sized counties can use to offset costs of expensive court cases. The Modesto Bee provides an update on the continuing saga of Amber Frey and rumors that her pregnancy will interfere with her ability to testify against Scott Peterson. “We’re going to deal with it as best we can,” John Goold says in the article. “Every witness has some scheduling issue. This is a major scheduling issue we’ll have to deal with.” According to an unnamed source for the story, she is due on April 30, 2004, but expects an early delivery. Gloria Allred, who had previously defended her client against tabloid rumors that she would not testify because of her pregnancy, weighs in again for this article. “I expect she will be testifying,” Allred says. “Whether or not she breast-feeds, she is going to testify if she is subpoenaed to testify.” Allred indicates no date has been set for Amber Frey’s testimony, but predicts no conflict. “Certainly her doctor and hospital are a long way from the trial,” she notes. “Nobody is going to try to endanger her pregnancy. I don’t have any indication prosecutors are intending to call her on the date that she’s planning to deliver. That’s not going to happen.” Goold, while acknowledging that “every attorney has their strategy at trial, and that includes the order of the presentation of witnesses,” declines to comment on when prosecutors intend to call Amber Frey. Allred resumes her running war of words with Geragos. “His style is to attack, attack, attack,” she notes. “That can turn the jury off. I don’t think some people in the jury will take too kindly to somebody beating up on a pregnant woman or breast-feeding mother.”

March 12 Following the previous day’s revelation by Eddie Gibson of a recovered video camera, reporters contact Det. Doug Ridenour, asking again about the significance of the January 2003 break-in at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. He has no comment about the burglary or its connection to the Laci Peterson case. “Anything Peterson, I can’t talk about,” he states flatly. Greta Van Susteren, in GretaWire, her occasional Internet blog about her On the Record With Greta Van Susteren show and other happenings in her life, reports on her tense telephone conversation of March 10, 2004, with Mark Geragos.

March 13 The Modesto Bee reports on the March 11, 2004, rejection by a California Senate budget subcommittee of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s proposal for California to reimburse Stanislaus County and Modesto for the whole cost of Scott Peterson’s investigation and trial. The article contains quotes from two of the three senators on the subcommittee, Sheila Kuehl and Byron Sher, as well as an opposing statement from Patricia Landingham of the California Department of Finance.

March 14 An article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the anticipated media hoopla surrounding Scott Peterson’s trial has not materialized, and that some Redwood City businesses are seeing a downturn as regular customers stay away because of unfounded concerns over crowds and parking.

March 15 Al Delucchi’s filing deadline for a second change-of-venue motion comes and goes with no paperwork from Mark Geragos or the defense team. The Modesto Bee breaks the story about the recovered video camera belonging to Scott and Laci Peterson. In the article, Eddie Gibson provides details about eight different sequences on the tape, including images of jewelry—apparently recorded for insurance purposes—and someone mixing what appears to him to be “chemicals in a glass container” interspersed with scenes of everyday life. The New York Post—humorously calling Amber Frey “Miss Stress”—quotes Ron Frey, who reports that the upcoming trial and the expected arrival of Amber Frey’s son are combining to put pressure on the supposed star prosecution witness. “She has to testify and confront the person she was in love with once,” he says. “It takes its toll on her.” He reports that his daughter is as busy as ever, about to graduate from an esthetician program—allowing her to do facials and hair removal—working as a massage therapist and spending time with her daughter and boyfriend, but that she plans to take off from work in a couple of weeks as her due date nears. Ron Frey says his daughter remains “just tickled pink,” about the unplanned pregnancy. “So’s Dr. Markovich,” he adds. The New York Post, in a separate article entitled “Paging Dr. Sheppard,” quotes from defense consultant William DeHaven about the similarities between the Scott Peterson case and that of The Fugitive himself: Sam Sheppard.

March 16 Greta Van Susteren reports in her GretaWire blog about her running feud with Mark Geragos. This time, she says she returned from Chicago to be greeted by just one voice mail message. It is Geragos, she reports, annoyed with her for having reported in the March 12, 2004, GretaWire that he called and demanded a retraction to what he believed were incorrect statements about his trial record. “I was perplexed why he is now annoyed with the blog and the clarification,” she writes. “This is exactly what he wanted me to do and demanded in the voice mail that I do.”

March 17 San Mateo County Court officials announce that 683 of the first 1,000 potential jurors have been excused for hardship. The California Supreme Court unanimously denies a review of Al Delucchi’s decision to exclude cameras from the courtroom during Scott Peterson’s trial—a decision that attorneys argued was discriminatory against the electronic media. The state’s highest court issues no comment on their refusal to hear the appeal by attorneys for Court TV, CNN, NBC, CBS, Fox and KNTV, who had argued that the concerns over cameras were unfounded and that the judge’s decision would deny “accurate and complete information about this trial” to “the millions of Americans who rely on television for their news.” The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Ted Rowlands, who came to regional prominence by interviewing Yosemite serial killer Cary Stayner in 1999, then moved on to CNN in 2004 after successfully covering the Laci Peterson case. “I’ve had discussions where people say, ‘Laci Peterson’s missing and now you get a great job. Are you happy about that?'” Rowlands says. “There’s a sort of a macabre sense of it, but every day—nine times out of ten—I’m covering something tragic that happens to somebody.” In a San Jose Mercury News report, Gloria Allred continues to defend her client against accusations that she may not testify. “Amber is going to testify,” Allred states. “She’s neither looking forward to testifying nor dreading testifying,” Allred predicts her client will be seen as credible regardless of her circumstances. “I think she will come across very truthfully,” Allred says. “And she will be corroborated, whether she’s pregnant or not pregnant, whether she’s breast-feeding or not breast-feeding.”

March 18 The Modesto Bee tries unsuccessfully to get a comment from Mark Geragos concerning the trial-relocation issue, since he has not yet filed a formal change-of-venue motion with the court despite a deadline of March 15, 2004. “They have not received any filings from Geragos as of today,” John Goold tells reporters. “I don’t know what to tell you.” Paul O’Brien writes Stacey Morgan-Foster concerning the punishment of students who cheated on a survey assignment from Stephen Schoenthaler. “I instructed Professor Schoenthaler to give the students an alternative assignment since I felt it was unreasonable and unfair to students, based on time needed for completion and costs involved,” he writes. “He agreed to offer an alternative assignment at that meeting.”

March 22 The first group of the 317 potential jurors not excused during their first visit appears for questioning by the defense and the prosecution. Juror 4663 is the first to be ordered to return to court on May 13, 2004, when Al Delucchi has said he hopes to form a pool of 70 to 90 potential jurors for both sides to challenge. Mark Geragos seems to have some legitimate concerns about the Juror 4663’s ties to law enforcement: He has testified as an expert witness for the prosecution in other cases. “You to me seem like a juror I would not want to have on this case, do you understand why?” Geragos asks. The man replies that he understands that, because of his job, he is often on the side of the prosecution, but also points out that the skills he uses on his job could make him a good choice for the defense: “I look at all the factors and weigh them,” he states. “That’s what I do—look at all the evidence.” He admits that he has heard from several people—including his domestic partner—that Scott Peterson is probably guilty, prompting Geragos to ask, “Nobody’s ever expressed an opinion that he’s innocent to you?” The man replies, “No, actually, it’s me.” Geragos also asks the man whether he would have any hesitation about sitting on the jury, but Delucchi disallows the question. “You know Mr. Geragos, I’m not going to permit that question because we’d all rather be someplace else,” the judge rules. Dave Harris probes the man about his willingness to impose the death penalty in a circumstantial case, but his answer is inconclusive. “It’s a bit of a tough question, because it’s not hard evidence,” he says. “I would have to weigh that out.” Five other potential jurors are interviewed, but the judge dismisses all of them—typically because of their admitted inability to be impartial or to impose the death penalty. Seven more potential jurors are dismissed without questioning. In what most observers consider to be a huge blow to the defense, Delucchi rules to allow Scott Peterson’s interviews with the media allowed into evidence. Arguing before the judge, Rick Distaso argues that the defendant’s statements in those interviews include a “whole host of lies” that demonstrate his “consciousness of guilt” related to the murder of Laci Peterson. “The people are entitled to produce that evidence and that’s what were trying to do here,” Distaso states. He points out that Scott Peterson stated in the interviews he had only been unfaithful to Laci Peterson with Amber Frey, but that prosecutors have evidence otherwise. At these remarks, Scott Peterson , in the words of the New York Post, leans back in his chair and gives Distaso a “disapproving glance.” According to the Modesto Bee, Scott Peterson leans back from the defense table, hooks his arm over the back of his chair and looks at Distaso, furrowing his brow and then slightly shaking his head from side to side. Geragos counters that the interviews were “spliced and diced” and that Scott Peterson’s own words should only be allowed at trial if the defendant himself is willing to take the stand. In a motion filed with the court, Geragos writes, “Obviously, the prosecution hopes that the vast majority of potential jurors are likely to be predisposed to guilt against a man who admittedly had an affair when his wife was pregnant and ignore the fact that there is no evidence of Mr. Peterson’s involvement in this crime.” In ruling for the prosecution, Delucchi says that the “probative value outweighs any prejudicial value” of the interviews. “These things are all matters that the jury can consider,” he decides. The judge adds that the interviews “are not being offered for the truth, but rather as circumstantial evidence to the defendant’s state of mind.” Distaso complains to Delucchi that Geragos has not provided a witness list for the penalty phase of the trial, defying an order from the judge. Delucchi questions the defense attorney about the missing list. “I’m not supplying any witness names for the penalty phase because there’s not going to be a penalty phase,” Geragos contends. “OK,” Delucchi replies, sighing. “Well, you’re doing it at your own risk,” he adds, referring to the fact that jurors at penalty phase would have to be dismissed if it is discovered that they knew any of the witnesses. Asked by reporters outside the courtroom about his failure to file a promised motion for a change of venue, Geragos responds, “What we’ve decided to do is go through jury selection.” He adds that he is keeping the door open to ask for a trial relocation depending on the results of that process. The day’s disappointing results lead him to quip, “We got one…and he works for the prosecution.” The Modesto Bee contacts Kirk McAllister. McAllister is asked to comment on the television interviews being allowed into evidence, since at the time, he had apparently given Scott Peterson strict orders to keep quiet. Asked if he always tells his clients not to speak to the media, McAllister replies, “Have you ever heard of one of my clients talking to the media?” The Modesto Bee profiles jury consultants Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Howard Varinsky.

March 23 Mark Geragos again petitions Al Delucchi to consider seating two juries to prevent any pro-prosecution bias by having to “death-qualify” jurors. “You’ve got a code section that permits this,” Geragos tells the judge. “I think the court should reconsider that or engage in indepth questioning.” Delucchi flatly denies the request. “This is the way it is,” he replies sternly. “There’s going to be one jury in this case for the reasons I’ve stated. Maybe this will be the case where the law is going to be changed, but that’s the way it’s going to be.” During the morning session, four additional potential jurors are selected to return in May 2004—a significant improvement over the previous day’s result. “This morning was not a total loss,” Delucchi remarks. “We’re on track.” Four potential jurors are dismissed during the morning. One man tells the court that his employer will pay his wages for no more than a month, regardless of the length of the trial. One woman is dismissed for suggesting that Scott Peterson be required to prove his innocence, and another is dismissed because she stated on her questionnaire that he was guilty. One other woman is dismissed after her questionnaire is reviewed, but the reasons for her departure are not stated. The keepers include a “grandmotherly former nurse,” a young mother, a middle-aged man and, in the words of the Modesto Bee, an “unsmiling woman who ‘strongly disagrees’ that police officers always are more truthful than other witnesses.” Three more potential jurors are interviewed during the afternoon, and one is selected. “Six jurors are now qualified, which brings us to our average,” Delucchi says, referring to the goal of qualifying three jurors a day. Karl Olson, representing a coalition of newspapers, argues before the judge that the potential jurors’ completed questionnaires should be released by the court because they are public documents and labeled as such. “This is not the trial of the century,” he states. “Unfortunately, cases like this come along every year, every 6 months, and you can’t sacrifice public access rights, which are part of the Constitution, because of a high-profile case.” He contends that the defense team’s threat to ask for a second change of venue based on a polluted jury pool is just one valid reason for releasing the questionnaires. “The public, which pays for these proceedings, has a right to know whether these assertions are correct,” he contends. During his argument, Olson mispronounces the name “Geragos” several times as “Ga-RAY-gos.” The annoyed defense attorney mumbles the correct pronunciation loudly enough to be heard from the fifth row of the courtroom. Olson suggests that “there are presumptive reasonable alternatives” for jurors: “If someone knocks on that person’s door, they should shut or not answer the door.” Arguing against the media’s position is Geragos, who suggests that the release of the potential jurors’ questionnaires would further taint the jury pool. “If you’re going to allow the questionnaire out so people can easily identify who they are, then we’re never going to have a fair jury in this case,” he argues. “We can abandon any pretense of a trial and vote online.” He notes, “This court hasn’t done anything to impede the public’s right to know. The idea that there needs to be more rather than less public scrutiny of this case is ludicrous.” In an “on second thought” moment, he half-jokingly remarks that he was tempted to push for the release of the questionnaires to bolster his case that the trial should be moved again. “My wish is we won’t be here anymore,” Geragos says. “We’ll be somewhere else—and you know where.” Dave Harris agrees with Geragos. “Once the court grants access to the media…this court has absolutely no ability to control what they will do with it,” he argues. He offers that the media should instead politely butt out. “The media does not have chair at the counsels’ table,” he states. “This is a criminal prosecution of the state of California versus the defendant.” He suggests that it would be acceptable to release the documents after the trial is over when the media “can’t do any damage.” Delucchi ultimately denies the newspapers’ request, saying, “If this information was disclosed…it would have a chilling effect on jurors answering the voir dire questions honestly.” He says that disclosure of the questionnaires “would discourage jurors from wanting to participate” when “it’s hard enough as it is now to seek a fair and impartial jury in this case.” The judge assesses that the Scott Peterson case “rises to the top of the class as far as pretrial publicity” and that the defendant’s right to a fair trial trumps any benefit of making the documents public. Delucchi later opines that the case has garnered more publicity “than any other case in California in recent history—I think even more than Manson or O.J. Simpson.”

March 24 Mark Geragos again complains to Al Delucchi about his method of questioning potential jurors, asserting that the judge gives the benefit of the doubt to jurors who appear to prejudge the defendant’s guilt, but dismisses without question anyone opposed to the death penalty. Delucchi reminds Geragos that his complaint centers on ground covered just the day before. In a third day of questioning, 14 potential jurors are brought to court for individual questioning, but eight never make it inside and are dismissed based on their completed questionnaires. Two more potential jurors do make the cut, bringing the total to eight. Joining the pool is a former police officer and one-time member of the United States Marine Corps. He says that, despite his military and law-enforcement background, he feels he will be able to look at both sides fairly because he was once arrested for a crime he did not commit. “Just because you’re arrested or accused doesn’t mean you did it,” he tells the court. Delucchi dismisses one man after he admits that he would not recommend any sentence less than the death penalty should Scott Peterson be found guilty of the crime of which he is accused.

March 25 Two more potential jurors are invited into the jury pool, which now numbers 10: a Redwood City computer programmer who owns a medical billing company, and a woman who works at an elementary school. The programmer is questioned by Rick Distaso for being a Democrat, American Civil Liberties Union member and self-proclaimed ardent liberal. The man replies that he has no bias against prosecutors. He is also questioned about the impact of losing his 1-year-old daughter, who died in 2000 from congenital heart defects. The man tells Distaso that the loss would not color his opinion in the Scott Peterson trial. Knowing how it is to lose a daughter, I kind of can look at this case both ways,” he says. “If the defendant did it, I have a feeling one way, but if he didn’t—to lose your wife and child…I know what that’s like, to lose a child.” The woman also notes she lost a child, having had a miscarriage 14 years ago, but she, too, testifies that the loss would not affect her ability to judge Scott Peterson fairly. She states that she has discussed the case with others but has not formed an opinion of Scott Peterson. “People tell me he’s guilty,” she admits. “And that annoys me a little bit—nobody knows, because they haven’t heard all the evidence.” She also tells the court that she is “very active” at church, but adds that her being religious does mean she is strict concerning others. “Not judging others is also a tenet of my religion,” she explains. “I’ve known people, family members, who have had affairs; that doesn’t mean I don’t still love them…people make mistakes.” Five other potential jurors are excused in a half-day session. Al Delucchi acknowledges that his plan to get 80 or so potential jurors by May 2004 could have been a lofty goal, and tells one qualified member of the pool, “You’re going to see about 80 other jurors, I hope,” adding, “Maybe we won’t get 80. It may be 65.” Mark Geragos, calling the process “painstaking,” is adamant that something’s got to give concerning jury selection. “At the current pace, if you do the math, it’s going to take seven weeks—maybe longer,” he tells reporters outside the courthouse. “I’ve looked ahead, and I don’t know that we’re going to keep up that pace based upon what I’ve seen. So we’re going to have to make adjustments, obviously.” On the other side of the country, Ron Grantski speaks at a news conference held shortly before a U.S. Senate vote on “Laci and Conner’s Law.” Sharon Rocha does not appear and is reportedly sick with the flu. “”This is such a simple bill,” Grantski says. “If you kill a pregnant woman, you’re guilty of two murders. This had better be an eye-opener for the animals out there—finally, we have a bill that will deter some of these animals.” One of the bill’s staunchest opponents, Dianne Feinstein, seeks to amend the bill with language permitting tougher penalties for those committing federal crimes that cause “termination of pregnancy or interruption of the normal course of pregnancy.” Her measure fails in a 50-49 vote. On procedural grounds, the U.S. Senate also rejects Patty Murray’s amendment, which would have allowed victims of domestic violence to obtain more benefits. After a day of intense lobbying by both sides, “Laci and Conner’s Law” passes by a 61-38 vote.

March 26 An unidentified man calls Geragos and Geragos to report what he believes is a “stealth juror” who said that Scott Peterson was “guilty as hell” while pretending to be unbiased before the court. Speaking to Shep Kopp, he reports that he overheard the woman, Juror 29308, bragging to others while they all shared a bus ride to Reno, Nevada—a trip for seniors sponsored by the Veterans Memorial Senior Center. The man recounts that she said she had “passed the first test” by providing misleading answers on her questionnaire, and that she planned to feign a lack of bias during voir dire with the ultimate goal of becoming the jury forewoman at Scott Peterson’s trial and ensuring she could “give him his due” with a guilty verdict. According to the source, she had been following the case for more than a year and told others that Mark Geragos deserved to lose the case because he was defending a “wife killer” and a “child molester,” apparently referring to Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson. The Modesto Bee, in an article on jury selection, reports that the defense and the prosecution alike will be allowed up to 26 peremptory challenges—20 for the 12 jurors, and 6 more for the alternates—meaning at least 70 potential jurors must be in the pool to cover these anticipated challenges alone. This month, it is not just Scott Peterson who has to deal with past television interviews coming back to haunt him. The Associated Press picks up an article about Geragos and the derogatory statements he made about Scott Peterson before becoming his attorney. The story notes that Geragos, as a commentator on several television news programs, called his future client a “felony cad,” the “number one pariah” and maybe a “sociopath” who also had an anemic alibi that was seemingly based on being set up by unknowns: Concerning Scott Peterson’s defense, Geragos once said, “I don’t think it’s ever going to wash.”

March 27 The Oakland Tribune assesses the more recent additions to the jury pool, noting that the computer programmer selected on March 25, 2004, “fits perfectly the juror profile that is sought by the defense.”

March 29 Questioning of potential jurors resumes. In the morning, one man is selected, bringing the jury pool total to 11. The man, a computer software sales associate, admits having visited Modesto when the search for Laci Peterson was in full swing. “There were posters everywhere, and people were talking about the case,” he says. “It was hard to miss.” He further explains he went there not to search, but to jet ski and visit a sister battling drug abuse. He recalls that he was a victim of heroin-addicted parents and ended up being chiefly raised by his grandmother. He says he now volunteers with The Service League, an independent motivational group that visits prisons and jails to counsel inmates. During those sessions, he meets with groups of 15 to 30 inmates, telling personal stories and encouraging them to straighten out their lives with a message that includes, “You can blame whatever it is you are doing on your past, but there comes a time when you take full responsibility for what you are doing. No one is putting that beer or drug in your hand right now.” Six other persons are considered and dismissed in the morning. One woman, the wife of a San Francisco Police Department officer, admits telling her co-workers “around the water cooler” that she thinks Scott Peterson is guilty. One man is excused because of a change in his family situation since the time that he filled out the questionnaire. The other four are shown the door without questioning because of comments they put on their questionnaires. One quoted the Bible, saying, “Vengeance belongs to God”; another expressed strong opposition, as a Christian, to the death penalty, saying, “I feel the last call should be God’s.” During the afternoon session, two more potential jurors are added to the pool, which now numbers 13. One works as a nurse and the other, ironically, works with television ratings for an entertainment network. Speaking to the nurse, Geragos expresses that he fears not being able to “ferret out” those potential jurors with a hidden bias against his client. “What can you tell me to calm my suspicions?” he asks her. “I have no agenda,” she replies. “I’m trying to do my duty as a citizen.” Geragos also briefly questions the network employee, who states she had been trying to get pregnant but decided to put the effort on hold. Three other potential jurors are dismissed in the afternoon, one for apparent prejudice during questioning, and two without questioning because of comments they put on their questionnaires.

March 30 During the morning session of court, Mark Geragos confronts Dawn O’Dell, one of the potential jurors he claims is a “stealth juror” who is seeking to help convict Scott Peterson. Questioned by Rick Distaso, O’Dell admits that she watched The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story, but states she feels “fairly confident” she can put aside what she has seen and heard, and judge the defendant only on the evidence presented at trial. Then Geragos brings forth the accusations delivered to him by a source on March 26, 2004, reminding O’Dell that she is under oath as she steadfastly denies the charges being leveled at her in a manner that the Modesto Bee will call “unruffled” but which the San Francisco Chronicle will say may her look “uncomfortable.” Geragos asks directly if she had it in for Scott Peterson. “Did you say you were trying as hard as possible to get on this jury, that he was ‘guilty as hell,’ and he was going to get it?” She replies matter-of-factly, “No, sir. I never said that.” Geragos fires again, asking her about her conversations on the bus ride to Reno, Nevada. “Did you tell people on that trip that you passed the test to get on the jury, and Scott Peterson is going to get what is due to him?” She admits she took the bus ride during which the incidents allegedly took place, but denies having engaged in the reported conversation. Geragos continues to pound away, asking similar questions, until Al Delucchi eventually excuses O’Dell. Geragos then explains to the judge that he was acting on a phoned-in tip. Delucchi arranges to have the defense team’s informant, James Hanford, tell his account during a private meeting on May 10, 2004, and orders O’Dell to return to court May 11, 2004. The judge appears skeptical of Hanford’s tale, saying wryly, “Maybe when the person finds out he may be a witness, he may have a lapse of memory.” At the end of the morning session, not a single potential juror makes the cut as 11 are dismissed. The goose egg prompts Delucchi to bemoan, “My optimism this morning just went down the toilet.” Of those dismissed, eight had demonstrated bias with the questionnaire statements; one would not be paid during for absence from work, one would not consider a life without parole sentence and one had already formulated a theory that Laci Peterson was killed by the defendant after having uncovered his affair with Amber Frey. The afternoon session goes better, with two more jurors being added to the pool: a former physician who became a lawyer, and a boys’ ranch record-keeper who writes songs with her acoustic guitar and raises canaries. Distaso questions the attorney-doctor at length about his ability to weigh DNA and other scientific evidence. The defense questions him briefly, asking for details about his legal career. With these additions, the jury pool total reaches 15 prior to a brief vacation (until April 5, 2004) for the court. Outside the courtroom, prosecutors ask Geragos for the name of his source and a copy of his declaration, since neither the name of the juror nor the name of her accuser have yet been made public. After court lets out, Geragos speaks to reporters about the stealth juror. “I think it was clear there was the embodiment of a stealth juror there today,” he says. “I thought the whole event was extremely distressing. It’s one of the things we’ve been gravely concerned about since day one…It’s extremely distressing to anyone connected to the criminal justice system to think that anyone would lie their way onto a jury in order to execute someone.” Reporters contact Shep Kopp, who took the Hanford’s call, but Kopp declines to provide any further information, citing the gag order. Amil Toscanelli and several others who rode on the bus with O’Dell to Reno, Nevada, tell the San Francisco Chronicle that, although the Scott Peterson case was discussed on the trip, they never heard her mention that she was a potential juror or express an opinion about the defendant’s guilt.

March 31 The Contra Costa Times releases an article about the supposed stealth juror, saying that none of the Veterans Memorial Senior Center volunteers contacted by reporters recalled knowing the woman. The story says that the organization’s director stated there were more than 400 volunteers there, but none that she knew of who talked about being a juror in the Scott Peterson case. On the eve of “Laci and Conner’s Law” being signed by George Bush, Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski appear on Larry King Live. “There are times that I feel you have to be very cautious about what we say or do because you never know what’s going to end up in the media,” Sharon Rocha tells King.

 

 

 

 

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