#20) April 2004
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: April 2004
April 1 George Bush selects April Fool’s Day to sign into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, commonly known as “Laci and Conner’s Law.” On hand for the 10-minute East Room ceremony are Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski, the two persons most responsible for the bill’s passage after several years of similar measures stalling in Congress. “Anytime an expectant mother is a victim of violence, two lives are in the balance, each deserving protection and each deserving justice,” Bush says. “If the crime is murder, and the unborn child’s life ends, justice demands a full accounting under the law.” The President gives special recognition to his guests from Modesto. “They have laid to rest their daughter, Laci—a beautiful young woman who was joyfully awaiting the arrival of a new son,” he says. “They have also laid to rest that child—a boy named Conner, who was waiting to be born when his life, too, was taken. All who knew Laci Peterson have mourned two deaths, and the law cannot look away and pretend there was just one.” Also in the gathering are others who have lost pregnant family members, sharing smiles and tears, and a host of politicians. Bush gives Sharon Rocha a kiss on the cheek after the signing. Orrin Hatch then gives her a hug. Sharon Rocha says of the law, “It’s great.” Grantski adds, “It’s been a long time coming.” Dianne Feinstein, one of the law’s staunchest opponents, sends a letter to George Bush, urging him not to use the new law as “a potentially divisive statement on the abortion issue.” Grantski, contacted later by phone, reiterates, “This is not about abortion,” and states that he supports abortion rights.
April 4 A Modesto Bee article points out that Al Delucchi’s “attitude over six sluggish days of jury selection has ranged from determination to dejection.”
April 5 Joking with members of the gallery before court is called to order, Al Delucchi reveals that he has been hearing from members of the public, many complaining about the decision that banned cameras at Scott Peterson’s trial. “I’m getting letters,” he says, smiling. He mentions that one woman wrote that she was upset because she had been following the case and now would not be able to watch the trial unfold on television. He also shares with reporters a humorous New Yorker cartoon that shows a jury foreman telling a judge, “Your Honor, we feel the trial failed to deliver on its pretrial publicity.” During the morning session, two more potential jurors are added to the jury pool, bringing the total to 17. Added are a “30-something” Chinese-American woman (Juror 5966) who works as a recruiter for Bank of America Securities, and a high-school teacher (Juror 6012) dubbed the “Valley Girl” by some observers because her voir dire responses were long and frequently peppered with “like” and “you know.” The first woman tells Mark Geragos that she could be fair because, as an “Asian woman in a white Caucasian society,” she had been judged her “whole life.” She states that she reads the newspaper as part of her job, but that she could avoid reading about the Scott Peterson case. The second woman—called “the highlight of the day” in the April 7, 2004, GretaWire blog—tells the court she would be willing to quit her job and was essentially undecided on what to do with her life. She suggests she may join Police Academy, become a firefighter or return to school, possibly to study cosmetology. According to an article in the April 6, 2004, Modesto Bee, she giggles and smiles frequently during questioning. At one point, Geragos explains to her that, because the burden of proof is on the prosecution, he could conceivably do little or nothing to defend his client, and asks how she would feel if there were not a vigorous effort by the defense. She replies, “If that happened to me and you were doing nothing, I would probably fire you,” a response that elicits a roar of laughter from the courtroom. After court is adjourned for lunch, Geragos quips that the woman’s Valley Girl demeanor would make her a perfect fit for a jury—if he got his wish to relocate the trial to Los Angeles. Delucchi notes the morning’s success in qualifying two more potential jurors, saying, “If we get three, we may be lucky.” Seven potential jurors are excused in the morning, and four more in the afternoon. Of these, four are excused during voir dire: a retired Caucasian (Juror 6075) who says he could not sentence Scott Peterson to life without parole, a “50-ish” Asian executive chef (Juror 6265) who contends that he would only get paid for 3 days of jury duty, a man (Juror 6027) who admits he would expect Geragos to prove Scott Peterson’s innocence, and a “cute blonde” (Juror 757), possibly in her 40s, who tells the court, “I think the defendant is guilty, but I don’t have all the facts.” Seven others are excused by stipulation for various reasons: Juror 4685 (language barrier and hardship), Juror 6024 (opposition to the death penalty), Juror 6029 (language barrier and presumption of guilt—suggested on the questionnaire that Scott Peterson “had no feelings about his missing wife” and “tried to leave the country”), Juror 6193 (presumption of guilt), Juror 6040 (presumption of guilt), Juror 924 (financial hardship—small-business owner), and Juror 5989 (presumption of guilt). The California Supreme Court, by a 6-1 decision, rules that the killer of a pregnant woman can be charged with double murder even if the perpetrator is unaware of her pregnancy. In doing so, the court overturns a 2002 decision by a state appeals court, which had earlier reversed the fetal-murder conviction of Harold Taylor. The Los Angeles Times releases an article stating the obvious: “The defense in Scott Peterson’s double-murder trial wants to pack the jury with people who have doubts about how police handle investigations, while the prosecution is seeking a panel of more trusting souls.”
April 6 During the morning session, three more potential jurors are added to the jury pool, bringing the total to 20. A United Airlines flight attendant tells the court that citizens should be willing endure inconvenience or a little hardship to serve on a lengthy trial. She also relates the fact that her daughter was once struck and injured by a car, and also her opinion that the unlicensed and uninsured driver was not punished severely enough in that case. The second of the day’s additions is a United Parcel Service driver, devout Catholic and father of two who is questioned about flip-flopping on the death-penalty issue. Although he had stated on his questionnaire that he was opposed to capital punishment for religious reasons, he states in court that he had an epiphany while watching The Ten Commandments two days before and changed his mind on the subject. “If the person is a menace to society, I think could select the death penalty,” he says. He admits that he has talked about the case and thinks that Scott Peterson may be guilty, but feels he could judge the defendant fairly based only on the evidence presented at trial. The third addition is a stay-at-home mother of three who claims she understands the effects of prejudgment because of people who have based their opinions of her on her attractive appearance. She notes, though, that she could be fair to both sides and “could not live” with herself if she were not. Mark Geragos takes issue with a statement on her questionnaire in which she indicated support for so-called fetal-murder laws. “I’m glad to hear an unborn child’s death is a murder,” she tells Geragos. “That’s a human life.” She says that is her only opinion on the case. “The only thing I know for sure is that Laci and the baby are dead,” she tells the court. After she is qualified by Al Delucchi, she sits alone on a bench outside the courtroom, head in hands and visibly shaken by the experience. During the afternoon session, two more potential jurors are qualified, bringing the total to 22. First is a mail carrier who lives on the coast and who has a potentially excluding family history: When she was a child, her mother was shot to death by her stepfather. The woman says she was not an eyewitness to the shooting, but was sleeping in another room when it happened. Second is Juror 24832, a San Francisco 911 dispatch supervisor who is the wife and the daughter of men in law enforcement. Geragos tells her flat out that he has issues with her obvious connections to law enforcement, but she tells the court she has not been convinced that the defendant was involved in the killing of his wife. “I haven’t heard anything that has convinced my mind that he’s guilty,” she says. “I’m starting off in the back of the bus.” Although the Contra Costa Times will later note she seems “like a ringer for prosecutors” because of her family’s background, it quickly becomes apparent she is a target of prosecutors. Rick Distaso argues to have her dismissed for cause, saying, “Initially she said the defendant was innocent and then…she prejudged his innocence” by previously dismissing the prosecution’s “evidence” as presented in media reports. A baffled-looking Delucchi corrects Distaso, “You can’t prejudge innocence—he’s presumed innocent.” Scott Peterson claps his hands and laughs aloud at the judge’s statement, and Geragos argues, “After countless weeks…we have the first person whose expressed the defendant’s presumption of innocence and the prosecution wants to challenge her for cause.” Geragos states again his fear that stealth jurors could sneak onto the jury to convict his client. Dismissing Distaso’s request as “not persuasive,” Delucchi qualifies Juror 24832 but adds, “I’m not sure Mr. Geragos is going to accept this juror when it comes right down to it.” Karen Fleming-Ginn, observing the selection process, notes that the woman “really wanted to be on the jury.” At the end of the day’s proceedings, Delucchi flashes a smile at Geragos and reminds him that the day’s progress has brought the court close to meeting the goal of finding three qualified jurors per day. “Five ain’t bad,” Delucchi notes before adjourning court.
April 7 During the morning session of court, two more potential jurors are qualified—bringing the total to 24—but both have issues that make them potentially undesirable to the prosecution: Juror 6967 is an accused felon and Juror 4089 is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and other “liberal” organizations who was recently philosophically opposed to the death penalty. The first man tells the court that, although he is facing charges for “a temper situation” that got out of control in an incident that happened about 6 months previously, he holds no grudge against law enforcement. “You guys are just doing your job,” he states. “There was just stuff added up for so long that it came out the wrong way. I messed up, I did it, so I’ve got to pay the consequences” Despite his claims, he states the he and his friends are routinely harassed by police. “I get along with a couple of cops in San Mateo,” he says. “Sometimes they pull me over just to say hi and see if I’m staying out of trouble.” The man also suggests that his arrest resulted from being targeted by prejudiced San Mateo Police Department officers. “They got mad because I was hanging around with a different race than the white race,” he tells the court. “They got mad because I was hanging around with Polynesians.” Delucchi qualifies the man with the caveat that a felony conviction will automatically excuse him. The second man is computer engineer working as an Internet services manager. Dave Harris questions him extensively concerning his views on politics and the death penalty, noting that he had expressed on his questionnaire that he had once been philosophically opposed to capital punishment and was still opposed to the way the death penalty is currently implemented in the United States, being applied unfairly to minorities. The man states that his thinking on the death penalty has now “evolved” to the point where he could consider it as a possible punishment. “I have an ongoing philosophical debate internally,” he admits, but adds, “I believe I can faithfully execute the law in this case.” Harris also asks the man about his support of the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Public Interest Research Group and MoveOn. According to a Bay City News report, at one point Harris appears”to get red in the face” as the “articulate” man continues to insist that his political beliefs have no bearing on his ability to judge fairly. “Individually, they’re another witness,” he says, indicating that the views of others are as valid as his own. The prosecution is also apparently troubled by the man being adamantly “pro-choice” and his resulting lack of support for California law that qualifies the killing of an unborn child as a separate murder. During questioning by Delucchi, the man states that he would be able to follow the law, despite his personal misgivings. Delucchi ultimately cuts off the prosecution’s questioning and, after a few questions by Mark Geragos, qualifies the man. At the end of the morning session, though, Delucchi expresses doubt that either of the morning’s two qualified potential jurors will make it past the prosecution’s peremptory challenges. “Let’s see if both of those jurors sit on this jury,” he remarks. During the afternoon session, one other potential juror is chosen, bringing the total to 25. She is an unemployed widow whose husband died from a fall down a staircase. She tells the court that she served as a juror before, in a case that ended with a hung jury. Asked to describe what happened she recalls, “I just wanted to get out of there.” She assures Geragos that she would not hold it against Scott Peterson if he does not take the stand in his own defense. “If he doesn’t want to talk, that’s fine,” she says. “Because some people blow it when they talk—like me.” According to an April 8, 2004, San Mateo County Times article, she seems confused during questioning and also seemed confused when filling out her questionnaire, but tells the court she “needed more coffee” at the time she filled out her survey. At one point in the proceedings, Geragos complains that Delucchi is disqualifying potential jurors without fully exploring their thoughts about capital punishment, drawing a sharp rebuke from the judge. “One other thing you’ve got to remember is, I’m the judge here,” Delucchi tells Geragos. “I’m the judge. I do it my way.” Delucchi explains the issue simply: “I’ve got the robe on—you don’t.” In an Oakland Tribune article, Karen Fleming-Ginn says that she is surprised at how fast the jury selection process is going. “I thought there would be a lot more in-depth questioning,” she remarks. In the article, she cautions that many of the potential jurors appear too eager to serve and may not fully understand what they are getting themselves into. “There are so few instances when you hold somebody’s life in your hands,” she says.
April 8 During the morning session, three more potential jurors make the cut: a young bank supervisor, a pilot and a Russian immigrant who works in the computer and telecommunication industry. The bank supervisor tells the court that she was “brought up not to judge” based on background or appearance, and does not know enough about the Scott Peterson case to express an opinion of his guilt. “How can you make a judgment without hearing it first?” she says. The pilot states that he can put aside the opinions of his friends who believe Scott Peterson is guilty. The man admits that he would not enjoy being confined to a jury box for months, even though he has “some fascination with the process.” The immigrant grabs the attention of the defense team because of his interesting legal background—his mother and father were both attorneys in Russia—but says he did not even hear about the Laci Peterson case until Scott Peterson’s trial was moved to Redwood City. He says he would not be influenced by others concerning the case because “this is serious.” Two women are dismissed during morning voir dire. One is dismissed for refusing to consider any other penalty besides death, and another because she is married to a San Francisco Police Department officer who is vocally adamant about Scott Peterson’s guilt. “I don’t want to put you through this,” Delucchi tells the woman. During the afternoon session, one other potential juror joins the pool, bringing the total to 29. The wife of a former military policeman is approved after stating that she has no opinion about the Scott Peterson case, saw her parent’s marriage survive and prosper after an affair and has experienced “bad cops” as well as good. One woman is excused during voir dire after she tells the court her contract job with San Mateo County will not pay her during jury duty. During the day, other potential jurors are dismissed by stipulation based on their questionnaire responses. One response draws laughter from the crowd as it is read aloud by Delucchi: When asked about the death penalty, the person wrote, “I think it’s swell.” Three others are excused for prejudicial views of Scott Peterson’s guilt, the death penalty or life without parole. A self-employed gardener is excused for hardship. Geragos asks several potential jurors if they could face their friends and family after being on a jury that acquits Scott Peterson. At one point, during routine questioning, Delucchi forgets the name of Scott and Laci Peterson’s unborn child. “I’m having a brain lock here,” Delucchi confesses. “Conner,” Scott Peterson offers. Pat Harris expresses concern that, during the trial, fragile exhibits will be available to the media. Delucchi states that he will conduct a hearing to see what evidence should be made public. At the close of the day’s work, the judge appears to have had his optimism renewed. “We’re on track,” he says. James Hanford, the tipster who had called defense attorneys the previous month to report Dawn O’Dell as a stealth juror, provides a sworn statement. A San Mateo County Times article notes that “often, defense attorney Mark Geragos and prosecutors appear to attempt to bluff each other during juror interviews, hoping that their strategic questioning might help keep a juror in the pool that the other side wants thrown off.” Peter Hartlaub writes in the San Francisco Chronicle concerning the dearth of celebrity media members during Scott Peterson’s trial. “What was anticipated to be a star-studded journalism affair has slowly turned into Just Another Trial, populated mostly by the same old faces from the local media,” Hartlaub moans. In related news, Kamala Harris announces that Jim Hammer is being replaced as chief homicide prosecutor in San Francisco. “Decisions about this office will be based on merit and what is in the best interest of the people of San Francisco,” Harris states. “The prosecution of violent crime is our first priority, and I will continue to improve professionalism and performance of the District Attorney’s Office to keep our city as safe as possible.” Although Hammer officially resigns, many observers believe he was on the chopping block after Harris defeated incumbent Terence Hallinan in a runoff election and later was chastised for speaking frequently to the media about high-profile cases, such as the Scott Peterson trial. “It’s been one of the greatest honors in my life to be a district attorney in this city in which I was born,” he says. “I’ve been moved by all the victim’s families I’ve worked with.” He announces he is ending his prosecution career “on a high note,” with two murder convictions. “We’ve got a 100 percent conviction rate so far this year,” he states.
April 9 In his first lengthy interview since a gag order prevented him from talking about the Scott Peterson case, Ron Grantski speaks about how he and Sharon Rocha plan to use their new political clout. “Our lives have definitely changed,” he says. “People go, ‘That will never happen to us.’ Well, we’re now ‘us.’ Your perspective on things changes tremendously. Whether we are going to do something more…I can’t imagine us not doing something.” He cautions, though, that the couple’s lives will remain on hold until the completion of the trial. “We have to get through what’s coming ahead, and that’s this trial,” he says. “Our plates are pretty full, and it’s kind of hard to absorb things at this time.” He remarks that, during the couple’s recent visit to Washington, D.C., they were approached about continuing their political efforts. “There’s been things thrown out there, but nothing specific,” he says. Getting “Laci and Conner’s Law” passed was very important to Sharon Rocha, he says. He was glad to support the effort, he says, but grew weary of the politics. “It’s kind of like, ‘I’ll do this for you if you do this for me,'” he explains. “Because of those things, it takes weeks or months for things to get passed. Not being a politician, I pretty much told them, ‘I don’t really care what you think.'” Grantski says he hopes the Rocha family’s pain can turn into others’ gain. “Through our loss, hopefully we were able to make a difference in our country for all of us,” he says. “And it will also be a memory of Laci for I don’t know how long. I’ll bet Laci is up there smiling down on her mom.”
April 12 Mark Geragos tells Al Delucchi that the defense team’s requests for evidence have been ignored by several companies and asks that the judge issue new subpoenas with penalties for those who do not comply. Geragos mentions that he has sent subpoenas to FedEx, SBC, Verizon, Cricket Communications and others who have not responded. Delucchi agrees to a new round of subpoenas, to be sent to named individuals within each company, threatening those persons with arrest if the evidence is not delivered. “If they don’t show up with the information…they’ll be taken into custody,” the judge warns. He then instructs attorneys, “It might be worth a phone call to tell them that’s exactly what’s going to happen.” Speaking to the Delucchi, Geragos states that a Santa Barbara County judge has asked him to be present on April 14, 2004. Delucchi tells the attorney he will be required to be present through April 15, 2004, and should pass that information along to the other judge. “Tell him you’ve got to be here,” Delucchi instructs. “As far as I’m concerned, we are in trial.” Geragos says he hopes that he can resolve the conflict with a phone call. Three more potential jurors are chosen, bringing the total to 32. First chosen is a woman newly married to a patrolman who suggested to her that she would probably be automatically disqualified because of their relationship. She tells the court, though, that she could be fair to Scott Peterson. “I think I can be open-minded,” she says. “If he’s not guilty, he’s not guilty.” Geragos questions her about how she may feel if he aggressively questions law enforcement officers, and she replies that she does not believe she would have an adverse reaction. Next chosen is a civil-service supervisor who strongly agrees that police officers are sometimes too quick to judge when under pressure because of a highly publicized case. “If everyone is on your back, you find a place to hang something,” he says. Nevertheless, he tells Dave Harris that the prosecution would not have to present a cause of death for a guilty vote. “All I’m going to do is listen to the evidence,” the man tells the court. He also says he can handle the stigma of being on a jury that sets Scott Peterson free, if such a verdict is warranted. “I’m a big boy—there’s a much more important issue at the table: a man’s guilt or innocence.” The third and final selection of the day is a highly tattooed woman with brightly dyed hair. The mother of four is nearly dismissed for hardship after telling the court that she will only be paid for the first 2 weeks of jury duty. As the judge is excusing her, Geragos speaks up and requests, “Ask her if this will be hardship?” When questioned, she replies, “I’m willing to do it. We’ve talked about it, my family and I.” She explains that her partner could shoulder the financial burden if she is called to serve. She also admits to the court that her brother has done time in San Quentin. “I couldn’t help but notice your tattoo,” Dave Harris tells her. When questioned by Harris about her views of law enforcement personnel, she says, “Police are human beings. In every field, there is good and bad.” She assures Geragos that she can be objective. “This is somebody’s life. I try my hardest to look at things from all areas. I’m not perfect, but I try.” Geragos tells her he plans to be tough on police officers during questioning, hoping to bring out the truth. “God, I hope so,” she replies. Four potential jurors are excused during voir dire. Jurors 4475 and 7041 admit they could not impose the death penalty. “Personally, I could not take another life,” the second woman says. “That’s God’s job.” Juror 6122, having completed voir dire, is excused after Geragos points out that the man had radically changed his answers from what he wrote on his questionnaire. “He writes one thing and tells us something else,” Geragos tells Delucchi. Although the prosecution points out that it could have been an honest change or a problem with the man’s ability to understand the written questions, the judge sides with Geragos. “It gives me some pause on why he changed his answers,” Delucchi states, then asks, “What was his motivation? What happened between the time he filled out the questionnaire and now?” Juror 7150 is excused for admitting that she suspects Scott Peterson to be guilty and would want him to take the stand in his own defense. Six other potential jurors are excused by stipulation, one (Juror 7056) for being a death-penalty opponent, and five others (Jurors 6754, 7192, 6907, 6899 and 6928) for believing that Scott Peterson is guilty. Meanwhile, prosecutors serve Bill Mitchell with a subpoena ordering him to appear at Scott Peterson’s trial. Ron Frey tells reporters his name also appears on the witness list. “If asked, I will testify,” he says. “I will be 100 percent honest, so they should be prepared for the answer—that goes to both sides.” The Modesto Bee profiles Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski in a new light—not as grieving parents, but as new and powerful political voices. The article states that they have been successful in getting “Laci and Conner’s Law” passed, and have supported fetal-homicide bills in Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, Maryland and Virginia. KCRA releases an article comparing the cases of Scott Peterson and Eddie Rapoza, both charged with murdering their pregnant wives.
April 13 The world marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic discovery of Conner Peterson’s body. After a 13-minute closed-door morning discussion in chambers with Scott Peterson, his defense team, prosecuting attorneys and Kevin Bertalotto, Al Delucchi dismisses an alleged “stealth juror” (Juror 29308) from the jury pool. Mark Geragos indicates he may forward the case to the San Mateo County Office of the District Attorney to pursue perjury charges against the woman. The judge, who had planned to deal with the matter in May 2004 but moved up the date at the request of Rick Distaso, says he made the move “out of an abundance of caution.” Delucchi orders Geragos to be in court for the remainder of the week, even though a judge in another case had asked Geragos to appear in another court later in the week. The judge states he will allow Geragos to attend to other matters on Fridays only. Five more potential jurors qualify for the jury pool, bringing the total to 37. Juror 18026, a sales associate with a Fortune 100 company; is the mother of two young children, one of whom is a 2-year-old named Conner. Asked whether the coincidental naming would color her opinion of the case, she replies, “No. When I named him that, I thought it was special…but a lot of people have that name.” She states that she can be fair and presume the defendant not guilty. “You just have to try to hear everything…you just have to assume he’s innocent,” she tells the court. Juror 6237 says that the murder of Laci and Conner Peterson was “heinous,” but admits he has not followed the case. Juror 834, a young bank manager, confesses expressing a belief in Scott Peterson’s guilt before being summoned as a potential juror, but adds that she believes she can decide the case based only on the evidence. Geragos objects to her admission into the jury pool, but is overruled by Delucchi. “I get the impression that she’s bending over backward,” the judge states. Juror 17909 tells the court that she does not know a lot about the case. She also expresses a lack of confidence in circumstantial evidence, but claims she would be able to follow the judge’s instructions to reach a verdict. She admits she once served as a juror in a case that ended in a mistrial after she revealed she had been pressured by the majority to change her vote. Juror 16676 is a challenging interview for Distaso. The man states that he has not followed the case and is skeptical of reports about it. “I believe what my grandfather told me: ‘Never believe what you read in the newspaper,'” he tells the court. “I want to hear it for myself before I make any decisions.” He accuses Distaso, other prosecutors and police investigators of being too quick to judge, especially in a high-profile case. “It appears that, instead of a methodical process, it forces guys like you and a police officer to jump and make assumptions about stuff,” he charges. When it is time for defense questioning, Geragos rises from his chair and, with a wide grin, remarks to the man, “I’ve got a sneaking suspicion you’re not spending a year here.” At lunchtime, Jim Fox tells reporters he has not yet received information about the previous day’s dismissed juror, and suggests that it’s unlikely she will be prosecuted. “To the best of my knowledge, my office is not pursuing anything,” he says. “I’ve only been the district attorney for 21 years, and we’ve never prosecuted a juror for perjury. I guess it would be fair to say it’s rare.” He does add that he would pursue a case if there was sufficient evidence, but one witness will not suffice. “Perjury prosecution requires more than just one witness saying he heard something,” Fox says. At the end of the day, Delucchi notes that the court is “halfway through” filling the jury pool. Rumors surface that there are divers looking for anchors in San Francisco Bay around Buoy Number 6. Prosecutors reveal they have subpoenaed Susan Medina’s phone records.
April 14 The prosecution tells the court that it is asking the California Department of Justice to test presumptive blood discovered in a van. The test is characterized by Dave Harris as a simple precaution against potential defense arguments. “We don’t want to take any chance that it’s raised that we didn’t do the test,” he tells the court. “You mean the old red herring defense,” Al Delucchi asks. Harris agrees. “How can you get up and give an opening statement when you don’t know what the evidence is?” Delucchi questions. “This van has been cleared by eyewitnesses in all of the surrounding circumstances,” Harris explains. “We know what the evidence is going to be.” The prosecutor’s reply prompts Mark Geragos to double over in laughter, his head down on the table. In a moment, he sits up and wipes his eyes. He tells Delucchi prosecutors are “invading my work product,” taking cues from his requests to view certain evidence to shore up holes in their case. “That’s their job,” Delucchi explains to Geragos. “They’re trying to cover the bases. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Geragos complains that the van was already cleared, and that this new examination will consume all the samples available for testing, thereby keeping defense-team scientists from doing their own tests. Responding to that reality, Delucchi orders that the laboratory notes be made available to the defense team daily, so that the defense expert will be “well advised” concerning the manner and results of the state’s tests. Geragos contends that prosecutors have been “fixated on one brown van” but have ignored a second van he says was “referred to on at least three different occasions by witnesses in sealed search warrant affidavits.” The prosecution also reveals plans to bring in a new expert witness, Tony Johns, to speak about Scott Peterson’s boat. The announcement enrages Geragos, who argues that, with opening arguments only about a month away, all witnesses should be in place. He contends that prosecutors added Johns because the defense had just had the boat inspected by Henry Lee. Geragos jumps to his feet several times as he explains to the judge that prosecutors are violating the defense team’s right to prepare their case in confidence. “Every time we ask to see something, we have to do it in front of a Modesto police officer, a D.A. investigator and one of the D.A.’s who sits there and watches everything we do with it,” he tells Delucchi. The attorney argues for a deadline to present evidence. “For the case in chief, there’s got to be a bright line,” he contends. The judge refuses to set a specific deadline, but warns prosecutors that they will not be allowed to introduce new evidence up to the time of the opening remarks. He says that it appears each side is engaging in “tit for tat,” but that it is not unreasonable for the prosecution to counter the expected testimony of Lee with their own expert. He also orders prosecutors to turn over Johns’ report as soon as it is completed. One more potential juror qualifies for the jury pool, bringing the total to 38. She is a worker at two clerical jobs—one of which is part-time—but reveals she is expected to be laid off. Nevertheless, she says, she would be happy to use her savings to make it through the trial without a paycheck. “I’ll be OK, and you won’t have to support me,” she tells the court. She even offers to reschedule a Hawaiian vacation to serve on the jury. She tells the court that, even though she is aware of the Scott Peterson case and even watched part of The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story, she could be fair. “I go into everything with an open mind,” she says. “I don’t want to come to conclusions on something until I’ve got all the facts.” A psychology student is dismissed after being accused by Geragos of lying on the questionnaire. First, she is questioned by Dave Harris, who asks her routine questions about her classes and her thoughts on types of evidence. “I believe that he deserves a fair trial,” she says concerning the defendant. When Geragos begins to question her, she is “a little nervous.” He smiles and gives her one of his standard opening lines about the jury selection being “a little surreal” to those not used to being in the courtroom. Soon, though, he begins firing with both barrels, accusing her of bragging in an Internet chatroom that she had outsmarted the questionnaire and purposely leaving off the fact that she had two restraining orders taken out against her second ex-husband, whom she has since reconciled with—once after he had threatened to kill her. “Did you think that these two lawyers might want to know about that?” Geragos asks. She explains that the questionnaire asked about lawsuits and that she was unaware a restraining order was a lawsuit. Geragos asks if she had requested the order because her ex-husband was “violent and…wanted to come over and murder you.” “No,” she replies. “What was the basis for the restraining order?” Geragos presses. “Oh…yes,” she corrects herself. He waves a piece of paper that he says contains a printout of the chat in which the woman made the comments, asking, Did you ever say, ‘Anyone with half a brain could put the answer that the defense was looking for’?” The woman denies the charges. “I don’t think I did,” she says. She states that she has no recollection of saying she thought Scott Peterson is guilty. The woman is asked to leave the courtroom. “We have people who get up here and lie through their teeth so they can get on to fry this guy,” Geragos complains. “It appears to the court that she’s dissembling,” Delucchi says. He dismisses her because of her omission of having taken out a restraining order. He points out that someone of her intelligence would have known that a relationship with a violent husband would “stick out like a red light” during the jury selection process. During the discussion about the woman, Geragos launches into an angry tirade, seemingly brought on by Jim Fox’s remarks the day before in which he indicated his office had never pursued a case of perjury against a juror. Geragos calls Fox “this piece of crap who masquerades as a D.A.” Delucchi admonishes Geragos for his outburst. “You are an attorney,” the judge tells him. “You are an officer of the court. There’s no reason to use that language—it’s really unbecoming.” The dismissed woman is chased down the courthouse halls and outside by a pack of reporters. She denies the charges, explaining that the woman who contacted Geragos is a “jilted girlfriend” who has an “ax to grind.” She also denies seeking a spot on the jury or wanting to convict Scott Peterson. “I don’t ever recall saying I want to be on the jury,” she says. In fact, she adds, she’s glad not to serve. “I don’t have to waste six months,” she explains. “I can go back to school. I had no need to be on this case—I wanted to give him a fair trial.” Geragos opines that the number of San Mateo County residents prejudging his client guilty is “off the charts.” He tells the court that he is planning to file a second change-of-venue motion, again arguing that the best place for the trial is his own backyard—Los Angeles County. “Do you think that it would be any different in L.A. than in San Mateo County?” Delucchi asks. Geragos contends that a move to San Mateo County was essentially no move at all. “This was the place where the bodies washed ashore,” he points out. “We’re in the same TV market. We haven’t solved the problem.” “But you can’t guarantee that there won’t be stealth jurors in L.A., San Diego, San Bernardino County or Ventura,” Delucchi counters. “If someone wants to deceive the court and the attorneys and they’re crafty, there is no way around it.” Delucchi sets May 10, 2004, as the day when he will hear arguments on the change-of-venue motion. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Geragos offers a public apology to Fox. “I lost my cool a little bit in using a derogatory term about the D.A. in this city, and I apologize,” he says, but without taking a breath, goes on to further complain about the district attorney. “There are felonies being committed in courtrooms one floor below his office,” Geragos states. “I’ve got a 10-year-old boy who could investigate the case in 10 minutes.” The attorney calls stealth jurors a “cancer in the criminal justice system” that Fox is simply ignoring. “If he’s not going to take action when people are committing perjury in a capital case in his courthouse, then he’s got no business—none—acting as the chief law enforcement officer of this county.” About the latest stealth juror, Geragos tells reporters, “She was as good an actress as there comes…that scares the devil out of me. What we saw today is chilling.” Asked later for a response to Geragos’ caustic comments, Fox says, “At no time had we planned to initiate any investigation until the judicial process is concluded. I am disappointed that civility is not a strength of character that Mr. Geragos possesses, to have to stoop to name-calling. We do view perjury as cutting to the heart of the criminal justice system. It requires more than a ‘he said, she said’ and right now that’s where we are. You cannot prosecute a perjury case absent corroboration.” Fox explains that he had only this day received the complaint from Geragos, who forgot to provide her address. “I don’t know what he expected when he delivered this stuff just today,” Fox states. “We will attempt to determine whether or not there is any corroborative evidence.” During On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, Van Susteren promises her viewers that she will discuss “the blood in the van” but does not deliver. The world marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic discovery of Laci Peterson’s body.
April 15 During the morning session of court, Al Delucchi and Mark Geragos argue for about a half hour after the judge tells him that any future informants about stealth jurors should be prepared to testify under oath. “You listen to what I’m telling you, Mr. Geragos,” Delucchi commands. “I’ll tell you one more time: I’m not going to take statements from nameless, faceless people that are going to impugn the names of these potential jurors.” Geragos responds that the judge’s proposal will have a “chilling” effect on those with legitimate information. He argues that he only presents information from informants who have already been checked out by his office. “I’m not going to make a fool out of myself exposing some looney tune just released out of Atascadero,” he says. The judge asserts, “I have the right to determine whether those statements are true…Who knows if they’re bogus or not?” Delucchi says he fears that the case has produced so much publicity that a “smart aleck” could insert himself into it by bringing false allegations against potential jurors. Geragos counters that Delucchi’s arguments are “ridiculous,” a statement that seems to further irk the judge, who just the day before had to counsel Geragos about his inappropriate language. Ultimately, the two agree that they share a desire to have those with legitimate information about possible stealth jurors to come forward. Geragos requests that the change-of-venue hearing be moved up to May 7, 2004, to allow him more time for appeal or to allow time for a second jury to be seated. The judge agrees. In the morning, two more potential jurors are chosen, bringing the total to 40. The first is a Teamster who admits that he once had a restraining order against him during his divorce and was also sued over a property dispute. He states that he is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs, citing his work with the Teamsters union. “No one will make decisions for me,” he says. The second is an adoption facilitator and member of the Executive Women’s Golf Association. She says that, in a previous position as a social worker, she spent many years investigating child abuse, a job that sometimes gave her negative opinions about law enforcement. “I felt, at times, there were just some differences of opinions in doing investigations,” she says concerning her view of police officers. “They would rather go to a 10-car pileup than go investigate child abuse.” She admits she has discussed the Scott Peterson case with co-workers, but also declares that she does not believe what she reads in newspapers. In the afternoon, two more potential jurors are chosen, bringing the total to 42. The first is a federal probation employee and 2001 graduate of San Francisco State University who admits that he has “a little bit of suspicion” about Scott Peterson and that his mother strongly believes in Scott Peterson’s guilt. The second says she researches grants and contracts for a surgery center, but hopes to change careers soon. She declares that she will base her verdict only on the evidence. “This is a man’s life we have in our hands,” she tells the court. She says that one of her co-workers regularly discusses Scott Peterson and will “rant and rave he’s guilty.” Geragos asks tongue-in-cheek if that person is among the potential jurors, to which the woman replies, “No.” Geragos then quips, “Well, if she is, please give the judge a call,” prompting laughter from the courtroom. Speaking to reporters outside of court, Geragos suggests “there are numerous other stealth jurors,” but provides no details. In GretaWire, Greta Van Susteren apologizes for dropping the ball on “the blood in the van” but provides no new information or theories. The Abrams Report welcomes Gary Casimir, Dean Johnson and Jeanine Pirro to discuss the stealth juror and the testing of presumptive blood evidence in a van. The latest complaints by Mark Geragos are called “histrionics” by Pirro: “This is again, much ado about nothing…it’s a satanic cult, Donnie in the brown van, it’s the neo-Nazis, it’s the two men in the park, it’s the fugitive—I mean, what’s a day without a trial balloon for Mark Geragos?” The Modesto Bee releases an article quoting Homer Maldonado. In the article, Maldonado reveals that his December 24, 2002, sighting of a woman he believes was Laci Peterson was actually the third time he remembers seeing the woman. The story states that Maldonado had planned not to disclose this additional information until Scott Peterson’s trial, and was advised not to do so by Scott Peterson’s private investigator, presumably Gary Ermoian. “I never did tell anybody else except the investigators,” Maldonado is quoted as saying. In the Bee account, Maldonado says he changed his mind about keeping quiet after he and his wife received notice they would be called as witnesses not by the defense, as expected, but by the prosecution. He says he is surprised and confused about the prosecution subpoenas. “I don’t understand why they’re doing this,” he is quoted as saying. “They want us to be there an hour early. I told my wife it’s better we take the stand rather than talk to the prosecution. We really don’t know what’s going on.” According to his account, Maldonado first saw the woman and her dog in the morning about 2 weeks before Laci Peterson’s disappearance, walking by a bridge across Dry Creek, and again on December 22, 2002, between 10:30 and 11 a.m. near what is termed “a small park at Miller and La Loma avenues.”
April 18 On the 1-year anniversary of Scott Peterson’s arrest, the Modesto Bee releases an article focusing on Lee Peterson and his support for his embattled son, whom he refers to as “an easy target” for officials desperate to solve a high-profile case. In the article, Lee Peterson confirms that the family can and will continue to pay Mark Geragos. “I have adequate resources,” he says. “It’s hard to believe. I live very simply, but that’s a choice that we made. We’ve got the best attorney in the country, and we’ll keep him as long as it takes.” He is quoted as again predicting ultimate victory over his son’s persecutors. “They’ll end up tucking their tails between their legs and slinking away,” he says, estimating, “It’ll be sometime in October before he walks out of there.” A year ago, he commented that the “police have just bungled this investigation from day one,” and based on the story, has not changed his tune. “Despair and sadness has turned to just anger at these guys,” he explains. “What upsets me about our legal system is the fact that police are allowed to lie the way they are to suspects, to their friends and their families. They can spread all the garbage they want. They try to isolate you from your family and friends and then break you.” He attributes his son’s weight loss to a “semi-vegetarian” diet in jail. The article also quotes a couple of officials, responding to the complaints. John Goold notes that lying is simply an “investigative technique.” Bronwyn Hogan replies that, at mealtimes, Scott Peterson “basically gets the same stuff everyone else gets,” and that “if he chooses to not eat the meat, that’s by his own choice.”
April 19 Scott Peterson enters the courtroom. He is wearing a light gray suit, a light blue shirt and a royal blue tie. Jackie and Janey Peterson arrive in court—the first appearance by any family members during the jury selection phase of the trial. As bailiffs bring Scott Peterson into the courtroom, he smiles at his mother and sister-in-law and says, “Hi, guys.” Jackie and Janey Peterson leave the courtroom before jury selection begins, but wait in the courthouse and later join Mark Geragos for lunch. At the beginning of the day’s proceedings, Al Delucchi convenes a 24-minute closed session with Geragos, Pat Harris, Rick Distaso, Dave Harris, Scott Peterson, the clerk and the court reporter. Later, Geragos hints to reporters that the meeting concerned the previous day’s Modesto Bee article in which it was clear that Homer Maldonado had been speaking to members of the media and providing information about his potential testimony. The Modesto Bee later suggests the meeting could have been a response to Lee Peterson’s comments, as well, noting that Rick Distaso was seen with a copy of the previous day’s newspaper prior to the closed-door meeting. Three new potential jurors are added to the jury pool, prompting Al Delucchi to note, “That gives us forty-five, which puts us exactly on pace.” They are questioned for about 25 minutes each by both the defense and prosecution, who ask mostly routine questions. The new additions are a real estate broker (Juror 7045); a young firefighter/paramedic (Juror 17903) and a foreign-born accounting assistant (Juror 6782). During the voir dire of the real estate broker, Delucchi interjects his example of circumstantial evidence, involving a child and a cherry pie. “You bake a cherry pie,” he says. “There’s only you and a youngster in the room. You have to go answer the phone and you tell the youngster: ‘Don’t eat the pie!’ But when you return, there is a slice of pie missing and the youngster has cherry pie on his face.” From this example, the judge explains that, even though you do not see the child eat the pie, you can infer that the child ate the pie from the circumstantial evidence: missing pie, and pie on the child’s face. The firefighter tells the court that, despite his ties to law enforcement, he would not give the testimony of police officers any more weight than that of other witnesses. “I don’t prejudge somebody based on a badge,” he contends. “There’s a lot of people who have badges that I’m ashamed to be associated with.” The immigrant accounting assistant tells the judge he would welcome being on the jury but it would be difficult to give the death penalty verdict, to which Delucchi replies, “Of course it would be difficult.” In a short session, only two potential jurors are disqualified. One says she could not render a death sentence; the other says the presence of the Rocha family in the courtroom would affect her decision. Jackie Peterson, speaking to reporters, expresses frustration at not being able to see more of her son, but says that the trip from San Diego to visit him was worth it “just to see the back of his head.”
April 20 In what Al Delucchi calls a “fruitless morning,” no prospective jurors are qualified. Two men and a woman are excused after voir dire. Nevertheless, Delucchi exhibits optimism about the rest of the day, and his feelings are justified when three more potential jurors are added to the pool, bringing the total to 48. New additions are a system engineer for the state of California (Juror 8493), a civics teacher (Juror 8230) and a full-time student (Juror 8306). Reflecting recent events, each was asked about their feelings concerning stealth jurors. Mark Geragos states he “lives in fear” that another will infiltrate the jury pool. “I think it’s odd someone would have a preoccupation with this case,” Juror 8306 says, a young student with a tattoo on her arm and glasses who lives with her parents. Geragos asks her if, because of her age, she may back down from other jurors. She replies that she will not and points out that, because of her youth, she is willing to listen and keep an open mind. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” Geragos announces as he finishes questioning. Juror 8493, too, tells the court he is willing to stand his ground against other jurors—even if he must do so alone. “If I’m that one, then I’m that one,” he says. He admits that he found his first visit to the San Mateo County Courthouse “creepy.” Juror 8230, a former high-tech worker, is questioned about his technological background. He replies that he knows “slightly more than most” about GPS, but contends that his background should not influence the case. He argues that he can be a good juror because of his understanding of and belief in civics principles. Prosecutors hand Geragos a one-page Department of Justice report concerning tests on the presumptive blood samples found in a van. He openly scoffs at the skimpiness of the report. The Modesto Bee reports that 15 of the year’s 20 cases of academic dishonesty at California State University, Stanislaus, involve the students who fabricated results in Stephen Schoenthaler’s survey of opinions about the Scott Peterson case. The story notes that, even though reports of academic dishonesty are up from one in 2001–02 to fifteen last year, reported incidents probably do not scratch the surface of a nationwide epidemic: A Rutgers survey of 14,000 undergraduates found that more than half admitted engaging in some form of academic dishonesty, nearly a fourth in a “serious way.” In the article, Clara Potes-Fellow states, “Many students have no grasp of the nature of scholarship or its value.” The Bee story itself provides a shocking case-in-point: an anonymous e-mail received from one of Schoenthaler’s students, incredibly defending the fabricated results: “I just wanted to make one thing clear…there was no cheating…the information was falsified…there’s a difference.” The article notes that some professors are fighting back, catching plagiarism through software programs such as Turnitin or simply by running suspect sentences through a Google search.
April 21 Prior to jury selection proceedings, Al Delucchi holds a roughly 45-minute private meeting with Mark Geragos and Pat Harris to discuss “discovery matters.” Delucchi emerges from the meeting without elaborating on what was discussed. Geragos suggests at the end of the day that the meeting may be continued the following morning, and throws a hint to reporters about why such meetings are held: “Usually, it’s when the defense presents a theory to support something they want the judge to do.” Media reports suggest that the closed-door discussion is related to previously expressed defense concerns about a California Department of Justice report on the presumptive blood samples prosecutors recently decided to test. One more potential juror is added to the pool, bringing the total to 49. Newly added is a retired Department of Labor employee. Geragos tells the court he is still “fixated” on the issue of stealth jurors, and questions the woman about them. She agrees that steal jurors “pretty much undermine the entire system.” She notes that she does have a cruise on the Queen Mary booked for October 22, 2004. “Hopefully, the trial will be over by October 22,” Delucchi assures. He then turns to the attorneys and asks, “What do you guys think?” Geragos, Rick Distaso and Dave Harris pause, then generally agree with the judge, although Geragos speculates the end of that month—Halloween—would be a more likely completion time. Four other potential jurors are dismissed during voir dire. Delucchi reschedules the change-of-venue hearing from May 7 to May 11, 2004.
April 22 Only one potential juror is added to the pool, bringing the total to 50—four off the pace of Al Delucchi’s goal. The new prospect works for a Bay Area biotechnology company and is reportedly the second Russian immigrant to be selected. He tells the court that he does not oppose the death penalty, but opposes the way the death penalty appeals process “results in the defendant being executed decades after the crime.” Delucchi provides an example of circumstantial evidence. “You are sitting in a room,” the judge says. “You hear thunder, and you see a man enter the room in a raincoat, and he’s wet.” The judge then asks the man, “What can you infer from that?” Instead of a straight answer, the man replies, “That reminds me of a joke. A man is in a room, and leaves the room and returns and he’s wet. When asked if it was raining outside, he answers, ‘No, it’s windy!'” The man’s joke, perhaps a reference to the lack of available toilets in his homeland, causes the audience to erupt in laughter. During the lunch break, an anonymous letter arrives at the courtroom. Delucchi holds up the letter, which appears to be handwritten on a single sheet of white paper. “We received a letter from an anonymous citizen indicating who they feel is responsible for the killing in this case,” the judge announces. “Mr. Geragos wants to pursue some detective work on it.” Attorneys on both sides are given copies of the letter. Responding to the request from Geragos, the judge orders the contents of the envelope sealed. Bay City News reports that the defense team is expected to submit the letter to forensic experts for analysis. “Well, today wasn’t very good,” the judge remarks at the end of the day’s proceedings. Meanwhile, in Modesto, three lawsuits filed by Sharon Rocha against Scott Peterson (a wrongful death lawsuit, a separate lawsuit asking for damages stemming from the wrongful death, and a third as administrator of Laci Peterson’s estate) are postponed until after his criminal case. October 22, 2004, is set as a tentative date for further discussion of the cases, although the one suit attempting to block him from profiting from the crime remains scheduled for June 2004.
April 25 The San Francisco Chronicle releases an article entitled “Loving Laci: America’s Top Reality Soap Opera,” which is an excerpt from Maureen Orth’s book, The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex.
April 26 Al Delucchi announces that another letter has been received that purports to name individuals who may have been involved in the murder of Laci Peterson. Delucchi states that the letter contains a hair sample and a fingerprint is included in the envelope. The judge notes that the letter was received “from out of state” and names specific “people who may have been involved in the Laci Peterson case.” Amelia Singh is dismissed is dismissed after telling the court that she would consider only the death sentence if Scott Peterson is convicted. Then, outside the courtroom, she expresses her belief in Scott Peterson’s guilt to reporter Susan Siravo. “I don’t know anything about fishing, but just the idea that he went to the Berkeley Marina and whatever he was supposed to have done there, he didn’t have the right kind of boat or the right kind of equipment,” Singh tells Siravo. “And then I found out he went a couple of times afterwards. So it’s like, why keep going there?” Later, Singh’s interview is broadcast on KNTV and draws the attention of Mark Geragos. Jury selection continues, with two more prospective jurors making it into the final phase of jury selection, bringing the total to 52. The first is a woman who admits that, as a teenager, she dated and later married a convicted murderer when he was in prison. She tells the court that her first husband was killed while doing time, but says that her experience would not affect her ability to judge the Scott Peterson case fairly. After Dave Harris asks her about the specifics of her former husband’s trial, she replies, “I don’t really like to talk about it.” Delucchi and attorneys from both sides then meet with the woman for about 15 minutes in the judge’s chambers. The second qualified juror is a native of Great Britain who is now working for Redwood City. He says that he has paid little attention to the Laci Peterson story and believes he could be fair to both sides. Frank Muna is back for another 15 minutes of fame, warning that prosecutors could soon regret not considering the story of his client, Cory Carroll. “If they want to take the risk of proceeding perhaps on the wrong basis, that’s up to them,” Muna says. “We went out of our way to give them all the information possible.” He says that Rick Distaso told him Carroll’s information was useless because “it was difficult to verify,” then proceeded to launch a “slam campaign” to scare him off. Part of that effort, Muna says, was false information given to the Modesto Bee saying that Muna had tried to sell his client’s story to the National Enquirer—a charge the attorney continues to deny. “We accepted no money,” he states. “We asked for no money. We were offered money but didn’t take it.” Muna reports that Carroll, now out of jail, is through talking. “My client feels he’s done everything he can,” Muna explains. “It’s over and done with as far as we’re concerned. His conscience is clear.” The San Jose Mercury News points out the essential problem with Carroll’s story: “Nobody will bring up ‘Dirty’ and ‘Skeeter’ at the trial because it would only hurt both sides.” Not necessarily so, Muna says. He contends that the two men seen harassing a woman with a dog on the morning of December 24, 2002, “quite possibly” could have been the two gang members that Carroll said were involved in a conspiracy with Scott Peterson to kidnap his wife. “The general descriptions match,” he points out. Michael Jackson releases a statement concerning his weekend firing of Geragos. “It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me,” Jackson says. “My life is at stake. Therefore, I must feel confident that my interests are of the highest priority.” Geragos, undaunted, continues his mantra to reporters: “It was a very good day.” Lee Peterson agrees with Jackson: Geragos never let Scott Peterson’s case take a back burner to the King of Pop’s. “Mark has had plenty of time” for Scott Peterson, Lee Peterson says. “That’s the kind of man he is. He’s a good man.” Geragos’ loss of the high-value client is not lost on Delucchi. The judge, who had previously granted a request by Geragos to allow the defense team, at their own expense, to bring in more comfortable chairs, quipped, “Are the chairs going back?” “You noticed Jo-Ellan isn’t here,” Geragos replies, referring to prominent trial consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius. Later, when asked by reporters where Dimitrius was, he jokes, “She fired me.”
April 27 Scott Peterson arrives for court, dressed in a charcoal gray suit, with a white shirt and, according to a GretaWire report, a “beige/yellow power tie.” Mark Geragos, suffering from an abscessed tooth, looks “like a chipmunk” because of the swelling on the left side of his mouth. The attorney’s obvious discomfort prompts Al Delucchi to offer him a break any time he got too uncomfortable. Mark Geragos accuses Amelia Singh of being a stealth juror, noting that her questionnaire responses indicated that she had doubts about Scott Peterson’s guilt, but that, after being dismissed by Delucchi, she told reporter Susan Siravo that the defendant was, indeed, guilty. “This is just another example of someone in here, I believe, for lack of a better term, lying on the questionnaire,” Geragos tells the judge. Delucchi points out to Geragos that Singh cannot be charged with perjury or contempt of court since she was not bound by oath or gag order when speaking to the reporter. Geragos states that he will not pursue legal action against Singh, but will include information about the incident, including her television interview, “obviously in anticipation of a motion to change venue.” Singh denies trying to get on the jury. “Believe me, I’d rather baby-sit than sit on the jury,” she tells a reporter. She theorizes that Geragos is making her a scapegoat to effect a trial move to Los Angeles. “Personally, I think Mark is just figuring out a way not to have this trial here,” she says. She also explains that her statements did not mean she has become convinced of Scott Peterson’s guilt, just that there were areas that needed explaining—such as the trips to the Berkeley Marina. “Just because he went out there doesn’t mean he was necessarily guilty,” she says. “I wasn’t saying that. That was one of the things that might turn it around. He might have a really good excuse for that.” Two more potential jurors are selected to join the jury pool, bringing the total to 54. The new selections are a man who is described as a laborer and active union member, and a woman who admits she watched The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story. The man mentions the O.J. Simpson trial, indicating that perhaps Simpson was not guilty. “I still don’t know if he really did it—if he was all by himself,” the man tells the court. The woman states that she has not formed an opinion of Scott Peterson’s guilt and that she is sometimes suspicious of law enforcement: “Some cops are crooked and more likely to lie,” she proclaims. Dismissed after voir dire are a retired Hispanic woman, who says she would not consider a sentence of life without parole, and a woman who does the paperwork for surgical authorizations at Children’s Hospital, who is accused of saying one thing during voir dire and another on her questionnaire.
April 28 Juror 4661, a worker for a county probation department and part-time grocery store clerk; is selected to be the 55th member of the jury pool. The man demonstrates that he has a greater-than-average grasp of the legal system, having majored in political science. Nevertheless, he says, he knows little about the Scott Peterson case. “My opinion is going to be based on information presented in a court of law,” he tells the court. Al Delucchi states to a potential juror concerning a return engagement in court that “it may be necessary for us to postpone this for a week.” The judge instructs a bailiff to tell reporters that 100 more prospective jurors will be summoned. At the close of court, 56 of the original 1,000 potential jurors are set to advance to the final round of jury selection, and just 62 remain to be questioned in hopes of filling 14 more spaces and bringing the total to 70—the number Delucchi wanted as a minimum. Dave Harris states that California Department of Justice experts have finished DNA testing on what the defense termed “presumptive blood” samples taken from a van. He says those results have been turned over to Scott Peterson’s defense team.
April 29 Al Delucchi formally announces that, “out of an abundance of caution,” he is calling 100 more potential jurors and delaying opening arguments from May 17 to May 24, 2004. The new crop of potential jurors is to appear in court May 10, 2004. Having qualified 56 people so far, Delucchi remarks, “I think we’re going to be close” to getting the pool of 70 he is shooting for. He says that the “Big Spin” day, when prosecutors and defense attorneys have one last chance to eliminate potential jury members, will also be postponed, from May 13 to May 20, 2004. Working to avoid their first-ever shutout in jury selection, Delucchi, Rick Distaso and Mark Geragos spar over the fate of the last potential juror of the day, described by the Modesto Bee as a “divorced shop worker with a teenage child.” Distaso says about the man, “It didn’t seem he understood anything,” noting that he apparently modified his answers depending on who was asking the questions. Geragos argues to qualify the man, noting that he is a high school graduate with some college experience. “He used to be, I believe, head of human relations at the Modesto Police Department,” Geragos quips. The remark prompts laughter from some parts of the courtroom, but only a cold stare from John Goold. In the end, the judge agrees with Distaso, saying, “It looks as if he’d really have to wrestle with the jury instructions.” Asked after court to comment on the snide remark of Geragos, Goold says, “Obviously Mark Geragos thinks he’s a pretty funny guy.” In the end, Delucchi gets no closer to his goal. The judge, described by the Modesto Bee as “slightly exasperated,” points out the obvious: “We got a grand total of zero.” Mark Geragos, who had earlier said he would submit a change-of-venue motion today, states that the filing will be delayed to May 3, 2004.
April 30 Jim Fox states that investigators are interviewing more people who took the Reno bus trip with a woman dismissed as a stealth juror on March 30, 2004. He says he has received no information from Mark Geragos about the others he has accused of being stealth jurors. “It’s the first time I’ve ever really heard of something like this, although it wouldn’t come as a surprise in a high-publicity case,” Fox says. He suggests that there may be an ulterior motive for Geragos making the charges. “It’s a publicity driver, and I won’t say anything more,” Fox adds. The Modesto Bee follows up on the story about California State University, Stanislaus, criminal justice students who fabricated results of a survey designed by Stephen Schoenthaler and used by Scott Peterson’s defense team in arguing for a change of venue. According to the story, 21 students were found to have violated a code of conduct. Of these, 8 were placed on probation and assigned 20 to 40 hours of community service or a research paper related to ethical decision-making. Although they had their course grades lowered based on the severity of their wrongdoing, none were suspended, the article states. Also, 24 students were cleared of wrongdoing, and 13 more remain under investigation. The Bee states that the university is conducting a separate investigation into Schoenthaler’s role in the scandal. The San Mateo County Times profiles devoted fans of the Scott Peterson trial who have waited day after day to get a seat in the courtroom.