#21) May 2004
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: May 2004
May 3 As court begins, Mark Geragos hands prosecutors a 21-page change-of-venue motion accompanied by dozens of newspaper articles and other exhibits. “The residents of San Mateo County have already made up their minds and have convicted Mr. Peterson of these crimes before trial,” Geragos writes. “A fair trial cannot be had in this county.” But Geragos suggests where one could be held. “If perfection is not within reach, optimum conditions are,” he writes. “Los Angeles County…is the obvious optimal choice.” In the motion, Geragos notes that less than 1 percent of the people summoned indicated on their questionnaires that Scott Peterson was innocent, but 45 percent said he was guilty based only on what they had heard about the case from “sensational and inflammatory pretrial publicity.” Geragos also points to those he has accused of being stealth jurors out to convict his client. “During the last 22 days of jury voir dire, several stealth jurors have been uncovered,” he writes. “We believe this to be unprecedented. The prejudice against Mr. Peterson is apparently so strong that potential jurors are willing to provide misleading or false information to the court just to obtain a seat on the jury in order to convict Mr. Peterson and sentence him to death.” He argues that the revelation of would-be stealth jurors has tainted all candidates. “The extent and nature of the publicity is unprecedented, brewing such a cauldron of prejudice against Mr. Peterson that the Court can no longer trust prospective jurors’ assurances of impartiality,” he writes in the filing. “Thus, despite the sincere expressions by prospective jurors in this case that they can ‘put aside’ prejudgments…it is unrealistic to expect that any individual bombarded by the frenzy of media reports in this county would be able to do so.” In fact, Geragos states, “a higher percentage of the public believes that the landing on the moon was a hoax than believes in the presumption of innocence in this case.” Citing a survey by Paul Strand, the court papers state that more than 96 percent of potential jurors in San Mateo County have heard about the case, and about 56 percent have formed a preliminary opinion. Geragos points out that those rates are “significantly higher” than rates used to justify venue changes in three earlier California cases. Seemingly ignoring the fact that he once had San Mateo County as his second choice of venue, Geragos writes, “The idea that moving this case 90 miles from Modesto would somehow solve the problem of the unremitting local television and print coverage has been rebutted by the 8 weeks of jury selection and the questionnaires themselves. In spite of this court’s herculean effort to try to seat an impartial jury, it is time to transfer venue to the most populous county in the state, Los Angeles.” In the motion, Geragos asks Al Delucchi to grant the defense ten additional peremptory challenges, if the change of venue is rejected, “to try to counter the bias and prejudgment of Mr. Peterson, which has gained such momentum in this case.” John Goold declines to comment on the specifics of the motion. “We may or may not file a response,” he says. Juror qualification sufferes a setback when a previously qualified juror—the only African-American to qualify (Juror 6237)—is excused after indicating hardship: The juror’s employer will not provide a paycheck for the length of the trial. “We’re going backwards,” Delucchi says. Another member of the jury pool (Juror 6967), facing a felony conviction, is also considered to be a likely candidate for dismissal. “Today, we have a net loss of two,” Delucchi says, and although not formally dismissing the second man, states, “We’ve been here for 2 hours and we’re down to 54.” The 57th juror is qualified during the morning session. Juror 9700 is a mother of three who admits she has law enforcement officers in her family. She says she does not know a lot about the Laci Peterson case but wants to be fair. She says she has pictured her own sons in Scott Peterson’s position. “I just wanted to be sure that I’m open to the whole picture,” she tells the court. Later, another woman is taken to the judge’s chambers to discuss a personal family tragedy. She speaks with Delucchi and attorneys on both sides for about 30 minutes. She states that everyone would benefit from a high school civics class, since so many have formed opinions with few facts. She qualifies as the 58th potential juror.
May 4 In the laborious jury-qualification process, now in its 35th day, a little levity breaks the somber mood. Mark Geragos asks a woman about her spouse’s opinion of the case. “Do you want to know the truth?” she asks quietly, easing toward the rail in front of the jury box. “Do you really, honestly want to know?” “I do,” Geragos insists, “But I may regret it.” She then tells about the unexpected reaction from her husband. “He hoped that I would get on the jury, and that it would be sequestered,” she says, causing an outburst of laughter in the courtroom. “It must be a very long marriage,” Geragos notes. After she is qualified as the 59th potential juror, Geragos lightheartedly suggests to Al Delucchi that perhaps they have found a solution to the tedious process. “You hadn’t realized you could attract a lot more jurors if you’d sequestered them,” Geragos says, tongue-in-cheek. “Think of all those husbands whisking their wives off to court.” “And vice versa,” Delucchi replies. “Didn’t you predict yesterday that eight would be possible?” Geragos asks. “I don’t predict,” Delucchi responds. “If we get two today, I’d be happy.” Delucchi gets his wish as one other woman is qualified, bringing to 60 the number accepted into the jury pool. Delucchi announces in the afternoon that 150 additional prospective jurors are being summoned—50 more than he announced last week—and that they will be expected on May 10, 2004. The world silently marks what would have been Laci Peterson’s 29th birthday.
May 5 Breaking out of the doldrums, the jury selection process has its best day since April 15, 2004. Al Delucchi slowly loses his voice over the course of the day, but admits four new members to the jury pool, boosting the total to 64. The proceedings begin on an auspicious note, though, with a conference over the first prospect. Juror 24057 is asked by Mark Geragos whether she believes Scott Peterson is “falsely accused.” She says she does not believe he is. Rick Distaso objects to the query as an “ambush question.” The woman is asked to leave the courtroom as Delucchi confers with the prosecution and defense attorneys. “This defendant is not falsely accused,” Distaso argues. “This defendant has been through a preliminary hearing and is properly before this court.” Delucchi counters, “You didn’t just pull him off the street, yes. But she said she didn’t think he was falsely accused.” Geragos takes the opportunity to hurl darts at his opponents, asking the judge, “If their case is so strong to begin with—if they’re convinced of it—why are they so afraid of people who have a presumption of innocence?” Delucchi agrees that the woman should be excused, saying she appeared to be shifting at least part of the responsibility of proof to the defense. Also dismissed is a woman who works as an immigration inspector for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—a position that authorizes her to carry a gun and arrest people. Geragos argues that the woman is a peace officer and legally exempt from jury service, but prosecutors contend she is eligible to join the pool. Delucchi excuses the woman, explaining that her position in the recently created department makes her eligibility a murky legal issue, but that he is choosing to err on the side of caution since her inclusion on the jury could be grounds for appeal. Added during the morning session are Juror 23903, a middle-aged woman who works at home, and Juror 23874, a graduate student who says, if a family member were on trial, she would want someone like her on the jury. Geragos asks the first woman her opinion of Scott Peterson’s guilt. She replies that she believes in the concept of innocent until proven guilty, but acknowledges, “We wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t suspicion.” During the afternoon, two men are qualified. Juror 24031, a handyman, admits that serving on the jury would put a dent in his income, but tells the court he has been saving up and finances should not be a problem if he were to be selected. Juror 10052 also admits to some issues with getting paid during jury service, but says he is trying to work something out with his employer. Delucchi ups his original goal, saying he would now like “74 or 75” members in the jury pool. A California Assembly subcommittee headed by John Dutra votes 5–0 to reject Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to have California pay all costs related to the Scott Peterson case. “The cost implications, believe me, are greater than any of us could calculate,” Dutra says. He also notes that he was reluctant to give any aid to Modesto, since state bailouts were designed for low-income counties, not cities. “I’m very concerned about opening a Pandora’s Box,” he explains.
May 6 Al Delucchi still struggles with his voice, prompting Mark Geragos to remark that participants in the case were “limping across the finish line” to complete jury selection. In the morning session of court, Juror 9997 qualifies as the 65th member of the jury pool despite having a “tenuous connection” to the case: His daughter’s fiancé once worked for Scott Peterson at The Shack and later bought it. Juror 24023 tells the court she does not know enough about the Scott Peterson case to form an opinion. She admits that she had one relative in law enforcement—a now-deceased deputy sheriff—but says that she will be able to judge the case fairly and is invited into the jury pool. Another anonymous letter is received by the court. Delucchi says it is appears to be a follow-up to a letter received the previous month. The judge asks that copies be provided to the prosecution and the defense, and the original letter be sealed and put into evidence as “Exhibit No. 12.” During the afternoon, one more potential juror qualifies—a man who says he consulted with his Catholic priest concerning the morality of the death penalty. The man is targeted by Geragos, who meets with Pat Harris and Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, then asks that the man be excused. After the man leaves, Geragos argues that the potential juror should be excused because he consulted with his priest. Delucchi disagrees with the argument. Then, Geragos contends that the man should be dismissed for admitting an opinion of guilt. Again, the judge disagrees, noting that the man was very reflective and is a good prospect, having served on two previous juries. “I am going to override you, Mr. Geragos, and accept this witness.” The man is then escorted back into the courtroom, given instructions and released. The last of the initial group of 1,000 prospective jurors is dismissed during the afternoon, leaving Delucchi three short of his goal of 70, but consoled by having qualified three more jurors. “That’s not too bad,” the judge remarks at the close of the day. Leaving the courtroom, Geragos indicates to reporters that the anonymous letter sent to the court by a local person is “worthy of follow-up.” He says he plans to turn it over to his investigator.
May 7 According to scottisinnocent.com, at 8:39 a.m., a court employee signs for a package delivered by UPS, sent from Berkeley and addressed to Al Delucchi.
May 10 The prosecution files with the court an 11-page motion backed by 58 pages of supporting documents, opposing the defense motion for a second change of venue. The prosecution’s position is clear: “There is no court in the land that could ever say that the defendant in this case did not have the opportunity to select a fair jury.” The filing points out that a second move would be unprecedented in California and would be of no value. “This case is known in Northern California and Southern California, and there is no argument that the defense can make that will cause this recognition to disappear,” Dave Harris writes. “Los Angeles is, after all, the entertainment capital of the world, and celebrity is likely to be a key issue for many of its inhabitants. By getting on a nationally famous case…they may have aspirations of working their jury service into a book, interviews or some other form of celebrity and possible monetary benefit.” Harris references an earlier study by Ebbe Ebbeson, who found that the percentage of people in Los Angeles County who had heard of the Scott Peterson case (96 percent) was nearly identical to the percentage in San Mateo County (98 percent). “If the aim of a change of venue from Northern to Southern California were to find more potential jurors who had not heard about the case, these data suggest that this goal cannot be obtained,” Ebbesen writes in a declaration. “The publicity in this case has been pervasive and widespread,” Harris concedes. “However, the defendant has not shown that this case would receive any less publicity in any other venue.” The prosecution’s motion recalls the trial of Charles Manson, which was not moved simply because there was no venue where potential jurors had not heard of him. “The Manson case, even more so than this case, involved horrendous crimes, massive publicity, aberrant/outcast defendants, famous/prominent victims” but “a change of venue was denied, not because of the size of the venue, but because there was no place to go untainted by the media.” Howard Varinsky also argues against moving the case to Los Angeles, where, he says, “This trial will be a happening event…because the story has national prominence and the involvement of a local celebrity attorney, who until recently represented Michael Jackson.” Varinsky, likewise, objects to giving the defense additional peremptory challenges—the fallback plan suggested by Mark Geragos in his defense motion—because Al Delucchi has exhibited “extraordinary caution” and given the defense “wide latitude” in dismissing jurors during voir dire, so that “fair, untainted jurors have been found.” “The defendant’s request for additional peremptories, coupled with the denial of the same to the People, accounts to a request for a deck stacked in his favor,” Harris contends in the filing. In the morning, the first supplemental group of 150 potential jurors arrives at the courthouse. Most of these are dismissed. Therefore, before the noon recess, Delucchi orders another 100 potential jurors be brought to court. In all, 252 additional potential jurors hit the courtroom to fill out questionnaires. During the course of the day, 56 are ordered to return for voir dire later in the week. According to scottisinnocent.com, Al Delucchi receives a letter related to the package delivery of May 7, 2004.
May 11 More than a dozen of Laci Peterson’s friends and Rocha family members arrive in the courtroom in a show of support against a change of venue. No members of the Peterson family are present. As Scott Peterson walks into the courtroom, some of Laci Peterson’s girlfriends glare at him. He quickly looks away, and smiles as he greets his attorney. Mark Geragos, in the words of the Contra Costa Times, is “more frenetic than he’s been on most other days,” missing his swagger. As Pat Harris is speaking to a reporter, Geragos corrals him. “Can I drag you away from her for a minute?” he asks. “I know she’s magnetic, but….” Dave Harris notes that KFI “shock jocks” John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou drove from Los Angeles to harass Scott Peterson at his home. “Publicity has followed this case,” the attorney argues. “Moving this case to Los Angeles would make no difference. Publicity would not stop, and it would probably be worse.” Geragos remarks to Al Delucchi that the Scott Peterson trial has resulted in some surprising answers on questionnaires, noting that “even Buddhists, who are against the death penalty,” want his client executed, and a “virtually illiterate” man had written one legible response: “Guilty.” The defense attorney also argues that Los Angeles County is not that far away to be an inconvenience, and that jurors could make day trips to see locations important to the case. “You go to the marina, you go to the park,” he says. “You make a day of it, you make two days of it. You could bring the whole jury up on Southwest. It’s $106 even without frequent flier.” Nevertheless, after hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defense, the judge, in what he terms “a hard decision,” rules that there is nothing to be gained by another relocation of Scott Peterson’s trial. “There is no showing that we would receive any less publicity anywhere else, much less in Los Angeles County, which is the media capital of the world,” Delucchi points out. “It is speculation to suppose the results of jury selection would be significantly different anywhere else.” The judge echoes the prosecution’s invoking of the Charles Manson case. “In People v. Manson, the court found it is speculative to assume the outcome would be different in any county,” Delucchi argues. “Jurors read newspapers and watch TV in every county.” Concerning the uncovered stealth jurors, the judge says he is “satisfied that any potential stealth jurors have been exposed,” suggesting that such persons are as likely to be found in Los Angeles County as in San Mateo County, and will probably continue to be rooted out by a vigilant defense team. Moreover, Delucchi states, the jury selection process has come too far to be scrapped, with 66 people already qualified. He says he has “bent over backwards” to exclude anyone showing “the slightest bit” of bias. “The court is satisfied with the quality of jurors so far,” Delucchi proclaims. “There does not exist a reasonable likelihood that the defendant could not receive a fair trial in San Mateo County.” Surprising many observers, Geragos then, without stating a reason, withdraws his request for extra peremptory challenges. During juror qualification proceedings, Delucchi backs off a previously stated plan to have opening statements on May 24, 2004. “We haven’t solidified the day we’re going to start the trial,” he tells one prospective juror. “That’s sort of up in the air again.” Exchanges between attorneys and a man being interviewed bring two rounds of laughter from the courtroom. Being interviewed by Geragos, the man states that he lived in Modesto for a few months in 1952 but left when he could not make a living. To that, Geragos asks jokingly, “Do you think someone living in Modesto would kill his wife just to get out of there?” When being questioned by Dave Harris, the man admits that his wife believes Scott Peterson is guilty. Harris asks the routine question of whether the man could set aside his wife’s opinion, to which he replies that he had been doing just that for 54 years. Ultimately, the man is dismissed for confessing that he expects the defense to prove the client’s innocence. Overall, though, progress is made as three new potential jurors qualify, bringing the overall total to 70. One is a woman who has a college degree in a computer-related field, and who told the court that she is not interested in “all the hullabaloo” of the case. The two other women have ties to law and order: One is the daughter of a former judge and the other the daughter of a police officer. One of the women points to the movie The Passion of the Christ as an example that it is possible to be wrongly accused, prompting the judge to point out that “there is a difference between our courts and the Sanhedrin.” At the end of the day, Delucchi is positive about the results. “We’re closing in on the magic number,” he says, making reference to his goal of qualifying 70 potential jurors. “Two more days to go and I’m optimistic…I think we’ll be all right.” Outside the courtroom, Sharon Rocha mocks Mark Geragos, parroting his standard line to reporters: “I just have one comment to make: I think today was a very good day.” Ron Grantski expresses that the Rocha family’s main concern is beginning the trial in earnest. “Now, hopefully we can get this thing started—get the jury selected and get it started and see what happens from there,” he tells media representatives.
May 12 According to scottisinnocent.com, just after 9:00 a.m., Al Delucchi meets in chambers with Scott Peterson and defense and prosecuting attorneys to discuss the package received on May 7, 2004, and the letter received on May 10, 2004. Jury selection continues. The addition of a semiretired Red Cross volunteer finally pushes the jury selection process past Delucchi’s initial goal, taking into account one previously dismissed potential juror. “That’s 70,” the judge says with a sigh after Juror 1614 is qualified. “Confetti and balloons and stuff will be coming down. Everything we get from now on is gravy.” Later, another woman qualifies: a nurse who tells the court that she rarely has time to watch television news. Although reaching his initial goal, Delucchi admits that some of the 70 are already being counted as lost. “We’ve received some calls from jurors who’ve had some life changes,” he states. Mark Geragos says that, by his count, seven previously qualified potential jurors are now “on the bubble.” Delucchi agrees with the math. “We have 71, which is way short of what we really need,” he states. “Since we have seven that are sort of in orbit, that’s nowhere near enough.” He also makes the delay official: opening statements will be postponed until June 1, 2004, after final jury selection on May 27, 2004. “Hopefully, on the 27th, we will have enough jurors,” Delucchi says. To bolster that hope, he says he is calling in an additional 200 potential jurors to the courthouse on May 17, 2004, and another 100 on May 18, 2004. The second additional group is needed because very few of those called on May 10, 2004, have been able to qualify. “Of the 250, we’ve been only able to qualify five,” he points out. “The odds aren’t too good.” One excused juror, a former building inspector and self-described “child of the ’60s,” complains that Scott Peterson’s trial is “an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money.” The man complains that 5 months is an “outrageous” amount of time for a trial. “It can’t be that complicated,” he says. He is disqualified after saying he would expect the defense to present evidence. The Modesto Bee reports that Mark Geragos is taking the term “celebrity lawyer” to new heights, having been spotted outside the courtroom signing autographs for two women at separate times on the previous day. According to the report, he signed the back of a business card for one and a color picture of himself for the other. The Contra Costa Times later reports that the woman asked, “Mr. Geragos, can I have your autograph?” and the attorney obliged by writing his name and the message “stay out of trouble” on the back of one of his business cards. After she returns to her friend with the trophy signature, her friend giggles, “I’m going to have him sign my bra,” then repents, “Oh, I’ll have him sign my tennis shoe.” Geragos provides the second woman with a business card, as well.
May 13 The jury selection process adds two new members to the jury pool, bringing the total number qualified to 74. Both new members are women—one a retired human resources worker, and the other an employee of Pacific Gas and Electric. One had written in her questionnaire that “it looks bad for Mr. Peterson,” but told the court she would evaluate the evidence before deciding. The other woman is a self-proclaimed “crusader” who says that she will not back down even if she stands as the lone voice against a majority. The retiree tells the court that she was a victim of crime more than two decades ago, when her grandson was kidnapped. She states that the boy was taken by his other grandmother and given to the boy’s other parent, but that she did not know the child’s whereabouts for more than 4 years. Even though she admits that the abduction was a “traumatic experience,” she tells the court she does not believe it will influence her thoughts about Scott Peterson. The PG&E worker confesses to being a “moderate follower” of the Scott Peterson case, but states that she does not have enough information to form an opinion on the defendant’s guilt. According to a later account in the Contra Costa Times, she is notable for looking at Scott Peterson during voir dire, whereas most prospects have seemingly avoided him. Filling the pool is a case of two steps forward, and at least three steps back, though, as Al Delucchi meets in chambers with five previously qualified jurors and sends at least three away without an order to return. After the meetings, Delucchi confirms that the pool is down to 70 members, but that he hopes to have “74 or 75” by the time of final selection. More than ten prospective jurors are dismissed. The court shares a laugh at the expense of one of them, who wrote on his questionnaire that “cereal killers” were deserving of the death penalty. “Apparently for stealing the Special K,” Geragos quips. The day is one that had been originally planned for the final jury selection, so about 60 people show up that had previously been selected for the jury pool. Astonishingly, one potential juror does not show up, but instead telephones the court. The juror is apparently aware of the delay in the trial even though specific instuctions were given to all prospects to avoid media reports about the case. Delucchi then reiterates to all potential jurors that, when ordered by the court, they are expected to return, and tells them they should come back on May 27, 2004. “I don’t want to threaten anybody, but you’re under a court order to be here,” he cautions. “I know this is an imposition on your time.” He warns the group that, if one fails to show, “There may be somebody in blue knocking on your place of employment…we mean business.” The threat prompts chuckles from a few members of the pool.
May 17 In the largest wave of potential jurors yet, 262 San Mateo County citizens arrive at the Hall of Justice to fill out questionnaires. Al Delucchi, emerging from his chamber, remarks, “This is the biggest group we’ve ever had.” Later, he tells the first group to fill out questionnaires and promises, “We’re almost there.” There are 130 in the morning pool, and 33 are ordered to return for voir dire, as are 32 from the afternoon pool of 132. Back in Modesto, Al Girolami speaks to the League of Women Voters gathered at the Appetiz Restaurant to hear his talk on “Justice and the Media.” The judge tells the crowd right off that he cannot speak in specifics about the Scott Peterson case, but he does address in a general way conflicts of fair trials and free press. He closes his talk by asking, “Anybody have any questions—other than the Peterson case?”
May 18 The presumably final group of 60 arrives at San Mateo County Courthouse. Al Delucchi introduces the prosecutors, the defense attorneys and the defendant separately. Most of the crowd gives a rousing, “Good morning!” to Rick Distaso and Dave Harris, but fewer greet Mark Geragos, and still fewer welcome Pat Harris. When Scott Peterson is introduced, he stands and says, “Hello,” but hardly anyone acknowledges his welcome. The prospective jurors complete their questionnaires in the morning. After review of the questionnaires, seven of these prospects are directed to return for individual questioning. Al Delucchi warns members of the group to follow his instructions to refrain from exposure to media accounts involving the case. “That’s why I don’t have any hair,” he says to a round of laughter. “It drives me nuts. Don’t do it. Don’t pollute your mind with extraneous details.” One more potential juror is approved to join the pool, the 75th selected. He is an airport screener who is currently on disability. He tells the court that the case is “not really that big of a deal” among his friends, and that he can approach it with an open mind despite having a background in the military and in security. Mark Geragos, noting the degeneration of the jury pool, jokes, “As soon as we get to 70, we should freeze it and just pick the jury right there.” Later, he explains his trial strategy, and it is not a great surprise: He is going to try to portray Modesto Police Department officials as dishonest in their dealings with his client. “In particular there are two officers,” he says, without naming names. Marlene Newell, attending the proceedings, comments on a man calling himself “Citizen Q” who has been sending items of supposed evidence to her www.scottisinnocent.com web site and to the San Mateo County Court. “He could be anything from totally uninvolved to the man who committed the murder himself,” she says. Chillingly, she says that the man is obsessed with the never-solved Zodiac case to the point that he often imitates the killer’s writing style.
May 19 Al Delucchi states that he wants four more potential jurors qualified before going to the “big spin.” Five more potential jurors are accepted into the jury pool, bringing the total number of those qualified to 76 (80 have been selected, but four have already been excused). One woman’s acceptance prompts a heated exchange between Delucchi and Mark Geragos. Geragos challenges Juror 11850 for cause and asks that she leave the courtroom. “She passes the muster,” Delucchi insists. “She’s a thoughtful lady.” “I hope you’re just not qualifying to fill the last slots,” Geragos fires. “You are very suspicious,” the judge remarks. “I am very suspicious for a reason,” Geragos contends. But the judge has the last word. “This woman was very thoughtful. She gave the impression that she could be very fair. I don’t care if she was number three. I read the questions and I read the answers, and I saw her demeanor. She’s qualified.” The woman says that she recognizes one name on the potential witness list, but that the man was dead. To this, Delucchi quips, “We try hard, but we can’t bring him in.” The courtroom eruptsin laughter. The San Mateo County Times reports that Geragos is buying a building near the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City, presumably to set up temporary offices. The San Mateo Daily News runs an extensive article concerning items being sent to Al Delucchi and to the web site www.scottisinnocent.com by “Citizen Q.” Meanwhile, “Citizen Q” tells his story to Associated Press reporter Brian Skoloff, clarifying that the substance found on a “suspicious” blue tarp sent to Delucchi was soil not blood. The Modesto Bee reports on the continuing efforts to have California pay for Scott Peterson’s investigation and trial, pointing out that, as Stanislaus County officials struggle to win support for a subsidy, other counties that tapped the same reimbursement fund acknowledge overcharging the state by millions of dollars. Cited in the article as a notorious example is Calaveras County, currently sitting on $11.3 million in extra payments—and interest—it received for the trials of Charles Ng. Contrary to reports of wild spending by some local governments, Roy Wasden states in the article that Stanislaus County’s expenses were reasonable and accounted for, and should be reimbursed. “There’s not a price tag you put on justice and that’s why that fund exists,” he says.
May 20 The day begins with four previously qualified jurors being excused during a closed-door session. Following that loss, Al Delucchi will later point out, “We still don’t have quite enough. We need a little comfort zone.” In what will ultimately prove to be the last morning of juror qualification, Juror 5859 makes it into the jury pool as the 81st potential juror. She is a self-employed project manager with a master’s degree. She tells the court that she has not followed the case, but has heard about it from her co-workers and her mother, who believe Scott Peterson is guilty. Their opinions, however, would not color hers, she says. The slow going causes Delucchi to show acceptance about continuing the selection process into the following week. “We’re taking two months,” he remarks. “We can take two months and two days.” The afternoon session goes much better, though, with three more prospects making the cut, bringing the total number selected to 84 and the total number available to 76. “We’re right back where we were yesterday,” Delucchi remarks. Then, after a closed-door session with attorneys, the judge announces, “We’re going to cease the voir dire. We have 76 jurors. The court has decided that that probably will be enough. Hopefully there’ll be enough on May 27 when we have the big spin.” Court is adjourned until that day. “Citizen Q” makes an incognito appearance on On the Record With Greta Van Susteren. During the program, panel members Jim Hammer, Michael Baden, Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams discuss the man and his supposed evidence. Ted Williams declares that “Citizen Q” is “full of it,” and none of the panel members say they believe that there may be validity to the evidence the man has sent to Delucchi. “When a guy comes on television and says that he is ‘gathering reports’ for the judge, I have a serious problem,” Williams says.
May 22 The San Jose Mercury News releases an article entitled “Style, Substance to Clash in Court,” contrasting the personalities of Rick Distaso and Mark Geragos.
May 23 The San Francisco Chronicle runs an article previewing the upcoming “big spin” day.
May 24 Mark Geragos files a motion citing misconduct on the part of prosecutors, claiming that they withheld until May 2004 exculpatory information they have been aware of since December 2002. The filing seeks sanctions against the prosecution. “Just last week the prosecution turned over reports disclosing an interview with a witness who saw Laci Peterson being pulled into a van by at least two men,” the motion states. “This eyewitness, who has been a sworn peace officer, has apparently been known to the prosecution since December of 2002 yet he was only interviewed within the last week.” According to the motion, “The witness confirmed his sighting of a woman he identified as Laci and her two abductors. However, the Modesto Police Department chose to ignore this former peace officer’s report.” Geragos writes that the willful omission “clearly establishes that the prosecution’s conduct was undertaken in bad faith.” In the motion, Geragos also suggests that prosecutors knowingly hypnotized Diane Jackson improperly so that her defense-friendly testimony would be excluded at trial—a claim that ignores the fact that investigators also improperly hypnotized Kristen Dempewolf, considered to be a prosecution witness. “The prosecution realized it had no direct evidence of Mr. Peterson’s having been involved in the disappearance of his wife,” Geragos writes. “On January 17, 2003, the prosecution utilized Dale Pennington, an unqualified hypnotist … to hypnotize, and thereby disqualify, Mrs. Jackson,” whose “testimony possessed exculpatory value.” Geragos does not explain how the van with three “dark skinned” men is related to the van with the two men or how either relates to the December 24, 2002, sighting of Diana Campos, who says she spotted Laci Peterson with two white men, but the motion is clear concerning Jackson’s opinion of the men: “Mrs. Jackson said that she had the feeling that they were up to no good.” Geragos writes that “since Ms. Jackson was the only percipient witness to exculpatory events, exclusion of her testimony will necessarily be prejudicial.” He asks the court to allow Jackson to testify at trial and enter her previous statements into evidence. In addition, the motion seeks “any other relief the court deems necessary and appropriate to further the ends of justice.” Reporters seeking comment from the Office of the District Attorney initially come up dry, but John Goold later says about the defense allegations, “We’ll deal with that in court when the time comes.”
May 25 Adam Stewart files court documents on behalf of Sharon Rocha, contending that having the court halt the sale of material items “does not currently violate defendant Peterson’s First Amendment rights.” In the filing, Stewart writes that Sharon Rocha is seeking to protect Laci Peterson’s estate and “preserve her memory in a manner that is fitting and dignified.” With this filing, Sharon Rocha drops her previous attempt to stop Scott Peterson from profiting by selling his story, but is continuing to try “to halt the sale, or any other transfer of presently unknown material possessions or items which are enhanced by the notoriety of this case.” A San Mateo County Times article focuses on the previous day’s revelation about a supposed Laci Peterson sighting, stating, “The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has a reputation with some Modesto-area criminal defense lawyers for ‘hiding the ball,’ or waiting until the last minute to provide key information to the defense.”
May 26 In a news release, Tropos Networks reports that a new, outdoor wireless network-based video surveillance system for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department is going live in preparation for the start of the Scott Peterson trial. An article in the Modesto Bee states that Scott Peterson’s jury is “an older, predominantly white, predominantly female pool.” In that article, David Graeven opines that “the process has produced a more conservative group than what you would expect if they were picked randomly.”
May 27 During the “big spin” day, members of the jury pool enter the courtroom at about 9:40 a.m. Jury selection gets off to a rocky start when the court clerk realizes her roster is 14 people short. Blaming the problem on a computer error, she runs the list again and announces that all 76 potential jurors had arrived. “We have 100 percent attendance this morning,” Al Delucchi says to the group. “That’s wonderful. We’re very grateful you’re all here and taking this as seriously as the rest of us are.” As each potential juror takes a seat, attorneys on both sides huddle with their trial consultants. Prosecutors elicit laughter in the courtroom when they excuse one man—the man facing a felony conviction—before he has a chance to take his seat. In just 53 minutes, seven men and five women are chosen for the jury. Among those dismissed, reactions range from smiles to tears. A deputy sheriff tells Delucchi that none of the potential jurors said they would not be paid for jury service. “Praise the lord that that happened,” Delucchi replies. “You’re the jury, you’re the 18 people who are going to try this case,” the judge tells the selectees. “You’re in this as long as I’m going to be here. Unless you’re dead, you are it.” But just at that point, a man seated as Juror 9 leans forward and produces a note from his employer, stating that he will not be paid for the duration of the trial. Delucchi briefly meets in chambers with attorneys from both sides, then excuses the man for hardship. A woman takes his place, evening the gender ratio. “That’s why I say I don’t have any hair,” Delucchi jokes concerning the last-minute replacement. Six alternates are also chosen: three men and three women. “I want to thank you very much for your patience and your time,” the judge says. “As I told you before, you cannot get these cases resolved unless we get these eighteen people in the box to resolve this case.” Prosecutors reportedly use 13 of their 20 peremptory challenges, and defense attorneys use 16. In selecting the alternates, prosecutors use five challenges, and the defense four. “I’m pleased that we got our jury selected this morning,” Delucchi remarks. “I think it went well.” He again admonishes the jurors to be careful with the media—both as consumers and as potential subjects. “That’s very important, because now you’re like a deer in the headlights,” he warns. He tells the group they all need to be at the courthouse for a 9:00 a.m. start Monday through Thursday, that they will get 90 minutes for lunch, two 10- or 15-minute breaks and will be required to stay most days until about 4:00 p.m. He notes that each juror will be paid $15 per day plus mileage one way to the courthouse. The judge says he has a solution to the trial’s publicity and its potential to affect the jurors. “I will admonish them at lunch,” he says, evoking Winston Churchill. “And I’ll admonish them when they go home at night. I admonish them ad nauseam.” Rick Distaso argues against the defense motion to allow Diane Jackson’s testimony based on the fact that there is apparently newly revealed eyewitness information that ties a van to a supposed Laci Peterson sighting. He questions how the defense can link Jackson’s December 24, 2002, sighting of a van on Covena Avenue to one “seen four, five days later” in East Modesto. “Ms. Jackson had no information regarding seeing Laci Peterson that morning or even that these three people were doing anything improper,” he argues. Mark Geragos points out that, according to the witness, the woman appeared in need of help. “Hello? Last time I looked that’s exculpatory all day long,” Geragos argues. “I’d like to investigate and get to the bottom of this.” Delucchi agrees. “I am of the opinion that if the court keeps this evidence out, it is reversible error because it is exculpatory evidence,” he states. “It’s grounds for reversal.” He suggests that the two van sightings have at least a tenuous link. “One sort of corroborates the other,” he notes. “Whatever weight this evidence is going to have is for the jury to decide. They can give it whatever weight they give it.” The judge refuses to punish the prosecution as Geragos had requested, saying that investigators did not hypnotize Jackson in bad faith as a ploy to keep her from testifying but did so for a “noble purpose.” The judge, saying he is “a little irritated” and “a little aggravated” again warns both sides to not withhold evidence “this late in the game.” “It’s like one drip at a time,” he complains. “This is one thing that really pulls my chain. I don’t like last-minute stuff.” He says that “people kibitzing in the trial, lending their two cents’ worth and meddlers who want to gum up the works” with late revelations could prove to be an ongoing problem during the trial. In response, Distaso states that the prosecution has already turned over all evidence to the defense. Geragos promises that, within 3 weeks, he will share with the prosecution all items he plans to address. The judge asks questions of both sides concerning the upcoming trial, specifically asking Geragos about the satanic cult theories. Geragos seemingly puts to rest months of speculation by stating that he will not introduce at trial a theory that Laci Peterson was abducted by satanists, but may address the Albany Bulb to the extent that it is in the general vicinity where Laci Peterson’s body was found. Distaso estimates his opening statement will take “a couple of hours, maybe a little longer.” Hearing that, Delucchi turns to Geragos and asks, “And Mr. Geragos, maybe a couple of days?” Amid laughter from the courtroom, Geragos replies, “I would guess I might take a little while.” Distaso also estimates that the prosecution’s case will take 4 months to present, adding that Margarita Nava will again be the first witness called. Outside of court, Howard Varinsky states, “I think both sides are satisfied.” ABC News, citing “sources familiar with the case,” reports that the Peterson family could end up paying Mark Garagos more than $7 million.
May 28 Contacted concerning the issue of whether or not members of the Rocha and Peterson families will be allowed in the courtroom before they have testified, Adam Stewart says, “It certainly would be regrettable if my clients aren’t allowed to be in the courtroom.” Ron Frey, who also received a summons, expresses his opinion that he should be allowed to accompany Amber Frey to provide support. “If Mr. Geragos is going to grill my daughter, and if it’s going to make her feel better to have her father, her mother, her sister there for comfort, that should be allowed,” he states. “It’s not going to change my testimony one way or the other. The truth is the truth. If hearing something would influence what you’re going to say, you potentially weren’t going to tell the truth in the first place.” The Kansas City Star reports that Senior United States District Judge Scott O. Wright cited the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, also known as “Laci and Conner’s Law,” in the case of a woman fighting deportation to Mexico. According to the story, the judge ruled that 5-months pregnant Myrna Dick of Raymore, Missouri, must be allowed to stay in the United States until she gives birth, because her unborn son is entitled to legal protection. “If this child is an American citizen, we can’t send his mother back until he is born,” the judge stated in rejecting the federal government’s request to lift a temporary stay granted on April 30, 2004. The story states that Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey P. Ray indicated he would appeal the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
May 30 As the trial approaches, KTVU releases an article contrasting the styles of Mark Geragos and Rick Distaso. The San Francisco Chronicle releases an article profiling Laci Peterson. Several other newspapers release articles that summarize the Scott Peterson case.