#30) February 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: February 2005
February 1 George Miram states that San Mateo County Superior Court spent about $700,000 for the trial of Scott Peterson, and that the reimbursement money has been coming in too slowly from Stanislaus County. According to Miram, about $400,000 has been received by San Mateo County. “It’s money out of pocket for us,” Miram states. “The day will come, if we don’t get reimbursed, that we’ll be looking at a loss of positions or layoffs.”
February 2 In an Associated Press article, Lee Lazaro states that San Mateo County spent roughly $500,000—excluding court costs—to help prosecute Scott Peterson. In the article, Lazaro explains that there were costs for extra deputies, security, transportation and housing for Scott Peterson. He also notes that these expenses are expected to be reimbursed by Stanislaus County.
February 3 ReganBooks announces that Anne Bird will write her version of the Scott Peterson case, focusing on why she believes the trial jury made the right call. According to the publisher, Blood Brother: 33 Reasons My Brother Scott Peterson Is Guilty will go on sale March 1, 2005. A statement from ReganBooks promises the book will reveal “in shocking and riveting detail, the untold story of Scott, Laci and the Peterson family.” Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson ends its first month on the shelves, having sold a reported 119,000 copies.
February 5 The Fresno Bee releases an article exploring why Amber Frey engendered such sympathy as “the other woman” in the Scott Peterson case. The article features commentary by Gloria Allred, Bonnie Russell and Polly Franks, who note that Amber Frey, too, was deceived by Scott Peterson and kept quiet as many of those around her sought to sell photographs and information to the tabloids. “She had ample opportunities to cash in long before now,” Franks says, “It could’ve destroyed her credibility and destroyed the prosecution’s case—and she didn’t do that. She was willing to just let her life be turned inside-out to let justice be served.”
February 7 ReganBooks announces it will publish A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation by Catherine Crier with Cole Thompson. “A Deadly Game is the definitive account of this complex and disturbing case,” says Judith Regan in a prepared statement. “Catherine Crier’s reporting goes far deeper than all previous journalistic treatments, offering countless new revelations into both Scott Peterson and the investigation that brought him to justice.” Metro Toronto reviews Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson, giving it three stars out of a possible five and calling it “one heck of a tale of sex, lies and audiotape.”
February 9 An op-ed piece in the The Hornet references the Scott Peterson case how it reflected the changing views toward abortion. “The media kept switching back and forth from referring to Laci Peterson’s baby as a fetus, or a slain baby…The fact that Peterson’s jury convicted him of not one, but two counts of murder, spoke volumes.” Similarly, an article in New York Newsday, entitled “Abortion in the Crosshairs” marks the Peterson case as a symbolic milestone in the post-Roe v. Wade landscape. “Women’s groups are less than gleeful over fallout from the case,” the article suggests. “Conservatives are using it to promote anti-abortion laws as they shun legislation to stem violence against women.” USA Today examines the series of literary offerings from ReganBooks focused on the Scott Peterson case. In the article, Judith Regan offers her view of why the case continues to attract. “TV. Good-looking people. A great soap opera,” she says. Regan claims she did not set out to corner the market on the case and insists that the books by Amber Frey, Anne Bird and Catherine Crier with Cole Thompson are all quite different. “Jackie Peterson could write a book—if she would tell the truth,” Regan suggests.
February 10 Sharon Rocha visits Sacramento to try to persuade lawmakers to sponsor a bill proposing that the state pay the city of Modesto for costs related to the Laci Peterson investigation. The Associated Press reports that the West Virginia legislature has reintroduced “Laci’s Bill,” proposed legislation that would make it a crime to commit an act of violence against an unborn child. According to the report, the bill carries 28 of 34 senators as co-sponsors and Gov. Joe Manchin has indicated that he will sign the bill once it is presented to him.
February 11 According to an ABC report, Jackie Speier has offered to author the legislation sought by Sharon Rocha. “Sharon Rocha, in another example of grace and presence, is here trying to right a wrong,” she says. “The irony here is that my understanding is that Mr. Peterson’s defense attorney has been fully paid.” KXTV reports that Modesto officials are blaming the expense of the Laci Peterson investigation for being unable to hire eight additional officers needed by the police department. Meanwhile, an Oklahoma House committee approves that state’s version of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Stephen Zappala announces a criminal investigation of Cyril Wecht, one of the untapped expert witnesses for Scott Peterson’s defense. “There is evidence that the coroner is using his public office for personal, pecuniary gain,” Zappala states. “We have evidence he’s making money.”
February 12 In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Cyril Wecht responds to charges that he used his official duties for financial gain. “I’m not wearing two hats,” he contends. “The implication is I’m wearing two hats simultaneously. That hat is taken off and a new hat is put on. Can I don a second hat? Absolutely. There is no law that prohibits it.” In the article, Stephen Zappala suggests that Wecht’s private work is being done using county facilities and personnel, resulting in a backlog for Allegheny County. “No county resources or county time are used at all,” Wecht states. “The only county people are people who do things on their own time. Not one single test is done at the Allegheny County coroner’s office. Not one pair of gloves, not one ounce of formula or fixative. Zero, zero, zero, zero.” The article suggest that the furor may be political. “He’s continued to try to expand his involvement into areas where, quite frankly, I don’t need his help and, quite frankly, he gets in the way,” Zappala argues.
February 15 Scott Bernstein is apparently involved in another incident in which he attempts to pull over a car by activating his vehicle’s emergency lights and siren. This time, Bernstein chooses unwisely, pulling over an off-duty police officer. As the officer calls the Ramapo, New York, Police Department to check on Bernstein’s story that he is himself an officer of the law, Bernstein reportedly drives off.
February 19 Janel Moloney is named as the star of the upcoming CBS movie Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution.
February 21 Ron Grantski, appearing with Karen Minnis, testifies before Oregon’s House Judiciary Committee to argue for legislation that would make it two crimes to attack a pregnant woman and kill or injure her unborn child. In a news conference after the hearing, he explains his views. “When somebody takes that grandchild, son or daughter away from you, that’s murder,” he says. “You’ve gotta have justice for both, not just for one.” He explains that Sharon Rocha could not attend the hearing because of previous commitments, but says the two are willing to travel to any state that has such pending legislation, and that she has plans to visit Texas soon. He again dismisses claims that such legislation erodes abortion rights. “It should be easy to see that this has nothing to do with abortion,” he states. “This is strictly malice aforethought, trying to murder a pregnant woman and kill her baby.”
February 22 The Modesto Bee reports that Sharon Rocha has asked state lawmakers to give Modesto $1 million to help pay the cost of the Laci Peterson investigation. “I think it will put the face of a victim’s family” on the legislation, Roy Wasden says. The New York Post, in an article headlined “Scott’s Vile Charade,” reports on Anne Bird’s taped interview with Dateline NBC. According to the report, she claims that Scott Peterson drank a lot and did not mention his missing wife in the weeks after her disappearance. “He stayed away from the entire topic,” Bird is quoted as saying.
February 23 Undisclosed sources report to the Modesto Bee that Scott Peterson’s formal sentencing could be delayed once again because of a possible scheduling conflict.
February 25 At 9:00 a.m. in San Mateo County Superior Court, attorneys meet for about 15 minutes to discuss the formal sentencing of Scott Peterson. As he enters the courtroom, he smiles at Jackie and Janey Peterson. Richelle Nice, John Guinasso and one other juror attend the hearing. Conspicuous by their absence are Lee Peterson and all members of the Rocha family. Mark Geragos and Pat Harris appear for the defense, filing a 122-page motion to request a new trial for Scott Peterson. The motion is immediately sealed by Al Delucchi, who says it will be made public on March 9, 2005. “In the interest of fairness,” Delucchi says, “I’m not going to make the defense motion public yet till the prosecution has also filed.” The judge also seals more than 150 letters, including at least one from Lee Peterson, sent to the court, noting that the letters could “poison the atmosphere” during the appeals process. “It could inflame the public against the defendant and his counsel,” the judge explains. Delucchi sets March 16, 2005, as the new formal sentencing date, noting that defense attorneys “were unprepared and had other problems to deal with” that caused the delay. “Let me make it clear to counsel that the 16th is in cement,” Delucchi warns. “I’m not going to grant any further continuances. There has been plenty of opportunity to prepare your moving papers.” Geragos refuses to reveal the contents of the motion, although KTVU reports the request is based on evidence that prosecutors disobeyed discovery rules related to a recorded telephone conversation between an inmate and his brother. “The tape has a brother outside of jail telling the brother in jail that he had heard that people had burglarized Laci and Scott’s house,” says Michael Cardoza, who cites an unnamed source. He says the tape reveals that Laci Peterson had surprised the burglars, then engaged in an argument with them that escalated. “Whether the tape has any evidentiary value, or whether it’s credible or not, I don’t know,” Cardoza notes. “It could be hearsay of hearsay of hearsay.” Nevertheless, he notes the legal implications. “By not turning it over, they opened a Pandora’s box,” he predicts. Paula Canny tells the same story. “It’s guys in jail saying, ‘I heard blah, blah, blah,'” she says dismissively. More than one media report notes that Scott Peterson, wearing a black suit and yellow tie, appears to have gained weight. Rick Distaso and Dave Harris speak on Court TV after the hearing. Distaso praises star witness Amber Frey. “Amber’s testimony was very important. I think everyone saw that it was obviously a big part of the case,” Distaso says. “I thank her for coming forward. I think that she did a good job.” Dave Harris states that the prosecution won the case because they “stuck with the plan” they had formulated in the beginning. He says the prosecutors ignored the media firestorm as best they could. “As long as you didn’t watch TV, it wasn’t too hard,” he quips. Distaso echoes those sentiments. “We treated it like any other case,” he says. “We had a plan, and we proceeded with it.” He is complimentary of his opposition. “I think Mr. Geragos did a fine job in this case,” Distaso offers. “He defended his client well, and justice was served in the end.” Distaso admits there were some heated discussions, but adds, “For the most part, the attorneys treated each other well.” Both attorneys concede the trial took an enormous personal toll. “We really didn’t get to go home for a year, and we have families at home,” Harris remarks, calling the case “a long road.” Jackie Peterson tells reporters that she prays for her son, and that the Peterson family continues to receive letters of support. Janey Peterson says that the family is still hopeful, but declines to comment further, directing those with interest to a web site supporting her brother-in-law. Guinasso speaks to ABC News, revealing that the jury may have been deadlocked had Gregory Jackson remained as foreman. “If he was to remain on the case, I think we would have had a hung jury,” Guinasso says. He notes that he attended the hearing to see the case “from a different perspective” and that his curiosity prodded him to follow the case through to its conclusion. “It’s a stepping-stone toward closure,” he says, while admitting that the case still takes its toll on him. “There’s not a day that I don’t think about the case,” he admits. “The autopsy pictures were pretty horrific, and how the victims’ bodies were found was terrible.”
February 26 Just after 10:00 a.m., Sharon Rocha angrily confronts Jackie and John Peterson as they move furniture and other belongings from the former residence of Scott and Laci Peterson. Sharon Rocha calls Adam Stewart, who advises her to calm down and leave immediately. At about 10:20 a.m., Modesto Police Department officers arrive, but make no arrests. “We were called out here to keep the peace, and we stood by while they loaded the truck and then left,” Derrick Letsinger tells the media. Sharon Rocha leaves the residence shortly after officers arrive, but two other persons stay behind to photograph what is being taken from the home. “We’re moving out what’s left,” John Peterson remarks. Reporters ask Jackie Peterson for a statement about her convicted son. “Is this entertainment in Modesto for Saturday?” she snaps. “You know you guys put him in there, you guys could get him out—start telling the truth now.” Jackie and John Peterson leave in the early afternoon. Stewart later remarks to the Modesto Bee that the confrontation “could have been a more explosive situation.” The attorney notes that he had previously worked out an agreement with attorneys for the Peterson family regarding the disposition of items from the home. “Jackie Peterson took matters into her own hands to move things out,” he says. “I guess our timeline wasn’t acceptable to Jackie Peterson.” Stewart tells reporters that the locks on the home were broken to allow the Petersons access.
February 28 Newsweek reports that publishers Simon and Schuster are planning their own book about the Scott Peterson case, Black Heart. The Newsweek report also states that Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson is in its fifth printing.