#33) May 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: May 2005
May 3 A letter to the editor from Lee Peterson appears in the Modesto Bee. “Modesto citizens bore the cost of the police department investigation and trial to put an innocent man on death row,” he argues. He theorizes that a corrupt Modesto Police Department “gave in” to pressure from a biased media to solve the Laci Peterson case because they “were only interested in self-aggrandizement and their own careers” and therefore willing to ignore leads that did not fit their predetermined scenarios. “My son was convicted because he had an affair,” he laments. “Scott was not convicted of this crime under the standards required by law.” To bolster his assertion, Lee Peterson notes his son’s squeaky clean past and several holes in the prosecution’s case: “No cause of death, no crime scene, no motive, not a shred of evidence in the home or truck, no background of abuse, not even a harsh word.” He closes by admitting the Peterson family is “hurting beyond all comprehension,” yet predicts Scott Peterson will eventually be freed.
May 4 The world silently marks what would have been Laci Peterson’s 30th birthday. State lawmakers hold a hearing on Senate Bill 1014. Lt. Vernell Crittendon reports that Scott Peterson has posted two photographs of Laci Peterson on his cell wall. Crittendon says the inmate is “adjusting well” and has been visited by members of the Peterson family. Responding the the oft-asked question of Scott Peterson’s safety among the other prisoners, Crittendon notes that there “have not been any indications” of impending violence. “He seems to be getting along with the staff well,” the officer adds.
May 6 The Modesto Bee prints several replies to Lee Peterson’s recently published letter to the editor. There are messages from readers throughout the country, and even one from Mexico—a clear representation that the newspaper has been the focal point for many rabid followers of the Scott Peterson case. Cheryl Dadasovich sarcastically echoes Jackie Peterson’s urging of “deny, deny, deny” by stating that the Peterson family is in “denial, denial, denial” and “should be ashamed of themselves for lying to police to protect their golden boy.” John Anglim, Kathy Bengtson, Lois Woolery, Richard Ferriera and Carla Epstein contend the people made the right decision in the Scott Peterson trial; Judy White, Ann Easley, Kirsten Tastula, JoAnn Call, Janice Perry and Barbara Weaver, however, question the validity of the conviction.
May 7 Anne Bird is interviewed by Rita Cosby.
May 10 The Abrams Report, in another interview with Lt. Vernell Crittendon, reveals some of Scott Peterson’s reading material: From the Pit to the Pulpit and My Uncle Oswald, the latter of which Dan Abrams describes as “a brief novel dedicated solely to the diaries of the greatest fornicator of all times.” Crittendon predicts Scott Peterson will move to death row in three to five weeks. The officer further notes that Scott Peterson has a 13-inch television and a CD player on the way, courtesy of the Peterson family. Prudential real estate agent Mary Prieto lists for sale the former home of Scott and Laci Peterson. She begins receiving calls from those interested in purchasing the home. At about 8:35 a.m., Scott Bernstein engages in what authorities term a “road rage” incident in New York. He is accused of harassing a 43-year-old woman. Thelton Henderson issues an order in which he terms the conditions at San Quentin State Prison’s medical facility “horrifying” and threatens to take over California’s prison health system. “Even the most simple and basic elements of a minimally adequate medical system were obviously lacking,” the judge states concerning a February 2005 visit. Henderson gives prison officials until July 11, 2005, to show why he should not appoint a court receiver.
May 11 KTVU and the Modesto Bee announce that the former home of Scott and Laci Peterson is on the market for $379,996. Mary Prieto describes the screening process being used to keep curiosity seekers from touring the home: filling out a long preapproval application, submitting to an interview and signing a confidentiality agreement. In a Modesto Bee account, Prieto says, “I don’t think any looky-loo is going to want to go through that process.” Prieto notes that no still or video images can be taken of the home’s interior. Interestingly, she reveals that the home’s disclosure statement does not identify it as a crime scene—despite California law requiring sellers to list crimes committed on a property. Prieto says the state could not definitively prove that Laci and Conner Peterson were murdered there. Adam Stewart states that, although Lee and Jackie Peterson agreed to the sale, the Rocha family and the Peterson family have not yet reached an agreement on how to divide the profits. Karen Servas says she is “ready for new neighbors” and echoes Stewart’s hope that new owners will end the controversy that has swirled about the home since December 2002. “I trust the process that Sharon and Ron are going through,” she states. “Looking back at Laci and her life, maybe it’s time for a new family to move in who can honor her. I’m looking forward to that.” KGO reports on Scott Peterson’s “relatively uneventful” life in prison, with Lt. Vernell Crittendon again reporting on the volume of mail received. “Twenty-five pieces is about the minimum I’ve seen,” Crittendon says. “And one day he had 85 pieces of mail.” SeacostOnline.com reports on an automobile accident in Hampton, New Hampshire, in which an allegedly intoxicated man sideswiped another vehicle, presumably causing that car’s driver to have a miscarriage. The story mentions the death of Conner Peterson, noting that killing an unborn child is not considered a homicide in New Hampshire—the state’s House of Representatives defeated House Bill 209, that state’s proposed version of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, in March 2005.
May 13 The Modesto Bee runs another round of responses to Lee Peterson’s May 3, 2005, letter to the editor. Included among the letters is one from Richelle Nice, in which she explains that the jurors acted not out of hate but out of duty to make a difficult decision. Other letters are from Carrie Conroy and Kalei Britto. The Oregon House of Representatives passes its fetal-homicide bill 37-to-21, sending the measure to the Oregon Sentate. KMTR reports that the legislation is “modeled after California’s 30-year-old law that allowed Scott Peterson to be charged with a double murder for killing his pregnant wife, Laci.” Mary Prieto shows 523 Covena Avenue to three prospective buyers.
May 16 The New York Post calls the asking price for Scott and Laci Peterson’s former home a “killer” deal. The article notes that there were three offers on the home within 48 hours of listing. “It’s in a great neighborhood,” Mary Prieto states in the article. “It has a great market value.” She predicts a closing within 45 days.
May 17 ABC News reports that a buyer for 523 Covena Avenue may be chosen as early as May 18, 2005. San Mateo County receives a check for $54,117.68, its final payment from Stanislaus County for $881,111 of expenses related to Scott Peterson’s trial. “By all accounts, the county conducted an efficient trial,” John Maltbie states in an Associated Press report. “No taxpayer funds were used to support the media, and I am pleased to announce that, as of today, the county has been fully reimbursed by the county of Stanislaus.” The reports notes that Stanislaus County forked over $182,118 for non-court costs, various media outlets reimbursed San Mateo County $82,571 for special facilities, and just $5,079 out of $621,501 remains to be reimbursed for direct state court costs. The Associated Press reports that Assembly Bill 27, which would require prompt payment of such debts, has been approved by the Assembly Judiciary and Appropriations committees. In a KGO report, Maltbie praises Gene Mullin’s efforts in introducing the bill. “It’s unfortunate that state legislative intervention was required,” Maltbie laments. “San Mateo County’s experience with this high-profile change-of-venue case illustrates the need to remedy a flaw in the state’s current reimbursement procedures.”
May 18 Roy Wasden speaks before Modesto’s finance committee, warning about the impact of proposed cuts to the Modesto Police Department. “There will be times when we will be simply unable to respond to some type of calls, such as burglar alarms or investigating property damage,” Wasden states. In a Modesto Bee article, Mary Prieto reports on the progress of the sale of 523 Covena Avenue, specifically in regard to what she had termed a rigorous screening process. “We did get a lot of buyers who felt they wanted to pursue viewing the home,” she says “But once we shared with them the requirements, the interest went away.” Responding to harsh criticism by Thelton Henderson, San Quentin State Prison opens its doors for a media tour of its medical wing. Jim Allen discusses the facility’s problems and progress in a Reuters report. “Do we have problems at San Quentin?” he asks rhetorically. “I’m not going to argue with that. Are we making progress? We are.” Larry Haugh, commenting on the final bill being paid to San Mateo County, rebuffs suggestions by San Mateo County officials that Stanislaus County was at any point planning to stiff them. “At no time were we anticipating not making payments,” Haugh states. “We were just asking them to give us some more information about the expenses.”
May 19 Reacting to the proposal to cut Modesto’s budget by four percent, Roy Wasden states that the new budget would present the Modesto Police Department with “more stress, more challenges and greater needs.” The Minneapolis Star-Tribune runs an article discussing Duluth, Minnesota, native Nathan Anderson, slated to play Scott Peterson in Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution. Mary Prieto fields an above-market-price offer for 523 Covena Avenue. Sharon Rocha, Lee Peterson and Jackie Peterson accept the offer.
May 20 Roy Wasden, in a Modesto Bee article, speaks concerning proposed cuts to the Modesto Police Department. “We’re already covering the table with a tablecloth that’s too small,” he says. “Nothing we need is more important than an increase in staffing at the Modesto Police Department.” Jeff Denham and Joe Nation hold a news conference at San Quentin State Prison, arguing for its closure. “It’s old, run-down and unsafe,” Denham explains. “To continue to spend money to retrofit it and expand it when we could be spending that money elsewhere is ridiculous.” Nation notes that the prison costs an estimated $25 million more annually than similar facilities. “Governor Reagan, in the late 1960s, first proposed shutting it down, but it was never acted on,” Nation explains. “Let’s not make the same expensive mistake.” The Associated Press releases an article concerning the pending sale of 523 Covena Avenue. In the article, Mary Prieto discloses that the prospective buyers “loved the neighborhood,” and “were very pleased with the charm the house has to offer.” Prieto states that the buyers are aware of the home’s recent history, but were “very, very pleased upon viewing the home.” She adds that she will continue accepting other offers until the deal closes. The San Francisco Chronicle runs an editorial piece bashing Nancy Grace, saying, “She rose to fame as a painfully shrill yet mercifully small player in the Scott Peterson trial media circus, frequently contributing to Larry King Live.
May 21 The Modesto Bee reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal includes a directive to reimburse Stanislaus County—but not Modesto—for a 100 percent of the audited costs associated with Scott Peterson’s trial. The article reports that the latest grand total of all case-related expenses stands at $4.1 million. In the story, Jeff Denham pledges again to keep working to help Modesto get state aid. He states he believes that lawmakers will eventually reimburse Stanislaus County, but adds, “I don’t think anything’s ever a done deal in government until everything’s signed and the checks are cut.”
May 22 The Minneapolis Star-Tribune runs another article focusing on native son Nathan Anderson. Concerning the man he is portraying in Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution, Anderson remarks, “I think the guy ultimately was a better actor than even I am…it was really fascinating trying to lie that well.” A Zap2It report features an interview with Anderson’s co-star, Janel Moloney, in which she admits she was turned off by the whole sensationalistic nature of the Laci Peterson case—that is, until she, too, was offered a chance to make some money from it. “I had more of a distaste for it,” she explains, calling it the “the typical overblown, sensationalistic story.” That viewpoint radically changed, she admits, when she was offered a starring role.
May 23 An Associated Press report discusses proposals to close San Quentin State Prison. The article quotes from a recent expert analysis of the facility: “We found a facility so old, antiquated, dirty, poorly staffed, poorly maintained, with inadequate medical space and equipment, and overcrowded that it is our opinion that it is dangerous to house people there with certain medical conditions, and is also dangerous to use this facility as an intake facility…in summary, San Quentin should be viewed as needing to start from the beginning.” Amber Frey is at CBS Entertainment’s Studio 56, giving interviews to Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight to help promote Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution. Holding hands with the ever-present Gloria Allred, she also gives a face-to-face interview to the Fresno Bee. “My life is not the same as it once was,” she admits. “But that is just life.” During the interview, she blasts those who saw her only as tabloid fodder. “This wasn’t some soap opera,” she argues. “This was real. I think a lot of people have become so desensitized through television that they forget there are real people, with real emotions, involved in what is happening.” Allred says that her client has become her “honorary daughter.” People magazine runs a routine report on Scott Peterson in prison, again noting the relatively large amount of mail he is receiving. The critics who previewed Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution begin to weigh in on the movie. The Daily Herald calls the effort “better than expected,” saying it “holds up against some of television’s better crime dramas.” The Los Angeles Daily News call the film “dismal hackery” in which the heroine is portrayed as “a confused, pseudo-spiritual and remarkably fertile young woman looking for love in all the wrong places.” In the review, Janel Moloney is likened to a “lobotomy patient, responding to everything…with dithering vacancy.” Awarding one star (out of five), the piece concludes: “One word sums up both the case and this film: tragic.” The Modesto Bee, while somewhat more charitable, asserts that the made-for-television drama offers no new revelations, and that Amber Frey’s “true personality remains a mystery.” The most interesting part, the review states, is that Scott Peterson is not demonized. “His tears of remorse and concern for Frey seem strangely genuine,” the article notes. The Ventura County Star calls the film “worth seeing,” saying, “Moloney succeeds in depicting Frey’s conflicted emotions.” The San Jose Mercury News disagrees, arguing that the movie is “so deadly dull that it seems more like four hours than two.”
May 24 In a CBS report, Amber Frey recalls the day of the news conference in which she revealed to the world that she was the unwitting mistress of Scott Peterson. “I remember I had to go to the bathroom to breathe, and I couldn’t catch my breath,” she recounts. “Then once we walked into the room, it just seemed very black to me.” More reviews pour in for Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution. The Detroit Free Press calls it “dreary, tangential true crime schlock.” The New York Times offers that the film is “maddeningly incomplete.” A review by the Philadelphia Inquirer calls the movie “captivating, in a tawdry way” while suggesting that Gloria Allred and Amber Frey are “working to burnish Frey’s image, from garden-variety, sleep-around gal to flawed feminist prototype who’s not at fault if emotional emptiness misdirects her golden moral compass in these soulless times.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that the film simply has “no real reason for being.” The Duluth News-Tribune offers an interview with local-boy-making-good Nathan Anderson. “I’m feeling the pressure in the sense that a lot of my friends are really into American Idol, and I’m like, ‘Forget Bo Bice, it’s all about Amber,'” he says. In the story, Anderson calls Scott Peterson an “accomplished” liar, remarking, “It almost seems as if he believes himself when he’s saying he’s in Belgium when he’s actually in Fresno.”
May 25 CBS reports on Scott Peterson, saying he has “undergone changes to his routine, his emotional state, and even his appearance” since his transfer to San Quentin State Prison. The convict’s love life continues to be a point of interest, with Lt. Vernell Crittendon reporting the latest count of marriage proposals as five: “Three of them in writing and two by phone.” Crittendon predicts it will be another two weeks before Scott Peterson is assigned to an exercise group. On the final day of May sweeps and the 2004–2005 television season, CBS airs Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution opposite, among other offerings, the season-ending episodes of American Idol and Lost. In a Fox News report, Amber Frey states, “I haven’t seen the film, so I’m looking forward to seeing everything put together, and it should be definitely a lot of emotions there for me.” She says she hears stories from others about Scott Peterson in prison but has made no attempt to contact him or to gather further information. “As far as any interest of my own in looking and researching or anything else, no,” she states. The Boston Globe describes Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution as “a silly attempt to squeeze yet another drop of tabloid life” from the Scott Peterson case, saying “the script clings to Frey’s cluelessness and goodness.” The Chicago Sun-Times headlines its review as “‘Amber’ Waves of Pain.” The story particularly ridicules Gloria Allred, speculating that she participated as the project’s co-executive producer, “apparently to publicize the fact that she represented Amber pro bono,” then hoping Allred donated her proceeds from the endeavor to Amber Frey so that “she can afford to go away.” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review assails Janel Moloney, comparing her to a “zombie” and a “robot” whose few attempts at displaying emotion seem “wooden and scripted.” The newspaper is less harsh on her co-star, saying Nathan Anderson “brings an earnestness to the way Peterson lies and has people believing him.” Ultimately, though, the reviewer concludes, “This last-ditch effort to make money from a tragedy is an embarrassment for CBS.” A review in the Sun-Sentinel bemoans the film as “a reiteration of facts so familiar to those likely to be drawn to it that there is neither suspense nor surprises,” yet inexplicably expends most of the article once again recounting those events for the reader. The Toledo Blade, too, says, “The movie, like Frey’s book, reveals little new about the Peterson case.” The Fresno Bee remains neutral concerning the film, but publishes an interview with Amber Frey and Gloria Allred. Gannett, too, has little to say about the movie, choosing instead to pull quotes from Moloney and Amber Frey. Moloney defends her subject, arguing that “her instincts were very moral.” The Louisville Courier-Journal notes, “The most stunning thing about the case is how incredibly naive Scott Peterson was in his relationship” with Amber Frey. The Sacramento Bee, comparing the film to its storied competition, warns, “Seriously, if this is what you’re going to watch, you’re on your own.” The New York Daily News criticizes the film for being too focused on Amber Frey, stating, “If the story of the Peterson case were drawn as a pie chart, Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution would be only one slice—and not a compelling slice at that.” The Hollywood Reporter echoes that sentiment, saying, “It is simply not possible to evoke a less dramatic interpretation than this one-note rehash.” There are some good reviews. Newsday calls Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution “calmly thought-provoking.” Knight Ridder praises Moloney and Anderson as “especially strong.” The Washington Post, although calling the picture “less inspired than inevitable,” concedes there are “good performances all around” and singles out Nora Dunn’s work as Gloria Allred. An editorial in The Daily argues that “the celebrity status of the ‘bad boy’ has gone too far” and complains about the amount of interest being shown Scott Peterson: “So who the hell is calling him and sending him mail—all of the women who complain there aren’t any ‘nice guys’ out there?” The Early Show profiles Allred in Celeb Spot. In North Carolina, Attorney General Roy Cooper speaks out in support of a version of “Laci and Conner’s Law” for that state. “We ought to have ways—as many ways as possible—to come down hard on people who would commit these heinous, violent crimes,” he states.
May 26 Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich signs a bill establishing a manslaughter felony for killing a viable fetus, known as the Laci Peterson law. Jim Brazelton appears on On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, discussing the Scott Peterson case. “We knew where we were going all along,” he states. “The media didn’t.”
May 27 The Burlington Hawk Eye provides an update on Brett Williams, another client of Mark Geragos found guilty of murder. According to the account, the sentencing will be delayed until June 17, 2005, and the trial took “more than two years to be concluded due to delays requested by Williams’ attorney, Mark Geragos.” In the story, the victim’s mother, Grace Harris, also blames Geragos for extending the trial. “He was behind a lot of these delays,” she notes. “He doesn’t care about justice.” Ed Bronson takes on Mark Geragos in Butte County Superior Court. Bronson states that he turned down an opportunity to be a television commentator on the Scott Peterson case because Geragos had offered him a consulting job. Geragos contends he never had a contract with Bronson, who is seeking $5,000 for loss of income and $625 for his work on a change-of-venue motion.
May 28 BellaOnline runs an editorial condemning the celebrity status of Amber Frey and others. “She is a woman who is famous only because of her sexual adventure with Mr. Peterson,” the story states. “That she aided police in apprehending him for the murder of his wife is commendable, albeit she did it with dollar signs in her eyes.”
May 31 Loretta Dillon announces the publishing of Stone Cold Guilty: The People v. Scott Lee Peterson. In a news release, the book is promoted as having “exclusive information about the underwater investigation and evidence omitted from the trial.” A Modesto Bee report notes that prosecutors spent more than $25,000 for copies of hundreds of hours of talk shows, news reports and interviews concerning Laci Peterson’s murder —among them, several programs discussing alternate scenarios, such as a neo-Nazi murder-for-hire and possible satanic motives. The story also reveals that the attorneys spent $72 to purchase Blood Brother: 33 Reasons My Brother Scott Peterson Is Guilty, A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation and Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. “We will be reviewing each of the books for issues that may be raised during the motion for new trial and the appellate process,” John Goold explains in the article. The story states that expense documents showed about $5,000 was spent to reimburse potential witnesses who never took the stand, including Kim McGregor, Genna McCallie and Heather Richardson. Concerning not being called, Heather Richardson expresses some regret, but only for personal reasons. “I wanted to see Scott, to be honest with you,” she says in the story. “I wanted him to have to look at me.” Still, she admits, prosecutors made the right move in calling her husband. “They felt like they could get what they needed with just one of us,” she explains. “The decision was probably right.”