#34) June 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: June 2005
June 2 The Washington Post declares Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution as one of the “losers” in the final week of the television season. According to the account, 7.5 million viewers watched the movie, down from an average of 11.5 million viewers CBS had been drawing in the same time slot with regular programming. In contrast, the story notes, more than 30 million viewers saw American Idol, and Lost drew nearly 21 million viewers to record ABC’s largest audience for nonsports programming in that time slot in five years. The Modesto Bee runs a brief snippet concerning Ed Bronson’s suit against Mark Geragos.
June 3 PR Newswire provides an update on Brad Saltzman, now running California Girls Valet Parking in Los Angeles.
June 6 Crown Publishing lists For Laci, an upcoming book by Sharon Rocha, on its web site. Mark Geragos appears on Larry King Live, giving his first live, in-depth interview since Scott Peterson was convicted. Geragos appears from the Marriott in Costa Mesa. He says that he got involved in the case after receiving a call from Lee Peterson, but initially had doubts about taking on the challenge. “My first instincts were, ‘Look, I’m probably not the right guy for you,'” he recalls thinking. Geragos says he changed his mind when he met with his notorious client and determined that he was not the cocky, emotionless man that the media painted him as. “Did you lose money on this?” Larry King asks. “Well, yeah,” Geragos replies. “A lot of my fees I ended putting back in to pay for experts.” Geragos notes the hostility toward his client was something he had not experienced on such a level before—not even with Gary Condit. “You had even the Buddhists, who were against taking a life, said they would make an exception for Scott Peterson,” he says. Geragos says his client has been visited at San Quentin State Prison by Pat Harris. Geragos reflects deeply on his early life and his decision to follow in his father’s profession. “I followed my father around who was a county prosecutor,” he says. “And then he left the office and became a defense lawyer. And to my mind, that was the most glorious thing in the world, to be a criminal defense lawyer. And I grew up reading To Kill a Mockingbird and to watch the movie, and identifying with Atticus Finch, and watching Perry Mason, the TV series, and thinking that was the greatest thing in the world.” He laments that those days are gone. “That’s kind of morphed at this point, for a variety of reasons, into this caricature of what a defense lawyer is,” he explains. He also reveals that he strongly considered letting Scott Peterson take the stand, but ultimately decided it was unnecessary because the state, in the opinion of the defense, had not proven its case. Mark Geragos is ordered to pay $5,112 to Ed Bronson. “I didn’t care too much about the money,” Bronson states. “With me, it’s a matter of principle.”
June 7 In a Modesto Bee article, Ron Grantski states that writing For Laci is “good therapy” for Sharon Rocha. “A lot of truths haven’t been told, and I kind of think they should be,” he remarks. “Everyone has written little bits and pieces.” He says he is helping her with the memoir, which he promises “is going to be a good one.” KRXI reports on the previous night’s conversation between Larry King and Mark Geragos, calling the latter “famed” three times in the brief article. An Associated Press article reports that Traci Montgomery, granddaughter of Juror No. 5 in the Michael Jackson trial, has stated that her 79-year-old grandmother was interested in shopping a book deal about the case because she heard “some juror from the Scott Peterson trial has published a book.” The Maine House sends a fetus-protection bill to the Maine Senate.
June 8 The Modesto Bee reports that Scott Peterson’s Tradecorp business card, signed by the convicted murderer, is being sold at Lelands.com. The Maine Senate postpones a vote on a fetus-protection bill after majority Democrats, opposing the bill, determine that the vote may be too close to call. Nancy Grace’s Objection! is released.
June 9 Arnold Schwarzenegger appoints Rick Distaso to a Stanislaus County judgeship. “I think they want a judge who is fair, who is ethical, who works hard and who is not afraid to make a decision,” Distaso says. “We’re happy for him, and very proud,” Carol Shipley states. Marie Silveira praises the appointment of Distaso and fellow appointee Scott Steffen. “I think they’re going to be terrific additions to the bench,” she says. “They both have reputations for being dedicated and being very hard-working.” In a Modesto Bee report on budget cuts, Roy Wasden states that the Modesto Police Department will shift officers from specialty units to patrol. The article states that the department will end up with 1.25 officers per 1,000 residents, well short of the city council’s stated goal of 1.85 officers per 1,000 residents. After a motion by Barry Hobbins, the Maine Senate votes 21-14, along party lines, to send a fetal-protection bill back to the Judiciary Committee. “This is a procedural move so they don’t have to be on the record as having voted against it,” complains Darren Hall. “The Democrats don’t believe they have enough votes to defeat it, so they’re afraid to hold a vote because they’re afraid it might pass.” He notes that he is not surprised. “I expected they would do whatever they could to derail this bill however they could,” he says. “The bill is not dead yet,” states its sponsor, Brian Duprey. “We’re going to give it one last shot.”
June 10 The Bangor Daily News, in reporting about the ongoing debate over a fetal-protection bill in that state, notes, “The recent passage of a federal fetal homicide law, called the Laci and Connor [sic] bill after the notorious California case in which Scott Peterson was convicted of two counts of murder for killing his pregnant wife and unborn son, has affected the debate.”
June 11 In the wake of the Natalee Holloway disappearance and the associated media coverage, a series of articles and editorials begins to discuss the issue of media bias, most arguing that Laci Peterson and other so-called “pretty, white females” become celebrities of sorts, while missing men and minority women are largely ignored. The Tallahassee Democrat states, “Among the thousands of Americans who are murdered or go missing each year, the pattern of choosing only young, white, middle-class women for the full damsel treatment says a lot about a nation that likes to believe it has consigned race and class to irrelevance.” An online editorial at the Useless Knowledge Magazine site suggests the root cause of such coverage is that “many white Americans feel that their Eurocentric way of life is under attack by multiculturalism.”
June 13 Nancy Grace appears at Books-a-Million in her native town of Macon, Georgia, for a book-signing of Objection! More than 300 fans wait for her. “It’s just so good to be home,” she tells the crowd. “People say I have this great view at my little apartment in New York. I can see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building…but what I want to see is a pine tree or a soybean field.” The Maine legislature passes a revised version of their controversial fetal-protection bill. The compromise creates the new crime of “elevated aggravated assault on a pregnant person,” punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Debra Plowman initially argues against the watered-down version, saying it fails to recognize both victims: mother and child. She later joins her peers in the bill’s unanimous passage. Kristy Eckmann calls the bill’s passage “a step in the right direction.” Guidance Software, which developed the software used by the Modesto Police Department to to uncover files on Scott Peterson’s computers, is named Pasadena Entretec’s Entrepreneur of the Year during a dinner ceremony at Caltech’s Athenaeum.
June 14 Roger Beauchesne rules that the $25 million suit filed by the Rocha family—the fourth Sharon Rocha has filed against Scott Peterson—will have a mandatory settlement conference on March 20, 2006, and will be heard beginning April 4, 2006. “We just want to make sure there’s a very substantial judgment in there—that Mr. Peterson never sees any green from his efforts,” Gary Davis says. Adam Stewart notes that the case will revolve around damages, rather than Scott Peterson’s guilt. “It’s our position that we don’t have to prove liability,” he states. Stewart notes that the Peterson and Rocha families still have not decided how to divide the proceeds from the sale of Scott and Laci Peterson’s former home. Nareg Gourjian appears at the hearing to represent the interests of Scott Peterson. Kirk Stockham and Lydell Wall are honored with the Timothy Fidel Memorial Award for their use of computer forensics during the Scott Peterson case. Det. Jon Buehler accepts the award at a ceremony in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Paul Koretz urges his fellow California lawmakers to enact a two-year moratorium on executions, allowing authorities to review the fairness of the system. He notes that, since 1973, 119 persons sentenced to death have eventually been proven not guilty. “If this keeps happening, we’re at great risk of executing an innocent person, and we simply can’t stand by and let this happen,” he argues. “We can’t take the risk that we’re going to get it wrong again and send an innocent person to their death.” In a Los Angeles Times article, Charles Spicer reveals he passed on two book proposals by members of the Scott Peterson jury. Judith Regan, too, says that jurors tried to work out a deal with her. “There were really interesting things that happened behind the scenes, but they couldn’t agree, and they all wanted a million dollars,” she discloses. “Jurors have a completely distorted view of their own value.” The Berkeley Daily Planet reports that the Albany Bulb is one major step closer to joining the Eastshore State Park, noting that the water board, having determined that the site is no longer leaking toxic substances, has lifted its closure order. Time runs an online-only interview with Nancy Grace in which she criticizes Mark Geragos for what she terms a “say-anything” defense. “I disagree with his tactics,” she says. “To float such preposterous theories, such as a satanic cult killed Laci Peterson. It’s ridiculous.”
June 15 The Associated Press reports that “a group of Assembly Democrats is announcing a plan to seek a moratorium on capitol [sic] punishment in California.” The Los Angeles Daily News quotes Paul Koretz, for the measure, and Audra Strickland, against it. The article notes that Arnold Schwarzenegger supports California’s current death penalty law. LifeNews reports on the passage of Maine’s controversial fetal-protection bill, partially inspired by the death of unborn child Jonah Sargent at the hands of his father, Roscoe Sargent. The article notes the irony of Maine law, stating, “Sargent can be imprisoned for as much as one year for each of the cats he killed, but can’t be held liable for the death of a baby just a short time away from birth.” Bidding on the Scott Peterson business card at Leland’s continues, with a high bid, ironically, of $666.
June 16 Bidding closes on the Scott Peterson business card at Leland’s. Newsday reports on the unusual offering. “We’re known for specializing in unusual memorabilia,” explains company founder, Josh Evans. “People bring these things to us. Our phone rings all the time.” As for the card, he says he accepted it because “most of the story is there in that card, because he’s saying, ‘I’m trying to help,’ when in fact he wasn’t.” The website Think Progress continues to beat the drum concerning perceived slights of minorities and men in coverage of crime. An article brings up the oft-discussed comparison of Laci Peterson and Evelyn Hernández, ignoring the facts that Hernández was neither unattractive nor appreciably darker than her more-famous fellow victim—and had an adorable 5-year-old child in tow when she vanished: “Peterson, an attractive, suburban white girl, became the cause célèbre for the entire nation, subject of round-the-clock national news coverage. Hernandez, Salvadoran immigrant, languished in obscurity.” The Associated Press picks up on the trend toward “damsel bashing,” running an article that states, “Journalism watchdogs are now taking the industry to task for what they see as a disproportionate emphasis on cases in which white girls and women—overwhelmingly upper-middle class and attractive—disappear.” The report notes that during the previous year, people of color made up 22 percent of the broadcast news work force.
June 19 The Daily Progress profiles Noreen Renier, who is promoting her book A Mind for Murder. “I always have to prove myself every time I start,” she says. Newsweek releases its June 27, 2005, issue, which contains an editorial blasting the tendency to watch rather than participate. “An alarming number of Americans may not know the names of their own members of Congress, but can tell you the identity of the discredited detective in the O.J. Simpson trial, the place where Scott Peterson said he was fishing on Christmas Eve when his wife went missing, and the name of Robert Blake’s murdered wife,” the column reads.
June 20 John Baldacci signs into law Maine’s fetal-protection measure. Cape Times, reflecting on the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, California, explores the area’s long history of association with compelling stories and people, from ghosts at the Santa Maria Inn to Scott and Laci Peterson soaking in hot springs at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. An editorial in MetroWest Daily News reflects on the fact that California’s most notable cases—including the Robert Blake, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson trials—typically have resulted in acquittals, but that Scott Peterson was an exception. “In a strange twist of fate, he was actually convicted in California of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child,” the commentary states. “He must be wondering what happened.” The column opines that it must have been Scott Peterson’s lack of prior celebrity status that doomed him to be convicted. An article in The Globe and Mail, focusing on discredited journalist Michael Finkel, quotes him concerning his skepticism that truth is attainable. “You can’t be sure of what happened in the Scott Peterson case,” he argues. “And, of course, 12 jurors agree O.J. Simpson was innocent. So you can’t say with any certainty almost about anything.”
June 21 Scott Bernstein is scheduled to appear in Ramapo Justice Court. Jim Brazelton, talking about the Scott Peterson case in a meeting at the Modesto Elks Lodge, suggests that he will be stepping down as district attorney—sparking a firestorm of rumors that will, within a day, force him to issue a news release.
June 22 Jim Brazelton does a second 180-degree turn, announcing that, instead of retiring at the end of his term or seeking reelection, he will retire on July 31, 2005. He announces that he has accepted a job offer he received two weeks prior and will work as a consultant for a nationally known, but unnamed, firm. He states the position will be a significant pay boost for him. “I’d be absolutely crazy not to accept it,” he says. He also expresses pride in his accomplishments on behalf of the county. “I believe in God, my country and apple pie,” he declares. Rick Robinson, showing surprise at the move, says that the Board of Supervisors can appoint an interim district attorney until the 2006 elections, or simply allow assistant district attorney Carol Shipley to run the office until then.
June 23 In a Modesto Bee article concerning the retirement of Jim Brazelton, Jim DeMartini lists four strong candidates as potential replacements: Carol Shipley, John Goold, Birgit Fladager and Michael Cummins. “This is a bombshell to us,” DeMartini says. “We weren’t expecting it.” Contacted by the media, Brazelton suggests that Fladager would be a good replacement, but says he is not certain she wants the position. He also expresses doubts that Shipley will run for the office because she is not a resident of Stanislaus County and would, therefore, have to move. Asked about the announcement, Cummins says, “Whatever—I’ve got no control over it.” He states that he is preparing a fund-raising concert featuring Merle Haggard.
June 24 At 8:00 p.m., Catherine Crier appears for a book signing at Book Revue.
June 27 The National Enquirer provides its own lurid update of Scott Peterson behind bars, running an article in which he claims he was attacked by a fellow prisoner who had pulled a razor blade from his mouth. The article quotes from six letters he wrote from January 10 to May 3, 2005. Remarking on the jury’s decision, he states, “The death sentence was such a joke that I could have laughed at them.” He says he was hurt by Anne Bird’s tell-all, saying it “sounds like a vampire novel.” On the other hand, he says he “doesn’t care about” Amber Frey’s book. “I was an ass, took advantage of her, used her,” he admits. “I do not know her—she does not know me. Whatever. As long as she does not defile Laci’s memory.” He further states that sitting through the formal sentencing was “hard” as Rocha family members took turns lashing out at him. “They were talking to whoever killed my family, not me,” he asserts. The New York Times runs an article on the declining fortunes of made-for-television movies based on true crime, stating, “the deluge of news coverage of sensational breaking stories may be dulling the appetite for TV movies based on real events.” CBS executive Bela Bajaria defends the relatively poor showing of Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution. “It did fine for us in that time slot,” she contends. In the article, media analyst Larry Gerbrandt provides a list of three factors for the trend: the proliferation of true-crime dramas in prime-time, around-the-clock coverage by cable news networks, and the lack of a market outside the United States for domestic stories. “At least Amber Frey had some name recognition,” he notes. “A year from now, we won’t know who she is—or care.” Mother Jones issues its July/August issue, which contains an article entitled “Roe v. Laci” that explores the pro-life/pro-choice ramifications of the Laci Peterson case.
June 28 An article on All Info About asks the question, “Did Laci Know?” The author expresses that there is a contradiction between Anne Bird’s statement that Scott Peterson had told her that Laci Peterson knew about earlier affairs, insisting they be kept a secret from Lee and Jackie Peterson, and Anne Bird’s rationale that her half-brother must be guilty because he lied on television about Laci Peterson’s awareness of Amber Frey. “No answers here, just questions,” the article admits.
June 29 Mark Geragos files an appeal of the $5,112 judgment against him in the Edward Bronson suit. Tabitha Engel, in The Journal Standard, writes a scathing rebuke of those who have profited off recent events, largely from making what most would consider immoral, or at least questionable, choices. Concerning Amber Frey’s book and movie deals, Engel writes, “Never mind that her heroism was made possible because she was so desperate for a tumble in the hay with Scott Peterson, a man she barely knew, she didn’t think to question his fabricated life.”