Presumed Guilty  

 Murder, Media and Mistakes in Modesto

UPDATES on the Scott Peterson Case


In the un-humbled opinion of one, Poetic Justice...

Ron Grantski


On November 12, 2004, Redwood City jurors returned a verdict declaring Scott Peterson Guilty of the first degree murder of Laci Peterson and the second degree murder of Conner Peterson. On December 13, 2004 the jury recommended Peterson be sentenced to death.

DA Distaso and Fladager

"The Scott Peterson media circus has officially arrived with all three rings as active as possible. The presence of news crews in Redwood City is remarkable . . . Local, national, television, radio, print. The number of credentialed media people is into the several hundreds.
-- Tim Daly, -- Nov, 2004

"This comical town formerly known as Redwood City has earned a new name: Bozo City. What a great place to see judges and prosecutors in bright, red noses, water squirting from their lapels -- wrecking everything they touch. "
-- Andrea Peyser, New York Post

In 1956, the Ohio Supreme Court denied Sam Sheppard
a new trial but harshly criticized the "circulation-conscious
editors who catered to the insatiable interest of the American
public . . . in this atmosphere of a 'Roman holiday' for the
news media, Sam Sheppard stood trial for his life."

Redwood Holiday

"I had a dream last night that there was a jury rebellion. I hope it doesn't come to pass."
-- Judge Alfred A. Delucchi, Aug 5, 2004

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi    Premeditated Nightmare

"Remember what I told you about a jury revolt? I hope it doesn't happen."
-- Judge Delucchi, Aug 19, 2004


As feared, during a tense week of sequestered deliberations, Judge Delucchi's jury has rocked, tipped and nearly capsized into a river of rancor and confusion. Three jurors, including the foreperson, have been dismissed. Reporters camped outside the courthouse say when the group is occasionally seen, they look tired, bitter, sad and angry as they struggle to reach a conclusion about DA James Brazelton's "slam dunk."

"When I took the oath, I understood it to mean that I needed to be able to weigh both sides fairly, openly, and given what's transpired, my individual ability to do that, I think, has been compromised to a degree that I would never know personally whether or not I was giving the community's verdict, the popular verdict, the expected verdict, the verdict that might -- I don't know -- produce the best book."
-- jury foreperson, Gregory Jackson

"The emotionally charged courtroom drama has become a national obsession, and some observers said jurors may be succumbing to the pressure of being in such an intense and prolonged spotlight."
-- Associated Press, Nov. 11, 2004

"I've never seen anything like this before."
-- Robert Talbot, USF School of Law

"This is really unheard of. There are serious problems in the jury room."
-- Sam Solomon, jury consultant

"I think all the strange happenings with the jury can be attributed to the fact that they're in a pressure cooker. They know there will be a great deal of scrutiny no matter what decision they make."
--Laurie Levenson, Loyola Law School

"I wouldn't call it a runaway jury, but the jurors are willing to rat each other out (about potential misconduct). The pressure is enormous to reach a verdict."
-- Jim Hammer

"Other than maybe George W. Bush, these are probably the 12 most scrutinized people on earth. This is just nuts."
-- Dean Johnson

Laci Peterson
"who cares?"

Court-TV star, Nancy Grace,
about Distaso's closing rebuttal,
November 3, 2004:

"Another thing that Distaso hammered on -- and I gotta tell you, I've looked at this case, I thought, from every angle -- and he came up with a very good angle, and that was: Who cares if she was alive the next morning? Who cares if she was getting dressed and put on her bra or hadn't put her shirt on yet? It doesn't matter. He killed her! Whether it was the night before, during the night, the next morning... He -- killed -- Laci -- Peterson! I thought that was excellent."

DA Distaso


November 2, 2004

"Do you all hate him? Do you all believe this guy's the biggest jerk who ever walked the face of the Earth - that this guy is the biggest liar?

"You can't decide this case by whether or not you like Scott Peterson.

"If you do what you're sworn to do and don't engage in speculation, passion or prejudice, you have only one conclusion -- that Scott Peterson is not guilty."

  • Why would Peterson invite his sister-in-law over for pizza on the night he planned to murder his wife?

  • Why didn't Peterson's boat capsize when he dumped the corpse and anchors over the side?

  • Isn't it more likely that Laci Peterson was using the computer on Christmas Eve morning to shop for scarves and a sunflower backyard umbrella, considering the sunflower tattoo on her ankle?

  • Why would Peterson give a false description of the clothing he last saw his wife wearing?

  • Why didn't police find any evidence of murder in the Peterson home?

"Do you hate him? . . . This guy is the biggest jerk who ever walked the planet. He cheated on his wife and he felt like a 14-karat asshole for doing it."

"The stark reality is this is a guy who literally got caught with his pants down ... but the fact of the matter is that they have not proved this case, they have not proved that Scott Peterson did anything except lie."

"There's no evidence whatsoever of Laci struggling in the house -- of dying in that house -- because it didn't happen."

Man of LaMancha

Leigh and Darion

To Dream the Impossible Dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

California Dreamin'

The People call Rick Distaso

November 1, 2004

Calm, collected, quiet Rick Distaso got suddenly sound-bitten and turned in a very clever closing argument.

Instead of the standard summation where the righteous prosecutor indignantly reviews the evidence of murder, Distaso spent 4 hours displaying clever catch-phrases and media-ready taglines for each circumstance in his case. The usual, solemn recitation of facts was replaced with slogans of withering sarcasm and a "gotcha game" of photoshop, Compare 'n Contrast.

"Scott Peterson only loves Scott Peterson!"

"You can take that fact to the bank!"

"He can look Diane Sawyer right in the eye and lie to her!"

"He didn't want to be tied to this kid the rest of his life. He didn't want to be tied to Laci for the rest of his life. So he killed her."

"He wants to live the rich, successful, freewheeling bachelor life."

"Amber Frey represented to him freedom. Freedom is what he wanted."

"No one confuses tan pants with black except this guy -- he confuses Paris and Brussels with Modesto!"

"He's a master actor."

"Things were going to change. No more of this running around, living this double-life thing."

"Peterson's manipulation of the media."

"He's workin' the plan...!"

"He created a fantasy life in his head and he made it his reality."

"I don't know anyone who's caught a fish ... with a lure that's still in the pack!"


Defender Geragos never objected and Rick was able to run slickly through his comparison slides and snide subtitles. Of course, the devil's in the details, but certainly Distaso's Information Technology team had dotted their I's and crossed their T's.

According to one TV talking head, Stanislaus prosecutors "had it down to a science" -- charts, photos, tapes, videos and snappy patter to match. Eye-cookies prepared for jurors included the split screen of a tormented Sharon Rocha at the Peterson vigil next to a grinning defendant.

("There's no playbook for grief...?!")

Apparently, Reverend Distaso decided to preach to the choir for his final sermon. His merciless barrage of visual slaps and verbal tickles was clearly not designed to convert doubters to his side.

Although technical details of the presentation were perfectly prepared, few specifics about Laci Peterson's murder emerged. Distaso told attentive jurors that Scott Peterson must've strangled his wife -- probably while she was changing clothes. (From black pants to tan, or...?) He said Peterson might have wrapped his dead wife in a tarp, put her in the back of his truck and covered her with large umbrellas.

As to why none of this activity left forensic evidence, the DA suggested that killing and disposing of a pregnant woman can be done and not leave a trace. While that MIGHT be true, no killer could count on it. What was Peterson's plan?


Having ruthlessly ridiculed and dismissed the defendant as little more than a clown, Distaso was unable to hold his wife, Laci Peterson, up to the light for very long. (A brief video clip of the victim in her kitchen wearing a swimsuit was played.) The prosecutor who put Amber Frey on the stand for a week, dismissed all evidence of Laci Peterson's relationship with her husband in a sentence or two, saying it was a sham and that there were two Scotts.

SoundBite: "He led two lives, private and public."

No attempt was made to explain the character evidence as it relates to the character of this vicious double-homicide. Why would a killer contemplate his wife's murder for a month only to decide that noon on Christmas Eve was an ideal time to have her vanish? If Peterson was to the point where he was charting tides, why did the moron forget there was a gun and un-opened fishing lures in his truck? And if he planned to say he was golfing, why did he need to buy lures at all?

Other than the "10-minute" window that the family dog supposedly closes at 10:18, nothing was said about the overall murder time-line. No possibility of two trips was mentioned -- creating another very small window of opportunity since Distaso insisted Peterson only had 45 minutes to dispose of and secure his wife's body -- in broad daylight -- at the bay.

Where exactly was Laci Peterson while the defendant was at the warehouse fooling around on the internet and ignoring the obvious mess he made with cement? What exactly was he doing at the warehouse? How did this clown manage to hide the corpse in the bay so well?

CTV's Beth Karas in a box

I'm sure the private Rick Distaso wanted to cover all those bases. The private prosecutor knows emotional ploys and put-downs are useless in a court of law. But the public Rick Distaso wanted to shine. He wanted to be a winner and prove he was as good as Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom and Jim Hammer and Nancy Grace. By all accounts, he proved that. But Distaso never proved Scott Peterson guilty of strangling his wife.

And I just gotta say... Yes, there is a playbook for grief, and every chapter is about HOLDING ON and LETTING GO.

It may not be fair, but it's true, Birgit Fladager should've given the closing -- not because she's a better lawyer, but because she's isn't associated with the mistakes made earlier in the trial. Her presence restores the case's basic integrity. Also, Fladager balances the courtroom and makes her appeal, not as Scott Peterson or Mark Geragos's rival, but as the People's representative.

Few are able to swallow their pride, step aside, and let their dream slide when a big moment comes. Who could blame DA Distaso? But Fladager may have been able to resist the temptation to wise-crack and waggle a finger, and instead -- calm, collected and quiet -- insist jurors follow the law.

The prosecutor's made his claim
and now to cross-examine,
Two questions, sir, please tell us:
What of fame? And what of famine?

Step Right Up!

The Washington Post quotes Marlene Dann, senior vice president of daytime programming at Court TV, which has preempted regular programming to cover the Peterson closing arguments: "I think the media coverage is a reaction to what viewers want. I don't think we are creating the interest. We are reacting to the interest."

Court-TV is offering a "text-messaging alert" to let Peterson Trial addicts know when a verdict has come in.

Head bookie, David Carruthers, whose Bet On Sports bookmaking company has taken more than 2,000 bets on the Peterson trial, said:"I don't care what happens to Mr. Peterson. All we're doing is giving the public an opportunity to participate in events. It's no more ghoulish than actually executing him, is it?''

(The odds are 2-to-3 against Peterson's acquittal.)

The cost of the Scott Peterson double-murder trial is estimated at $2.5 million and growing.

Closing In

Poetic Justice Argues Peterson West


Nobody could know exactly when, where or how Scott Peterson killed his wife -- except him. Weeks of scheming and an evil determination to hide his crime prevented investigators from finding direct evidence. Nonetheless, Laci Peterson is dead. Her remains were located at the San Francisco Bay -- near the place her husband admitted he was at on the day she went strangely missing.

The State isn't required to spend inordinant amounts of time and money hunting down physical evidence that's been obscured and destroyed by a devious killer. It's true -- there's no physical evidence, but the lack of evidence is itself proof that Peterson is guilty. If Laci Peterson had been the unfortunate victim of a random crime -- there'd be plenty of evidence of that.

This crime is the well-planned and well-hidden murder of Laci Peterson and the disposal of her remains in the San Francisco Bay. The criminal is the person who's been proven to have spoken and mis-spoken of just such plans -- Scott Peterson.


We're not here to punish Scott Peterson. We're here to find out what happened to his wife, Laci Peterson. Despite months and months of testimony, pictures, maps, diagrams and tape recordings -- that question has gone completely un-answered.

Prosecutor Distaso doesn't know who killed Laci Peterson. He doesn't know how Laci Peterson died, or when, or where, or why -- and really, he's made no attempt to prove those things to you. What the State DID prove, is that even though they don't know -- they're determined to punish Peterson anyway. They can't do that without you.

The prosecutor says you should use common sense and punish Scott Peterson for breaking the law, but the law -- and common sense -- says in order to punish him, you must first be reasonably certain of what he's done. We can't be certain of what we don't know, and after 5 months of trial we still don't know what happened to Scott Peterson's wife or his son, Conner.


GERAGOS: "There is no case I've been able to find where you have a situation -- where prosecutors can't tell you where, they can't tell you when, they can't tell you how -- and the jury was given the second-degree option."

DELUCCHI: "Well, this is going to be the first."

Delucchi in Reverse

After the October 29 charge conference, Judge Delucchi said he had changed his mind about the media and announced that he will NOT permit cameras into his circus during the reading of the verdict. Delucchi also decided that jurors WILL be allowed to disregard the prosecution's pre-meditation evidence and find the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Apparently Judge Delucchi failed to give the Murder 2 instruction in a previous case which was later overturned on appeal.

DELUCCHI: "I'm giving the 2nd degree instruction."
GERAGOS: "At your peril, judge."
DELUCCHI: "I've done it before... at my peril."

"If there's a conviction it will be an appellate lawyer's petrie dish."
-- supreme wit, Judge Delucchi


October 28, 2004 A.D.

A long-time supporter of this site, known in hyperspace as "KatieCoolLady" is suddenly at the center of the biggest courtroom debacle since the O.J. Simpson fumble a decade ago.

The Contra Costa Times describes Katie as, "an Arizona woman who has been closely following the case."

Along with transmitting real-time updates to the web from Redwood City, Katie and her partner in crime -- known in hyperspace as "Jordy" -- have been taking pictures and posting them on the internet. Several newspapers including the Times report that the two "took a photo of a bag of cement in Peterson's driveway on an August 9 trip to Modesto."

Neither of the Cyber-Pioneers were asked to take the stand to verify the photo because the State declined to present a rebuttal case.

Although she has yet to respond to my e-mails, as a dear friend of the Poetic Justice pages, I'm certain KatieCoolLady will be sending me a copy of the photo heard 'round the world wide web. Perhaps she's just busy deciding what to wear for meetings with her new attorney -- Amber Frey's attorney -- Gloria Allred, known in hyperspace as "Spin_Diva77152."

At any rate, I've no doubt Katie will contact me soon so I may proudly post the picture that nearly snared a real defendant, on trial in the real world, in the net of two digital detectives.

Is that all there is?

October 26

Despite the dramatic promises Mark Geragos made in his magical opening statement, Scott Peterson's entire defense was comprised of 14 mundane witnesses over 6 days of tedious testimony. The wizard of "aaahhhs" that oozed charm throughout the State's case and wowed the crowd with near show-stopping legal pyro-techniques -- was caught in the spotlight with absolutely nothing up his Armani sleeve.

Of course, legally the defense has no burden to prove anything, but Mark was so very masterful in his prologue -- bragging to jurors that he'd produce shockingly incompetent police, eye-opening direct witnesses and "Perry Mason moment" medical experts -- expectations were sky high for a fabulous finale.

Legal analysts, newspaper columnists, TV commentators and Peterson prosecutors all over the world wide web were crestfallen to find out that in the end, the Slam Dunk defense-of-the-century was nothing but greasepaint, glitter, and the old Razzle Dazzle.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
-- Closing argument from the Wizard of Oz

And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus -- the greatest show on earth. There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears, and a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads. And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle I had the feeling that something was missing.

I don't know what -- but when it was over, I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a circus?"

Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that's all there is my friends
Then let's keep dancing,
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is.

"Is That All There Is?"
written by Stoller and Lieber
Sung by Peggy Lee

Laci Peterson
Laci Peterson's mother told
Detective Grogan her daughter informed
her she was pregnant on June 9, 2002.

"It's surprising how overall ineffective the defense case was ... The jury, I think, would have expected a dramatic ending. I expected a dramatic ending."
-- Robert Talbot, professor at USF School of Law

"Defense comes to roaring halt"
-- MODBEE Headline

"The defense case was a huge disappointment ... He promised to show the baby was born alive and there's been no evidence of that. He promised to show that Peterson was 'stone cold innocent' and he hasn't done that, so this is now a case that's going to come down to reasonable doubt."
-- former prosecutor, Dean Johnson

Former San Francisco prosecutor Jim Hammer said Mark Geragos' strong opening statement with its bold denial of his client's guilt, might have been designed to persuade people to withhold judgment. "It stopped the freight train" of public condemnation, Hammer said.

October Surprise
October 25

Judge Delucchi announced that jurors will be sequestered for deliberations. The judge also plans to offer jurors the option of convicting Peterson of second-degree murder, something the defense opposes. The jury could -- in theory -- convict Peterson of the second-degree murder of Laci Peterson and the first-degree murder of Conner Peterson.

Razzle Dazzle from "Chicago"
by Fred Ebb and John Kander

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give 'em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger 'em
When you're in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They let you get away with murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

Redwood City Circus
Redwood City Circus

"Oh he [the DA] made me an offer,
if I tell them where the body is they
won't put me to death."

-- Peterson, January 28, 2003 wiretap



Friday, October 22

The Right to Remain Salient

Gloria Allred was so mad at Mark Geragos during her Monday morning media brief she was trembling and gasping for air. Barking at a demanding but quiet crowd of microphones, cameras and cables, Allred seemed at times to be thinking out loud -- very loud -- as she indignantly questioned how defense lawyer, Michael Cardoza could skirt the PETERSON WEST "gag order" and continue publicly speaking about the trial when he'd admitted to having recently met twice with Scott Peterson for a mock cross-examination.

Allred seriously suggested that in all fairness, she should now get to mock cross Scott Peterson -- presumably so she could go on mock television and rebut his mock statements.

Allred was so angry it must have slipped her mind that in all fairness, she too is intimately connected with the Peterson case but nonetheless appears on every TV talk show at every possible hour of the day or night to spin her unique yarn.

Another obvious thought that in her media hysterics must not have occurred to Amber Frey's attorney, is that she was being used as a ventriloquist dummy to dramatically broadcast a message from gagged defense attorneys.

Michael Cardoza
Michael Cardoza

Without moving his lips, Geragos the Great turned the ridiculous trial balloon Michael Cardoza had been trying to float in the press for weeks, into the tantalizing truth that Scott Peterson was being prepared to take the stand.

Considering that most of the State's evidence is the terrifying testimony Peterson gave to friends, family, police and reporters, it wouldn't be very… useful… for the proven pathological liar to now swear to tell jurors the truth on the stand.

But perfect prosecutor Rick Distaso is scared to death of being caught off guard. It's a safe bet that Gloria Allred's televised temper tantrum has tied up members of the prosecution team (most likely Birgit Fladager) with exhaustive preparations for a cross-examination of the defendant that everyone knows will never actually happen.

No prep is needed because even if Scott Peterson were to enter the 5th dimension, he could successfully be cross-examined with one question: "Are you a liar?"

By the end of the week, Gloria Allred seemed overjoyed to once more peacefully orbit the network news universe and crow that according to a modified ruling by Judge Delucchi, Mark Geragos' mockery of justice had ended and suggested that the media itself was instrumental in chopping off Michael Cardoza's talking head.

*** In the interest of full disclosure, I'd like to readily acknowledge that Gloria Allred is my mother and that I'm a close, personal friend of Judge Delucchi -- oh, and also that I'm married to the mayor of San Francisco. I'd like to, but instead I'll turn it into a joke and say no more.

Send in the Clowns

Meanwhile, various other prosecution spin-cyclists were busy on cable television pedaling their criticism of Geragos' defense case. Happy to finally be able to find fault with the other side, legal commentators favoring the state opined that Geragos got off to a rocky start with testimony from a concrete expert and then spent the week boring jurors with dull witnesses who made minor points.

The week's 8th and final witness was gynecologist,
Dr. Charles March.

Dr. Charles March

Considered one of America's top 100 doctors, March was smooth and confident on direct-exam, saying he estimated Laci Peterson's fetus continued to grow at least five days beyond the date prosecutors insist she was suffocated to death. But according to court observers, Dr. March became fidgety and confused during a surprisingly searing cross by Rick Distaso's suddenly sizzling assistant, Dave Harris.

Mr. Geragos' expert finally fell apart altogether, threw himself on the mercy of the court and begged DA Harris for pity, crying "Cut me some slack!" Jurors, who in the past had laughed right along with the high profile defense lawyer-to-the-stars, were derisively laughing at Geragos' star witness.

During his re-direct-examination, Geragos succeeded only in re-clarifying that the assumptions Dr. March relied upon to make his scientific calculations were based on the estimated dates of various Peterson family phone calls. (Oh, perfect… more phone-based, retrospective analysis.)


Luckily for Scott Peterson -- and every other criminal defendant in attorney general Bill Lockyer's California -- a murder trial isn't the same as a basketball game where one side tries to out dunk and over slam the other until time runs out and determines a winner.

Laci Peterson's death was a permanent loss. Soon after her disappearance, Scott Peterson's life was placed in jeopardy of a state sanctioned execution. So there'll be no winners.

And no expert doctors or legal magicians can ever even the score. Whatever deadly game was being played has ended and the best we, the People, can hope for is to locate the truth of the tragedy so we can render some measure of justice.

Laci Peterson

Mock Trial

Prosecutor Harris and his crushing cross-exam had to have reminded jurors of the magic of Mark Geragos as he got three out of four of the State's medical witnesses to admit they had reasonable doubts about the age of the fetus -- and therefore doubts about Laci Peterson's time of death.

It can't have been lost on many jurors that America's other top 99 doctors, if asked, would probably testify to 99 different things. Laughter about confusion and doubt is the sad joke that ended Geragos' first week of defense, and any day a death-qualified jury is laughing is certainly not a good day for the prosecution.

The truth is -- starting practically the moment Laci Peterson was reported missing, police and prosecutors presumed her husband to be guilty of her murder, and they repeatedly mocked the doubts of reasonable people who disagreed with their hunches.

Dr. March, just like the State medical examiner, lacked basic information -- so he used circumstantial evidence to fill in the blanks. His conclusions are no less valid than conclusions from the State's witnesses and arguably more reliable, since Dr. March's circumstantial evidence came from expert testimony Laci Peterson gave to family and friends about the results of a home pregnancy test she had administered herself.

HARRIS: "Where in the medical records does it talk about Laci Peterson using a pregnancy test on June 9?"
DR. MARCH: "Nowhere."
HARRIS: "So you're making an assumption to form a medical opinion, isn't that correct?"
DR. MARCH: "Based on 30 years of being a doctor ... that's a pretty good assumption."

Read it and Reap

Chief Roy Wasden

"We've given the information that we feel we need to give, and we've given that information so that a young woman who had the courage to come forward and give us information will not be harassed as she tries to go on with her life."
-- Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden, 1/24/03

When the Modesto Police Department called their January 24, 2003 press conference to publicly introduce Amber Frey to the world -- the scandal was so tawdry and titillating, hardly anyone in the media questioned the MPD's motives for marching Mr. Peterson's mistress to the microphones. Nor did any major news organization comment on the propriety of publicizing a private citizen's sexual sins which -- at that time anyway -- did not relate to any specific allegation against him.

In retrospect, it's clear that detectives were desperately planting more
"seeds of suspicion." Amber Frey was obviously called to the stand in the court of public opinion to establish Scott Peterson's motive for murder.

Just like the hot headlines about life insurance, bleach smells and blood stains in the boat -- the Amber smoking gun would eventually misfire and fizzle away. But Frey's photo op was the moment in PETERSON WEST when the line that normally separates police from the press -- completely disappeared from view.

One important fact that DID manage to get reported, was that the timing of the media event was dictated by the publish date of a story about Ms. Frey which was set to appear in the National Enquirer.

The official reason given for parading Peterson's paramour past throngs of media people was that police were launching a pre-emptive strike. Law enforcement supposedly wanted to prevent the paparazzi from unduly pursuing and pressuring Frey. Perhaps journalists were just too shocked and awed by the MPD's bombshell to be offended by the absurd justification.

Amber Frey apparently never knew Laci Peterson. She apparently never witnessed Scott Peterson engaged in any criminal activity. In fact, at the time, Peterson wasn't even officially a suspect. Why would Frey warrant any special protection by law enforcement -- and even if she did, how is she protected by exposure to the international media?

Nothing in the MPD's press release clarified that Peterson and Frey were virtually strangers. The scandal of Scott's adulterous obsession for Amber was in actuality little more than a sexual fling involving four or five booty calls over the course of a month.

Tabloids routinely offer up juicy exclusives about naughty celebrities, breakthrough diets and Bigfoot sightings, so when LE raced to scoop the NE, it was a revealing moment of role reversal. In PETERSON WEST, Modesto police would pick the headlines while the media built its circumstantial case against Scott Peterson.

Beyond the prosaic irony of government officials surreptitiously sowing the "seeds of suspicion" against a farm fertilizer salesman, lies the poetically justified flowers of doubt that the state now reaps.

"Amber Frey has been cooperative in the investigation, and has been eliminated as a suspect in the disappearance of Laci Peterson. For the near future we've asked Ms Frey not to make any statements to the media. It is her desire that you respect her privacy. Please don't follow, harass, or make any other attempts to interview her during the investigation."

-- Detective Doug Ridenour, 1/24/03

Bill O'Reilly

October 19

FOX NEWS blowhard, Bill O'Reilly, who for over a year has referred to Scott Peterson as a "sleaze" and routinely pronounced Peterson to be guilty of murder, is now being sued by a female employee.

According to the complaint, arch conservative moralist O'Reilly repeatedly spoke offensively about sex over the phone, at times using a vibrator on himself, saying he fantasized about having sex with the employee. The self-described "defender of the little guy" allegedly bragged about the big size of his "amazing" endowment, and the self-righteous commentator's kinky conversations -- apparently caught on tape -- also included tales of group sex with lesbian stewardesses and "mind-blowing" adventures with prostitutes in Thailand.

We report, you decide -- but of course, until proven guilty, the sleazebag hypocrite is presumed innocent.

"It's a shame this can happen in a country like this."
-- Bill O'Reilly

O'Reilly discussing entertainer, R. Kelly with Congressman James Clyburn:

O'REILLY: All right. Well, let's cede that it is a role model organization. I believe I'm a role model for some people. I'm not going to hang around with somebody who's going to have to stand trial on child pornography, sir. Because although you're right, you're innocent until proven are judged on your associations. I want to see that adjudicated before I let that person in my living room, sir.


CLYBURN: Well, you think so and I don't. And I do believe that until this gentleman is found guilty of something, I'm perfectly willing for him to continue to make his living.

O'REILLY: All right, so are you going to invite Scott Peterson to your next fundraiser?

The Perfect Victim

In 1975, when 20-year-old Karen went strangely missing, everyone hoped she'd return home safely, but after a few weeks family and friends started to think that something bad had happened. It just wasn't like Karen to go away from her Eugene, Oregon home without leaving word. As weeks turned to months -- hope faded and suspicious rumors sprung up about Karen's estranged husband, Tom Smith.

Maybe Tom had something do with it.

Nobody knew much about Tom. He had married Karen and moved her to Ohio when she was barely 17. After a year -- the marriage suddenly ended and Karen moved back home. No one had good cause to suspect Tom of harming his wife -- but the sweet young girl didn't have an enemy in the world.

Lacking direct evidence, no charges were filed but for years the question remained: If not Tom, who?

Nearly seven years went by before Karen returned home and supplied an answer to that question. Tom Smith was completely innocent. The culprit was a man named
Cameron Hooker.

On September 24,
1985 in Redwood City in San Mateo County Superior Court, Hooker was prosecuted for kidnapping Karen and keeping her in his home as a sex slave. Karen had been routinely tortured, abused and made to sleep in an 8-foot-long box kept under the bed Hooker shared with his wife, Janice.

Cameron Hooker's bizarre case became known as "The Girl in the Box" and inspired a book called:
"Perfect Victim."

The Perfect Victim

Andrew Cohen
CBS News

Like the Simpson case before it, the Peterson case is destined to be an example lawyers and law professors and judges will cite when making the case that there are too many excesses within the criminal justice system.

It will become a symbol for lax judicial oversight, prosecutorial laziness and a defense tactic that seeks to take advantage of it all. Cable news made the Laci Peterson case a high-profile cause celebre case for reasons that have very little to do with its significance in the grand scheme of American law. And now the Peterson trial itself is creating a significance of its own for reasons that have very little to do with how a typical state murder trial ought to proceed.

courtroom 2M

"I hate to do it.
This is not being done in a frivolous manner.
Your time is important, this case is important."

-- Judge Delucchi

October 12, 2004

It was standing room only for the start of Scott Peterson's defense case and the bright courtroom was abuzz with anticipation, but when Judge Delucchi took the bench and made his curious comments it got so quiet you could've heard a prosecutor's momentum drop. Delucchi announced that PETERSON WEST had vanished and court would be dark for a week.

Now you see it. Now you don't.

"Delay always breeds danger;
and to protract a great design is often to ruin it."
-- Miguel de Cervantes, author of DON QUIXOTE


Scott Bernstein
, the private investigator aligned with cable's Court-TV is himself being investigated for impersonating an officer, but that hasn't stopped his search for clues to the Modesto Mystery.

Bernstein's attorney, H. Ronald Sawl told the Mod Bee,
"Mr. Bernstein has uncovered a lead, not an original lead, about a brown van, and has come up with information about alternate crime scenes. He was pursuing very viable lines of evidence that law enforcement had chosen to ignore because they were inconsistent with their theory at the time."

As for Bernstein pretending to be a policeman, Sawl dismissed the allegations as false and commented,
"What has disturbed law enforcement the most, is that they provided him with mug shots displayed on Court-TV."

Jens Sund           Gary Condit

Suspicions were raised about Jens Sund, whose wife and daughter disappeared during a visit to Yosemite National Park in 1999. Sund claimed he was unconcerned when they failed to meet him at an airport and went to play golf before deciding to report his family missing. Former congressman Gary Condit eventually sued Dominick Dunne, "The National Enquirer," "The Globe" and "The Star" for portraying him as a "sexual deviant" and a "murderer" in connection with the death of Chandra Levy.

Don't Blame Modesto

October 11, 2004

From the very first hour the Modesto story broke, Scott Peterson was guilty. His guilt instantly became background wallpaper on every TV screen in the nation. Supposedly, we were looking for Laci, but from "Good Morning America" and other news programs, to Jay Leno's Tonight Show and similar entertainment television -- what was found was Scott Peterson's guilt.

In the lull between Distaso's delicious smorgasbord of circumstantial shockers and Mark's molehill of MPD meringue -- and in anticipation of the dreadful Monday Morning Quarterbacking about "another O.J." -- a return to Modesto may answer the question that comes to mind: "How did this happen?"

One thing's for sure -- you can't blame DA Distaso. Rick Distaso wasn't in a truck on Christmas Eve morning going up and down the highways transporting large umbrellas wrapped in a tarp. Distaso hadn't purchased a fishing license to go golfing that weekend, and he certainly didn't enter his home and do a load of laundry before noticing the house was completely empty.

DA Dave Harris didn't make a beeline for the nearest news reporter to help solve this case. He wasn't one of the many Modesto authorities who began leaking lurid details to the media about bleach and blood money from an insurance scam. Don't blame Dave Harris for the LARRY KING-sized hoopla following televised comments that supplied the People's trial of the century with a sarcastic subtitle that has stubbornly stuck:


Staring a hung jury in the face, on the eve of the defense's presentation, it's important to point out that none of this is the fault of individual Modesto police officers.

What was happening on TV wasn't at all what was happening in Modesto. In Modesto it was real. Tragedies, very similar tragedies, had happened there before.

Some in the public court have opined about an "absence of accident" as it concerns the little town and its big troubles. Some have outright said the place is cursed.

So one might think the modest town would instinctively recoil from the news of a missing young woman. Once burnt, twice shy -- and Modesto had recently been burnt TWICE -- with the Sund and Levy cases.

But as it turned out, the opposite was true.

Modesto moved into high gear. No one was caught off guard. But neither Detective Brochinni nor Chief Wasden can be blamed for being on duty at a time and in a place where, apparently, hell opened up and swallowed something very precious.

Such a monstrous deed, at Christmas no less, was evil that required a response beyond the scope of the MPD.

Media experts and missing person foundations quickly took over. They swooped down onto the city with a playbook of plans based on strategies from similar events.

First thing? Flyers.

Flyers everywhere -- and repeated news bulletins detailing a missing woman last seen wearing black pants and a white top.

Wait! Stop the presses!

Black pants -- white top?

In the rush to crank up the "missing person" machine, a small truth in Modesto lost the subtle moorings of its context -- and became a big lie.

Posters and news flashes are helpful, but there's not enough room on a flyer to point out -- only ONE person remembered Laci Peterson wearing black and white and that person is the emotionally unstable husband who admitted he hadn't seen his wife for over six hours.

The FOX network didn't have time in their 24-hours of late-breaking news teasers for Rita Cosby to remind viewers that -- what is true and what is believed to be true, are not the same thing -- and that under the circumstances, no family member, police officer or journalist could reliably claim to know how Laci Peterson was dressed when she went missing.

To be fair and balanced, you can't fault the media. As much as Gloria Gomez and Nancy Grace may deserve it -- they can't be blamed for doing what comes naturally -- selling soap.

The media is only a mirror.

Reporters and TV stars have no control over which news items will suddenly take a choke hold on the American psyche -- but control of the mass media can in a very real sense, be used as a weapon to control reality.

Police press conferences requesting information about "Scott's" truck and boat in order to confirm his alibi were obvious public indications that authorities thought he was lying. The initial question wasn't, "Where was Laci?" The first question asked was: Why would an innocent man leave his very pregnant wife alone on Christmas Eve and go fishing all day?

Right from the start, intuitive reporters implied to an anxious audience what leery law enforcement officials openly insinuated:

Laci Peterson is missing -- Have you seen her husband's truck? He's lying about fishing at the bay on December 24 and the place he REALLY went, is the place his wife will be found. Help us find Laci -- tell us where Scott was.

The questions kept coming -- the answers never sufficed.

Peterson produced a parking stub that verified his whereabouts, but it was too little, too late. His ticket may have been a fake, and by the time Peterson's alibi was confirmed, that small bit of truth had become one of the most noted deceptions of the nation's most notorious pathological liar and reality TV star.

You go all the way back to Modesto for answers, only to find out Modesto has nothing to do with it. Don't blame Modesto.

If and when the question becomes, "How was a guilty man found innocent?" the answer will be returned as another question -- a media mirror image that echoes back to the very first moment Laci Peterson was reported missing: "How was an innocent man found guilty?"

Death comes to Redwood City

Presumed Guilty
The Scott Peterson Investigation

link to more comments





comments - 2

comments - 3

comments - 4

comments - 5

comments - 6

   Main Menu!
    Vance / court

  And Poetic Justice For All  

Thank You for supporting this site. . .

V a n c e H o l m e s . c o m