Presumed Guilty  

 Murder, Media and Mistakes in Modesto 

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The Van Who KNEW Too Much

May 26

Mark Geragos claims the State has kidnapped and hidden important evidence in the Peterson double murder case. The defense attorney is seeking sanctions against Rick Distaso and David Harris and has filed an angry motion outlining two instances of prosecutorial misconduct.

"Just last week the prosecution turned over reports disclosing an interview with a witness who saw Laci Peterson being pulled into a van by at least two men. This eyewitness, who has been a sworn peace officer, has apparently been known to the prosecution since December of 2002 yet he was only interviewed within the last week . . . The witness confirmed his sighting of a woman he identified as Laci and her two abductors. However, the Modesto Police Department chose to ignore this former peace officer's report. This ... clearly establishes that the prosecution's conduct was undertaken in bad faith."

Also, according to the filing, in interviews with police, Scott Peterson's neighbor
Diane Jackson stated that she saw "three short of stature, dark skinned" men in the front yard of the Peterson home on the morning Laci Peterson disappeared. Jackson told police the men were standing near a van. "Mrs. Jackson said that she had the feeling that they were up to no good," the filing states. Geragos charges:

"The prosecution realized it had no direct evidence of Mr. Peterson's having been involved in the disappearance of his wife. On January 17, 2003, the prosecution utilized Dale Pennington, an unqualified hypnotist ... to hypnotize, and thereby disqualify Mrs. Jackson."

May 20

A person calling herself -- or himself -- "Citizen Q," claims to have found a soiled blue tarp near the site of Laci Peterson's recovery back in February 2003. "Citizen Q," who has apparently been a frequent visitor to the website "" -- finally decided to send the tarp to Judge Delucchi.

Scott Peterson's case, previously anticipated as a purely circumstantial affair, is now brimming over with evidence. Not evidence collected by the Modesto Police, but by kooky, cyber-private eyes and over-zealous chatroom sleuths. The tarp is one of several pieces of so-called evidence that have been mailed to Delucchi in the past few months.

Exactly who's sending the packages and what's been said in the letters is murky -- but the message is very clear: Laci Peterson cannot get a fair trial in San Mateo County.

"I'm satisfied we can get a fair and impartial jury in San Mateo."
-- Judge Al Girolami after rejecting a prosecution motion to stay in Modesto

Blame DA Brazelton, blame Fox News, blame John Q. Citizen. . . Blame whoever you want, but the Peterson media circus must come to an immediate end, and a realistic remedy must be sought.

Even as prospective jurors are in the courthouse hallway filling out forms, evidence of a case out of control is being rolled past them in bins by postal workers delivering the morning mail.

A defendant is presumed to be innocent and therefore has certain rights, but the same rules apply to the victim. Laci Peterson also has the right to a fair trial. That will not be possible in this climate.

"You could argue, 'where are you going to go anywhere?'
People are watching this coast to coast."
-- DA, John Goold

The DA's office has, on several occasions, acknowledged the overwhelming and nearly unprecedented, international publicity surrounding Laci Peterson's death. Dave Harris himself recently admitted on the record that San Mateo was saturated with the trial, but then somehow rationalized that no remedy could be found.

The prosecution's absurd argument was first trotted out in Judge Girolami's courtroom back in January -- basically -- Peterson is so notorious, he can't get a fair trial anywhere in California, so a change of venue is pointless.

The implication from the DA's office seems to be that it was Scott Peterson who went on local and national television and contributed to his own infamy. Video tapes from those interviews are in fact, going to be used as testimony against Peterson in court. The argument is, if he can't get a fair trial -- too bad -- it's his own fault.

But what about Laci Peterson's rights? Doesn't she deserve a fair trial? The DA, throwing up his hands and deciding to limp on in reversible error, is simply not acceptable.

When a remedy is needed,
a remedy must be sought.

Right beside Peterson's revealing TV appearances are the many enlightening interviews and press conferences from law enforcement. Apparently attempting to scare or fool Scott Peterson into a confession, police stood before the cameras and told lie after lie.

The steadfast refusal of Stanislaus lawyers to search for a fair jury is a direct result of lazy investigators who misused the media and then gave up before finding any actual evidence of Laci Peterson's murder.

Presently, coming to the Redwood City courthouse by special delivery is all the fictitious evidence Modesto investigators planted in the newspapers after Laci went missing. No doubt Judge Delucchi can expect even more letters and packages to arrive, filled with tarps, mops, concrete, pajamas, and other manifestations of make-believe proof.

By the time the MPD sent Amber Frey to perform for the news cameras, it was obvious Peterson was not going to be tried in Modesto. If the People have a solid case, and admit it doesn't matter which county they prosecute it in -- why continue fighting for saturated San Mateo?

Law enforcement's high-tech lies have backfired. Good. That's as it should be. Wiretaps and GPS are no substitute for witnesses and DNA. But the victim shouldn't suffer for the sins of lazy investigators and a greedy media.

Laci Peterson, her unborn son Connor, and yes -- her husband Scott, all deserve a fair trial. So does the wounded community of family, friends, in-laws, on-lookers and concerned citizens.

In all fairness, Judge Delucchi should forward all postal Peterson proof to the prosecutors, and shut down the circus in San Mateo.

"We can let the balloons out!"

May 17, 2004

Judge Alfred Delucchi shouted with glee and called for balloons over Redwood City! "We can let the balloons out," he squealed. The normally jovial judge thought he had just cause to be especially high in court early last week.

Despite defender Mark Geragos' repeated pleas into the record protesting that publicity prevented Scott Peterson from picking an impartial panel in Redwood City -- the judge managed to sieve 70 citizens from San Mateo's poisoned pool.

Delucchi was delighted and deliciously declared:
"Everything we get from now on is gravy!"

The painfully slow slog towards Peterson's speedy trial began more than two months ago. Most potential panelists were dismissed because they were either too busy or too biased -- or too both.

During a second change of venue hearing, Geragos formerly warned Delucchi (and any future appellate judges) that nearly unprecedented publicity and the distinct possibility of 'stealth jurors,' could put a stop to proceedings in mid-trial.

Geragos got no argument from the prosecution table. "This is a case that has got national attention. This is a case that has got international attention," Dave Harris agreed. But the prosecutor sees no point in a change of venue, and resigned to the Roman holiday, offered, "To move it to Los Angeles would make no difference."
Judge Delucchi Judge Delucchi disagreed about the damage done by the Modesto media storm. "Mr. Peterson is not particularly well-known in San Mateo County," he happily announced -- and instructed the lawyers to prepare for trial.

By Friday however, all the air had leaked out of Al Delucchi's balloon party.

The solid 70 had dwindled, deflated and dropped down to a point where the reality of Redwood City could no longer be denied.

Delucchi's gravy is suddenly very lumpy, now that he has asked for 300 more potential jurors to report to his courtroom. Opening statements -- which had been scheduled for May 17 -- have been held off until June 1.

Don't expect any balloons though. They're long gone.

pre-game or post-show?

May 4, 2004

Opening day in the Stanislaus Slam-Dunk has been delayed at least a week and Judge Delucchi now says he'll call in another 100 potential jurors.

Defense coach Geragos is pressing to have the game called off altogether. He wants the media drenched, double-murder moved to Los Angeles County, saying the agonizing jury selection process itself proves that the court cannot find a fair and impartial jury in San Mateo County.

Half of the potential jurors who have been interviewed in the two-month-long ramp up in Redwood City have said they presume Scott Peterson to be guilty of killing his wife and unborn son.

Odds are 50-50 there'll even BE a trial in San Mateo.


Michael Jackson's statement on changing his lawyer from Mark Geragos to Thomas Mesereau:

"It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me. My life is at stake. Therefore, I must feel confident that my interests are of the highest priority."

Robert Blake's statement on changing his defense lawyer from Thomas Mesereau to Gerald Schwartzbach:

"I'm sure Mr. Mesereau will have a great life and a great career. I'm 70 years old. I've learned I have to go forward. I've had an angel on my shoulder since I was conceived. ... I wish him all the very best."

letter of the law

A letter was sent to Judge Al Delucchi by someone claiming to know who killed Scott Peterson's wife. The mail is most likey full of groundless conjecture and will be laughed out of court. After all, the mysterious postal prosecutor's only evidence is a single strand of hair.


innocence lost

April 24

Not unlike the bright, bustling, and often smelly parade down Main Street announcing that a circus has come to town, Scott Peterson's pre-trial phase is impossible to pass up.

Even those few folks in San Mateo who didn't line the streets to get an early glimpse of the show are, by now aware that something's about to happen. It's not just in the news -- it's in the air.


As far as I'm concerned -- all parades are too long -- but the Peterson preamble is so protracted, it's worn out its welcome on the way in. The trouble started when drum major for justice and joke lover Judge Delucchi led the invasion into Redwood City holding a big red banner that said, "No Photos, Please!"

When Delucchi judiciously removed cameras from the carnival, what was once a Slam-Dunk diversion quickly disappeared from view. (In its place are a pageant of other soap-selling side shows about Kobe Bryant's private parts, Janet Jackson's breasts and Howard Stern's morality.)

No channel change for Redwood citizens however, as down the boulevard came a procession of lawyers, reporters and assorted other clowns. Although broadly smiling and waving to the townsfolk -- they were often overheard complaining about them.

A marching band struck up a familiar tune, trumpeting future financial gain for the community, but occasionally rising above the bells and whistles were rude comments about Redwood City.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the greedy media.

Without a continuous live-feed, drawn out previews of the Peterson coming attraction now seem to be promising to focus on a past distraction. The National Enquirer money machine about a Monster in Modesto is exposed as no different than last year's shocking revelations of Bigfoot sightings in rural Arkansas.

Those who had decided not to watch Scott Peterson's parade toward the death penalty were forced to tune in when they recognized their own friends and neighbors marching down the street, having joined the carneys along the road to the main event.

Overwhelmed by negative news and the snarled traffic reports of prejudiced prospective jurors, it had to have finally dawned on everybody in the county that San Mateo itself would be featured in the center ring. They had a title role in People vs. Peterson. They would also be judged -- and the trumped up pre-trial rumors of damning evidence against them was a bunch of lies.

San Mateo has pled Not Guilty. In their own defense, they point to the real culprit: the malevolent monster media.

Princess Di
Princess Diana

Even on its wicked way into town, the murder that led to a media frenzy has transformed into a media frenzy that may lead to murder.

The San Mateo citizens who'll one day sit on the Peterson jury are -- right now -- watching what no one else in America can see. Once impaneled, they'll maintain a unique perspective in that, while watching they'll know they're also BEING watched.

No doubt, magic man Mark Geragos will have a receptive audience when he displays his argument of an outlandish media feeding frenzy followed by a completely circumstantial case based on old episodes of "Good Morning America."

"Presumption of Innocence" isn't a courtroom TV-drama soundbite -- it's a fundamental principle of the US Justice system and a guide for police, prosecutors, the press, and the public. It must be upheld at every turn, insisted upon and fiercely defended, for when we take away the accused's presumption of innocence -- we rob the victim of it as well.

Prosecutor Darden with photo of Nicole Simpson
DA Chris Darden holding a
photo of Nicole Simpson

With so precious little evidence uncovered by police, when the REAL show opens in Redwood, assistant district attorney Rick Distaso will be far removed from the audience, high above, walking a circumstantial tightrope. His only safety net will be the presumption that
Laci Peterson is innocent and therefore her behavior is a given.

Laci Peterson is to be trusted beyond a reasonable doubt. We know where she would have been and what she would have been doing at the time she went missing.

No one will testify that Laci was anything but a bright, happy, loving and concerned mother-to-be. No one will say she was involved with drugs or dangerous gangs. No witness will swear Laci Peterson had a miserable marriage or a shady husband, or that she expressed a single doubt about the father of her baby.

Either Mrs. Scott Peterson is to be fully trusted or not at all. Removing the safety net of assumed innocence to gain a conviction against Scott Peterson, means the tiniest misstep from Mr. Distaso will be fatal to the case.

Laci Peterson

If the Peterson trial exposes the circus its preliminary parade has, I anticipate a huge loss -- not just for prosecutors and law enforcement, but for caring people in Modesto and around the country, and for the memory of Laci Peterson -- forever lost to the dispute of a Not Guilty verdict in a failed search for the truth.

April 18, 2004

They were certain they'd find her in the San Francisco Bay.

Some 90 miles from her Modesto home, there was no logical reason to think Laci Peterson had been anywhere near the bay, but that's where police looked when the young, pregnant woman went missing. It was when Scott Peterson reported his Christmas Eve fishing trip to the Berkeley Marina that detectives first had the hunch -- he had gone there to dump his wife's body.

While it's true that clues sniffed up by bloodhounds raised suspicions about the Marina, those leads were as murky as dubious witness accounts of Laci Peterson walking her dog in the neighborhood park.

Police began a series of searches in the waters near the Berkeley Marina on December 28, 2002.

You don't look for a live person in the San Francisco Bay. Less than a week after Laci Peterson went missing, investigators had obviously surmised that, not only was Scott Peterson connected to his wife's kidnapping -- he had already killed her.

Glaringly contrary to their press conference pretensions -- from Day One, the Modesto Police were engaged in a homicide investigation, not a missing person case. Detectives had decided that Laci Peterson was dead, that she had been murdered on Christmas Eve, and that her body had been dumped in the bay.

Why were they so sure? Four things:

The mop. Police didn't know what it meant but it indicated cleaning. The pick-up. That gun and unopened package of fishing lures in the front seat was hinky as hell. The warehouse. Detectives were spooked by the dark visit to Peterson's workshop and the blood stains they spotted in his boat.

And no doubt, investigators saw the ghost of
Chandra Levy that Christmas night.

They were positive on December 25 that Laci Peterson was in the bay. She had to be. Endeavors turned up nothing and yet they went back time and again. The intensive search for Laci Peterson -- one of the largest on record -- was mostly a search of the area around the Berkeley Marina.

It went on for months but Laci's body was never recovered.

Scott Peterson was taken into custody on April 18, 2003. His arrest came a few days after word spread that the remains of a woman and a male fetus had washed ashore at the San Francisco Bay.

On May 22, 2003 -- police went back to search the bay again.

Opening statements are scheduled for May 17, 2004. Prosecutors will mention nothing to jurors about guns, mops, bloody boat stains, or the ghost of Chandra Levy.

May 22, 2002

Chandra Levy

Chandra Levy's remains found in DC park

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The skeletal remains of missing former Washington intern Chandra Levy were found in a park in northwest Washington on Wednesday, almost 13 months after she vanished without a trace.

Police Chief Charles Ramsey made the grim announcement about 6 p.m., after the remains found Wednesday morning in Washington's Rock Creek Park were identified through dental records.

He said the investigation, previously treated as a missing person case, would now be treated as a death investigation.

April 18

DAY 150

A defendant in California is guaranteed his or her criminal trial will begin within 60 days of a preliminary hearing. Scott Peterson's "eye-opening" preliminary ended some five months ago on November 18. Peterson, who was denied bail, has never waived his right to a speedy trial.

wait of the evidence

"We know what the results will be. The van has been cleared."
-- David Harris

The district attorney's office remains convinced that the brown van seen in Laci Peterson's neighborhood around the time she went missing is not connected to her murder. At one point prosecutors said stains found in the vehicle were barbeque sauce and not worth testing.

Responding to news that they've changed their mind and will examine the van, the DA's office said they were only conducting DNA tests on the ketchup in anticipation of the defense's strategy.

Anticipation, Anticipation
is makin' me late
It's keepin' me waiting

"It's Alice in Wonderland. It's not involved but we'll test it anyway?
Their theory about this case is ludicrous."
-- Mark Geragos

I saw what you did

and I know who you are

April 15, 2004

After announcing that he had mysteriously uncovered a stealth juror, Geragos the Great reached into his hat and produced another one! This time the covert operative was a 33-year-old, twice divorced woman who spent her nights on the internet chatting about Scott Peterson's guilt and bragging of her plans to sneak onto the jury.

Luckily, some do-gooder was eavesdropping on the conversation and exposed the secret crime to authorities.

A stealth transcript of the damning chat reportedly reads, "Anyone with half a brain could out the answers that the defense was looking for."

The Spin Wizard followed his second stealth act with an amazing finale. Geragos put San Mateo County District Attorney, Jim Fox on a slab and cut him in half. Complaining that the hidden criminals in Redwood City's juror pool are escaping perjury charges, Geragos referred to Mr. Fox as "this piece of crap who masquerades as a DA."

Despite his immediate apology, Judge Delucchi gave Geragos the hook. "You're an attorney, you're an officer of the court," the jurist warned. "There's no reason to use that language."

Delucchi wasn't much happier with the performance of the wicked witch of the web: "It appears to the court that she's dissembling."

Meanwhile, prosecutors Distaso and Harris have completely disappeared.

"If somebody DID lie, it may very well be a crime."
-- Jim Fox, March 31

"I've only been district attorney for twenty-one years and we have never prosecuted a juror for perjury so I guess you can say it's rare."
-- Jim Fox, April 13

When it absolutely, positively
HAS to be there overnight

stealth furor

April 14, 2004

No one knows what information defense attorneys requested or why the documents have not been turned over, but one thing is very, very clear -- the normally even-tempered Judge Delucchi is furious.

"If they don't show up with the information ... they'll be taken into custody," Delucchi announced, revealing the dark side to his delightful demeanor. "It might be worth a phone call to tell them that's exactly what's going to happen."

Scott Peterson's legal team had issued subpoenas to specific officials at Federal Express, UPS, and other companies. For whatever reasons, those subpoenas were ignored. Delucchi demanded they over-night the documents or they'll be standing in the chow line next to Scott Peterson by lunchtime tomorrow.

The judge's ill-humor is probably the result of the painfully slow process to find 70 people out of the 700,000 in San Mateo County, who DON'T think Scott Peterson is "guilty as hell."

Prospective juror #29308 isn't helping.

"Anyone who would defend a wife-killer and a child molester deserves to lose."
-- retired secretary, grandmother, and stealth juror #29308, about Mark Geragos

stealthier than thou

The elderly woman accused of lying to get on the Peterson panel last month -- finally got what was due her. Following a short meeting with attorneys this morning, Judge Delucchi ordered the stealth grandma out of the jury pool.

High profile defender, Mark Geragos got the low-down weeks before juror #29308 actually surfaced in court.

In a theme familiar to the Peterson case, Geragos was secretly tipped off about the woman by a man who overheard her blabbing to friends during a bus trip to Reno. Listening in on the woman's private conversation -- the un-named man reported she boasted about plans to lie her way onto the jury and make sure Scott Peterson would "get what's due him."

The little old lady liar could well face criminal charges for perjury. Perhaps not -- the case against her is, after all, purely circumstantial.

In any event, this so-called stealth juror's alleged attempt to undermine the legal process and deny Peterson what the constitution says he's DUE, will hereafter be referenced as proof of the bizarre and uniquely tainted jury pool in San Mateo.

stealth prosecution

On, about, or around May 17, Scott Peterson's speedy trial is scheduled to start. Delucchi is yelling from the bench and Geragos is screaming foul. In a case literally flooded with slam-dunk leaks -- the DA's dream team has gone strangely missing.

Last month, prosecutors Distaso and Harris went in to Redwood City like lions.
("If the marriage truly was glorious, why would the defendant seek an adulterous relationship with Amber Frey?" . . . "How can you have a murder case with no bodies?")

Now -- teetering between the critical opening statements and a complete change of venue -- the silence of the lambs is deafening.

New Yorker cartoon noted by Judge Delucchi:

Your Honor, we feel the trial failed to deliver on its pre-trial publicity.

justice in wonderland

April 9

Normally, during jury selection in a murder trial, prosecutors seek out "law and order" types, which is perhaps why Judge Al Delucchi was so surprised by Rick Distaso this week.

A prospective juror told the court she was a 9-1-1 operator with a husband and a father that were both policemen. After some questioning, Distaso insisted she be excused. He felt the woman was prejudiced because she'd already decided that -- until proven guilty -- Scott Peterson was innocent . . .

The moment is not unlike that scene in Alice in Wonderland when the red-faced Queen of Hearts demands,
"Sentence first -- verdict afterwards!"

DISTASO: Basically, she's prejudged his innocence.

DELUCCHI: You can't prejudge innocence. He's presumed innocent.

GERAGOS: Do you realize where we've come to? The first person who's expressed a presumption of innocence, the prosecution wants to dismiss for cause!

After rejecting the assistant DA's bizarre arguments, the Judge gently reminded Rick Distaso that it is HE who has the burden of proof -- not the citizens of San Mateo -- and that prospective jurors have absolutely no reason to believe Scott Peterson is guilty of anything.

But in some odd, twisted way -- I almost see Distaso's point. . .

A juror with personal knowledge about law enforcement would likely find it very strange to sit through a murder trial where most of the testimony is coming from the mouths of police and most of the evidence is coming from the mouths of the prosecutors. Such a juror is certain to decide, as Alice did,
"You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

Distaso apparently woke up to reality when Delucchi noted the mad hat defense attorney Geragos was wearing. "I'm not sure that Mr. Geragos is going to accept this juror when it comes down to it," the judge wisely cracked.

"Are they in the prisoner's handwriting?" asked another of they jurymen.

"No, they're not," said the White Rabbit, "and that's the queerest thing about it." (The jury all looked puzzled.)

"He must have imitated somebody else's hand," said the King. (The jury all brightened up again.)

"Please your Majesty," said the Knave, "I didn't write it, and they can't prove I did: there's no name signed at the end."

"If you didn't sign it," said the King, "that only makes the matter worse. You must have meant some mischief, or else you'd have signed your name like an honest man."

Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland

Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom


"It's all of the things adding up to show that Scott Peterson wanted out of this marriage and he took it into his own hands, didn't do a divorce because he didn't want alimony, he didn't want a family, and he had not only the affair with Amber Frey but with other women, as well."
-- Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom,
former Victoria's Secret model and Court-TV star
married to San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom

S.F. Mayor and First Lady Newsom
Harper's Bazaar dubbed the
couple, "The New Kennedys."

Voir dire

"to speak the truth"

"Laci and Conner's Law has nothing to do with abortion."
Sharon Rocha

April 5, 2004
San Francisco (Reuters)

A man who killed a pregnant woman is liable for the murder of an unborn victim even if he did not know she was pregnant, California's top court ruled on Monday.

The ruling came just days after President Bush signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a law that would make it a separate federal crime to harm a pregnant woman's fetus.

"There is no principled basis on which to require defendant to know Fansler was pregnant to justify an implied murder conviction as to her fetus," the California Supreme Court wrote in its decision.

The bill signed by Bush has been nicknamed "Laci and Conner's Law." . . . Opponents said the bill could undermine, or at least complicate, abortion rights by treating the fetus as a person from conception.

April 5, 2004
Lincoln, Neb. (AP)

Dr. George Mazariegos of Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh was called to the stand for a hearing on the law signed in November by President Bush that bans the procedure that opponents call "partial-birth" abortion.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act has not been enforced because judges in Lincoln, Neb.; New York; and San Francisco agreed to hear evidence in three simultaneous, non-jury trials on whether the ban violates the U.S. Constitution.

. . . The ban would be the first substantial limitation on abortion since the Supreme Court legalized it 31 years ago in the landmark case Roe v. Wade.

Amber Frey
Amber Frey

presumption of impartiality

"It's innocent until proven guilty
in a court of law... but he's
guilty until he's proven innocent
in this neighborhood."

-- Peterson neighbor, Elvira Varse

April 5

In total, the physical evidence against the accused is a strand -- or two -- of the victim's hair. Police found the hair in the defendant's boat, and presumably prosecutors will tell Redwood City jurors that the hair proves Laci Peterson was in or near that boat. As evidence goes, it isn't very compelling, considering the defendant was Laci Peterson's husband and likely carried strands of her hair everywhere he went.

Nonetheless, for Scott Peterson, that's the tiny piece of physical evidence that separates life from death. It is not enough to get a murder conviction, or bring a case, or even make an arrest. And yet there is the persistent and seemingly nation-wide presumption of guilt. Scott Peterson is presumed guilty when the opposite should be true.

The presumption of innocence is not an abstract legal concept. It goes to the constitutional right of every U.S. citizen -- without exception -- to get a fair trial with impartial jurors.

Far more than a simple jury instruction, the presumption of innocence is a guiding principle for police, prosecutors, judges, and anyone else connected to the American justice system which includes jurors, potential jurors, and the media that informs them.

"Innocence" is an unfortunate choice of words. Scott Peterson is far from innocent. A more exact phrase would be
"benefit of the doubt." Jurors judge the State's case, not their peer's innocence.

The framers of the Constitution were not at all unclear on these matters and yet repeatedly I hear (otherwise) intelligent, reasonable people insist that the presumption of innocence is an artificial technicality which is only afforded to a citizen once a trial has begun. This is an absurd position and a dangerous notion:

  • When exactly would the presumption kick in? Opening statements? Voir dire? Pre-trial? Booking? And since Mr. Peterson's made-for-TV testimony will be used as formal evidence against him, the innocence presumption should also be retro-active.

  • Jurors are asked to use their common sense and real life experiences to guide them on a search for the truth. It makes little sense to begin searching for the truth by embracing a lie. Either the defendant is presumed innocent, for real -- or not at all.

  • If the defendant's presumption of innocence is merely a convention during trial and not a reality -- the same holds true for the presumption of innocence afforded to law enforcement and to the victim.

Since it doesn't take 400 witnesses and six months of trial to present a strand of hair, Rick Distaso and Dave Harris are obviously planning to spin one helluva circumstantial yarn for Redwood City jurors. After closing arguments -- it may be possible to conclude "he's guilty as hell," but unless you're psychic, you could not possibly presume Scott Peterson to be guilty of murder.

Such a presumption cannot logically come from news articles, talk shows and a single strand of hair.

In all criminal prosecutions
the accused shall enjoy the right to

a speedy and public trial, by

an impartial jury

of the state and district wherein the crime
shall have been committed, which district
shall have been previously ascertained by law,

and to be informed of the
nature and cause of the accusation;

to be confronted with
the witnesses against him;

to have compulsory process for
obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have

the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VI

November 20 -- First meeting between Peterson and Frey at the Elephant Bar and a downtown Fresno Radisson Hotel

December 2 -- Second meeting at Frey's home

December 8 -- Scott Peterson negotiates the purchase of a Sears Gamefisher 14-foot aluminum boat

"The defendant's statements concerning Amber Frey support motive for the murder."
-- prosecutor Distaso

December 9
-- Third meeting, Frey's marriage confrontation

December 11 -- Fourth meeting, a party with Shawn Sibley

December 14 -- Fifth meeting, a party at the World Sports Bar

December 20 -- Final meeting before Laci Peterson's disappearance

slam dunk

"My optimism this morning just went
down the toilet."

-- Judge Alfred A. Delucchi

March 31, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle

Geragos has repeatedly voiced his fear that there would be those who have an agenda to convict his client and would stop at nothing to get on the jury.

His concern became a possible reality last Friday when his office received a call from a tipster. That call led to today's courtroom drama.

The man on the phone said he was a member of the Veterans Memorial Senior Center in Redwood City and had been on a trip to Reno with the woman when she allegedly boasted that she would hoodwink the judge, prosecution and defense to get on the jury and be made its forewoman so she could be sure that Peterson was punished.


Mark Geragos:

"I think it was clear there was the embodiment of a stealth juror there today."

"Stealth jurors is one of the things we've been gravely concerned about since Day One because . . . of the hype of the case."

"It's extremely distressing to anyone connected to the criminal justice system to think that anyone would lie their way onto a jury in order to execute someone."

Prospective Juror #29308:
"He's guilty as hell."

East Meets West

March 30, 2004

Accused of murdering his spouse and creating an elaborate scheme to disguise the treachery, Scott Peterson's ordeal has much in common with the tale of Michael Peterson -- the notorious novelist from North Carolina who purposely plotted his soulmate's accidental downfall. Confusion between the clones prompted trial trackers to name Michael's murder "Peterson East" and the Modesto mystery, "Peterson West."

Although not identical, the two crimes are depressingly similar: Both wives were solid citizens in seemingly superb marriages of five years. Both murders happened near the Christmas holidays. Both husbands were immediately suspected by police and defended by family. Both shocking situations generated and sustained intense media attention.

What clearly distinguishes the homicides however, is the enormously different investigation which followed each. While Peterson East employed traditional investigative techniques to build a conventional case, Modesto's Peterson West was met with a sophisticated, hi-tech, Hollywood style sting.

Working wonder, wife and mother, Kathleen Peterson was known as the "Martha Stewart of Durham" Faced with a hysterical husband that might or might not be hiding something horrible -- Durham law enforcement looked past him and searched the victim's extraordinary life for clues about her death.

The much loved Laci Peterson was similarly admired for her Martha-like marvels at work and at home. When Modesto's "Martha Stewart" went missing -- detectives focused on her horrible husband.

December 28, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle

It had taken Laci Peterson three years to get pregnant. Ecstatic, with her due date nearing, the woman who friends jokingly call Martha Stewart had decorated the blue nursery with a nautical theme, a life preserver hanging over the crib.

Durham police, armed with direct evidence of the time, manner and mechanism of Kathleen Peterson's murder, pointed prosecutors to the most likely suspect. Subsequent inquiry establishing the suspect's motive, means and opportunity to kill were placed before a grand jury and the defendant was given an opportunity to enter a plea to the specific facts alleged.

Having failed to even locate Laci Peterson's corpse, the cops in California handed Stanislaus lawyers thousands of pages of rumors and raw data. At pre-trial, prosecutors refused to produce evidence against the defendant. Opting to conceal all but the bare outlines of their case, the People were countered with testimony that Peterson was offered a death penalty plea just weeks after his wife went missing.

July 1, 2003

Charlotte Observer

Fairy-tale descriptions abound. Michael and Kathleen Peterson's 14-room mansion in fashionable Forest Hills "sprawled." Neighbors called the two-parent, five-kid household "close-knit." Kathleen, "the Martha Stewart of Durham," was Michael's "soul mate," "they finished each other's sentences," on and on.

Jim Hardin and Freda Black showed Durham county jurors direct proof of who Kathleen Peterson was -- direct proof of when, where and how she died -- and indirect evidence of why. The jury had no choice but to believe Michael Peterson was guilty since he was the only other person there.

Neither Laci nor Kathleen Peterson lived to hear the vital debate on domestic violence and fetal rights they forced into the court of public opinion. They lived their lives with honor and compassion and dignity. That still stands. Their legacy of love cannot be murdered.

Neither Laci nor Kathleen Peterson lived long enough to see Martha Stewart's media-saturated courtroom collapse either, but nestled between the two trials, Martha Stewart's loss is in many ways where Peterson East meets Peterson West.

After seating their jury in Redwood City, Rick Distaso and Dave Harris will display direct proof of who Scott Peterson was -- direct proof of when, where and how he did things -- and indirect evidence of why he may have murdered. Jurors will have the choice to decide if they believe the DA should ever have brought such a case.

right to life

Sharon Rocha March 26, 2004

"If Laci and Conner's law is not enacted this year, I will keep fighting for it. I will not hesitate to explain this issue to their voters. To vote against Laci and Conner's Law, or to obstruct it, is indefensible."

Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life Comm, March 26

"Apparently, John Kerry believes that if a criminal commits a federal crime that injures a pregnant woman and kills her unborn son or daughter, prosecutors should tell the grieving mother that she did not really lose a baby."

Sharon Rocha, March 26

"I call upon Senators Feinstein and Boxer to recognize that reality, and support Laci and Conner's law. I fear that some senators have opposed Laci and Conner's law because of misunderstandings. Laci and Conner's Law has nothing to do with abortion. So I also call on Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards, and every other senator who has refused to support it to reconsider."

President Bush on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act which passed the Senate 61-38 on March 25:

"Pregnant women who have been harmed by violence, and their families, know that there are two victims -- the mother and the unborn child -- and both victims should be protected by Federal law. I look forward to signing this important legislation into law."

Prospective Juror 21244 on the death sentence, March 24:

"When I make a decision, I stay with it."

Wit and Wisdom
Judge Al Delucchi

In Camera

March 22, 2004

Light-hearted Al Delucchi's robe must've felt considerably heavier as he slipped it on for Monday morning's court session. The quick-witted judge had seen his speedy trial brought to a slow crawl.

Using under-the-radar spinwizards and other alternate means of communication, defense tactician and media magician, Mark Geragos had managed to pull the plug on Peterson jury-picking proceedings without making a single motion.

It happened in an instant! Just long enough to hear a few "boos" from an audience of prospective jurors. A flash of news!
Then . . .

lead attorney Geragos

. . . producing an appellate issue out of thin air, Mr. Geragos brought the whole show to a standstill for weeks -- while misdirecting attention to the DA's table.

Presumably waiting for Delucchi to decide whether prosecutors could use Scott Peterson's talky media interviews as evidence -- ventriloquist Geragos used talky media dummies to put out word that the talky media had poisoned the jury pool.

He never moved his lips, and yet the groups of prospective jurors suddenly started acting friendlier toward the defendant. Presto, Change-O!

Simultaneously speaking off camera, in camera and on camera -- Mark Geragos was loud and clear: the media is the message.

The specter of Sam Sheppard was raised by one talking head on one network and suddenly all the heads were talking about Sheppard -- and then somebody mumbled the magic words, "Roman holiday."

Sitting just feet away from the King of Pop's power lawyer this morning, no doubt Rick Distaso's necktie felt a lot tighter, having just listened to two weeks of complaints about a Media Circus. Moonlighting on the Moonwalker, Geragos focused in on the Peterson case and somehow transformed a gag order into a one-way radio, daily broadcasting every defense announcement from ominous juror statistics to change of venue motions.

When the smoke and mirrors cleared for court, the stage was empty.

Delucchi deftly decided the only issue before him and ruled Scott Peterson's televised testimony -- given during a media feeding frenzy -- may be screened for the jury and displayed as evidence. With scenes from a Roman holiday playing in the background, the jovial jurist quipped that the defendant's TV spots might show "consciousness of guilt" and "state of mind," adding -- "The court finds the probative value outweighs any prejudicial value."

Only time will tell if Mark Geragos out-witted the wise-cracking Judge or if Delucchi's wisdom gives the last laugh to humorless straight man, Rick Distaso.

Prosecutor, Rick Distaso

Written across the back of an
excused potential juror's T-shirt:

"Don't Hunt What You Can't Kill"


"Clearly they are spliced and diced."
-- Geragos on Peterson's edited TV interviews

The Scott Peterson Investigation

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