Presumed Guilty  

 Murder, Media and Mistakes in Modesto 

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Dr. Sheppard
Trial by Newspaper

open and shut

July 4, 1954

When Marilyn Sheppard was brutally beaten to death in her Bay Village, Ohio home on the Fourth of July, people were shocked and horrified. Despite incessant speculation in the newspapers that her prominent surgeon husband, Sam Sheppard was the killer, with little evidence against him -- no one in the community really knew what to think.

Then a woman named Susan Hayes surfaced.

Hayes admitted to having had an ongoing sexual affair with Marilyn Sheppard's husband. From that point on -- it was generally believed that Dr. Sheppard was a deranged Mr. Hyde who grew tired of his family and killed his wife. On July 20, a front-page editorial entitled "Someone Is Getting Away with Murder" called for Sheppard's arrest. A week later he was charged and jailed.

Sam Sheppard's 1954 trial was quickly scheduled and presiding over the wildly publicized proceeding was Judge Edward J. Blythin. It was later learned Blythin told news reporter, Dorothy Kilgallen, he had an "open and shut case." Asked why he thought it was such a slam-dunk, the judge explained, "He's guilty as hell. There is no question about it."

Marilyn Sheppard
Marilyn Sheppard

Mockery of Justice

Prosecutor John Mahon told his jury Sheppard was a secretive, two-faced monster, more than capable of committing the extremely bloody murder. When defense attorney William Corrigan pointed out that the only blood found on Sam Sheppard was a single splotch on his pants, Mahon claimed that after murdering his wife, Sheppard must've jumped into a lake and washed off all the blood.

(Needless to say, washing and scrubbing will not remove blood evidence from clothing. As David Westerfield learned, not even dry cleaning will work.)

The main piece of evidence presented to the jury was a bloody pillow cover which the State argued showed the imprint of an unidentified surgical instrument. The case was extremely weak, but during closing arguments Mahon focused on Sheppard's character:

"We're not dealing with something insignificant here, ladies and gentlemen. We're dealing with murder. If the defendant would lie under oath to protect the name of a lady, how many lies would he utter to protect his own life?"
The prosecutor begged the jury, "Be fair to the defendant. Show him the same mercy he showed his victim."

Defense lawyer Corrigan gave a less emotional summation:

"Is sex the only thing in a marriage? Is it the only thing in a love between a man and a woman? The fact that Sam Sheppard strayed is no proof that he did not love his wife, his child and his home. Sam Sheppard succumbed to sex, the strongest lure in the human body, as you and I know. I, too, would lie under oath if I were asked to confess to some private sin intended only for the ears of the confessor. We are approaching the Christmas season, when God came down to earth to set man free and establish on earth the principle of freedom. Unless we American lawyers and we American jurors do our part in maintaining that freedom in this case, we have failed in our duties."

After five days, the jury found the defendant guilty of second degree (intentional) murder. Judge Blythin sentenced Sam Sheppard on the spot: "It is the judgment of this court that you be taken to the Ohio penitentiary, there to remain for the rest of your natural life."

Dr. Sheppard

'Roman Holiday'

As Dr. Sheppard sat in prison, several unsuccessful appeals were filed. In 1956, the Ohio Supreme Court denied 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."

It was famed attorney F. Lee Bailey who, in 1964, finally convinced Federal Judge Carl A. Weinman that the 'Roman Holiday' in Cleveland was a direct violation of a citizen's constitutional guarantee of a fair trial by an impartial jury. Weinman's decision was a scathing indictment.
"If ever there was a trial by newspaper, this is a perfect example, and the most insidious violator was the Cleveland Press," he wrote, and concluded Sam Sheppard's trial "can only be viewed as a mockery of justice."

Twelve years after the first trial, with no help from the hysterical media and no mention of Susan Hayes, prosecutor Mahon re-tried Dr. Sam Sheppard. On November 16, 1966 after about eight hours, a verdict was returned which read: "We the jury duly impaneled in the above case find the defendant Not Guilty."

For many however, Sam Sheppard's guilty verdict, arrived at long before any criminal trial was held, still stands firm.

Fresno resident Annette Montejano referred
to murder suspect
Marcus Wesson as a "monster."

media monstrously missing

March 15, 2004

No news is good news... unless you sell newspapers.

While Mark Geragos searches for higher ground, desperately seeking a place where his client hasn't already been found guilty of being a monster -- another news item has surfaced in the headlines. As Peterson West took a rest, the ides of March brought word that nine young women and children were found murdered in a house in Fresno.

The man (or monster) at the heart of the horror is Marcus Wesson, apparently the leader of a fringe cult.

As of now, it isn't clear whether police had been wire-tapping Mr. Wesson's phones, checking into his background, or using GPS systems to track his whereabouts -- but authorities appear to be stunned and caught completely off guard.

Wesson's neighbors were not nearly so surprised, having daily noted the bizarre behavior of the peculiar looking man, his multiple wives and his many children -- some of which turn out to be his grandchildren as well.

Neither Ted Rowlands, nor Gloria Gomez, nor any other reporter had been snooping around the Fresno home attempting to get an interview. Frantic for a scoop on Fresno's Amber Frey, local journalists were as shocked as the rest of the nation to hear residents speak of the outrageous activities Wesson and his housemates openly engaged in. (A junk-filled yellow and black bus with a cut-off back end that neighbors said was fitted with a whirlpool spa continues to draw a miserable mash of gawkers.)

As Fresno media plays catch-up and Redwood City catches it's breath, it may be useful to report some of the news stories that did manage to get investigated and filed:

Needless to say, although tawdry and titillating, none of the stories were true.

"There's other questions we have that
if he wasn't truthful about that, it makes us
wonder if he's been truthful about everything else."

-- Sharon Rocha, 1-27-03

Venue Wish Upon a Star

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

Verdict Reached!

Jurors Find Peterson Guilty

March 11, 2004

News Flash!

National Enquirer has exclusively learned that someone tainted the Redwood City jury pool!

Jurors, jurors everywhere, but Mark Geragos says he can't get a drop to drink from the poisoned well of San Mateo. The slick defense attorney -- also court magician to King of Pop, Michael Jackson -- told Judge Al Delucchi he wants to bus and truck the Modesto Murder Media Circus on a state tour to brighter shores.

Prosecutors balked and accused Geragos of violating the gag order, saying his protests were making them sick to the stomach. It'll be very easy to find impartial jurors that don't know about the Peterson case prosecutors loudly insisted.

On March 22, Delucchi is expected to rule on the "tainted jury" issue as well as the prosecution's bid to use several of Scott Peterson's nationally televised interviews -- but not necessarily in that order.


Abstraction of Justice

The rule of law is clear cut -- black and white -- hard and fast. But in a wholly circumstantial case -- the abstract legalities of intent, expected behavior and negligence come into play.

Usually these subtle issues are hidden in the background of criminal trials -- overshadowed by murder weapons, blood, DNA, autopsy reports and other solid, direct evidence. In Peterson West -- abstractions, logic and inference will take the place of concrete proof.

Prosecutors are fond of saying circumstantial evidence is just as good as direct, but they know it's not true. Prosecutors realize that if reasonable, innocent explanations can be offered to refute guilty seeming circumstances -- the defendant gets the benefit of the doubt.

Criminals are crafty and tend to come up with circumstantial evidence of all sorts of things.

The courtroom then, is reduced to a popularity contest -- a legal beauty pageant where, instead of exhibits and testimony the jury becomes audience to personality, fashion and talent competitions.

              Prosecutor, Rick Distaso

garbage in -- garbage out

March 5, 2004

The good news is, Peterson pre-trial hearings left prosecutors with much of their case in tact. The bad news is, pre-trial hearings left prosecutors with much of their case in tact.

Sounding more and more like a defense attorney with each passing day, Rick Distaso passionately entreated the court: "On January 10, there were no bodies. How can you have a murder case with no bodies? . . . Clearly the wiretaps were necessary."

Clearly Modesto detectives were as desperate as Distaso to prove Peterson guilty, and stooped to conquer instead of rising to the occasion.

The wiretaps were let in. Now jurors will make the call. Unfortunately, they may decide that thousands of secret recordings and not a single piece of evidence is only proof of how low police went and how short they came up.

In the meantime, Mr. Distaso should talk with Sante Kimes and her loving son, Kenneth, about trying murder cases without bodies.

David Harris successfully argued that retired court comedian and supreme wit, Judge Al Delucchi, should allow testimony from a critical nose-witness. A Labrador retriever named Trimble helped with the Modesto search -- and he has quite a tale.

Mr. Harris elicited testimony that
Trimble found Laci Peterson's scent and followed her through the Berkeley Marina stopping at the end of a pier.

Of course, Scott Peterson admits he went to the marina and he undoubtedly carried his wife's scent with him. Asked if Trimble was tracking Laci Peterson or Laci's scent on Scott -- the witness yawned and staring straight ahead, panted and drooled onto his chair.

But at the bottom of a losing week full of defeat through empty victories, exhausted Stanislaus lawyers were leaked official word of some truly good news. The National Enquirer has (exclusively) learned that star witness Amber Frey has decided "she won't testify if she's still pregnant when she's called to the stand." They report that Amber is terrified the "stress of a grueling courtroom grilling" by Geragos could "endanger the child she's carrying."

Whew! So prosecutors are off the hook on that one. They get to display her calls without showing her hang-ups.

The happy fact that Ms. Frey may go missing in Redwood City echoes something said by Judge Delucchi, who carefully tracked the proceedings and came up with the definitive quip:

"You can't cross examine a dog."

"If Scott Peterson even hugged his wife before he left that morning he could carry enough scent particles on his clothes to transfer to the boat. Their theory is about as far-fetched as you could get."
-- Ed Hawkinson, Auburn University

People Who Need People

"That's appalling that she's doing this. She doesn't want her picture in the magazine, but it's okay that she sells the photos and profits off me, Laci Peterson and her baby?"
-- Amber Frey speaking of her friend Sherina Vincent's lawsuit against People magazine

collective consciousness of guilt

David Markovich -- massage therapist Amber Frey's latest squeeze -- is a practitioner of the Neuro Emotional Technique, a holistic healing method based on the principle that "negative emotions can lodge in the body and cause ill health." Similarly then, abstract negative emotions can lodge in the body of an entire community and result in very real sickness and death. Nazi Germany and the Salem witch trials come immediately to mind.

Scott Peterson's guilt or innocence is not at issue. It never has been. He was presumed guilty from the very first day the Modesto story broke. Almost immediately, friends and family members were forced to defend Peterson from the conclusions of a jumpy nation.


Before the wiretaps, before Amber, before GPS and dogs, before Diane Sawyer, even before the victims were recovered -- practically everybody understood that Peterson was guilty. State prosecutors acknowledged as much during "change of venue" hearings, arguing that Modesto was as fair a place as any, since uniformly across the nation, the vast majority assume Scott Peterson murdered his family.

Reviewing their case, the DA's office must be plum puzzled. There's nothing even close to a "smoking gun." In fact, there are no witnesses, no weapons, no motive, and no prior bad acts.

Scott Peterson might be guilty but with NO direct evidence against him, why is everybody so sure?

Do you, along the way, remember hearing something about the
Hundredth Monkey ?

The phrase refers to a spontaneous "leap of consciousness" achieved at a singular point of critical mass. It comes from a famous 1950's experiment detailed in the book, "Lifetide" by Lyall Watson.

Watson tells the story of a monkey on an isolated island who began dipping his sweet potatoes in the water to wash off the dirt before eating. That one monkey taught another to wash potatoes, who taught another, who taught another -- and then all the monkeys on the island were washing potatoes where no monkey had ever washed potatoes before. Soon there came a saturation point -- let's say the 100th monkey -- when suddenly and spontaneously, monkeys on other islands mysteriously began washing their potatoes too.

The experiment demonstrates the theory that when only a limited number of people share an idea -- a belief, an insight, a custom -- it will remain isolated. But there is a point at which if only one more person joins the group, there'll be a cultural shift and everyone will instantly be aware of it.

Ken Keyes explained it this way: "Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind."


January 2 -- Police ask anyone with information about Scott Peterson's whereabouts between December 23 and Christmas to call 342-. His truck is a brown 2002 Ford F150, license plate 6T59718. His 14-foot aluminum boat can be towed behind the pickup.

can be towed behind the pickup . . . can be towed . . . can be . . .

Investigators need more information to confirm or corroborate Mr. Peterson's story.
Mr. Peterson's story. . . Peterson's story . . . story . . .

I don't know the precise nature of the negativity which monkey #99 shared with monkey #100, but some malevolent awareness WAS indeed passed on -- a poisoned apple, perhaps grown from seeds fallen from many poisoned branches: the Clinton impeachment, Columbine, Enron, the Catholic priest scandals, 9-11, the sham war in Iraq -- maybe it goes back even further to O.J., or Watergate or Vietnam.

Whatever has happened here -- whatever phenomenon accounts for the blanket perception of Scott Peterson's guilt, one thing is clear: the widely held belief has no basis in reality. It is the psychosomatic symptom of a deeper emotional crisis that took root at some point in the past -- a collective consciousness of guilt expressed as a cultural cancer.

America is sick and the sickness will not be cured with a courtroom trial and a verdict in the Scott Peterson case. Healing will begin when the nation searches it's heart, and finding no solid evidence of evil and unforgivable guilt -- recognizes the possibility of hope and courageously acknowledges the presumption of innocence that has been the defining hallmark of the American spirit.

Supreme Court Jesters

Using puns, poems, wisecracks and witty retorts, funny judges like Al Delucchi have, throughout history, injected humor into the law -- often when the case before them was judged by most not to be a laughing matter.

When East Coast attorneys asked Texas' Judge Samuel Kent to change venue because Galveston lacked a commercial airport, he denied the request telling them the highway "is paved and lighted" and "the trip should be free of rustlers, hooligans and vicious varmints." Judge Kent assured the lawyers his courtroom "has got lights, indoor plummin', 'lectric doors, and all sorts of new stuff, almost like them big courthouses back East."

In the opening sentence of Schenk v. Commissioner, a tax case about fertilizer, Judge Goldberg borrows a phrase:

"To every thing there is a season . . . a time to purchase fertilizer, and a time to take a deduction for that which is purchased."

District Judge Wangelin wrote this opinion about a Ford F-150 Pickup:

The defendant herein is a truck,
The vehicle is a pick-up,
Alleged by a fed
To be found in a bed
Of marijuana, caught in the muck.

Judge Richard Rome giving a Reno County, Kansas woman two years of probation for prostitution wrote:

This is the saga of [defendant]
Whose ancient profession brings her before us.
On January 30th, 1974,
This lass agreed to work as a whore.
Her great mistake, as was to unfold,
Was the enticing of a cop named Harold.

Last year a Detroit judge wrote rap lyrics dismissing a defamation suit against Eminem:

"It is therefore this Court's ultimate position,
that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition."

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice George Rose Smith doesn't see what's so funny:

"Judicial humor is neither judicial nor humorous. A lawsuit is a serious matter to those concerned in it. For a judge to take advantage of his criticism-insulated, retaliation-proof position to display his wit is contemptible, like hitting a man when he's down."

Judge Alfred Delucchi has been a
trial judge for 3 decades and has
handled 22 death penalty cases.

Pre-Trial Balloon

Defense Attorney Pat Harris:
There is no way to accurately, scientifically know if that trail is what they're looking for? 
Contra Costa County search and rescue, Christopher Boyer:
There is if they come up with the subject at the end of the trail.
Harris: And if they do not come up with the subject at the end of their trail?
Boyer: No sir, scientifically there isn't,
Harris: This isn't science, is it?
Boyer: No sir. It's art

Redwood City Community Theater
proudly presents

A Chorus Line

"A Chorus Line"

God, I hope I get it! I hope I get it.
How many jurors do they need?

Look at all the media! At all the media!
How many jurors do they . . ?

Who am I, anyway?
What should I try to say?
Would I look better
with a frown or with a smile?

Though it's just, meager pay
Only twenty bucks day,
with one sweet book deal
I could make it all worthwhile. . .

I need this break,
O God, I need this trial.


March 1, 2004

Normally, in a death penalty trial, prosecutors want people on the jury who are older, conservative, "law and order" types. The State tends to look for solid, no nonsense, well-off and well-educated citizens who'll call a spade a spade, and insist that 2 plus 2 always equals 4.

Conversely, defense attorneys tend to seek a younger, more liberal, more emotional juror. Defense teams like the "Doubting Thomas" who is generally suspicious of things and unwilling to be duped -- and therefore open to suggestion.

But conventional wisdom will have to do a grande jete out a Redwood City courtroom window for Rick Distaso and Dave Harris to win a verdict of guilt.

Peterson's prosecutors have built their entire production on proof obtained from lying, prying and spying. Instead of witnesses and DNA, these prosecutors will present wiretaps and TV.

Modesto police could find no physical evidence, so they hounded Peterson (literally) and hoped he would panic. They fed him false information and eavesdropped on his phone calls, and when that didn't bug him, they started following him around. When Peterson finally DID crack under the pressure, detectives called it proof and handed the panic off to the district attorney's office.

Nothing the police did was illegal, but they used the kind of unsettling, "Big Brother" tactics that American jurors despise. Conservative, well-to-do, law-abiding types are likely to view the government's surreptitious techniques as an over-reaching invasion of privacy, particularly since none of the spying resulted in any direct evidence.

What the secret policing DID uncover -- and what will be shown to the jury -- is a collection of suspicious facts and bizarre behavior. Added to this are a neighborhood full of witnesses who must be shown to be either dreadfully mistaken or dreadful liars.

So it's Distaso and Harris, not Geragos and Harris that'll need emotional, mistrustful jurors who are open to the suggestion that there is probably more going on than just what meets the eye. The State needs to cast someone who can imagine how 2 and 2 could equal 7 if there are numbers missing from the calculation.

The topsy-turvy Peterson trial puts the downside up and has defense lawyers then, holding auditions for the traditionally pro-prosecution citizen: a person with a low tolerance for conjecture and who, in a death penalty case, when given a confusing collection of secretly obtained circumstantial evidence, will call a spade a spade.

Jury selection is expected to take more than a month.

Larry KingDiane SawyerBrazeltonTed Rowlands

    Stanislaus County   

Gloria GomezHarrisJodi HernandezDistaso

Cable Prosecution Network

sex, lies and . . .


"We were shocked to find out he was having an affair. It's his turn to talk."
Sharon Rocha
"If Scott has nothing to hide, they ask that he prove it. He has continually allowed family members and friends to support him personally as well as on television."
spokesperson, Kim Petersen
"All of a sudden, Scott is talking to the media. He is realizing people are finding out about the girlfriend, so he'd better go out there and do some damage control."
unidentified "family member" -- Jan 17
"You need to show you are cooperating with the police fully, and you need to clarify the situation."
John Walsh


Peterson's televised statements are
"highly relevant and extremely probative."


Prosecutors say a Feb. 18, 2003 police searched found the nursery converted into a storage room yet in January Peterson told Sawyer: "The door is closed until there is someone to go in there."


Peterson said his wife walked the dog daily but prosecutors say she'd stopped walking the dog six weeks before her disappearance.


Peterson claimed Frey was the only woman with whom he'd had an affair. "This was not true," says Rick Distaso. "The defendant had had at least one other affair with a woman early in his and Laci's marriage."


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

"If the marriage truly was glorious, why would the defendant seek an adulterous relationship with Amber Frey?"

"Here, some parts of the people's case is circumstantial. Therefore each piece of evidence is important in order for the people to present their case."
Distaso court filing justifying inclusion of four Peterson TV interviews as testimony

Original Spin

"That looked like it was straight out of the National Enquirer and it just -- there was no basis in fact for 70 percent of what was in there."

consciousness of camera

February 25, 2004

Not having a witness, a weapon or a motive in a homicide is a circumstantial case. Not having a time of death, manner of death or cause of death is hopeless. The People's prosecutors can't even prove homicide, let alone that Scott Peterson committed one.

The MPD's complete lack of evidence, and unwillingness to continue searching for it, has led the Stanislaus County DA's office to try the Peterson case in the media -- literally.

Joining Rick Distaso and Dave Harris will be several new prosecutors from Good Morning America, FOX News and the Modesto Bee.

In place of a suspicious insurance policy will be the defendant's suspicious statements about his girlfriend to Diane Sawyer as proof of a motive for murder.

Blood, vomit, pillow cases and a recovered bag of women's pajamas will be replaced with FOX News reports that Peterson spoke of his wife in the past tense while other family members still held out hope she would somehow safely return.

Instead of an eyewitness to the killing, entered into evidence will be a clip that ran on the local Eyewitness News show where Gloria Gomez catches the defendant in a lie about his sex life.

Well, as the old saying goes: Live by the sordid -- die by the sordid.

If desperate lies to desperate reporters establish consciousness of guilt, the Modesto police best not take the stand. Law enforcement lied to everybody as often as they could. They lied to Scott Peterson, they lied to his friends (and convinced them to lie to Scott for them), they lied to each other, and through leaks and press conferences -- police lied almost daily to the news.

cameras in the courtroom

Good Morning America            

"We're not discussing this investigation.
That includes our feelings and suspicions."

-- Chief Wasden, April 16, 2003

"I feel pretty strongly it is [Laci Peterson's body].
If I were a betting man, I'd put money on it."

-- DA Brazelton, April 16, 2003


Intense bay searches were conducted March 12, 13, 17, 19 and on March 29, 2003 investigators concluded their water search of the Richmond area. On March 30, MPD officials turned over all Peterson case files to the Stanislaus County DA who would try the case without a body.

Then on April 13 at about 5:00 PM, the body of Conner Peterson was found by two people walking their dog on a shoreline trail, and noon the next day, a woman walking her dog found Laci Peterson's partial remains.

Weeks later, investigators would trumpet that THEY had actually located Laci Peterson's body. According to Chief Roy Wasden, searchers found the remains through "side-scan sonar" back in mid-March but rough conditions prevented retrieval. The MPD head told reporters,
"The waves came up and we couldn't go down. I can't tell you the frustration we felt."

Chief Wasden's frustration is well known. It was updated daily on network television for three months. He needn't tell us. Wasden also needn't bother telling a jury that after spending a small fortune to locate Laci Peterson, authorities thought it best to leave her body where it was detected and hope that a month or so later, the remains would wash ashore for people walking their dogs to find.

Dubious declarations given to the press are not a substitute for credible evidence of Scott Peterson's guilt. If so, then the absurd lies fed to the media by Modesto police will also stand as proof of reasonable doubt.

"He almost knew, 'OK, here comes that question
where I need to show a little emotion.'
It was like he turned off and on."

-- KOVR'S Gloria Gomez

"a narcissist . . . who thought he could get away with murder."
-- Gloria Gomez, 10-27-03, KPIX article

"There's nothing really important about this thing.
This is kind of reality TV."
Chip Vaughn, KTVU photojournalist

"We love this stuff -- the soap opera, the mistress.
It's all about Laci and the unborn child,
the empathy of a mother."
Julia Sulek, San Jose Mercury News

"My opinion is the guy's guilty"
John Walsh on Larry King Live, 6-24-03

January 16, 2003 -- KNTV
Peterson: We are making every effort to keep her picture
out there. Make me the biggest villain in the world if you want
to, as long as it keeps her photograph in the press.

Jodi Hernandez: So, you had nothing to do with this?
I mean, people are having questions now.

Peterson: The focus is on her. Let's keep her picture out there.
Let's keep the tip line, the description out there.

Police ask anyone with information about Scott Peterson's whereabouts between Dec. 23 and Christmas to call. His truck is a brown 2002 Ford F150, license plate 6T59718. His 14-foot aluminum boat can be towed behind the pickup.

3:00 AM Peterson seen "doing something suspicious"
3:00 AM Peterson seen driving his truck on 580 toward Marina
3:30 AM truck driver sees truck and boat near the Marina

"Investigators need more information to confirm or corroborate Mr. Peterson's story. We want to eliminate him from this investigation. If we have an independent witness who saw him that morning, that would help."
-- Detective Doug Ridenour

7:00 AM Peterson seen on the water dragging something
8:45 AM Peterson seen loading a blue tarp into his truck
9:00 AM truck and boat seen near Phoenix Lake headed east on 108
9:30 AM truck and boat seen in a north Modesto Food Market

mean spirits

searching for Laci on the internet

Scott Peterson haters
all over the World Wide Web have hunkered down to pour over wiretap logs, telephone records, police statements, media blurbs and other bits of meaningless minutiae about the Modesto Mystery.

Inspired, not by concern for the victim but by hatred for the accused, murder-obsessed cyber-criminalists sift through details and daily uncover another smoking gun that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Peterson is a murderer and a moron.

Presumably in honor of Laci Peterson, nicknames akin to what one might hear at kindergarten playtime are a constant companion to the theories: the defendant is SNOTT and his attorney is GROSS.

Missing from all the fun is a nickname for Laci Peterson who -- if she's mentioned at all -- is spoken of only in the past tense and referred to only as "LP." LP was pretty. LP was pregnant. LP was killed. Beyond that she has no role, just as no actress was cast to play Laci Peterson in USA Network's teleplay, "The Laci Peterson Story" since her character never appeared.

Apparently then, LP is a bright, happy and together young woman who somehow had fallen for a man too evil and too damned stupid to stop phoning his mistress even during his murder spree.

Armed to the teeth with timelines, weather reports and maps, the part-time private eyes never tire of pin-pointing exactly where Scott went wrong. Very few are looking for Laci.

Interestingly, almost every damning new deduction from the digital detectives is based on statements and information provided by the man they claim to totally distrust.

IF this is a real-life case of Dr. Jekyll, then examining the records of Mr. Hyde is a horrible waste of time. The Steppenwolf emerges not as the dark side of a good Harry, but as the actual monster that was always there hiding behind a mask of goodness.

Scott Peterson mentioned the park -- everybody ran into the park. He thought Laci Peterson was wearing black and white -- everybody remembered seeing a lady in black and white. Power was off at the wolf's warehouse but Peterson produced proof positive he was at the Berkeley Marina -- and fools rushed in.

IF he's truly a monster, studying the date of his boat purchase, the five rings of dust on his floor, or the past-tense verbs in his TV interview will only put detectives deeper inside Peterson's deception.

Despite hundreds of ingenious internet investigations into her death, precious little is mentioned about Laci Peterson's life. Who's researching Laci's timeline, telephone calls and tendencies? Beyond being the perfect wife, there is almost no curiosity about evidence of the VICTIM'S circumstances.

Fairytales are lies. In truth, Laci Peterson was not Cinderella. And she was no Ophelia, tossing flowers into the stream and drifting in after them.

From what little information that HAS been developed, we know that Laci Peterson was a strong, healthy, loving, mom-to-be. No monster hiding inside of Scott Peterson would be a match for the miracle hidden inside of Laci Peterson. She would have fought for her life and the life of her baby. She would've fought hard, and she would've left evidence.

It's not surprising that Modesto police didn't find Laci Peterson -- they never really looked for her. From the very first afternoon she went missing, they were convinced the young pregnant woman did not leave her home. Immediately, they turned to Scott to fill in the blanks. When no trace of Laci Peterson could be easily found, police gave up on her and began tracing Scott and searching for clues to his murder.

Echoing Modesto's mistake, the hate-filled, World Wide Webpage prosecutors have fixated on the punishment before finding the crime.

"The position of the Modesto Police Department has been and remains that no details about this investigation will be released."

-- Detective Craig Grogan

"The police department does not know where he is, we do not have a mandate to know where he is at all times."
-- Detective Ridenour,
February 26, 2003

"There are no victims, only volunteers."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

on the record

February 22, 2004

"It was not a positive, obviously but it was not something that we weren't dealing with."

Let's face it, guilty of murder or not, Mr. Peterson is certainly guilty of the attempted kidnapping and concealment of the truth. His volunteered testimony on Good Morning America was not a positive.

Statistically, men cheat on their wives more often than they cheat on their taxes. Sadly, when they're caught cheating -- they tend to add insult to the injury by offering more lies.

Buried bodies are hard to find but it is not difficult to spot a lie. Mr. Peterson, a successful salesman, well knows he can't sell a product by claiming "it's not something you should not use."

ABC's Diane Sawyer wasn't asking trick questions. Why was Peterson giving trick answers?

"It wasn't anything that would break us apart."

One does not need to be a psychologist to know that the man speaking those words isn't leveling -- he's minimizing. Whether such a violation would eventually lead to a break-up is simply not something Scott Peterson could know.

Since Laci Peterson was murdered and unable to appear on Good Morning America to speak for herself, America will have to presume she would say her husband's affair was deeply hurtful. We'll have to presume that she wanted to do what every woman watching that interview wanted to do -- strangle Peterson and dump his body in the river.

Laci Peterson also shares the presumption of innocence and the fact is, Mr. Peterson's self-serving justifications paint a picture of a woman guilty of having little self-respect. Sawyer is forced to ask, "Do you really expect people to believe that an 8 ½ month pregnant woman learns her husband has had an affair and is saintly and casual about it -- accommodating -- makes a peace with it?"

"Well, I…yeah… You don't know… no one knows our relationship but us -- and that's… at peace with it -- not happy about it."

Family and friends were quick to point out that Laci Peterson was not secretive or guarded, and yet she never mentioned her husband's adulterous affair. Of course that doesn't prove she was unaware of it, but if she knew and chose to hide it -- she obviously had strong feelings. Maybe Laci Peterson decided her marriage was nobody else's business. If so -- her husband's discussion of it on national television is contrary to her decision.

As far as we know, nobody except Mr. Peterson was with his wife in the late night and early morning hours before she went missing. Peterson says he left his wife around 10 AM and that she was nowhere to be found by 2:00. If a deranged, baby-stealing, satanic murderer DID enter the scene, he crawled in through a 4-hour window of opportunity left open by the man who told Diane Sawyer and everybody else:

"I had absolutely nothing to do with her disappearance… and you used the word murder, and right now -- everyone's looking for a body, and that's the hardest thing, because that's not a possible resolution for us… and you use the word murder and yeah, I mean, that is a possibility… um, it's not one that we're ready to accept and it creeps in my mind late at night and early in the morning… And during the day, all we can think about is the right resolutions to find her -- well."

Scott Peterson may not have had anything to do with Laci Peterson's murder, but nor did he have anything to do with PREVENTING it.

When a homicidal maniac was attacking his wife, Scott Peterson had gone fishing. He thought his pregnant wife wouldn't need him on Christmas Eve. He was dead wrong. She needed him more that day than she ever had. He was not there. Any husband -- even a cheating, lying husband -- would feel guilty about that.

Double negatives, assertions of unknowable facts and the royal "we" are indications that Mr. Peterson is STILL unwilling to be there for his wife. None of this ties Scott to Laci Peterson's death, but he cannot distance himself from her life. Why was he on national television trying to do so?

If Scott Peterson is found guilty of dumping his wife's body in the bay -- his own words will be what sinks him.

"Suspicion has turned to me, and it's uh -- it's turned to me, one, because I'm her husband and that's a natural thing and -- um, I'm… I answer your question because of the suspicion that's… been turned to me, and it turned to me because of the inappropriate romantic… um -- that I had with Amber Frey there."

hidden discovery

"We have . . . direct evidence, which I'm not going to get into."
-- James Brazelton

"I know who did it and I'll tell you later."
-- reportedly said by Scott Peterson

February 19, 2004

Judge Delucchi chastised prosecutors for failing to provide Scott Peterson's defense with 800 pages of documents from the state Department of Justice and the FBI.

A delighted Mark Geragos complained bitterly about the deeply buried treasure of exculpatory evidence. Five stains in Peterson's boat that police thought were blood turned out not to be, and hair collected from duct tape found with Laci Peterson's remains does not match Laci or Scott.

"Hair was taken off duct tape that excludes my client," the outraged defense attorney gloated. "I've got pages on pages of hair comparison that are very detailed that exclude my client at every single point!"

Before denouncing the prosecutor's cover up, Judge Delucchi listened to Dave Harris argue that things only looked bad, and that the charge from Peterson's lawyer of withheld discovery was based only on circumstantial evidence.

Geragos also told the death-qualified Delucchi that Harris' hidden documents concealed proof of an investigation into several other suspects, including one man who openly confessed to Laci Peterson's murder.

"At this stage of the proceedings, I hate to be troubled
arguing over discovery. I'm under the impression this
case is ready to go to trial. We are going too pick a jury.
We're going to take the evidence and get this case to
the jury and let them decide this case. Okay? But to be
still here arguing over discovery at this late date
doesn't... It bothers me. That should be all done. You
should have-- All that stuff should all be turned over."

-- Judge Delucchi
, February 18, 2004

Circumstantial's as good as direct
the slam-dunkin' DA did insist,
making no mention of the
800-page gorilla in our midst.

"We have other evidence that you can determine as being direct evidence, which I'm not going to get into. In addition, we have a lot of circumstantial evidence and in the courts they're both entitled to the same weight."

-- Brazelton
on "Good Morning America"

Cellular DNA

GPS devices
go wrong every now and again,
and tracking towers are notoriously unreliable;
Still, one ringing truth,
in the D.A.'s digital proof
transmits a message of guilt, undeniable.

Whether casting about for forgiveness,
baiting Modesto's finest,
or fishing for a friendly soul to tell --
the evidence alone
of endless hours on the phone
finds Peterson already prisoner in a cell.

A thousand mirthless words
are worth a guilty picture:
Sad Scott, happily anchored to his phone.
Beyond the slick fiasco
of Slam Harris and Dunk Distaso
is a husband with some hang ups of his own.

scandal rocks DA office

February 18, 2004

"We need to complete the investigation. It's ongoing. It's a personnel matter. We're not going to make any further comment on it."

With that, County Counsel Mick Krausnick acknowledged that there is an ongoing probe of the district attorney's office, but would give no details.

James Brazelton, Stanislaus County District Attorney since 1996, refused to discuss the ongoing probe. "It's a personnel issue," Brazelton said. "I'm not allowed to comment."

Brazelton cannot comment about the investigation, because he's the one being investigated. To be fair, no charges have been filed. Mr. Brazelton is not a suspect. But then again -- he has not been cleared either.

Brazelton is under an umbrella of suspicion for wildly waving a gun around in his office and making threatening remarks.

Allegedly, his actions created a hostile work environment for employees in the DA's office. Of course the DA is innocent until proven otherwise, but many cases have been brought and won with less evidence of outrageous, violent, verbal threats and the brandishing of a weapon.

In Brazelton's defense, the targets of his threats were two reporters from the Modesto Bee.

hi-tech tap dance

Soon after Laci Peterson was reported missing on Christmas Eve, Scott Peterson came under heavy police surveillance. Not just shadowing by undercover cops, but an invisible, hi-tech ballet of the sort usually associated with large-scale drug stings and international espionage.

"Global Positioning Satellite" devices and wiretaps were used immediately, extensively, and nearly continuously by Modesto investigators. The first wiretap was approved on January 10.

Besides a few odd trips to the Berkeley Marina and several hours of Peterson's disturbingly bizarre statements to a woman he barely knew -- nothing much was uncovered. The devious detectives' covert choreography was an expensive exercise in futility.

Now, in pre-trial evidentiary hearings, prosecutors Distaso and Harris are tap dancing all over the courtroom, desperate to have Judge Delucchi admit the information into evidence.

Why bother? Modesto was high on tech but low on results. Court records show the first wiretap was actually cut off early ("further progress in the investigation would not be gained through additional interception").

The only thing police DID find was an on-going alibi for Scott Peterson. Beginning December 24, 2002, the MPD is witness to his whereabouts -- night and day.

State medical experts will tell jurors that, despite what Rick Distaso says -- it is impossible for anyone to determine exactly when or how the victim died. None of law enforcement's sophisticated equipment tracked Laci Peterson, who Distaso will claim was murdered before sunrise on December 24. Bay searchers will explain to the jury that they looked long and hard for Laci Peterson and that she was not there.

It isn't very difficult to introduce doubt into a case based on facts that are provably unknowable.

The tightly staged surveillance will back-fire if evidence -- even just circumstantial evidence -- is introduced that suggests criminal activity took place some time after Christmas Eve.

Regardless, the Judge has little choice but to "let it all in." Delucchi knows that, inferences from David Harris aside, much of what's being fought over in the hearings is unconnected, tidbits of meaningless information.

Depending on how things play out, the Modesto police may end up looking guiltier than their suspect.

Phone records reveal a curious pattern of countless back-to-back calls from Frey to Peterson and Frey to police. The evidence prosecutors are fighting to bring in is a stack of reports that clearly establishes -- Modesto authorities were tricking and spying on the man they say is a liar and a sneak.

Linda Tripp, the notorious Washington, DC recording artist, was more detested and loathed by the American public than Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton combined.

Duplicity, secrecy and lies from law enforcement is contemptible behavior that's nearly impossible to justify to a jury. Assuming Distaso and Harris aren't hiding some big bombshell for a "Perry Mason Moment" -- the hard won, pre-trial surveillance evidence may prove to be the beginning of a disastrous loss.

But first a word from our sponsor:

Judge Delucchi told prosecutors that after he counted to ten, they would wake feeling refreshed and would remember nothing about hypnotized witnesses.

"I'm saying he did it in bad faith, and I will prove during the course of this trial that he did it in bad faith. And when we do it, he can either stand up and admit it, or I'll file for the appropriate sanctions at that point. He knows that demonstrably 70 percent of what was in there is not true."
-- Geragos, Febuary 04


"The media has taken great steps to place themselves in the middle of this case. The media has a right to gain information, but they don't have the right to interfere with a criminal trial."
-- David Harris

"Jurors get antsy when there's cameras in the court. Witnesses get antsy. The print media is welcome. This is not going to be a secret trial."
-- Judge Delucchi

"The fringe elements . . . have turned this into a circus."
-- Mark Geragos

We Decide - You Report

The Scott Peterson Investigation

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