Friday, April 18, 2008

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Laci's Walk

In spite of the prosecution’s insistence that Laci Peterson had stopped walking her dog McKenzie about 2 months prior to her disappearance, there is information in testimony and in police, media, and medical reports to prove otherwise:

From Larry King Live, January 3, 2003

S. ROCHA: Yes. Yes. She always took her dog for a walk. Not necessarily every single morning. Because she is far along in her pregnancy, but yes, that was her normal routine, to take the dog for a walk in the park.

From Amy Rocha’s testimony (Preliminary hearing)

Q. Okay. And you know that within that last couple of days that she'd also been to the -- been to the park walking the dog or walking McKenzie; isn't that correct?
A. I don't know for sure if she walked to the park, but I knew that she'd been walking frequently, yes.

From medical records and from Brocchini’s interview with Kristen Reed:

GERAGOS: If I were to tell you that Laci had called the OBGYN and had indicated that she was concerned about weight gain, even after the doctor had recommended that she stop, and that she was walking again even though the doctor had asked her to stop. And then you get Kristen Reed's statement that she made to you that she had started walking again because of weight gain, would that change your opinion or your belief that she had been walking on the 24th?

Numerous tips were called into the Modesto Police Department after Laci disappeared about women seen walking dogs in the park and in the Covena neighborhood on December 24 (Prosecution Exhibit 267). Some of the sightings could not have been Laci because of the time, the description, or the location. Many other sightings may have been credible, but there is no information available about them. There were other women who regularly walked their dogs in the area.

However, we do have information from 4 very credible witnesses who were sure they saw Laci and McKenzie in the same area on the morning of December 24 around 10 a.m.-- Homer Maldonado, Tony Freitas, Martha Aguilar, and Gene Pedrioli. These sightings suggest a route for Laci on that morning: leaving home, going south on Covena, west on Miller to La Loma and then northwest along La Loma. It doesn't seem likely that four people independently were imagining this. These sightings support the theory that Laci left home around 10 a.m. and headed south, not north to the park.
Laci had become fearful about walking in the park shortly before her disappearance because of reported attacks in that area. She still walked with Scott and McK in the park, but she insisted that Scott carry pepper spray when they did. Given her fear of walking in the park, it would make sense that she would choose to walk in the neighborhood when she was by herself.

Maldonado, Freitas, Aguilar and Pedrioli called the MPD tipline to report that they had seen Laci on the morning of the 24th. None of their calls were returned by MPD. The initial investigation of these tips was done by defense investigators, not by the Modesto police. Not until the trial were investigators sent by the District Attorney to interview Maldonado and Freitas. Aguilar and Pedrioli were never interviewed by police or by prosecutors.

These were their stories:

Homer Maldonado:

He and his wife had stopped to buy gas at the USA station on the corner of Miller Avenue and Camellia Way between 9:45 and 10:00 a.m. on December 24. After leaving the gas station they drove west on Miller. At the corner of Covena and Miller, Maldonado saw Laci and McK in front of the second house from the corner on the west side of the street (211 Covena). He described her as very pregnant and having trouble controlling the dog. When he checked his rearview mirror, he saw that Laci did not cross Miller but evidently turned the corner and continued walking west on the north side of Miller.

Maldonado reported this to the MPD tipline on January 1, 2003. When he was not contacted by the Modesto Police, he went to the Command Post at the Park where he reported his sighting and spoke to the chaplain. He was never interviewed by the Modesto Police. In July 2004, during the trial, he was interviewed by an investigator from the DA’s office.

Tony Freitas:

Around 10 a.m. on the morning of December 24, Freitas was driving his regular delivery route northwest on La Loma Avenue when he saw Laci and McK near the intersection where there is a small, grassy triangular park, located on La Loma between Santa Barbara and N. Santa Ana.

Freitas reported this to the MPD tipline on December 30, 2002. The woman who took his call said he would be contacted by a detective. Freitas was never contacted by anyone from the Modesto Police Department. On July 29, 2004, during the trial, he was interviewed by a DA Investigator.

Martha Aguilar:

Around 10 a.m. on the morning of December 24, Aguilar saw Laci and McK walking on La Loma Avenue in the same general area that Freitas saw her. She was sure it was Laci. Aguilar lived 2 blocks south of Laci on Covena and they went to the same doctor.

Aguilar’s call to the MPD tipline was never returned. She was never interviewed by anyone from MPD or from the DA’s office.

Gene Pedrioli:

Gene Pedrioli saw Laci and McK around 10 a.m. on the morning of December 24 around the time he picked up a prescription at a pharmacy. He saw them on La Loma Avenue in the same area where they had been seen by Aguilar. He noticed McK because he has a dog the same color. He said that the woman and the dog had to walk around some branches that were on the sidewalk.

Pedrioli made 2 calls to the MPD tip line. He was told that he would have to prove his whereabouts. He thought the police were not interested in his tip. He was never contacted by them or by the DA’s office.

We do not know how far Laci walked on La Loma Avenue after she was seen by Maldonado, Freitas, Aguilar and Pedrioli. She may have gone all the way to Kewin Park before she turned northeast on Buena Vista up to Encina, or she may have turned north to Encina on one of the streets before that. We do believe that she arrived back on her block on Covena around 10:38 a.m. where she was abducted, and where McK was heard barking aggressively by the Krigbaums and was seen in the park at the north end of Covena by Mike Chiavetta.

These sightings prove beyond a doubt that Laci Peterson was alive on the morning of December 24 after Scott Peterson left home and that he had nothing at all to do with her disappearance and death.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reversible Error: A Jury Hostile to the Defendant

Cyril Wecht reacted quite strongly to the death penalty verdict in the Scott Peterson case. Having been involved as a Defense expert, he knew first hand that the State had no physical evidence against Scott.

Absent any physical evidence, Wecht said, the jurors had to imagine Scott Peterson premeditated the murder, transported Laci Peterson's body to a dock, loaded it on a boat and dumped it in the sea -- all without leaving any physical evidence for investigators to find. Given the advanced forensic techniques available to modern investigators, "This is not so easily accomplished," Wecht said. (Source)

Wecht offered an explanation for this miscarriage of justice:

"I think that [the jurors] clearly were in a vengeful mode," he said during a news conference a few minutes later. "They set upon a path, and this is what they were going to do."

"Somewhere along the line it is clear to me that not only was the jury lost to the defense, but the jury became hostile to the defense." (Ibid)

Because of sealed court records that are available through various motions, we can identify that point "somewhere along the line" when the jury became hostile to the Defendant, Scott Peterson, and watch with horror as Judge Delucchi aided and abetted the process.

Delucchi prided himself on understanding human nature, and being able to discern the credibility of witnesses. However, his people skills entirely failed in the Scott Peterson trial, as he was given the first signs of significant hostility towards the defendant very early in the trial. He should have heeded the warning presented by three stealth jurors attempting to get onto the jury for the sole purpose of sending Scott Peterson to death row, as mentioned in both the Court Minutes for April 14, 2003, and the Defense Motion for a new trial:


Even more alarming, three separate "stealth" jurors - people who deliberately lied on their questionnaire in order to convict the defendant - were discovered. Despite these warning signs and a renewed motion for change of venue, the court chose to plow ahead in San Mateo. (Motion, p. 11)

However, just three weeks into the trial, Delucchi failed to recognize and contain concerted efforts by various reporters and by John Guinasso, Juror Number 8, to oust Justin Falconer, Juror Number 5. Is it a mere coincidence, Judge Delucchi, that these two incidents happened in such close succession to each other?

ModBee reporter Garth Stapley described Guinasso's demeanor during the trial and his uncanny ability to recall minute details without having taken notes:

From the jury box, John Guinasso seemed to sneer at Scott Peterson and his attorney Mark Geragos. During the double-murder trial that lasted much of last year, Guinasso, 43, usually sat with arms folded, often scowling, rarely taking notes. . . . More talkative jurors said Guinasso's ability to recall minute details during deliberations was astounding. ("Juror Reveals Secrets of Trial," March 11, 2005)

The timing of Guinasso's allegations against Falconer suggest it was part of a broader concerted effort to identify jurors favorable to the defense and remove them. Falconer was the first target. Various reporters told the public that he was giving Scott and the defense attorneys "verbal encouragement" as he entered the courtroom each day. Then, one morning an innocent exchange between him and Brent Rocha at the security check-in was totally misrepresented. Delucchi interviewed both Rocha and Falconer, and concluded the incident in fact was misrepresented.

Based on press reports over the June 19 weekend, the Court was concerned whether Juror Number 5 had told Laci Peterson's brother, Brent Rocha, something to the effect of "you lose today," when the two of them were at the courthouse security checkpoint. That Monday, June 21, 2004, the Court examined Rocha, who denied that any such words were said, and instead explained that, at the courthouse metal detector, Juror 5 may have been beside Rocha, "all he said is I got in the way of your shot for the news today." (RT 10477:7-8). . . . The Court also examined Juror 5, who's version of the events was identical to Rocha's. (Motion, p. 23)

This first effort failed to remove Falconer, as Delucchi ruled that he had done nothing wrong. That's when Guinasso took over and sent the Judge a note making several allegations against Falconer, serious enough that, if true, warranted his removal.

Juror 8 made a series of accusations against Juror 5: (1) That Juror 5 "constantly" discussed the evidence in violation of the Court's admonition; (2) That Juror 5 stated to other jurors that the anchor was too small to anchor the boat in the bay; (3) That Juror 5 made comments regarding Brocchini's testimony; (4) That Juror 5 made comments about Laci's weight during her pregnancy; (5) That Juror 5 made comments criticizing the Modesto Police reports; (6) That more than once Juror 5 criticized the prosecution; (7) That Juror 5 was told by his girlfriend that Court TV had criticized him and that he took pride in being called a loose cannon, and (8) That Juror 5 had been repeatedly admonished by other jurors and had been defiant. (Motion, p. 26)

Delucchi interviewed each juror and alternate under oath. Without exception, Guinasso's accusations were either denied or were much less than he reported. Juror Number 3, alleged to be a co-complainant, denied the accusations against Falconer and denied ever complaining about him (Motion, p. 32-33).

It was Guinasso's word against Falconer and 16 other jurors and alternates, all under oath, and Delucchi chose to believe Guinasso. Delucchi erroneously claimed that the other 16 confirmed Guinasso's accusations, and explained away Number 3's denials:

But I suspect that maybe she was intimidated by coming in here, and maybe she felt that she was going to be held responsible for her comments. (Motion, p. 52)

Delucchi then proceeded to remove Falconer from the Jury.

Whichever way you look at it, Delucchi made a very bad decision. Either he was not justified in removing Falconer from the jury, or he was, but should have also removed up to 4 other jurors.

  • Guinasso implicated two other jurors in the misconduct with Falconer -- the "redhead" and another unnamed juror (Motion, p. 66). Why weren't these two jurors also removed for misconduct?
  • Juror Number 3 lied under oath, and Delucchi believed that she was also guilty of discussing the case with Falconer contrary to the Court's instructions. So, why wasn't she removed?
  • The anonymous juror who also complained about Falconer, but obviously also lied under oath and denied the accusations.

How much more obvious can it be that something is going on with this jury that is not right? Delucchi himself uses the word "intimidated." Why didn't Juror Number 3 feel secure in confiding to the Judge what was going on, if it was in fact true? And, how could Delucchi trust someone who, he believes, has already disobeyed his instructions but lied under oath to cover it up?

When Delucchi chose to believe Guinasso over 16 other jurors and alternates, he sent a very loud message to those jurors and alternates -- Guinasso is the man in control! Are we surprised, then, to see Guinasso deeply involved in the removal of the two jurors during deliberations, and proudly taking credit for it? (ModBee, "Juror Reveals Secrets of Trial," March 11, 2005)


Cyril Wecht noted that "Somewhere along the line it is clear to me that not only was the jury lost to the defense, but the jury became hostile to the defense." The Court record makes it plain that the events that led to the removal of Justin Falconer from the Jury are that point "along the line" when the jury became hostile to the defense. Three weeks into the trial, Scott Peterson's conviction was sealed.