Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Aponte Tip - Exculpatory Evidence Withheld

When Steven Todd and Donald Pearce were arrested for the Medina burglary on January 2, 2003, the Modesto Police Department still had time to rethink its pursuit of Scott Peterson. There may even have been time to save the life of Laci Peterson. They chose not to do this. Instead they accepted an obviously false version of the burglary at the home of Rudy and Susan Medina. The Medinas lived almost directly across the street from the Petersons, and the burglary occurred during the same time period that Laci disappeared.

When Todd and Pearce were found in possession of the Medina safe at the property where both lived, MPD could have followed a very obvious connection. The residence of Todd and Pearce was in the airport district approximately 2 blocks from the Gallo Winery. After Laci’s disappearance on December 24, 2002, a trailing dog named Merlin led his handler Cindy Valentin from Laci Peterson’s house on Covena to the Gallo Winery property on Santa Rosa Avenue in the late night/early morning hours of December 26-27. The handler stopped the search at the dead end inside the Gallo property even though she admits that more could have been done there. On the day that Todd and Pearce were arrested, MPD could have sent Cindy Valentin and Merlin back to Gallo and could have allowed the dog to pursue the trail in the airport neighborhood. They chose not to do that.

There was another opportunity to do things the right way once they knew that Todd and Pearce were the burglars. Diane Jackson, who lived in the Covena neighborhood, reported to MPD that she saw 3 men with a van and a safe in Medina’s front yard on the morning of December 24, the same morning that Laci disappeared. MPD could have pressured Todd and Pearce to reveal the names of these 3 men who presumably transported the safe from Medina’s to their residence, and they could have questioned the known acquaintances of Todd and Pearce in the airport neighborhood. MPD chose not to do this. Instead they accepted the story given by the burglars and continued to focus exclusively on Scott Peterson.


In late January 2003, MPD had yet another chance to conduct an honest investigation and perhaps even one month after her disappearance, to save Laci Peterson’s life. Lt. Xavier Aponte, who worked in the Investigations Unit at the California Rehabilitation Institute at Norco east of Los Angeles, called MPD with important information. A phone call between an inmate and his brother had been recorded. Aponte’s memory of that information was later given to both defense and prosecution in separate statements.

From Lt. Aponte’s Statement to the Defense: (12/1/04)

Lt. Aponte first became aware of [Shawn Tenbrink] talking about Laci Peterson within a couple of weeks of her missing. Shawn was talking about Laci missing while he was out in his housing unit. A housing staff person left a message on Lt. Aponte's voice mail and he immediately called the Modesto Police Department Hotline. He called a second time within the same week because he did not receive a call back from his first telephone call. Lt. Aponte said it was at least a week before anyone got back to him. Lt. Aponte said a detective called him back and arrangements were made for the detective to interview [Shawn]. Lt. Aponte believes that it was after he spoke to the detective that he listened to the recorded conversation between [Shawn] and his brother [Adam Tenbrink}. To the best of his recollection, [Shawn/Adam] talked to [Adam/Shawn] about Laci Peterson missing and [Adam] mentioned that Laci happened to walk up while Steve Todd was doing the burglary and Todd made some type of verbal threat to Laci.

From Lt. Aponte’s Declaration to the Prosecution: (3/3/05)

During January of 2003 I was contacted by a dorm officer at the prison, who was one of several people responsible for monitoring recorded collect telephone calls by inmates within a particular dorm. I do not recall who that officer was any longer. The dorm officer brought to my attention a recording of a telephone conversation between an inmate, Shawn Tenbrink and a male believed to be his brother, Adam Tenbrink.

I listened to this recording and heard Adam Tenbrink tell Shawn Tenbrink something about the Laci Peterson case. Adam said he was told by someone, presumably Steven Todd as his name was mentioned during the call, that Laci Peterson had seen Todd and others committing a burglary in the neighborhood……………

I made a recording of the conversation and contacted the Modesto Police tip line. I left a message on a recording for the tip line. After a period of days I received no return telephone call from the Modesto Police Department. I telephoned the tip line again and left another message.

Information this significant surely was reported to the officer in charge of the investigation, Craig Grogan, but Lt. Aponte’s first call was not returned. He placed another call the same week, and some time later his call was returned.

There are 2 versions of what happened after that.



From the signed statement given by Lt. Xavier Aponte to defense investigator Carl Jensen on December 1, 2004:

Lt. Aponte did not recall the name of the detective, however when asked about the names Craig Grogan, Al Brocchini, Mark Smith and Owens, Lt. Aponte said Grogan sounded familiar.

The detective from MPD came down to Norco [California] Rehabilitation Center and interviewed [Shawn] within the first couple of weeks from his first call to the MPD hotline. Lt. Aponte did not recall the date of the interview. When [Shawn] walked into Lt. Aponte's office for the interview he appeared scared. In retrospect, Lt. Aponte does not know if it was the environment [Shawn] was in the made him afraid or something else. By environment, Lt. Aponte was referring to [Shawn] being interviewed by the police in his office. Lt. Aponte specifically recalls [Shawn] denying having a conversation with his brother [Adam] and denying knowing Steve Todd. The detective asked if there was anyway in which [Shawn's] activities could be monitored. Lt. Aponte said they monitored his phone calls and mail more closely.

Lt. Aponte said that to his recollection the MPD detective listened to the recorded telephone conversation. Lt. Aponte is 99% positive he made a separate recording onto a cassette tape of the telephone conversation between [Shawn] and [Adam]. He did this thinking it would be important at some date. Lt. Aponte does not recall if the detective took a copy of the tape or at a later date received a copy of the taped telephone conversation………………


From the statement signed for the prosecution by Lt. Xavier Aponte on March 3, 2005:

I received a return telephone call from a Modesto Police detective a short time later. The detective asked that I arrange a telephonic interview between the inmate Shawn Tenbrink and the detective. I do not recall the detective’s name, but I do recall the voice of the detective sounded male in gender.

I had Shawn Tenbrink brought to an office at the facility and met with him. I was dressed in plain clothes at the time and was not wearing a Corrections Department uniform. I monitored a telephonic interview between the Modesto Police Department detective and Shawn Tenbrink. Shawn Tenbrink denied any knowledge about Laci Peterson’s disappearance, and was not very cooperative with the detective.

Shawn Tenbrink was returned to his unit at the prison after the interview. I do not recall mailing a copy of the audio tape recording of the conversation between Shawn and Adam Tenbrink, nor do I recall if the detective asked me to do so. I am not aware of any Modesto police officer visiting the California Rehabilitation Center to interview Shawn Tenbrink. The telephonic interview with Shawn is the only interview that took place to my knowledge.


From the signed declaration of Detective Craig Grogan (3/9/05):

I have found no other reports mentioning Aponte or Tenbrink. I have not found any audiotapes in possession of the Modesto Police Department that contain a conversation recorded between Adam and Shawn Tenbrink. I sent an e-mail to detectives, officers and supervisors involved in the Peterson investigation requesting information about an interview between an officer or detective and Shawn Tenbrink. I have not received any information from any investigator as a result of that e-mail.

I did not go to the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco at any point during this investigation, nor did any other officer or detective to my knowledge. I have inquired with supervisors in the Investigative Services Unit and they do not recall any officers being sent to that facility for an interview related to the Laci Peterson case.

How can it possibly be true that no interviews were conducted with the inmate at Norco? The officers at MPD surely knew who the Tenbrink brothers were. These were habitual criminals who lived in the airport district with an address about 2 blocks from the residence of Todd and Pearce and who were known to associate with Todd. It must have raised a red flag for MPD to hear the names Adam and Shawn Tenbrink, Steven Todd, and Laci Peterson contained in the same tip. But they tried to ignore it at first and then to cover it up. The 2 signed statements of Lt. Aponte make it clear that there was an interview of some type done by MPD. The change in Aponte’s statement indicates that he may have been pressured to change his story. It’s obvious that something happened to him between the time he gave the statement to the defense and the time he signed the one for the prosecution. He was removed from his job in the Investigations Unit on February 18 of 2003 and reassigned.

It is also possible that Aponte’s statement was altered. A close look at the PDF version of the statement indicates two different type fonts, one for the heading material, the last couple of sentences of the statement, and the signature line. Another font is used for the body of the document. Could it be that the body of the document was added after Aponte signed what he thought was a simple verification of the tip sheet? It is the standard for each page of a legal document to be initialed. In Aponte’s declaration only the third page has a signature.

In early February, in spite of Aponte’s information about a connection between Todd and Laci, Todd, a three strike plus felon, was sentenced to serve only 8 years and 8 months in jail for the Medina burglary. Pearce was sentenced to only 180 days.

By mid February MPD was committed to their prosecution of Scott Peterson. There was no turning back. By mid February Laci and her baby were dead. For MPD, the bodies if they were found, had to be in the San Francisco Bay, or questions would have been asked about their investigation. On February 18-19, they again searched the Peterson house, looking in particular at Laci’s clothing. If she was found in the black pants that Scott had described there would have been a loss of credibility for them. People would ask why they failed to investigate all the sightings in the Covena neighborhood by people who reported seeing Laci in black pants.


If Aponte’s tip had come to light at any point before Scott’s conviction, embarrassing questions would have been asked; and so Aponte’s tip was hidden in a list of 10,000 other tips on a CD. No reports about the interview with Shawn Tenbrink or any followup with his brother Adam were ever given to the defense. The tape recording of the conversation between the brothers disappeared. It appears that MPD, once committed to convict Scott Peterson, did not reveal any information that pointed to someone else as the perpetrator. It was evident that a conversation took place between Adam and Shawn Tenbrink that placed Laci Peterson and Steven Todd at the site of a burglary at the same time. Todd and the Tenbrinks, convicted felons, habitual criminals, were given a pass.

The connection between Todd and the Tenbrinks and December 24 as the date of the burglary were confirmed by defense investigator Jensen in a conversation with Adam Tenbrink. Tenbrink acknowledged that Stephen Todd was a close friend. He said that Todd had approached him on the evening of December 24, 2002, asking for help with a burglary already in progress. Tenbrink refused to talk further when Jensen began questioning him about the prison phone calls and about Todd confronting Laci.

How did the defense miss the tip notation? It appears there was some kind of deception involved in what was provided to them.

From Grogan's statement March 9, 2005 which was included in the Prosecution Opposition Response:

Per a request by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office I searched the computerized files for the Peterson Case looking for the tip listing Shawn Tenbrink referred to by the defense in their motion. I found a tip dated 01/22/03 which included information from Lieutenant Aponte. The tip included the following information: Aponte’s telephone number, the fact he is an employed at “CRC Norco,” the inmate’s name and the name of the inmate’s brother. This tip was documented on a “tip Sheet.” The tip sheet which contained this tip is located at bate stamp number 15311 and it was discovered to both the prosecution and defense.

This comes from the Prosecution Opposition to the Defense Motion for a New Trial:

The tip states: “RECEIVED INFO FROM SHAWN TENBRINK (INMATE) HE SPOKE TO BROTHER ADAM WHO SAID STEVE TODD SAID LACI WITNESSED HIM BREAKING IN. COULD NOT GIVE DATES OR TIME. APONTE HAS FURTHER INFO.” The date of the tip was January 23, 2003. This tip was located at Bates page number 15311, and was provided to the defense on May 14, 2003 (EXHIBIT 1, date signed as being received by the defense.)

Both tips were filed under #15311, but Grogan refers only to the notation for January 22, 2003. That is the notation that Aponte was asked to verify. This notation includes only Aponte’s phone number, his place of employment, and the names of the inmate and his brother. It does not mention Todd or Laci.

In the Prosecution Opposition Response, Rick Distaso refers to the information provided on January 23, 2003. It would have been on a different page in the tip sheet. The defense must have searched for Todd’s name, but they did not find this tip.


Probably no one would have been the wiser except that some time before the end of the trial, the prosecution received a letter from “Mr. R.” an inmate at the Stanislaus County Jail.

From the signed statement of Pat Harris in the Defense Motion for a New Trial.:

Near the completion of the prosecution's case against Scott Peterson, I received a report and a letter from the Stanislaus District Attorney's Investigators about an inmate in Stanislaus County jail who allegedly had information about the abduction of Laci Peterson.

Defense Investigator Carl Jensen and I traveled to Modesto and met with the inmate. He provided us with several names of people he felt would be of interest. When the names were run on the computer database, it led to the discovery of a tip buried in the hundreds of pages of discovery. This tip was a very brief notation of a phone call from the state prison in NORCO to Modesto Police alerting them to a potential lead in the Laci Peterson investigation.

Mr. R. confirmed the information about Todd’s confrontation with Laci during the burglary and identified the Tenbrinks. Shortly before Mark Geragos began his CIC, the information which had been hidden in the tip sheet was brought to light. Unfortunately, it was too late to prevent the conviction of an innocent man and his subsequent death sentence.

Lt. Aponte was interviewed at Norco on December 1, 2004 and his signed statement was included in The Defense Motion for A New Trial. His declaration to the prosecution was signed March 3, 2005 and was included with the Prosecution Opposition Response. Grogan’s declaration, signed March 9, 2005 was also included with the Prosecution Response.


On March 16, 2005, the Defense Motion was denied by Judge Delucchi without serious consideration. Scott Peterson was sent to death row in order to preserve the careers of certain MPD detectives and the Stanislaus County prosecutors.

Defense Motion for a New Trial
Prosecution Opposition to Motion for a New Trial

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Karen Servas - The Real Story


Karen Servas lived at 517 Covena Avenue, directly to the south of the house where Laci and Scott Peterson lived. On December 24, 2002, as she backed out of her driveway on her way to do errands, she found the Peterson’s dog, McKenzie, standing in the street with his leash attached. She parked her car and took hold of the dog’s leash, walked across Peterson’s front yard to the north gate, put McKenzie back inside the yard and closed the gate which had been ajar. She went back to her house to wash her hands, and then got in her car and continued on the way to do her errands. This could have been a very ordinary event in the neighborhood, except that this happened to be the morning when Laci Peterson disappeared.

What Karen Servas did, and when she did it became crucial information in this case. Her timeline became a major factor in the conviction of Scott Peterson. Her story, however, is based on invalid or unverified time sources. There is nothing to support her claim that she found McKenzie on December 24 at 10:18 a.m.

• When Karen Servas was first interviewed by Detective Jon Buehler on December 25, 2002 around 11:30 a.m., she said she found McKenzie at approximately 10:30 a.m. on December 24. Buehler testified that Detective Allen Brocchini had been the first to interview Karen Servas on the night of December 24, but we do not know what she told him because he destroyed all notes that he took before December 25th or 26th.

• Karen Servas changed her story. On the morning of December 28, while she was on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as she was doing her laundry she found a receipt in the pocket of her jeans from a purchase she had made at Austin’s Christmas store on December 24. She contacted Detective Buehler by phone about this. On January 3, Servas gave the receipt to Detective Buehler, and also provided a handwritten note with the details of her newly constructed timeline. (People’s Exhibit 30)

This is our transcription of that note:

Detective Buehler:
Enclosed is my rec(ei)pt from Austin’s on 12/24/02.
After I found the Peterson’s dog and put it back in their yard, I went in briefly to wash my hands at my house. I then went to Bank of America, couldn’t find a parking spot; then drove to Austin’s.
I have retraced my trip; timed it from the time I found the dog to parking at Austins. I approximated the time it took was about 11 minutes.
I was in Austin’s for five minutes before I made my purchase. I went to the second cash register furthest away from the front door.
So I estimate I found the dog at 10:18 a.m., based on the receipt and working the timing backwards.
If you need any more info, please call me at 480-1744.
Karen Servas

During Servas’ trial testimony, Distaso questioned her about the receipt. (People’s Exhibit 28):

DISTASO: Okay. What time was it that it shows you made a purchase at Austin's Christmas Store?
SERVAS: It says 10:34 am.
DISTASO: Ms. Servas, this is so faint that I don't think that it's going to show up on the document camera, so can you just read where it's from and the date and the time.
SERVAS: It says Austin's Christmas Store, 12/24/2003, 10:34 a.m., Clerk No. 1.
DISTASO: Let me see the date, I think you said 2003.
SERVAS: I said, oh, no, I said, did I say 2003?
DISTASO: That's what I heard.
SERVAS: 2002. 12/24/2002.

Because the receipt is barely readable, Buehler wrote the time and date in ink on the paper next to it. He did virtually nothing to verify that the time was accurate. He received Servas’ receipt early in January of 2003 and did not go to Austin’s to check the time source until September of 2003. Buehler stated that Servas had gone to the only computerized register. This may not be accurate. Servas says in her note “the second cash register furthest away from the door.” Her receipt says “Clerk Number 01.”

When Buehler questioned William Austin, the store owner, Austin told Buehler that he checked the computerized register to see if the time was accurate. He didn’t say when he did it, or how often, or how he verified that the time was correct. Geragos pointed out that Austin did not set the computer, and Jared Jensen who did set the time was never interviewed by the police.

On January 14, 2004, Mark Geragos sent his investigator, Carl Jensen, to Austin’s store. Jensen asked to see the computerized register which had to be taken out of storage. William Austin, in his testimony, grudgingly admitted that he ran 2 receipts for the defense investigator on that day. These receipts, according to Geragos, were run within 10 minutes of each other. The time and date on the receipts indicates that they were run 49 minutes apart and on 2 different days. (Defense Exhibit H)

There’s also another curious fact. The format of the receipt from the computerized register is different from that of Karen Servas’ receipt, indicating that her receipt was probably run on one of the other two registers in the Christmas store. Those registers were never checked by anyone.

• Karen Servas used 2 additional time sources to back up her new story. However, neither one of these sources proves anything.

First, she provided the MPD with her phone records for the month of December (Prosecution Exhibit 29-sealed). This included the record of a call she made on the morning of December 24 at 10:37 a.m. In her revised story, she claimed that she made this call after the 10:34 purchase at Austin’s. We know that the Austin’s time does not verify her story, and neither does the time of this phone call. No followup was done by MPD to determine where she was when she placed this phone call. Cell phone tower records, which could have given general information about her location, were not checked. No witnesses were called to confirm her account of where she was when she made this call.

Second, she says she went to Bank of America and made a deposit on the morning of the 24th after she had been to Austin’s. However, no deposit slip or bank statement verifying a transaction at Bank of America on the morning of December 24 was ever entered into evidence by the prosecution.

Rick Distaso: The, regarding the, when she called you about the ATM bank records that, when she went to the bank at 10:53, she was calling to tell you that those records, I mean that those records confirmed her testimony here in this trial, correct?
Mark Geragos: Where is that in the report?
Kevin Bertalotto: I don't know if she's,
Mark Geragos: There's an objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. It's certainly not in the police report.

However, Prosecutor Distaso improperly argues this in his closing. No one has testified to the truth of this information, and there is no documentation to verify it.

Distaso: …….If you remember at the end of the trial the defense asked Investigator Bertalotto about that additional record that she just got, which was at 10:53, completely supporting exactly everything that she said. ……


• Karen Servas’ timeline, although tenuous at best, was used by the Modesto Police Department as an excuse for its failure to investigate the Medina burglary even though there were credible sources to confirm that the burglary and Laci’s disappearance were directly related.

On the morning of December 24, Susan Medina and her husband were getting ready to leave home to visit their children. A city inspector had been to their house that morning and around the time the inspector left, Mr. Medina made a phone call. (9:32 a.m.) After that time, the Medina’s continued getting ready to leave for their trip. They left home around 10:32 am. At the end of the block before they made a right turn on Encina, Susan Medina made a phone call to her son (10:33 a.m.)

During the time that Karen Servas says she found McKenzie, the Medinas were packing their car, going back and forth inside and outside, getting ready to leave on their trip. Surely, if Karen found McKenzie at the time she said she did, the Medinas would have noticed the activity in the street, and she would have seen them. Their driveways are almost directly across the street from each other. Karen Servas found McKenzie in the street right in front of Medina’s house. She walked across her yard and Peterson’s yard and back again as she returned McKenzie to his yard, but she said that she did not see the Medinas that day, and they did not see her.

Neighbors Amie Krigbaum and Terra Venable (one house north of Medinas) heard two dogs barking at 10:38 a.m. One they recognized as Sage, the dog who lived just north of their house. A couple of days later they realized that the second dog they heard barking aggressively at that time was the Peterson’s dog McKenzie. They said that the barking continued for a few minutes. Mike Chiavette, another neighbor, saw a dog fitting McKenzie’s description in the park at the north end of Covena at 10:45 a.m.

It is reasonable to believe that Karen Servas found McKenzie after the Medinas left home at 10:32, after she made a phone call at 10:37, after Sage and McKenzie stopped barking around 10:40 (testimony of Amie Krigbaum), and after Chiavette saw McKenzie in the park at 10:45. It is also reasonable to believe that the burglary at Medina’s started shortly after the Medinas left home on December 24, and that the disappearance of Laci Peterson is directly related to that burglary.

• The Modesto Police Department also used Servas’ faulty timeline after the fact to cover up its failure to investigate the numerous credible sightings of Laci Peterson walking her dog in the Covena neighborhood on the morning of December 24.

FLADAGER: All right. Detective Grogan, I'd like to take you back to December 24th one more time. The sightings of Laci Peterson on December 24th that are indicated on that particular diagram, which is People's Exhibit 267, you indicated earlier that you had ruled out essentially in your mind ruled out those as being viable of Laci's sightings, correct?
GROGAN: That's correct.
FLADAGER: Now is there a time frame that was available for Laci Peterson to be out walking, according to the defendant's statements and physical evidence and phone records on December 24th?
FLADAGER: What was that time frame?
GROGAN: From approximately 10:08 to 10:18.
FLADAGER: And on either end of those time frames prior to 10:08 subsequent to 10:18 are there factors that would indicate she could not have been out walking?
GROGAN: On these sightings in particular?
FLADAGER: No, just in general.
GROGAN: In general. Well, there is the information that we had from her medical records that said that she was supposed to walk later in the day, that she had been getting nauseous, and then those reports to the doctor stopped, so you can read maybe something into that. The fact that cuts down some on the time line is she is, she's supposed to be in the house in a pair of black pants and a white shirt and mopping the floor when he leaves at 10:08, and so for in order for her to, to go for a walk, she would need to, based on the defendant's statement and the clothing, she would have to change her clothes, put on her shoes and socks, put the leash on the dog and then leave the house.
FLADAGER: And at 10:18 end of time period, the end of that time frame what, what caused that 10:18 time frame?
GROGAN: That's when Karen Servas finds McKenzie with his leash attached in the street one house south of 523 Covena Avenue.

• Judge Delucchi, when presented with credible information about the involvement of the Medina burglars in Laci’s abduction (Aponte Tip), used Karen Servas’ imaginary timeline as his rationale for denying the Defense Motion for a New Trial.

………………………What we've here is this conversation of, of this inmate, I'm not going to identify who it is, that somebody told him, and they believed this Todd had told him, that he had confronted, or Laci Peterson had confronted these burglars during the course of this burglary that took place at the Medina residence. The court's not too impressed by that evidence. I don't think it has much credibility or value to it. And the reason being is that there is evidence in this trial that the dog, McKenzie, was recovered at 10:14 or 10:18, I don't remember exactly what happened, and the Medinas didn't leave until after 10:30 in the morning. So the burglary must have occurred after the Medinas left their residence, and by that time Laci Peterson, under one interpretation of the evidence, was already missing……………..


The damage caused by Karen Servas’ reconstructed timeline can not be overstated. Scott Peterson has been convicted and sentenced to death by a story that has no basis in fact. Karen Servas did not find Laci’s dog, McKenzie, on December 24, 2002 at 10:18 a.m. There is nothing at all that confirms her timeline. The Austin’s receipt is invalid, there is no verification of her location when she was making the 10:37 phone call, and the bank deposit information, even if it exists, would not prove when she left home and when she found McKenzie.

The Modesto Police Department and Judge Delucchi capitalized on this false information and used it to excuse a terrible injustice, the wrongful conviction of Scott Peterson.

The original version of this article appears on SII. This revised version has been updated and modified for the blog.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Understanding the Importance of Dr. March's Testimony

This is a reprint of Part II of an editorial, written by Carey-Ann Sandell, that is featured on SII. It gives a comprehensive explanation of Dr. March’s testimony.

Understanding the Importance of Dr. March’s Testimony

GERAGOS: That the measurements, all five for five, were younger? Made the baby younger, correct?
MARCH: Yes, sir.
GERAGOS: And that at this point if you map out this and you use whatever -- all the scientific data at your -- that's available, that the earliest date is December 29th?
MARCH: Yes, sir.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Re-Direct ~~

I chose to start with the above quote from testimony because like the majority of the important pieces of this case, the jury either ignored the facts being presented or completely missed the point being made. In fairness to the jury, I believe they were saturated with far more information than they would have ever been able to consume. I believe that was the Prosecutors game plan -

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, you baffle them with bull.
~~ Ron Grantski / comment to the media ~~

The idea was to give the jury so much information, whether important to proving their case or not, so they didn’t pay attention to the details, or spend too much time analyzing all the information they were given. So that the facts that didn’t favor their case against Scott got lost between Laci’s grocery list from December 23rd, and a receptionist at the medical clinic who called in sick the day after Christmas.

GERAGOS: Were you really sick the day after Christmas?
GERAGOS: "No" you weren't sick?
JUDGE: No other questions?
GERAGOS: I was going to ask her why she's here, but it's okay. Welcome to San Mateo, and bye.
~~ Testimony of Corina Ramos - Receptionist OB/Gyn ~~

I believe that Dr. March lost the jury’s attention, if he ever had it – when he became flustered because of being badgered by the Prosecution regarding a typo in his original report to Geragos. When all he was really asking was for the same courtesy extended by the jury for Dr. Devore’s 2-day error in his report.

MARCH: Why not be -- sir, it was in error by two days. I would like everybody to cut me the same two-days slack that was cut Doctor DeVore, who moved his date -- the date of Conner's death from the 25th to the 23rd. I'm sorry, it was an error. I made a mistake. And if we make it June 9th, then we have a death date of Conner of the 29th. It's New Year's Eve if it's June 11th. I'm sorry, I made an error.
~~Testimony of Dr. March – Cross ~~

“Dr. March was the doctor/lawyer’s favorite witness—the guy who did a meltdown on the stand. The 11 of us almost fell off our chairs when he said that. We all gave (March) zeros. He lost all credibility when he asked us to cut him some slack.”
---John Guinasso – Juror- comment to the media--

I also believe that jury latched on to the same belief that Harris seemed to have –that Dr. March's whole conclusion that Conner couldn’t have died before December 29, 2002 was based on the “assumption” that Laci didn’t find out until June 9th that she was pregnant. During Harris’s cross of Dr. March he hammered on that fact over and over and over again, trying his best to damage Dr. March’s credibility and disregard his conclusion.

HARRIS: So using that information from her, you use -- it's absolutely essential to your June 9th determination of all these facts, right?
HARRIS: So what you just told us about relying on her information, it's not something that you used?
MARCH: No. You just used -- put the word "all" in there. And "all" is not a word that -- there is pieces. "All" is not -- I use more than simply a pregnancy test.
HARRIS: So, again, going back to what the question was. That information is crucial for your opinion going from this June 9th date, changing all the other dates that you have been telling us about, right?
MARCH: It's one of many pieces of information
~~Testimony of Dr. March – Cross ~~

Dr. March’s testimony discussed the importance of when Laci is believed to have received a positive home pregnancy test in relation to when it is most likely she conceived Conner -- a key piece of information that can be used in helping determine Connor’s fetus age at the time of his death.

HARRIS: Well, does a pregnant -- home pregnancy test tell you when you conceived?
MARCH: If it's negative yesterday, and negative the day before, and positive today, you are pretty darn good, yes, sir.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Cross ~~

During Dr. March’s testimony other important information was offered to the jury, that I believe was lost on them:

-The importance of why Dr. Yip adjusted the due date, based on the second ultrasound results even had Laci been able to carry to full-term.
-His conclusion did NOT rest on when Laci was assumed to have received her positive home pregnancy test on June 9th.
-All the experts who testified to Conner’s age, agreed to the age range.
-Dr. Devore’s - Prosecutor’s hired expert - results didn’t fit any of the other scientific information provided.

Positive Results:

I noted while reading Dr. March's testimony that he not only based his "assumption" that Laci first positive HPT was on June 9th, on the testimony of Rene Tomlinson, but from transcripts of interviews from several of Laci's friends and family. During 2nd re-direct, Geragos mentioned that Sharon Rocha, Jackie Peterson and Stacey Boyer all mention in police statements, that June 9th is the day Laci found out she was pregnant. Problem is that this was never testified to, so it never became evidence allowed during the trial.

Although no one will ever admit that Laci had confided that June 9th is the day she took a home pregnancy test, and received a positive result, it becomes clear during the questioning of Dr. March that there are several people that knew exactly when and how many tests Laci took. Yet the only person to testify that Laci announced her pregnancy that day was one friend, not even her own mother or sister shared that information for the court record – was that strategy on the part of the Prosecutors? And if so, why didn’t the defense ask the questions that would have made this information evidence?

Harris used the missing information to draw attention away from the facts that couldn’t be disputed, such as Laci’s adjusted due date based on Conner’s measurements during the second ultrasound and that she was only 32w a day before she went missing. He made sure the jury knew that there was no notation of a home pregnancy test and that it was “only” an assumption on Dr. March’s part, even though it was a fairly educated and experience based assumption.

HARRIS: Where in the medical records does it talk about Laci Peterson having a pregnancy test on June 9th?
MARCH: I'm not sure that -- the answer to that question is no place. But that's not the question asked of me by Mr. Geragos
HARRIS: Well, okay. Let's go through this then. So nowhere in any of the medical information, would you agree, is there any reference to there being a pregnancy test on June 9th.
MARCH: Change the words from medical information to medical records. The answer to -- I can give you, it's not in it medical records, the information. But the medical information that a pregnancy test was reported.
HARRIS: So you are making an assumption to form a medical opinion; isn't that a fact?
MARCH: Based on 30 years of being a fertility doctor, and knowing how excited females get with a positive pregnancy test, that's pretty good assumption, yes, sir.
~~Testimony of Dr. March – Cross ~~

Although it’s not marked on her medical records, there was a 7:00 a.m. call to family and friends to back the existence of a home pregnancy test with a positive results happening on June 9th, along with the unarguable fact that there was an adjustment to her due date.

GERAGOS: Okay. And what year -- even if you take that out of the mix, somebody still has to account for the fact that Dr. Yip did the six day correction, right?
MARCH: Yes, sir.
GERAGOS: That the measurements, all five for five, were younger? Made the baby younger, correct?
MARCH: Yes, sir.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Re-Direct ~~

Even had June 9th never been mentioned – ever, to anyone - the fact that Dr. Yip adjusted her due date by 6 days still had to be accounted for. Instead the Prosecutors downplayed the adjustment and the jury seems to have completely ignored it.

Dr. March didn’t need to add the “assumption” of the home pregnancy test taken on June 9th to come to his conclusion; it was just nice to have since it corroborated what was already documented as fact.

Adjusted Due Date:

Although nowhere on Laci’s medical chart/file is it noted when she took a home pregnancy test, the adjusted due date is very clearly noted, adjusted from February 10th to February 16th by Laci’s attending Doctor, Dr. Yip. The same 6-day difference that adding in Laci’s June 9th positive home pregnancy makes to the equation.

“…….Doctor Yip had to be so, compelled he had -- that he tacked on six more days to the due date. I mean let's face it. He could have done the scan and said I'm happy, but he changed it. There was compelling medical information, four measurements, or five, whatever the number was, none of which was close to 20 weeks two days. In fact, one of them went to 18 weeks zero days. That is 16 days away.”
~~ snipped from Dr. March’s testimony during cross ~~

Why did the jury so easily ignore the importance of Laci’s adjusted due date? An adjustment made long before she went missing. An adjustment that made Conner 6 days younger than her Doctor’s previously figured using the first day of Laci’s last menstrual cycle.

Dr. March and the other experts testified as to Conner’s “age” – and all with exception of Dr. Devore stated in their testimony that there is no scientific way to determine Conner’s age without allowing a “range in age." Simply put, no matter which method or formula is used to determine the age of a fetus, it will never be exact to the day or even within two days.

According to the first ultrasound done, Conner’s fetus measurements fell within the expected range, 10w1d - with “range of age” allowed of plus or minus 5 days.

MARCH: If you could please take the ultrasound -- the next image, the image that's off the -- yes, please. So here is a measurement of the baby and -- which was done on -- on July -- in July, on -- on July 16th. And crown rump length, 32 millimeters. So a caliper was put here on the crown, here on the rump, 32 millimeters. And it is ten weeks one day, okay? And then we drop below ten weeks one day, plus or minus five days.
GERAGOS: What does that mean?
MARCH: That if you have a baby who you measure crown rump length of 32 millimeters, you're going to say that that baby is -- by ultrasound, that's an ultrasound done by the nurse practitioner in their office -- of ten weeks one day. But I can't really lock it in to 71 days because when I have measured babies that were 32 millimeters, some of them were ten weeks and six days, plus five days, and some of them were younger by five days, nine three.
~~Testimony of Dr. March / Direct ~~

During the trial Dr. Devore tried to state that the first ultrasound measurement is considered “gold standard” because there is less room for error when dealing with millimeters. It should be noted that only the crown rump length is available for measurement and that Laci’s was done after what is consider “peak time”. Ideally the first ultrasound is to be done when the fetus is between 7 and 9 weeks. Even with these measurements being considered “gold standard” – there will always be a variation of 5 days either way.

GERAGOS: Gold standard is seven to nine weeks?
GERAGOS: Okay. So you've got one ultrasound that's not in the gold standard time in the seven to nine weeks, right?
MARCH: Right.
GERAGOS: And that says you've got plus or minus five days, right?
MARCH: Yes, sir.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Re-Direct ~~

A second ultrasound is standard when the pregnancy is further along - allowing the Doctor to ensure that the child is growing at an expected rate, and that there are no physical concerns with the fetus. In fact, due to the fact that not all women ovulate as assumed on the 14th day of their cycles, it is recommended that a follow up ultrasound be done to confirm the earlier findings.

Many women do not ovulate at around day 14, so findings after a single scan should always be interpreted with caution.
The timing of a positive pregnancy test may also be helpful in this regard to assess the possible dates of conception. A positive pregnancy test 3 weeks previously for example, would indicate a gestational age of at least 7 weeks. Such information would be useful against the interpretation of the scans
~~ ~~
*Fetus bone measurements charts also available at this webpage

During Laci’s second ultrasound, Dr. Yip noted that all the measurements he took, indicated that Connor was at the younger end of the 5-day “range of age”. So much so that he adjusted the due date, for the safety and well being of Conner should Laci have gone past her due date. Based on the fact that every measurement Dr. Yip took during the second ultrasound - not one fit with a fetus age of 20w 2d - but rather all were in the range of 18w3d to 19w 4d.
GERAGOS: Okay. So did Dr. Yip do something on the date of the second ultrasound to change this 20 week two day age?

MARCH: Yes, sir. Because every one of his measurements done that day, the biparietal diameter, 19,4, plus or minus ten days; head circumference, 19 even, plus or minus eleven days; abdominal circumference of 134 would be -- that was not the one entered, but the 134 would be 18 weeks three days. The femur length, plus or minus 14days. Femur length of 32, 19,4, plus or minus six. Because every measurement jumped away from twenty, two -- 20 weeks two days, to a range of 18,3 to 19,4.
GERAGOS: We're talking your attention when we measure the baby at this 9/24 date on the second ultrasound, all five measurements are less than what we would expect them to be?
MARCH: That's correct, yes, sir.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Direct ~~

This adjustment, although down played by the Prosecution and ignored by the jury, is a key piece of evidence that, long before it became important in a murder trial, Conner was determined to be 6 days younger. Had Laci not been murdered, and allowed to deliver Conner this information would have been considered important in determining when Laci was “post-date” and an induction would be considered. No Doctor wants to perform an unnecessary induction, causing possible strain on the baby and a possibly longer, more painful labor for the mother. Dr. Yip determined that Laci wasn’t due until February 16th, this was noted on her medical records, so that if Laci was to go past her original due date - she wouldn't of been consider "overdue" until after the adjusted due date.

MARCH: Was younger than should -- than would have been estimated by last menstrual period. And therefore Dr. Yip said I'm not going to expect to deliver this baby as a due date December -- February 10th, I'm going to push it back to February 16th. And the importance of that is if someone goes post-dates, overdue, by a week, so what? By two weeks you're going to get nervous that there may be a problem with the baby. Therefore at about two weeks you would begin an induction. Well, there can be complications with inducing labor, so Dr. Yip said No, no, no, I don't want to think that she may be over two weeks post-dates on February --
GERAGOS: 10th -- 24th?
MARCH: 24th, instead it's going to be March 2nd -- unless there was a leap year day or something. Leap year or something. So he has pushed it six days, so he's not going to get caught doing an unnecessary and potentially dangerous induction. And all of the information was so compelling, coming away from twenty, two, that he made the move, made the shift.
~~Testimony of Dr. March / Direct ~~

"All of the information was so compelling" – this statement should have been worth drawing the juries attention to. That all the measurements and information gathered during the second ultrasound, indicated that Conner was 6 days younger. Dr. Yip wanted to avoid the "unnecessary and potentially dangerous induction," not convince a jury of anything. This was an completely unbiased adjustment of a due date long before it became the key piece of evidence to prove Scott's innocence.

What are the risks of induction? Induced contractions may be more powerful, and have a longer duration than non-induced labor, so they may lead to a more painful labor. This increases the chance that pain medication will be used, with the possibility of risks related to the pain medication. The longer, stronger contractions can interrupt blood flow and oxygen to the fetus, and lead to drops in baby’s heart rate, so continuous monitoring is needed.

The induction consent form for a Seattle hospital states that risks may include “a longer labor time, a higher chance of forceps and/or vacuum use during delivery, a higher chance of a caesarean section delivery, more bleeding or infection, a longer hospital stay and longer length of recovery.” For first time labors, inductions increase the risk of caesarean by two to three times. (

Experts Agree

A common theme during the cross examination of Dr. March was trying to get him to admit that his conclusions didn't agree with other experts that examined the body of Conner. No matter how many times and how many ways Harris asked him, Dr. March always stood his ground that he was not or had never questioned the conclusion of Dr. Allison Galloway’s bone measurements, or Dr. Peterson’s observations during the autopsy. He didn’t even dispute Dr. Devore’s femur bone measurement, he only stated that Dr. Devore’s conclusion was scientifically impossible.

HARRIS: So your entire analysis is based on that particular piece of information, because it's different than what everybody else has, right?
MARCH: No, sir.
HARRIS: Well, aren't you saying that the date of conception is different than what they all saw?
MARCH: Doctor Endraki, Doctor Tow-Der, Doctor Yip, and Doctor DeVore never estimated a date of conception.
HARRIS: All right. We'll go back through that then. Is your date of conception different than everyone else's?
MARCH: I am the -- I believe -- I do not recall any information offered as a date of conception by anyone except the comment by Doctor DeVore, that you never know unless you were there.
HARRIS: And then you've read the testimony of the doctors, what they were saying And so, in terms of the conception, your determination of the date of conception is different than anybody else that made that determination, isn't it?
HARRIS: Are you telling us that Doctor DeVore's measurements of that bone in water is less accurate because it doesn't have any of those distortions that you find in a living human body?
MARCH: Oh, no. Absolutely not.
HARRIS: Now, with regards to this range that you keep talking about, Dr. DeVore said that there was something different about the ranges in his determinations, right?
MARCH: Dr. DeVore, as I understand, gave no ranges. He gave three absolutes.
HARRIS: Well, would not three days be a range?
MARCH: No. No, sir. See, that's -- Dr. DeVore did not give three days. What Dr. DeVore did is he said that Jeanty's formula is everything. So if I measure 64, I get this date. I measure 64.5, I get this date. I measure 65, I get that date. If he had measured 65 three times, he would have gotten only one date. He doesn't give a range. He's locked into this incredibly diverse biologic system, and he gives one day. He is singularly the only person who comes up with a one day. It -- it doesn't make sense.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Cross ~~

The point that Dr. March tried so hard to get across is that according to all the scientific information provided to him, through Laci’s medical records while the progress of the pregnancy was being monitored, and through examination of Conner’s remains – that Conner at the time of death was anywhere between 33w and full-term. At the time of Laci’s last prenatal appointment on December 23rd, Conner was determined to be 32w - according to her medical records.

In fact Dr. Galloway’s finding determined that youngest she could measure Conner’s bones at were 35w1d, and only by adding in the “age range” could she get it as low as 33w.

HARRIS: So you would agree that Dr. Galloway is in a far better position to give an opinion about her estimate of bones and the date of the death based on her examination than you are?
MARCH: I didn't know that she gave a date. I read her information. She did a broad range of the age of the fetus based on the measurement of the femur, the humerus, the tibia, and I think the bones in the head. I thought that she measured those. And, in reading her testimony, she measured all of these bones, and her testimony and report -- and she plugged them in to a variety of formulae and gave a range of 36 to 38 -- well, with Sherwood, 35.1, but then -- and this is the interpretation of the forensic anthropologist, which, as you rightly stated, I am not; she understands that you need variation, and she moves two weeks on either side.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Cross ~~

Dr. Devore

As is the norm during trials, the Peterson case being no different, a key piece of evidence becomes a battle of the experts. The Peterson case pitched Dr. Devore’s testimony against Dr. March’s testimony. One concluding that Conner died on December 23/24, 2002, supporting the DA’s case; and the later determining he couldn’t have died before December 29, 2005, supporting the defense’s stance that their client, Scott Peterson couldn’t have possibly committed the crime he was being charged with since he was under constant surveillance beginning December 25.

Both Doctors are very well educated, greatly respected and highly knowledgeable in each of their chosen fields of expertise.

Dr. Devore:
-Physician specializing in high risk obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine
-Consultant for last several years
-Sees about 6000 patients a year
-Estimated – preformed over 75,000 ultrasound examinations during his career
-Over 100 “peer-approved” articles published
-Written “many” chapter in over 25 textbooks
-Spoken at “literally hundreds” of educational meetings for physicians around the world
-Over 90% of his work is related to ultrasounds in fetal medicine.

Dr. March:
-Physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.
-Subspecialty is reproductive endocrinology and infertility
-In practice since 1966
-Estimated – preformed about 35,000 ultrasound examinations
-Published over 110 paper in scientific journals
-Written over 80 textbook chapters
-Videotapes / Audiotapes
-Teaching Awards from the University of Southern California
-Named “The Best Doctor in America” in textbooks – the only Doctor in the country named in both reproductive endocrinology and infertility and reproductive surgery.

During Dr. March’s testimony he maintained his respect for Dr. Devore and his expertise. He never once questions Dr. Devore’s measurements of Conner’s femur bone, or the method that was done to acquire the measurements.

HARRIS: So, in fact, you believe that Doctor Devore is an expert, very good doctor in the field that he practices in?
MARCH: I will tell you that absolutely, if you are talking about congenital anomalies, and mid trimester and late mid second trimester and third trimester ultrasound examinations, Doctor DeVore is absolutely excellent, yes, sir.
HARRIS: Are you telling us that Doctor DeVore's measurements of that bone in water is less accurate because it doesn't have any of those distortions that you find in a living human body?
MARCH: Oh, no. Absolutely not.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Cross ~~

The following are just a few key problems with Dr. Devore’s conclusion as testified by Dr. March:

It is scientifically impossible to narrow a fetus “age” to within a day. Dr. Devore testified that according to his measurements only ONE day of death was possible – being December 24, 2002 – since the other two dates fall on dates that Laci was known to be alive and well. According to every single method of determining the age of a fetus there is ALWAYS “range of age." Why did Dr. Devore leave this standard procedure out of his calculations?

Dr. Devore used the misconception often used when determining the age of a fetus, that all woman ovulate on the 14th day of her menstrual cycle. Although this is the standard method, it certainly is not the most accurate. The medical information provided in this case certainly suggests that Laci did not conceive as per the misconception but rather up to 6 days later. At no point did Dr. Devore conclude an estimated time of conception, nor did he attempt to, even though as an expert in fetal-medicine he should of known that was an important piece of the equation.

Dr. Devore completely dismissed the conclusions of Laci’s attending Doctor, the same Doctor who preformed and analyzed the second ultrasound. Dr. Devore clearly ignores the adjustment to her due date stated in her medical chart, and the note on December 23, 2002 – that Laci was 32 weeks pregnant.

It is very clear that the difference in the battle of the experts is that Dr. March used all the information gathered as it pertained to the age of Conner before and after his death. He took into account all the notes made on her medical charts, both ultrasounds performed on Conner, police statements of family and friends regarding when Laci found out she was pregnant, the fact that there were several tests done before the positive one – which confirms the adjustment made to her due date.

MARCH: No. That is a different question. The evidence that I have supporting multiple pregnancy tests came from a number of interviews of various friends of Mrs. Peterson that were carried out in pieces of information that were shared with me by Mr. Geragos' office when he sent me a plethora of information.
~~ Testimony of Dr. March / Cross ~~

Dr. March testified that all the evidence gathered by those that examined the remains of Conner and took bone measurements, including Dr. Devore, all agreed that the at the time of Conner’s death he could not have been younger than 33 weeks (at the extreme end of “range of age”), which should have created a problem to the Prosecutor’s case against Scott since Laci was determined by all accounts before her disappearance to be only 32 weeks.

How did the jury miss the importance of what Dr. March testified to? Why did they dismiss his whole testimony based on one moment of frustration? Did they not notice that Dr. Devore – the Prosecutor’s hired gun – left out key facts to come to his conclusion? That had Dr. Devore used the unbiased adjustment to Laci’s due date it would have been devastating to the case against Scott. Even if he had added in the STANDARD “range of age” to his calculation – would have proved damaging to the case against Scott. Or had the jurors already made up their minds by the time Dr. March delivered his compelling testimony??! What ever the reason, the jury missed – the importance of Dr. March’s testimony!