On March 16, 2005, Judge Delucchi sentenced Scott Peterson to death row. On March 17, at 3:10 a.m., Scott was transferred to San Quentin Prison.
This horrific injustice resulted from many mistakes made along the way, the most destructive being the tunnel vision that descended on the Modesto Police Department the first night Laci was missing. That tunnel vision not only corrupted the judgment of the MPD, but also the media and the general public -- Scarce anyone could see anything that pointed in any other direction than Scott Peterson.
This tunnel vision is most apparent by the ridiculous dismissal of the Medina burglars from involvement in Laci's disappearance. The MPD had a neighbor report seeing a van with 3-suspicious looking men and a safe being removed from the Medina home at 11:40 on December 24. Yet, the MPD was all too anxious to remove the burglars as suspects so they could proceed unhampered with their investigation of Scott Peterson.
After the arrest of Todd and Pearce, the Modesto Bee published an extensive article with information about the MPD's dismissal of the burglars as suspects in Laci's disappearance. These quotes are taken from page A-14.
"It was bad luck on their part," Stough said. [Steven Todd] said he was scared that he was going to be associated with Laci's disappearance.
Was he scared about being associated with Laci's disappearance because he was actually involved, or because he figured he would be the scapegoat if the MPD couldn't solve the case? No reason to fear, Mr. Todd - the MPD already had its sights fixed on Scott Peterson.
"Todd told investigators that he traveled the La Loma area often and recognized a home that looked empty the morning after Christmas. He said he and Pearce entered the home about 4 a.m. and stayed for about 3 1/2 hours, Stough said." Stough was the lead detective for the Medina burglary.
The article goes on to say:
Police had not yet sealed off the [Peterson] house as part of their search, and officers had not taken up positions in the neighborhood at that early hour. Todd said he saw several TV news trucks in the area, so he picked a different entry into the home. Police said the burglars carried a large safe out the front door and onto the front lawn. The safe contained $50,000 worth of jewelry and other items, according to police.
Isn't that what Diane Jackson saw -- a safe being removed from the house? But she saw it at 11:40 a.m. the morning of December 24. Todd says that happened on the morning of the 26th. Who do you believe, Jackson or Todd?
And does anyone else find it ridiculous that Todd "picked a different entry into the home" because of the "several TV news trucks in the area," but hauled the safe out the front door and across the front lawn?!?
The article continues:
None of the reporters or crews in those trucks reported seeing or hearing anything suspicious, Stough said. Duh, that's because there wasn't anything suspicious happening on the morning of the 26th for them to see, because the burglary happened on the 24th, just as Diane Jackson reported.
It's not long after the burglars were arrested that the MPD was told of a phone conversation between the Tenbrink brothers, in which Adam Tenbrink said Laci came up on the burglary and Todd verbally threatened her. Yet, the MPD refused to take another look at Todd and Pearce as suspects in Laci's disappearance.
The MPD didn't fixate on Scott Peterson because it had no other suspects; it refused to adequately investigate other suspects because it was already fixated on Scott Peterson.
After the infamous Lizzie Borden's acquittal in 1893, the New York Times reported:
"It will be a certain relief to every right-minded man or woman who has followed the case to learn that the jury at New Bedford has not only acquitted Miss Lizzie Borden of the atrocious crime with which she was charged, but has done so with a promptness that was very significant." The Times added that it considered the verdict "a condemnation of the police authorities of Fall River who secured the indictment and have conducted the trial." Not stopping there, the Times editorialist blasted the "vanity of ignorant and untrained men charged with the detection of crime" in smaller cities--the police in Fall River, the editorial concluded, are "the usual inept and stupid and muddle-headed sort that such towns manage to get for themselves." (Source)
Not all small-town police are inept, stupid, or muddle-headed, but the MPD's dismissal of the Medina burglars as suspects in Laci's disappearance certainly qualifies them for that characterization.