Friday, January 14, 2011

The Prosecution fails to make the Grade

In his trial report after the State rested, Richard Cole gave it a report card. "Using lead prosecutor Rick Distaso's four-hour opening statement as a guide, the Daily News has graded whether the government proved its case against [Scott Peterson] beyond a reasonable doubt." Cole went through 21 items, grading them according to the typical A-F school grades. It's lengthy, but well worth the time to read and ponder.

1. Blinds down: Distaso said in his opening it was unusual for the blinds to be down in the Peterson home, as they were the morning of Dec. 24, 2002, when Laci was reported missing. No witnesses testified to that, however, and the Peterson's housekeeper said the blinds were always down when she arrived to clean the house. Grade F.

2. Golfing vs. fishing: The first neighbor Scott talked to when he went looking for Laci testified that Scott told her he golfed that day. But she also said Scott was distraught and that she was firing questions at him. Laci cousin Harvey Kemple also claimed Scott said he went golfing, but Scott had already told police he was fishing before he talked to Kemple. And hours before he talked to the neighbor, police or Kemple, Scott left a message for Laci on their answering machine that he was returning from Berkeley -- not the Modesto country club the couple had just joined at a cost of $25,000. Grade F.

3. No dog walking: Her doctor and numerous of Laci's relatives and friends testified Laci was tired as her pregnancy progressed, and had suffered dizzy spells while walking. But none could say for certain she wasn't walking the dog. A neighbor who appeared neutral in this case said Laci told her in mid-December she had started walking McKenzie because she was worried about her weight. Grade F.

4. Fishy story: In his opening statement, Distaso said emphatically, "That kind of sets the scene for the entire case,this story about fishing." The first thing that made police suspicous about Scott's fishing trip was that he didn't answer directly when asked what he was fishing for the night Laci disappeared. They also thought it strange he went fishing the day before Christmas. But Scott said in his police interview that he mainly wanted to get his new boat in the water. And Laci's stepfather Ron Grantski, who became one of Scott's chief accusers, also went fishing that same day. Grade F.

5. Bucket and mop: A bucket and mop were found outside the door of the Peterson's house, with prosecutors' suggesting Scott may have tried to clean up the crime scene. But no evidence of a crime scene was found inside the home and none of the floors were wet. A state criminalist examined the mop and bucket and found no evidence of blood or tissue. Grade F.

6. The bodies and Brooks Island: The most powerful prosecution evidence is that the bodies washed up almost four months after Laci disappeared near the spot where Scott went fishing in the San Francisco Bay. But experts told police the anchors Scott allegedly used to sink the body weren't heavy enough to do the job. And the coroner indicated there was evidence Laci's body was exposed to sunlight. A tidal expert trace[d] the path of Conner's body to where Scott said he was fishing -- but said the location of Laci's body didn't fit his calculations. Grade C.

7. Dog and leash: Prosecutors suggest that leaving McKenzie outside with his leash one was a setup by Scott to blame Laci's disappearance on a stranger. But Scott took the leash off the dog before calling family, neighbors and police. Grade D.

8. No rain: Scott said he washed his clothes after fishing because it rained at the Berkeley Marina on Dec. 24, 2002. Prosecutors said both during the opening statements and in affidavits that the claim was untrue. But a marina maintenance man called by prosecutors said last week it had indeed drizzled during the day. Grade F.

9. Tiny time gap. Prosecutors used cellular tower records to show Scott made a cell phone call at or close to his home at 10:08 a.m. Neighbor Karen Servas said she found McKenzie at 10:18 a.m. That leaves only ten minutes for Laci to walk the dog and get kidnapped. But a cellular company executive called by the prosecution testified that the 10:08 a.m. call could not be used to fix Scott's location. And Servas initially said she found the dog at 10:30 a.m. Grade D.

10. Freshwater fishing pole. Distaso said during his opening statement that Scott was carrying a freshwater fishing pole instead of a saltwater rod and reel at the Berkeley Marina. But police and a sports store manager later said the pole was indeed a saltwater pole, and detectives conceded that on the witness stand. Grade F.

11. Problems in the marriage: The first detective who interviewed Scott asked f there were any problems in his marriage. A state Department of Justice official later asked if there were "third parties." Scott denied it both times, indicating he was lying about Amber Frey. He was later recorded apologizing to detectives for lying to them about Frey. Other witnesses have testified that Scott had at least two previous affairs, and Laci had clearly forgiven him. But Scott continued to call Amber, even minutes before a candlelight vigil for Laci. Grade B.

12. Black pants: Scott told police he had left Laci wearing a white shirt and black pants, but she was found in beige pants. Prosecutors have never explained why Scott would lie about the color of the clothes. Even Frey's pro-prosecution attorney Gloria Allred conceded Scott just may have been mistaken. Prosecutors tried to show that when Laci died, she was wearing the same clothes she had on the previous evening. But her sister Amy Rocha found the blouse Laci was wearing during a search of the Peterson's home. And she said the pants she had seen on Laci were not those found on her body. Grade F.

13. The baby's age: Distaso said a bone-growth expert would show Conner died Dec. 23 or 24. But the expert initially told police Dec. 25, which would have cleared Scott. And all but one of his estimates had Conner dying too early. Grade D.

14. "I lost my wife." Amber Frey and her friend Shawn Sibley testified Scott told them he cried and said he had "lost" his wife weeks before Laci disappeared. Sibley also indicated she was unsure if Scott meant his wife had died or divorced him. And Scott had told at least one previous lover he was divorced. Grade B.

15. Scott's mystery boat: "Not a soul knew he had bought a boat," Distaso claimed in his opening statement. But police have conceded that witnesses place Laci at the warehouse where the boat was kept a few days before she disappeared. And Scott had put his correct name and address on the pink slip, which the boat's previous owner sent in to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Grade F.

16. Not my photo: Scott looked at a faxed copy of a photo showing him and Amber together and falsely claimed to police it was a composite. The defense raised questions about the quality of the fax. Grade B.

17. Gasoline and fertilizer: Police found Scott's boat cover with gasoline dripping on it in one shed, and found fertilizer spilled on his tarpaulin in another shed. Both materials could destroy forensic evidence, although prosecutors have not explained why he would not simply have thrown them away. Grade D.

18. Hair in the boat: A hair that may have been Laci's was found in Scott's boat in his warehouse. But witnesses have her visiting the warehouse days before. And the detective who spotted the hair had just searched Laci's car before arriving at the warehouse and examining the boat. Tracking dogs had also been put in the boat before the hair was found. And the pliers the hair was found entwined in had not been used for some time, a state lab expert said. Grade F.

19. Meringue boomerang: The prosecution's worst moment. Distaso said in his opening statement that, contrary to what Scott claimed, meringue was never mentioned in the Dec. 24, 2002 Martha Stewart Living television show he and Laci supposedly watched. But the defense then played a clip from that show, and meringue was indeed mentioned. Later Detective Al Brocchini, who had reviewed the tape, admitted on the witness stand that he didn't know meringue was mentioned until the defense played the clip during its opening statement. Grade F.

20. Scott's pilgrimages to the marina: Scott visited the Berkeley Marina several times after Laci disappeared, and prosecutor suggest he may have been remorseful or fearful the bodies would surface. But each of those visits apparently coincided with either calls from the police or newspaper stories about police searches of the San Francisco Bay waters. The defense also showed visited other site that were searched by police, were identified in telephone tips, or were mentioned as possible search sites in the newspaper. Grade D.

21. Heading for the border: Scott was arrested n the San Diego area with his brother's identification, $15,000 cash and a car full of camping equipment, suggesting he was about to flee. His brown hair was blond and he was wearing a goatee. Prior to his arrest he had led police undercover cars on a four-hour roundabout journey, seeking to evade them several times. But the arrest took place at a golf course where Scott was scheduled to meet his family. And Scott had bought most of the camping equipment months earlier. And Scott had started growing the goatee when he was still in Modesto, where it is visible in television video. Grade C.

32 comments:

Bruce Dombrowski said...

"Dog and leash: Prosecutors suggest that leaving McKenzie outside with his leash one was a setup by Scott to blame Laci's disappearance on a stranger. But Scott took the leash off the dog before calling family, neighbors and police."

I don't think he thought that someone would find the dog and just put it back in the yard..he figured the dog would get picked up by someone blocks away, giving credence to his "she got snatched while walking the dog story" never figured old mckenzie would just walk back home...yeah, maybe that dude did see the dog in the park walking alone, after scott dropped him off...didnt realize goldens were so smart....

Bruce Dombrowski said...

4 hours after being in the rain, im pretty sure his clothes dried, and why the rush to wash fresh dried rainwater out of your clothes? he didnt handle any fish or bait... and he was taking the umbrellas to the warehouse because of rain? so, if he knew it was going to rain, why go fishing, but didnt golf, not because of rain, but because of cold...while all the people in the park were enjoying the sunshine in the park......and really, can you picture macho scotty boy sitting and watching martha strewart? and was she mopping the floor when he left, or curling her hair? and gee, the umbrellas were still in the truck when he came home? i guess they got rained on at the marina, so much for storing them so that they didnt get rained on...didnt he notice them when he was hooking up the boat? what would that take, about 42 seconds to take them from the bed of the truck and walk them 10 feet to the warehouse? blond hair from a swimming pool? too funny

Burkey said...

Sure, I believe Scott sat and watched Martha Stewart with his wife for a little while. His sister Anne Bird related how he would watch her TV shows with her inlcuding Murder, She Wrote. Plus, he knew she mentioned merengue...(sp?)

Plus, if you go boating in salt water, it gets in your clothes. And it itches. Water splashes, he went boating. He put the clothes in the wash same way my boyfriend would if he got his clothes wet with salt water. Besides which, in a marine environment there is a lot of water in the air and it does mist sometimes rather than rain. And you get wet. In fact any time I've gone on or near the water I always take off my clothes and change them when I get home. If Scott was boating, it's a guarantee he got salt water on his clothes. It's what happens when you go boating.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

I wonder why scott "expanded" HIS search south to LA....to distribute fliers....like nobody in LA knew what she looked like, since the media coverage was extensive.

Burkey said...

He told Brent Rocha he did that to keep Laci in the news and that media was going to be there with cameras. At the point when he went to LA the story was sort of slumping on the air and he said he wanted to goose the publicity.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

not seeing how the story was slumping as the media was "hounding him all the time", hence the change in hair color, the changing of cars, all he had to do was walk outside of his house and stand in front of the cameras...so many people complained that there was not one person in america that didnt know what scott looked like, and with every shot of scott, there was always a shot of laci....

Bruce Dombrowski said...

From the peterson website:"Modesto Bee runs an article on Jan 17th stating that Scott had taken a $250,000 life insurance policy after she got pregnant. It was also widely reported in the national media."


two days later he is 300 miles away to revive a slumping story??

Bruce Dombrowski said...

"Prior to his arrest he had led police undercover cars on a four-hour roundabout journey, seeking to evade them several times. But the arrest took place at a golf course where Scott was scheduled to meet his family."


i love this one, he cancels his golf game because he getting followed, the drives around for four hours, and drives right to where he was going in the first place....

Bruce Dombrowski said...

$15,000 cash

this is good too...his mom takes 10k out of his account, at the same bank her account is in, but goes to another bank to take the 10k out and give to him. she didnt want a hold on the money by the bank, so she gave him cash...gee, all you have to do is transfer funds from one account to the other at the original bank...

Burkey said...

Bruce, it was a lie that Peterson took out that policy when Laci got pregnant. Maybe you missed the part where the Petersons clarify that the policy was actually taken out when the two of them bought the house 20 months previous, I believe. It was quite some time earlier. Plus, the broker who sold them the policy, a whole-life policy or whatever, with the mortgage, testified that Scott had asked to have Laci covered for 100K and himself for 250. Laci was the one who insisted that she be equally covered and so she was.
Sure doesn't sound to me like he was planning on killing her, suggesting she be covered for less?
And, what would you do if you were being chased? If police actions caused you to have to scramble for transportation, if they took your computers, hounded your employer until you didn't have a job, if you were getting death threats every day, how would you act? Would you want to keep a low profile? What I'm saying is that these actions of Scott Peterson are re-actions to what was happening TO him. He did not cause them to happen. In fact his behavior was very compliant, despite the fact that he was reportedly "uncooperative." This was another lie.

Scott was innocent. That's why he was able to stand up in the face of this slanderous non-journalism and keep the search for Laci in headlines.
Regarding the insurance.
The schools I went to (Baylor) and (KCRW) both taught strongly that if a fact is misreported, it is ESSENTIAL that a retraction be printed prominently, especially if the party misrepresented may be harmed by the faulty reporting.

My continuing source of amazement with this case is that this NEVER happened. The police did not stand up to correct the lies that were reported, Laci's family did not, though they were happy to announce their verdict long before the trial, and the TV people were happy to lap that all up. The magazines, the TV people, the tabloids, which were the worst, were allowed to get away with reporting that was erroneous and which tainted jury members just like you've been tainted by the belief that these things happened. Scott did not take out that policy anytime around the time Laci got pregnant. So this is also a story of how one person's rights to decent, ethical reporting were completely scrapped in favor of ratings. It's a pretty basic formula that gets repeated again and again, so it's a lot bigger than the Peterson case. Smear reporting is big money.

Burkey said...

The story about LACI was slumping.

Scott was publicizing Laci's disappearance.

The reports were publicizing the suspicion about him.

Two different stories.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

Two different angles of one story, the disappearence of LACI. with every picture of scott, there was laci as well....not to mention the "couple" shots of them, raising a glass or just mugging for the camera at dinner...

Burkey said...

Alright, then. What matters about it to me is that he was not hiding and was actively pursuing the search effort.

What do you think of the Petersons setting up a civilian tip line when they learned the police were not calling back people who saw Laci? To me that seems like they really cared and were making an effort to find her.

Burkey said...

This is the photo of Laci that I love.

The address links to this photo that makes me believe she and Scott really were good friends in addition to being married. She looks very happy and she is wearing his pajama bottoms.

http://www.pwc-sii.com/CourtDocs/Exhibits/P-17.pdf

Bruce Dombrowski said...

my point was not the insurance, it was taken out 18 months prior..but still, if i'm thinking of killing my wife, that 250k would be a nice payday...it was just not done within the planning stages, it was just there...and it was the date of the story..you stated the story was slumping, how was it slumping when there was a story just 2 days prior?


and pray tell, how were scotts employers hounded? they're in spain...


"Scott was innocent. That's why he was able to stand up in the face of this slanderous non-journalism and keep the search for Laci in headlines."

I thought the story was slumping???? stand up???? the guy was running from the media, he even said that he thought the cops were media, so he was running from them..how is that standing up?

Bruce Dombrowski said...

Would you want to keep a low profile?

YES, but isurely would not buy a red car to "keep a low profile"

Burkey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Burkey said...

Scott called media people and invited them to his event in LA. That's not running from the media. He went up in front of everyone on TV even though they ate him alive in the editing room and sly anchorwomen winked at the audiece while trying to get him to squirm on their verbal skewers. He just said what his truth was and dealt with their bs internally. He was a gentleman with them, far more so than he should have been.

The story of Scott being under suspicion was going strong, thanks to the public conviction by his wife's family. Yes, the media lapped that up. His response was to address that directly in front of the whole world, and I find that to be an adult, responsible act. What would you do, if you were innocent and everyone believed you guilty?
I think he did what he could. He admitted the affair and said he loves his wife and wants to work with her family to find her.

Alan Brocchini enlisted the help of Tradecorp (over the phone) to try to find evidence that Scott was doing something funny with the company's money. He didn't find anything, but Tradecorp let him go anyway.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

"Alan Brocchini enlisted the help of Tradecorp (over the phone) to try to find evidence that Scott was doing something funny with the company's money. He didn't find anything, but Tradecorp let him go anyway."

but i thought the cops harrassed his employer? some phone calls inquiring about an employee during the course of a murder investigation is not out of line

Burkey said...

"some phone calls inquiring about an employee during the course of a murder investigation is not out of line."


Of course, but, that's not what happened here. Lots of things happened that were out of line, an extraordinary number of them, which are being outlined above in Marlene's blog posts.

I don't think you're hearing my point, so I don't know if I can keep answering. Question for you, Did you ever say what it was that convinced you beyond a doubt that Peterson did it?

Bruce Dombrowski said...

Well, i would sure like to know what actually happened as it relates to the police harrassing scott employer.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

having an affair does not a murderer make, but employers don't like to have cheaters, let alone publicized cheaters on their payroll, sales people make their living based on trust, and relationships, if the clients are unsure about a guys honesty, they will not want to do much business with that person. And based on the email from to scott, it seemed as though business was not so good.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

"But the arrest took place at a golf course where Scott was scheduled to meet his family."


he was scheduled to meet them 4 hours earlier....

Bruce Dombrowski said...

"Prior to his arrest he had led police undercover cars on a four-hour roundabout journey"

no why on earth would scott lead the police on a four hour journey around southern california...i wonder

Burkey said...

How come you're avoiding my question?

Bruce Dombrowski said...

So sorry, not avoiding, so much back and forth, gets confusing sometimes... why do i think he's guilty? cause i don't believe his story, his behavior, two different tales of what laci was doing when he left, has a girlfriend, the hair in the pliars, the bodies.

Burkey said...

About the two different stories, I don't see it the same way. I assume you're referring to what Scott told Laci's mother about seeing Laci sitting curling her hair, when he had also said she was mopping the floor? To me, this does'nt bother--what I believe he meant was that she was doing her hair at one point in the morning, then mopping or preparing to mop before he left. When he told Mrs. R. this, it's my opinion that he could easily have mentioned it, not because he meant that's what she was doing right before he left, but because she looked "cute" doing it and that's what he wanted to say to Mrs. R. The way she told it, it sounded to me like he was trying to establish mutual affection in the conversation, for Laci, that is. She came at the conversation with a different objective because she already thought he did something. And that's even before they had really had a conversation.
Reading Mrs. R's descriptions of what happened with Scott Peterson gave me some of my strongest impressions of his possible innocence, as the conversations by her own description she seems like a person who doesn't listen well or open herself up to new ideas. I mean, the Petersons come up there and try to help look for Laci and she jumps all over them when they have a meeting to try to come up with approaches. She had plenty of time for the TV people but the very people who were there in real life in front of her looking for Laci, she was very unkind to them. Anyway, that's more than you probably expected from me.
The rest--the hair in the pliers easily could have come from his coat, they found the pliers had not been used, when you say you don't believe his story, what story? If you were cheating on your wife and she disappeared---don't get mad at me here, I'm just saying (assuming you have a wife, which I don't know)--do you think she would want you to tell about a four-week relationship? Don't you think it's possible that he did care for Laci and did not want to embarrass her by telling what he'd been doing?
I did see that you started a blog, are you going to write about the case? Also, what do you think of the possibility that some of his behavior was a reaction to the behaviors of people around him?

Bruce Dombrowski said...

no, not really doing a blog, was just seeing how the thing works....although, may do a blog about some other subjects..still working on it...my problem with the two different stories is that when you have a missing person, yuo generally try to remember exactly what she was doing, a little tiny bit of info, as mundane as it may seem, may be the clue to finding her, or giving some insight as to what happened....funny, he thought nothing of tellingher about amber, at that point, she knew about the girlfriend any way, and was at peace with it..and if she came back? "sorry honey, you were missing, and i had to be honest about everything to the cops or they would have thought i was part of the kidnapping" if she got over other affairs and was at peace with this one, she would have no problem with him being honest to the police....now i don't think she would have as forgiving when she found out that scot was still romancing the girlfriend right before her vigil, sounding like a man with not a care in the world as his glorious wife remains missing....didnt sound like he missed her, or was concerned with her or the babys welfare....the people around him were behaving like loving caring family and friends, who cared about this wonam who WAS amazing, i mean IS amazing....there are only so many excuses one can make for scotts behavior...

Burkey said...

To me "I'm in Paris" doesn't sound like romancing anyone, it sounds like he's clearly not sharing any reality with her at all.



I have no excuses to make for Scott---it's his own deal, whatever it is. What I'm saying is that his actions don't necessarily scream guilt. That is, I'm offering what could be a reasonable explanation for his doing this, or that.

As for Amber I just don't get the sense that he felt affection toward her and her little girl while at the same time had no intentions for her in his big picture. She seems like a stopgap for late-pregnancy intimacy frustrations if i can put it that way without being offensive, I hope. That's how it looks to me. I also think Amber told her share of whoppers and therefore may also have lied about things he said or did.

Also he didn't say she was at peace with the affair, he said the opposite, "I can't even, you know, say she was, like, at peace with it," is the approximate quote I remember, though a google will take you to that video on SII. He's saying she wasn't at peace with it, but that they were working through it and it would not have been a threat to their marriage.
Without knowing either of them personally, the best anyone can do is look at a range of possiblities, and for me one possibility would be he might expect to find her and not want to cause embarrassment by letting it get out he had had relations with this other woman.
I didn't know Laci, but I have thought an awful lot about her and what she might think of all this, and it seems like being murdered is the last thing in the world she'd want to be famous for, and being cheated on would be another thing she wouldn't want to be famous for. I can't help but think Scott might have had that in mind when he kept his mouth shut about the Amber thing. It may not seem probable to you or to most people, I guess, I'm just saying for me it seems possible. He didn't lawyer up right away and should have so he could get some good advice on how to handle it. And the fact that he didn't lawyer up right away also speaks to innocence for me as well.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

so, if scott lawyered up right away, you would see that as a sign of guilt? but then you say he should have lawyered up right away....

Burkey said...

Yes. Having an advocate in an unfamiliar system that plays for keeps is really important. I didn't know that before I started reading about this case.

Burkey said...

But no, I would not necessarily see that as a sign of guilt. It would depend on what happened from there and upon the total picture, which is what I am going by. The picture would be different had he done that and I can't know how because it didn't happen that or any other way.