Monday, April 4, 2011

Failed theories -- the chicken wire

Some of the theories produced in this case are downright ridiculous.  One such theory is the chicken wire theory.  I've had a Fact Sheet up on SII for a very long time which gives all of the details of this theory, and how it was proven false.   I repost it here to refresh memories or to make it available to those who have not yet seen it.  



Collected on: December 27, 2002
Collected by:  Detective Dodge Hendee
Reason:  A hair wrapped around the pliers
Media Reports: 
Received by: 
Received on:  N/A
Case No:  CV-02-010941
Request No:  07
Tested by:  Sarah Yoshida, Sr. Criminalist
Bates No. for Report: N/A
Results: N/A

Initial Suspicion
The pliers were found in the bottom of the boat, under one of the seats.  Because they had a hair, they were thought to have been used to cut some wire that tied the anchors to Laci's body, specifically an anchor around the neck. 

Detective Grogan was immediately suspicious of the roll of chicken wire in Scott's truck, and on December 30, 2002, he asked Scott about it.  Scott told him he had recently purchased it to put around the trees and shrubs in the backyard to prevent the cats from scratching them.  Scott's answer made him more suspicious.
GROGAN: It seemed odd that, first of all, that it was in the truck.  And then when he told me that he had just bought it from Home Depot, he hadn't used it yet, if you look at the photographs, it's partially unwound. And it kind of has a jagged edge, or jagged cut on the outer edge. And then there is another wire attached to it.
From Geragos' cross-examination of Grogan, we find out that Scott told Grogan he had purchased the chicken wire about 2 weeks earlier, had it at the warehouse in his office, then decided to bring it home.  He told Grogan he had not yet used it.

On January 3, 2003, Grogan sent Detective Ron Reed to the Home Depot to see how it was packaged.  Under cross-examination by Geragos, Grogan admits that Reed went to both Lowe's and Home Depot and interviewed people.  At both stores, they cut the chicken wire in 25 and 50 foot lengths.  Detective Reed measured the roll of chicken wire from Scott's truck, and it measured 24.5 feet. 

The Working Theory
The MPD also theorized that Laci had been wrapped in the chicken wire. 
GERAGOS: Still in February, however, it was still this working theory that as of February 13th that Laci Peterson had been possibly wrapped in chicken wire, and that was something that information that was given to a Dr. Ralph Cheng; isn't that correct?
GROGAN: Yes, it appears to be accurate.
GERAGOS: Okay. That was one of the two possible theories. It was either four anchors at eight pounds each or wrapped in chicken wire or some form of plastic wrap, correct?
GROGAN: Yes.
GERAGOS: And Ralph Cheng is somebody who was hired or was retained or contacted by the prosecution in terms of trying to figure out where a body, if it was placed in the bay would be in the bay, correct?
GROGAN: He was contacted by Modesto Police Department, yes.
February 18-19 Search
On February 14, 2003, in a discussion with the Department of Justice, Grogan decided to have the tool mark comparison done, to determine if the pliers had been used to cut the chicken wire.

One of the purposes of the February 18-19 search of 523 Covena was to examine the trees and shrubs in the backyard, which Grogan did personally.  In fact, he included the trees and shrubs in the crime scene video. 
FLADAGER: During the course of the search warrant did you do an examination of trees in the back of the defendant's yard?
GROGAN: Yes.
FLADAGER: Why did you do that?
GROGAN: Because he, he had told, told us earlier that he had the chicken wire in his truck because he wanted to put it around the trees in his yard. So, and he said the purpose for that was because the cats were scratching the trees. I, so due to that, I examined all the trees and shrubs that they had in the backyard to see if that was in fact happening.
FLADAGER: And what did you determine?
GROGAN: I determined that there were several stakes and trees and shrubs in the backyard that had scratch marks on it and, in fact, much later when we were getting ready to leave from the search warrant I saw one of the cats scratching on one of the trees.
>>>>
FLADAGER: And, detective, let me ask you this, why did you think it was important to go ahead and videotape each and every one of these trees in the backyard?
GROGAN: That was something that the defendant had said and there was evidence there that showed that he was telling the truth on that; that those trees had been scratched by something.
FLADAGER: Any indication on any of these trees of chicken wire around them?
GROGAN: No.
Under cross-examination, Grogan noted specifically that 4 trees had scratch marks on them.

Exhibits
People's 116A, the chicken wire in the bed of the truck.  Defendants 6X 1-2 show the same.  Click to enlarge.




Test Results
Sarah Yoshida described her examination of both the pliers and the chicken wire.  The yellow-handled pliers were not used to cut the chicken wire.

HARRIS: Now, based on what you saw of these particular pliers, Modesto PD number 144, and depicted in 214 B, could you tell if those had been used to cut the chicken wire
YOSHIDA: No.
HARRIS: "No" you couldn't tell or "no," they weren't used to cut the chicken wire
YOSHIDA: They were not used to cut the chicken wire.
HARRIS: And how is it that you were able to determine that
YOSHIDA: Well, what I did, going back, I examined the cut ends of the chicken wire. I did not use these specific tools because I knew by looking at them that there had been change over time. There was no recent, as in no rust has been cleared from cutting anything,
HARRIS: Let me stop you there. What do you mean by that, that rust had not been cleared by cutting anything
YOSHIDA: Well, when you, when you have something that's rusted and you use it to cut something, some of that rust is going to get brushed away, so you're going to see clear areas on the cutting edge where the rust has been removed. So you're going to see metal, and what you can see in the photographs is all I could really see was rust all along the cutting surfaces. This is going to create change, any type of tool mark that I, test mark that I would have made. So what I did was I took tools that were similar to this in the laboratory and used them to cut some of the chicken wire. And the cuts that I made were nothing at all like what I observed at the end of the chicken wire. So the chicken wire was not even cut with a similar tool like these types of cutting surfaces.
HARRIS: Just to go back through this, break this down so that we all understand. When you use a tool to cut a piece of wire, like this chicken wire, does it leave some type of distinct impression or mark that you can look at?
JUDGE: Talking about on the tool or on the chicken wire?
HARRIS: Have her, On either one or both
YOSHIDA: It can be on either one or both. Sometimes it's a mark you can use, and sometimes it's a mark that you can't use.
HARRIS: Now, when we're talking about cutting the chicken wire, you use a tool to cut it, does it create a straight cut? Or angled cut? Or what was it that you found on the chicken wire
YOSHIDA: What I found on the chicken wire wasn't really a straight cut or a sharp angle cut. It appeared to be more of a shearing. It was more sheared than actual cut. It looked like it had been maybe, whatever tool was used on it maybe stretched and pulled a little bit before the ends actually broke apart from one another. But with the wire cutters, or with, excuse me, the needle-nosed pliers and its wire-cutting surfaces, the tool edges were very angular, and those are the types of marks I saw. So on the chicken wire I saw tented type cut, or cut ends on my test marks. But that's not what I saw on the chicken wire.
HARRIS: So in terms of the physical mechanics of how that worked, you were able to tell from looking at the test tool and the chicken wire that this type of tool was not the one that had cut the chicken wire
YOSHIDA: Correct.
HARRIS: So regardless of whether these were recently rusted or had been rusted over two months, this tool did not make that cut
YOSHIDA: Correct.

Yoshida confirmed that a pair of red-handled wire cutters, also collected as evidence, had not been used to cut the chicken wire.
HARRIS: Now, were you also given another pair of red handled pliers
YOSHIDA: I believe they were wire cutters.
HARRIS: Wire cutters. And your particular number for that was, 151 A is what it was identified as
YOSHIDA: Yes.
HARRIS: And so, again so that we're just talking about making sure it's the same, that we're all on the same page, these wire cutters, do they have the same type of mechanical properties of this particular pliers? Or is it something different
YOSHIDA: Similar. Looked like the pliers.
HARRIS: So it's, it's a pair of wire cutters which has mechanical function that comes together in some teeth or blade portions that squeezes the wire together
YOSHIDA: Correct.
HARRIS: Did you get that same kind of tent as you were describing it when you practiced a test cut with the wire cutters
YOSHIDA: Yes.
HARRIS: So with the two items that were provided by the Modesto Police Department, the red handled wire cutters and the 144, these yellow-handled pliers, those are not the items that cut that chicken wire
YOSHIDA: Correct.

Conclusion
Once again, even though the State's theories are proven wrong, the lead detective will not admit it:
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, specifically the fact of the matter is, as you sit here, though, today, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever if you fast forward to the recovery of Laci Peterson's body the chicken wire had anything to do with anything, correct?
GROGAN: Well, there's no evidence that chicken wire was attached to her body that we had recovered, that's correct.
Yes, there is always some mythical evidence still out there that they just haven't been able to find.  Get over it, Detective Grogan, that mythical evidence exists nowhere but in your imagination.   

3 comments:

Burkey said...

These are great entries. I wish I had more time to post lately. We just got back from a trip to the mountains and I did not look at a computer the whole time. It was nice!!! It's back to the salt mines now, but I'm very glad to see that you're writing. Thanks.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

chicken wire around the trees and the shrubs in the backyard? not very martha stewart like...

Marlene Newell said...

Martha Stewart most certainly does have advice about putting chicken wire around trees and shrubs to protect them from pets.

"Here are several solutions, from Martha Stewart:

Sticking toothpicks around the plant, with about 3/4" out of the ground, will deter your pets. The sharp points will scare them!

Covering the soil with chicken wire and rocks will make the soil inaccessible. Wrap the chicken wire around the plant or tree first. Secure it in place. Then, place large decorative rocks on top.

Misting your plants with a garlic and pepper spray will deter your pets by scent. To make the spray, mix 1 quart water, 4 tbsp. of red-pepper flakes, and 2 tbsp. of garlic powder, strain the mixture so it's just liquid, and pour into a spray bottle."

So, yes, this was VERY Martha Stewart-like.