Monday, October 2, 2017

Adam Corolla podcast

Here's a very interesting Podcast by Adam Corolla.  Mark Geragos is the guest in the first half of the podcast.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The problem with eye-witness testimony

Eye witness testimony is one of the 2 types of evidence that can be presented in a trial.  The person tells what he or she witnessed and the jurors decide whether the witness is credible.  
Eyewitness testimony can . . . be critiqued on several grounds: having impaired perception, having impaired memory, having an inconsistent testimony, having bias or prejudice, and not having a reputation for telling the truth. If any of those characteristics can be demonstrated, then the competency of a witness is questionable. (Eyewitness Testimony, Memory and Psychology)

"Mistaken or flawed identification has assumed a newfound prominence in recent years: It's been cited as a factor in nearly 78 percent of the nation's first 130 convictions later overturned by DNA testing" ("How reliable is eyewitness testimony?" American Psychological Association, April 2006, Vol. 37, No. 4).

One of the problems affecting the credibility of an eye witness identification is visual impairment caused by distance.  Geoffrey Loftus, PhD, a University of Washington perception and cognition psychology professor, "began seeking a way to visually present to juries the proposition that people's ability to decipher details degrades rapidly as a person or object moves further away.  'At 10 feet, you might not be able to see individual eyelashes on a person's face,' he says. 'At 200 feet, you would not even be able to see a person's eyes. At 500 feet, you could see the person's head but just one big blur. There is equivalence between size and blurriness-by making something smaller you lose the fine details'." ("How reliable is eyewitness testimony?", American Psychological Association, April 2006, Vol. 37, No. 4).

Another problem with eye witness evidence is that the memory is not perfect.  As Elizabeth Loftus describes in her book Memory: Surprising New Insights into How We Remember and Why We Forget:
Memory is imperfect. This is because we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory. Another force is at work. The memory traces can actually undergo distortion. With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed. These distortions can be quite frightening, for they can cause us to have memories of things that never happened. Even in the most intelligent among us is memory thus malleable.
"Memory is not so much a static state as it is an ongoing process - and one which never happens in quite the same way twice. This is why we should have a skeptical, critical attitude towards all eyewitness testimony and all reports from memory - even our own and no matter what the subject, however mundane." (Eyewitness Testimony, Memory and Psychology)

Eye witness testimony isn't just important to a State's case; sometimes defendants must rely heavily on it, too.  Such is the case with Scott Peterson -- he relies on the credibility of several eye witnesses to confirm that Laci was still alive when he left for the warehouse on the morning of December 24, 2002.  Many people simply dismiss those eye witnesses out of hand, citing the general unreliability of eye witnesses.

It is true that sincere people may have thought they saw Laci, but were mistaken and saw someone else.  Or they may have thought they saw her on December 24, when in fact they saw her on another day.  Certainly, they may have been affected by the public information that Laci was wearing a white top and black pants, but the Missing Persons posters didn't have Laci wearing a white top and black pants.  These are the pictures as they appeared on the Missing Persons poster, and also as used by the media.

Dismissing all eye witness sightings because some are flawed is just ridiculous.  There are six  significant factors that significantly increase the credibility of the 7 eye witness sightings reported in the A&E docuseries.  

First, Laci was not alone, she was with McKenzie.  Laci wasn't just a woman walking, or a pregnant woman walking.  She was a pregnant woman walking McKenzie, a golden retriever.
This photo of McKenzie is People's Exhibit no. 27A.
Second, she was very close to the person(s) who saw her.  The Maldonado's, Tony Freitas, Frank and Martha Aguilar, and Gene Pedrioli all drove by Laci and McKenzie walking along the sidewalk.   The Mitchell's saw Laci and McKenzie as they walked in front of their home.  Chiavetta saw Laci and McKenzie in the park while he and his own dog were playing in the park.  Campos was the furthest away from Laci and McKenzie, but she could see McKenzie well enough to notice the distinguishing white fur on his chest.

Third, there was something else that made the sighting more memorable.  The Maldonado's saw McKenzie up on his hind legs and wondered if he might knock Laci over.  Freitas also saw 2 scrubby looking men at the bus stop very near where Laci and McKenzie were walking.  The Aguilar's thought it very foolish for Laci to not have on a coat.  The Mitchells thought McKenzie wanted to go one way and Laci another.  Campos saw and heard the 2 men that were harassing Laci.  Chiavetta was paying much more attention to McKenzie because his own dog was off leash.

Fourth, the sightings collectively form a walk route for Laci and McKenzie.  For a good visual of the walk route, please refer to Laci's Walk - The A&E Docuseries, written by Jane Hamilton.  

Fifth, none of these eye witnesses knew that the others had also seen Laci and McKenzie that morning along that route.  They were not influenced by each other's account. 

Sixth, while it was widely reported that Laci and McKenzie walked in the park, 5 of these 7 sightings were not in the park.  The Campos sighting was in a different part of the park than where Laci was reported to have walked.

These are the women the Prosecution paraded before the jury to prove the eye witnesses were mistaken.  I have links to both the testimonies and the maps/photos.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Prosecution Witness #133:  Martin Dempewolf  Testimony
Dempewolf's wife was 9 months pregnant on Dec. 24, '02, and she was walking her dog, a chocolate Lab, in the Dry Creek Park that day.  He said she left between 9;15 and 9:30, and the walk took about 45-60 minutes.  She walked through the subdivisions to La Loma, entered the park, walked through the park to the paved path, continued on Edgebrooke to Covena, down Covena to Encina and then home.  Geragos reviewed the statements he gave to Bertalotto in Jan '04, indicating he couldn't specify the time she took the walk.  And, in response to Geragos' last question, he replied:  My wife has a good memory, I don't. 
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #134:  Jordan Visola-Prescott, Pregnant Neighborhood Walker  Testimony
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #135:  Elizabeth Guptill, Pregnant neighborhood walker  Testimony
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #136:  Jill Lear, Pregnant Neighborhood walker  Testimony
Exhibits Introduced
These three women were all pregnant on Dec 24, '02, lived in the La Loma neighborhood, and regularly took walks.  Prescott could not say with certainty she walked the morning of the 24th, and the other two were certain they did not walk that morning.  When Prescott did walk, she pulled her daughter along in a red wagon, and her dog is a lab mix.  When Guptill walked, she often was pushing her son in a jogging stroller, and she didn't have a dog.  Lear's dog was a Australian Shepherd, and she usually walked in the afternoons.  Prescott was 2 1/2 months pregnant with twins, Guptill was 5 months pregnant, and Lear was 6 1/2 months pregnant on December 24, 2002.

Thursday, September 9, 2004
Prosecution Witness #137:  Kim Westphal, Covena Walker  Testimony
Westphal routinely walks a route that takes her from Edgebrooke down Covena to Encina, right past the Peterson home.  She testified that she did take her walk on Dec 24 '02 and arrived at Covena about 10:50 am, and she did not see anything out of the ordinary.  Westphal's testimony, however, didn't agree with what she told officers going door-to-door on the night of Dec. 24.  She told them she couldn't be sure she walked down Covena that morning.  Her testimony seemed to contradict what she told her neighbor and her mother about her activities on the morning of the 24th.  Westphal walked with another woman, Dana Evans, who has not yet been called to testify.
Exhibits Introduced

Prosecution Witness #138:  Patricia Mewhinney, Park Walker  Testimony
Mewhinney testified that she walked her dog in the Park the morning of Dec. 24, from the tennis courts to the golf course and then back again. She said it was cold and damp that morning, and she wore a winter coat. She didn't see anything out of the ordinary in the park that day. She has long blond hair, and her dog is a black, part Lab and part German Shepherd.  She arrived at home after her walk by 9:30.
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #139:  Brian Lee  Testimony
Lee said he ran his usual run along the park's bike trail on the morning of Dec. 24, leaving his home at 10:00 am.  He said he would have arrived at the Covena trail about 15 minutes later.  The weather was cold, so he wore sweats instead of shorts, and he didn't see anyone on the bike trail. Geragos pointed out that his testimony disagreed with the information he gave when interviewed last summer.  Then he told police he took his run sometime before noon, sometime between 10 and 11:30.  He runs with a chocolate Lab.
Prosecution Witness #140:  Joan Lee (wife of previous witness)  Testimony
Dec 24 '02 Lee was 4-4.5 months pregnant. She walked with her husband and their dog in the evenings, and their walk took them past Vivian Mitchell's home. She was certain they walked on the evening of the 24th, but probably didn't from the 17th to the 14th.  She was interviewed by Det. Grogan in June '03, and she told him she couldn't be certain how often she walked in December. 
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #141:  Dianne Heaston Merenda, Park Walker  Testimony
Blonde, with a golden retriever, she lived in the La Loma neighborhood.  She would walk early morning, about 7 a.m., go down the Covena path into the park, walk to the pump house and back and exit the park using the paved Edgebrook path. The walk usually took her 20-30 minutes. She was certain she did not walk on the 24th, and she could not be sure how often she walked around that time frame.  She was not pregnant on Dec. 24.
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #142:  Melba Martinez  Testimony
Lives in La Loma neighborhood and has 2 golden retrievers.  Her walk route included Covena from Edgebrook to Encina.  Her usual walk time is 6:30-7:00 am, but she sometimes goes later and sometimes walks in the evenings.  She walks only one dog at a time.  She couldn't recall walking either the 23rd or the 24th. 
Exhibits Introduced
Prosecution Witness #143:  Amy Neumann, pregnant woman  Testimony
Lives on Buena Vista. Did not walk on Dec. 24. Introduced to Laci when Laci was involved with making a traffic study video for the Encina Street project, which is separate from the Thousand Oaks Park and Trail project Laci was also involved in.  Her dog is a poodle.  She was pregnant at the time and under doctor's orders to rest with her feet up in the afternoons, and she would lay on the couch and watch the activity in front of her house.  Her dog would bark when other people or dogs went by.  She was not at home on Dec. 24 from 10 am to 1 pm. 
Exhibits Introduced

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Emperor's New Clothes

In 1837, Hans Christian Anderson published the short story, The Emperor's New Clothes.  

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room."
In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid. 
"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night. 
"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.
"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better." 
So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms. 
"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so. 
Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth."
"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers. 
"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."
"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did. 
The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever. 
The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything. 
"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern. 
"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."
All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms. 
"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff. 
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!
Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything. 
His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver." 
Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him." 
Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine." 
"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see. 
"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror." 
The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.
"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."
Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside." 
"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.
The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold. 
So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.
"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.
"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on."
"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last. 
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.
People, like me, that don't see the circumstantial evidence the State claimed was there -- and such good evidence, so neatly fitting together -- are labeled as
  • stupid,
  • unfit,
  • unreasonable,
  • closed-minded,
  • delusional,
  • crazy,
  • idiots
We've been called obscene and vulgar names, accused of being in love with Scott, of wanting to marry Scott, of loving a murderer, of hating the Rocha family.  We've been vilified and threatened.

The State's case against Scott was a con game.  In reality, the only 2 pieces of evidence presented by the State that "fit together" are:
  1. Scott went fishing from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island on the morning Laci went missing, and 
  2. The bodies washed ashore in the vicinity of his fishing route.
Were it not for those two circumstances, the State's case could not have conned the jury or the public into believing Scott was guilty.  But those two circumstances did not happen in a vacuum.  There were other circumstances that the State failed to present, for one reason or another.  So the real list, the real evidence, looks something like this.
  1. Laci was on the computer the morning of Christmas Eve, 2002
  2. Scott left to go fishing at the Berkeley Marina
  3. Laci went for her walk with McKenzie
  4. Laci came home from her walk
  5. Laci saw the burglary across the street and Todd verbally threatened her
  6. Diane Jackson saw the van, the 3 men, and the safe being removed from the Medina home
  7. No one has ever reported seeing Laci after Todd verbally threatened her
  8. The safe and other stolen items were found in Steve Todd's possession
  9. Steve Todd confessed to the burglary
  10. Donald Pearce admitted using his mother's white car to help with the burglary
  11. The other men that Jackson saw have never been identified
  12. The van Jackson saw has never been identified
  13. The MPD immediately gave out Scott's alibi
  14. Jan 2, the MPD publicized pictures of Scott's truck and boat
  15. At least by Jan 5, the MPD publicized that Scott motored to the from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island, and even published a map of the area
  16. Testimony from Drs. March and Jeanty explains that Conner died between December 29 and January 3
  17. Testimony from Dr. Galloway estimates Laci could have lived until January 14
  18. The shoreline in the area of Scott's fishing route has several places where a car could just pull up along the shoreline and heave a body into the water
  19. The searches at the Bay were not 24/7; that shoreline was not under constant surveillance; many days there were no searches going on; the shoreline was just as accessible at night as it was during the day
  20. The bodies washed ashore along that same shoreline
Therefore, Steve Todd, not Scott Peterson, is the last known person to see Laci alive.  If Todd had nothing to do with Laci's disappearance, he needs to come forward and clear his name.  If Laci was still alive after her encounter with him, where did she go?  What did she do?  He needs to be man enough to admit he saw Laci alive that morning so we can get on with figuring out what did happen to Laci.  Otherwise, this circumstantial evidence case will some day be presented against him.  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Laci's Walk - The A&E Docuseries

Among the many revelations in the recent A&E Docuseries, “The Murder of Laci Peterson,” was the appearance of several people who saw Laci walking in the neighborhood with her dog McKenzie on December 24 during the time period after Scott left home.  This map identifies the people who appeared or were mentioned in the series and the locations of their sightings.  It shows the 2+mile well-defined route from the time Laci left home until she returned around an hour later.

Sometime after Karen Servas returned McKenzi to the Peterson’s yard between 10:10 and 10:18 on December 24 and before Russell Graybill delivered the mail between 10:35 and 10:50, Laci opened the gate and took McKenzi for a walk.  She did not head to La Loma park, but rather south on Covena.  When Laci reached 211 Covena Avenue just north of Miller, she and McKenzi were seen by Homer Maldonado shortly after he and his wife left a gas station at Miller and Camellia.  A few blocks later, in the area of the triangular park on La Loma Avenue at Santa Barbara, she and McKenzi were seen by Tony Freitas who was on his regular delivery route.  Continuing northwest on La Loma Avenue, she and McKenzi were seen by Frank Aguilar and his wife, Martha, who were driving toward downtown Modesto.  One block further at the intersection of La Loma Avenue and Buena Vista, she and McKenzi were seen by Gene Pedrioli as they were getting ready to cross the street to Kewin Park.  She apparently did not enter the park at that time but continued on to Del Rio Avenue where she turned south and then east on La Sombra Avenue.  Just as she turned back north on Buena Vista Avenue toward the park, she and McKenzi were seen by Vivian Mitchell whose husband Bill came to the window just in time to see the dog who was trying to go in the opposite direction.

When Laci and McKenzie got back to La Loma Avenue, they apparently entered Kewin Park by the steps leading down from entrance at the corner.  It would have been unusual for Laci to go into this area of the park because of the high concentration of homeless people who congregated in the adjacent Moose Park; but just at the intersection of the trail leading to the path east, there was a public bathroom which may explain her decision.  Apparently, she then continued on the path going east through Dry Creek park but after just a few minutes ran into a couple of homeless men who started harassing her and yelling at McKenzi; so she turned back toward the entrance of Kewin Park.  It was at this time she was seen by Diana Campos who was taking a smoking break shortly before she was to start her work shift at the hospital.  When Laci got back near the entrance, she must have taken the stairs leading up to Buena Vista Avenue.

Continuing on Buena Vista to Encina and then up to Edgebrook Drive, she would have been on her way home.  When they reached Covena,  McKenzi may have pulled her toward the park entrance where Mike Chiavetta noticed him near the fence on the path that leads down into the park.  Chiavetta was concentrating on the dog, as his dog was off leash at the time, but he also noticed someone with the dog who fit Laci’s description.  Shortly after the Chiavetta sighting, Laci returned home.  Apparently she put McKenzi back in the yard and closed the gate and went inside the house where she changed clothes from black pants to tan.  She may then have gone out through the front gate to get the mail when she noticed something suspicious going on at Medina’s.  According to the Aponte tip and statement, Laci confronted Steve Todd and others as they were starting the burglary.  Exactly what happened to Laci after that is not known.  She was never seen again until her body and the body of her son, Conner, were found in April on the shores of the San Francisco Bay.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can't see the forest for the trees

The title statement simply means that sometimes people are too close to a situation (the trees) to see the bigger picture (the forest).  But when you stand a ways back, and aren't so emotionally invested in the guilty verdict, the evidence starts to make sense, and it says quite plainly, Scott is Innocent.

Here's an article from Daily Mail in the UK that is well worth the read.  It highlights the Diane Jackson sighting of the van and 3 men in front of the Medina home on the morning of 12-24-02, and Ted Rowlands adamant assertion that the Medina burglary did not happen on the morning of the 26th, as claimed by Todd and Pearce and believed by the MPD, because he did the early show for his TV station and he was there, right in front of the Peterson house that morning starting at 5 am, keeping a very intense lookout for anyone he might be able to interview live for his show.

The Daily Mail is a British tabloid, like the Enquirer is a US tabloid.  But unlike so many of the Enquirer articles during the investigation and trial that only cited "sources close to the investigation," or "sources close to the family, " or something similar, never giving a name or face to the source, this articles does give names and faces to its sources.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Coming to grips with the truth

I understand that many people are very convinced that Scott Peterson is stone-cold guilty.  Or as radaronline put it, "the nation's most cold-hearted killer since OJ." In an article published just today,  Radaronline reported excerpts from the Enquirer-produced documentary on Investigation Discovery channel.

I also understand that investigators and DA's have confidence in their cases -- I don't think it would be too healthy if they were always second-guessing themselves.  However, I think a great deal of objectivity and humility is essential in a job that has the authority to affect people's lives in a very profound way for a very long time.

Mark Smith is a private investigator out of Tracy, CA.  His website. Mark Smith Investigations, gives this summary of his investigative experience on the About Us page, emphasis added.

Hello, my name is Mark Smith and I'm the owner of Mark Smith Investigations.  I recently retired from a 28 year law enforcement career. I spent the first 10 years of my career as a municipal police officer and detective in the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent the last almost 18 years as a Criminal Investigator and Lieutenant of Investigators for the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office. While working with the District Attorney I worked assignments in Homicide, Major Narcotics, Public Corruption, and Mortgage Fraud. I was most recently assigned to the FBI's San Joaquin Valley Mortgage Fraud Task Force and was cross-designated as a Special Deputy United States Marshal. I worked real estate and mortgage fraud cases enforcing both State and Federal law and helped to prosecute cases in both State and Federal Courts.

While with the District Attorney I spent seven years as a Lieutenant supervising a staff of Criminal Investigators and civilian employees. I supervised the District Attorney Investigations staff that was assigned to the Scott Peterson murder trial and I coordinated much of the logistics for the trial. Also while with the District Attorney I conducted numerous internal employee investigations for misconduct as well as numerous pre-employment background investigations. I also worked many criminal investigations involving government employees, including cases involving police officers and elected officials.
Mark Smith has been commenting on the A&E Murder of Laci Peterson Facebook page.  To do so is his right.  He is no longer with the DA's office and the gag order was lifted by Judge Delucchi in March 2005 after the sentencing.

He frequently comments on the "lies" in the series, often attributing those lies to the Peterson family or the SPA group.  He expects people to take his word for everything he says because he "was there."  And he actually was there.  However, he does not have a good command of the facts and corrects the alleged lies in the series with his own lies -- or should I more politely say, his own misinformation.

One particular "lie" that he accused the SPA team of in last night's episode involved public knowledge of Scott's fishing route from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island.  He argues that the MPD did put out information early on that Scott went to the Marina, but it was a long time before the media was aware of Scott's claim to have been by Brooks Island.  Here is a major portion of his comment.

As a member of the SPA Team, I have collected a lot of information over the years, especially media coverage.  I don't know exactly what Smith means by "a long time," as time is relevant, but there was media coverage of the MPD search of the Brooks Island on January 4, 2003.  That was only 2 days after the MPD released photos of Scott's truck and boat and asked if anyone recalled seeing the truck or boat to call the MPD.

How do I know there was media coverage of the search of Brooks Island on January 4?  Because the Modesto Bee newspaper carried the story the next day, complete with pictures and an interview with Sgt. Ron Cloward, who was overseeing the search.  It's most likely that, given the intense coverage of this case, the TV networks showed footage of the search and identified where the search was taking place as it was happening on the 4th, and the newspapers followed up with details in the next morning's edition on the 5th.  The Modesto Bee certainly did.

The Modesto Bee article not only specifically stated that Scott launched his boat at the Marina but that he also "went northwest and fished around Brooks Island."  The Modesto Bee newspaper even included a map insert showing Brooks Island. 

Now you can determine for yourself whether 2 days is "a long time."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Mailman's Timeline

This information updates and corrects information previously included in the article "The Mailman's Timeline" published on March 1, 2008.


Russell Graybill was scheduled to deliver mail to 500 homes (testimony) during the course of his day. He had the kind of route that is called a park and loop. He would park at a certain spot and then get out of his truck and deliver mail on foot to all the houses that area.  There were scan points on a few mailboxes along his route to determine where he was at certain times.

On December 24, 2002 he arrived at his first scan at 10:19 a.m. and at his last scan at 3:41 p.m. for a total of 5 hours and 22 minutes delivery time.

Graybill’s Route Scan Schedule

This is the schedule that Graybill printed out showing his scan times for December 24, 2002. It includes a notation about the time he delivered mail to the Peterson house. This was entered as Prosecution Exhibit 34.

Graybill’s Testimony

Prosecution Exhibit 33, which was used during Graybill’s testimony, does not show the houses on Rowlands, south of Encina, where he delivered mail in the first part of his route.

Excerpts from Graybill’s testimony:
My first stop would be 1402 Encina. I would walk down 1424, go across the street, deliver all these houses here, come back across Encina, go down Rowland, to the 400 block, which is off the map, come back up, come back to my vehicle. That's the first relay. Then I would get in my vehicle and I would drive to 1520 Encina, and I would shut the vehicle off, get out, drop the mail at that house. Drive around here, shut the vehicle off, drop the mail, drive around, shut the vehicle off. Same thing at 1515. Then I would park the vehicle……………
HARRIS:  And specifically looking at Covena, do you see the boxes starting to the right side of Covena above where it says Pierre Park 508, 516, 525 (sic), 526?    
GRAYBILL:  Yes, sir.
HARRIS:  And do those represent the houses on the -- that would be the east side of the Covena Street?
GRAYBILL:  The street addresses, yes, sir.
HARRIS:  And then starting from the bottom and working on the west side of the street, 511, 517, 523. 523 Covena?
GRAYBILL:  Yes, sir.

Interpretation of the route based on testimony:

·       Graybill’s first scan was at 1424 Encina). He parked at 1402 Encina Avenue and delivered mail to that house and to the scan point  (*yellow) at 1424 (2 houses).  Then he crossed Encina to the north side of the street and delivered mail to some of the houses on that block (5 houses). After that, he crossed back over Encina and delivered mail up and down Rowlands in the 400 block (16 houses).
·       Then he got back in his truck and drove to 1520 Encina where he parked and delivered to that house (1 house.)
·        He turned north on the access road that runs along the vineyard and drove up to the short block of Encina where he parked and delivered to 1519 Encina (1 house); and then parked and delivered at 1515 Encina (1 house).
·        Graybill then parked at the corner of ”little Encina“ and Covena and got out of his truck to deliver to 8 houses on the 500 block of Covena.  He started up the east side of the street for the houses at 508, 516, 520, 526, then crossed over to the west side for the houses at 529, 523, 517, and 511.
·         (The only people home at the time were Fleischman-508, Krigbaum/Venable-520 , and possibly Servas-517.)  Detail:
o    508 -  Fleischman – home
o    516 -  Medina – away, left home at 10:32 for a trip to Los Angeles
o    520 -  Krigbaum/Venable – sleeping until 10:38, did not get up right away
o    526 -  Wilmes - away
o    529 -  Reed – vacant (B2443)
o    523 -  Peterson – gate open, McKenzie not there
o    517 -  Servas – found dog no later than 10:18 and then left for errands
o    511 -  Ikerd – away
·         Then he got back into his truck and drove south on Covena across Encina to deliver to the 400 block of Covena.

Missing Information From Graybill Included in the Habeas document

From the habeas document:

On December 27, 2002, Graybill was interviewed Officer M. Callahan and Detective Skultety of the Modesto Police Department.  According to Callahan’s handwritten police report, Graybill stated the following in response to the officer’s question “what he remembered from December 24, 2002 when he delivered mail in this area”:

……………“[Graybill] said he entered the area around 1030 to 1045 in the morning. He said he couldn’t remember anything unusual from 516 Covena, but remembered the gate was open at 523 Covena. He said usually the dog barks at him from behind the gate. On 12-24-02 the gate was open and he did not see or hear the dog at 523 Covena.” (See Exh. 3 at HCP-00008.)

More text from the habeas document:

Graybill was the Petersons’ postman, and he delivered mail to the Peterson home between 10:35 and 10:50 a.m. on December 24, 2002.  (Exhibit 2 [Declaration of Russell Graybill] at HCP-000005-06; Exhibit 19 [Russell Graybill’s Delivery Record].)  Graybill knew the Petersons’ dog, McKenzi, and explained to police (and has recently declared) that McKenzi would bark at him no matter where on the property the dog happened to be. (Exhibit 3 [Statement of Russell Graybill] at HCP-000008.)  Whether the dog was in the front or back yards, or even inside the house, McKenzi would bark at Graybill.  (Exh. 2 at HCP-000005.)


Russell Graybill told MPD officers on 12-27-02 that the gate was open and McKenzie was not on the property at the time he delivered mail to the Peterson house between 10:35 and 10:50 on December 24.  In spite of this information, MPD claimed that Laci had gone missing before Karen Servas found McKenzi in the street at 10:18, put him back in the yard, and closed the gate.  The  Graybill information shows that Laci was not missing when Servas found McKenzi.  She was very much alive, and took McKenzi for a walk sometime after Servas found him and before Graybill arrived to deliver the mail.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dr. Cheng - Tidal Evidence

Anyone familiar with the Scott Peterson trial knows that tidal evidence, as presented by Dr. Ralph Cheng, played a significant role in Scott's conviction.  It's not that he was needed to prove that Laci was in the Bay, but to prove no one else put her in the Bay, only Scott could have put Laci in the Bay.

The Prosecutors knew there was a likelihood that Scott's defense lawyer, Mark Geragos, would argue that someone else killed Laci and put her where it was widely publicized that he had been on the 24th -- fishing along a route from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island.  So the killer(s) simply put her body there. 

The Prosecution also likely knew that the killer(s) wouldn't need a boat to put her in the area that would naturally incriminate Scott.  Indeed, there are numerous places along the shoreline from the Berkeley Marina to Richmond that a car could have pulled up alongside the shoreline and simply dumped a body in.  And there are places along that shoreline with very large riprap and other debris on which a body could get caught and be concealed from public view.  Especially at the Albany Bulb. 

Where ever she washed ashore, whenever she washed ashore, the police, the media, and the public would conclude that Scott was guilty. 

How do I know they likely knew these things?  Because I assume they had the intelligence to anticipate arguments from the defense and be sure they could counter them.  So they would investigate the area themselves to see if there was another way Geragos could argue the bodies could have gotten into the Bay.

Dr. Cheng's role was to show that the bodies came from Scott's fishing route, not somewhere along the shoreline.  He first had to explain why it took so long for the bodies to wash ashore.  He said it was a combination of strong winds on April 12, 2003 concurrent with a negative low tide that caused the bodies to dislodge and begin moving towards shore.

In his words,  "wow, quite a wind event during that day. I really recall in my own mind, you can see now the scientific records showed us now during that particular period of time, in the morning, or starting from the midnight of the midnight April 11th, or early morning of April 12th, you can see wind exceeded 40 knots. 40 knots, wind exceeded. Also a sustained wind for long period of time, subsided slightly, but still continued on for another good twelve, eighteen hours with wind average around twenty knots per hour. So that is quite a magnitude of wind. And during that period of time, there was occurrence of a very low tide right after noon of April 12th."  

Let's look at the 3 elements of his argument for this "wind event" on April 11-12:

  • Wind exceeded 40 knots
  • Sustained winds of average 20 knots for 12-18 hours
  • Concurrent with the very low tide right after noon of April 12
I fact-checked Dr. Cheng's claims by surveying 11 area weather stations that measured wind and had their data online.  I also copied a graph of the tide on April 12 from the NOAA Richmond station to compare with the wind data. I started with the wind stations closest to where the bodies washed ashore and spread out from there.  I surveyed: 
  1. the NOAA Richmond Station,
  2. the UC Richmond Station,
  3. the East Bay Municipal Utility District station on Point Isabel, 
  4. the Oakland North RAWS (Remote Automated Weather Station),
  5. the wind station at the Berkeley Marina,
  6. the wind station on Angel Island,
  7. the wind station on Treasure Island,
  8. the Oakland South RAWS (Remote Automated Weather Station),
  9. the NOAA Alameda station,
  10. the wind station on Crown Beach in Alameda,
  11. the Oakland Airport weather station
Not a single one of these 11 stations verified Cheng's claims.  Why was it necessary to exaggerate and misrepresent that "wind event" on April 12?  Because the truth didn't cut the mustard.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A&E presenting its 6-week, 7-hour docuseries The murder of Laci Peterson

A&E Network will premiere the new six-episode, limited documentary series, THE MURDER OF LACI PETERSON showcasing new interviews with Scott Peterson himself from prison. The series explores the infamous Scott Peterson trial, the case that destroyed a family, gripped a nation and defined an era, as a vehicle for understanding America's criminal justice system and the ways in which outside influences can affect that system. "The Murder of Laci Peterson" is set to premiere Tuesday, August 15 at 10PM ET/PT on A&E.

"A&E is in the business of finding and uncovering the real stories behind some of the most impactful cultural moments that our audience hasn't heard and 'The Murder of Laci Peterson' does exactly that," said Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President and Head of Programming, A&E Network."The media's obsession with the Scott Peterson trial was unlike anything seen before. This new series will cut through the mass hysteria that has plagued and distorted the reporting of this story to deliver, for the first time, a definitive factual account by those who lived and breathed it every day."

The mystery of Laci Peterson's disappearance on Christmas Eve 2002 captivated the nation. Eight months pregnant, she vanished without a trace. Her body and that of her unborn child, Conner, appeared four months later on the shores of the San Francisco Bay causing a media frenzy on both a local and national level. To this day, no one knows exactly when, where or how she died, only that her husband Scott Peterson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, despite the absence of DNA evidence or eyewitness testimony. Scott Peterson's conviction was less a tribute to the efficacy of the legal system than it was a case study for the overwhelming power of modern media to deliver the facts of news in a way that creates irresistible tabloid fodder.

As the 15th Anniversary of Laci Peterson's disappearance approaches, "The Murder of Laci Peterson" takes a fresh, new look at the case, reexamining the circumstantial evidence and assessing the media's influence on the case and its outcome. This documentary series will include unprecedented access to Scott Peterson and his family as they speak directly and candidly about Scott's conviction. In addition, the series will include interviews with an expansive and impressive list of key eyewitnesses, experts, lawyers, cops, journalists, detectives (professional and amateur), including Nancy Grace, Gloria Allred, Amber Frey, Detectives Jon Buehler and Ed Steele, journalists Ken Auletta and Maureen Orth, reporters Gloria Gomez and Garth Stapley, Scott Peterson's trial co-counsel Pat Harris, his appellate attorney Cliff Gardner, attorney and CNN and ABC contributor Chris Pixley and local reporter turned CNN correspondent Ted Rowlands among many others.

"The Murder of Laci Peterson" is produced for A&E Network by Left/Right and BQE Films.Executive producers for Left/Right are Banks Tarver, Ken Druckerman, and John Marks.Executive producers for BQE Films are Shareen Anderson and Po Kutchins. Executive producers for A&E are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Amy Savitsky, Brad Abramson and Emily Flood. A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights for "The Murder of Laci Peterson."

Friday, April 21, 2017

The "newly unearthed interrogation video"

Dateline is using the guise of a "newly unearthed interrogation video" to draw attention to its 2-hour show on Scott's case tonite.  It's the interrogation that Brocchini did at midnight the day Laci disappeared, so there's nothing new about it -- in fact, it was shown in court and the transcript has been on pwc-SII for years.

A short clip is posed on Scott Peterson Appeal facebook page.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Watch for these two specials on Scott's case.

April 21st, Dateline, at 9 pm

May 7, Oxygen Channel, Snapped.  This appears to be the season's opener.

Here's a clip from Snapped.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The tests don't lie

The tests don't lie
So much is made, by those who believe Scott is guilty, that Scott lied so much how can anyone believe anything that he says. The truth of the matter is, we don't have to believe anything Scott says. We don't have to believe any one that has a vested interest in this case. We don't have to determine who is telling the truth and who isn't. We don't have to decide whose motives are pure and whose bias is objective.

Why? Because the forensic testing speaks loud and clear, and requires no interpretation, has no ulterior motive, and cannot be misunderstood.

It is not always the case that the forensic testing is so conclusive -- in some cases it still is very much subject to interpretation.

But, in this case, it is absolutely reliable.

Why? Because all of it contradicted the State's case. It was all collected by the State, controlled by the State, tested by the State, and reported by the State.

And all the tests came back NEGATIVE.

At every step of the way, those participating in its collection, testing, and reporting had a vested interest in the test results.

And all the tests came back NEGATIVE.

We don't have to take Scott's word for where he was on Dec. 24, and what time he was there, because he left a paper trail that proves, without bias, where he was and when.

We don't have to take Scott's word for why the mops and bucket were outside the door, or why anyone would be mopping the floor the day after the maid mopped, because the forensic testing proves with absolute certainty that the mops and bucket were not used to clean up a crime scene. That makes what they were used for totally irrelevant.

We don't have to understand why Scott washed his clothes or why and how they got wet, because the forensic testing proves with absolute certainty that he did not commit the crimes he was convicted of wearing those clothes. That makes everything else about the clothes totally irrelevant.

We don't have to understand why Scott was vacuuming on Dec 25, because the forensic testing proves with absolute certainty that the vacuum cleaner was not used to clean up a crime scene. That makes everything else about the vacuum cleaner or the vacuuming totally irrelevant.

We don't have to know where the pliers came from or how the hair got into them, because the forensic testing proves with absolute certainty that the pliers were not used to cut the chicken wire and had not been used recently enough to be involved in the crime. That makes everything else about the pliers and the hair totally irrelevant.

Everything that the state presented as evidence against Scott was inconclusive, subject to a range of interpretation; everything that was tested was absolutely conclusive that Scott did not murder Laci.

What was tested? Everything in that house that had the least hint of suspicion -- blood stains that they had to mark their location with sticky-notes because they were so small they wouldn't show up in the pictures. Everything in the pickup that had the least hint of suspicion. Everything in the boat that had the least hint of suspicion.

Besides collecting items for testing, cadaver dogs and scent dogs were used. Their results were inconclusive; most of it was not even allowed in as testimony it was so inconclusive. What was let in was contradicted with other dog testimony.

The State said Laci and Conner washed ashore, yet their own expert could not get them back to the same place, and the best dive and sonar teams could not find any evidence they had been where they should have been. So what difference does it make why Scott went fishing, or if he should have gone fishing, or what time of day he went fishing, or if he told some he was fishing and some he was golfing, because the State's own experts and other witnesses proved with a preponderance of the evidence that Laci was not where Scott was fishing.

So, when it gets right down to it, who cares whether Anne is telling the truth or Scott; whether Amber is telling the truth or Scott -- because the forensic testing proves that Scott did not murder Laci in that house or transport her in that pickup or boat, or dump her in the bay. The entirety of the forensic testing proves absolutely that Scott did not murder Laci in that house or transport her in that pickup or boat; and the preponderance of the evidence provided by the State itself proves that Scott did not dump Laci in the bay on that fishing trip.

All the accusations Anne Bird makes in her book, and all the heretofore secret documents that Catherine Crier cites in her book are meaningless as proof -- and no claims that Scott did this or that, or that his mother did this or that, can dispute the absolute certainty of the forensic testing.

Tell me why I should not place absolute trust in the forensic testing in this case to declare that Scott is 100% factually innocent of the crimes he has been convicted of. Give me one good reason why I should favor gossip over forensic testing.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

It looks like the State is finally going to file its Response to the Habeas.  Mark April 24, 2017 on your calendars. 

Case: S230782, Supreme Court of California

Date (YYYY-MM-DD):        2017-02-16
Event Description:        Extension of time granted

Notes: Good cause appearing, and based upon Supervising Deputy Attorney General Donna M. Provenzano's representation that the informal response to the petition for writ of habeas corpus is anticipated to be filed by April 24, 2017, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that document is granted to April 24, 2017.  After that date, no further extension is contemplated.

For more information on this case, go to: