Scott Peterson Will Stand Trial for Deaths of Laci, Conner

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 18, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scott Peterson Will Stand Trial for Deaths of Laci, Conner

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
November 18, 2003

Modesto, CA ( — A judge ruled on Tuesday that Scott Peterson will stand trial for the deaths of Laci Peterson and her unborn child Conner.

Superior Court judge Al Girolami said prosecutors presented enough evidence during testimony at the initial hearings that warranted a full trial on the charges that he killed Laci and Conner.

Scott Peterson will be arraigned on December 3rd in Modesto, California. Defense attorney Mark Geragos indicated he would attempt to move the trial away from Modesto, where the deaths of Laci and Conner have riveted the community.

Graphic testimony and a ruling allowing the use of a recent DNA analysis were the most recent developments in the preliminary hearing.

Before the bodies of Laci and Conner washed ashore, the ocean and wildlife left little evidence to show how they were killed, testified Dr. Brian Peterson on Monday. Although many of her organs were missing, her womb was still attached and empty.

Laci was eight months pregnant when she disappeared, and her child, who washed ashore separately, had a gash in his chest and tape loosely wrapped around its neck. An anthropologist had estimated Conners age at 33 to 38 weeks into the pregnancy. Defense attorneys argued that Laci could have given birth after she was kidnapped.

Based on initial measurements, Dr. Peterson had originally believed Conner was brought full-term, but has recently stated he believed the water had swollen the body.

Scott Peterson waived his right to hear the testimony against him during Dr. Peterson’s time on the stand. Laci’s family also was not present for the graphic descriptions of the recovered remains.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami did approve the use of mitochondrial DNA, a relatively new form of DNA analysis that, while less precise than the commonly used nuclear DNA, can be used on small samples such as the single hair found on Scott Peterson’s boat.

Prosecutors believe the hair proves that Laci was on the boat, which Scott bought two weeks before her disappearance. Family members had previously testified that they did not believe Laci knew about her husband’s boat.

Mitochondrial DNA, while unable to provide an exact match, does limit the potential number of individuals that a sample could match to approximately 1 in 112. It is also passed genetically from mother to daughter.

If convicted of the deaths, Scott Peterson could face the death penalty.

The case has been the subject of national attention, and has spurred the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also called "Laci and Conner’s Law." Abortion advocates oppose the law, stating that as Conner was unborn, Laci is the only victim of the crime.

A Newsweek poll following the Peterson case found that 84% of the respondents agreed there were two victims were in favor of laws that allow for punishing criminals who kill or injure unborn children as a result of a crime against the mother and only 9% adopting the single-victim ideology espoused by pro-abortion groups.

Laci Peterson’s family has strongly supported the unborn victims bill in Congress.

Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson’s mother, in a letter to pro-abortion Senator John Kerry (D-MA) dated July 7, writes, "adoption of such a single-victim proposal would be a painful blow to those, like me, who are left to grieve after a two-victim crime, because Congress would be saying that Conner and other innocent victims like him are really not victims—indeed that they never existed at all."