Prosecutors Open Scott Peterson Double Murder Trial

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Prosecutors Open Scott Peterson Double Murder Trial

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 2, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — In his opening statement in the Scott Peterson trial, prosecutor Rick Distaso told jurors the matter before them "is a common-sense case."

Distaso told the jury Tuesday that Scott Peterson had both motive and means to kill his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. His motive, the prosecution alleges, was his affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, and the means was a recently purchased fishing boat he kept secret, which could have been used to dump Laci’s body in the San Francisco bay.

Prosecutors will bring hundreds of witnesses forward during the trial, which is expected to last six months. It has already taken three months to select a jury, and Peterson has spent the last 14 months in prison awaiting the trial.

With no promise of producing the murder weapon or eyewitness accounts of the crime, the case against Peterson will rely heavily on inconsistencies and Petersons’ erratic behavior after his wife’s disappearance.

For instance, within two hours of coming home from fishing on December 24, 2002, he called Laci’s mother to tell her she was "missing."

While friends, family, and police searched a nearby park where Laci often walked their golden retriever, Scott told a friend and a police officer that he had gone golfing that day. He later told two other officers he went fishing, the alibi he has used since.

He had purchased the boat two weeks before Laci’s disappearance, and had told no one that he had bought it. Police found freshwater fishing equipment, which they will have experts testify could not be used in the saltwater bay. Peterson was also unable to tell police what kind of fish he was trying to catch, and that launching a boat on December 24 was highly unusual.

When confronted about his marriage by the woman who introduced Peterson to Frey, Peterson told his mistress his wife had recently died. While family and friends still hoped to find Laci alive, Peterson had sought to sell their house and Laci’s vehicle.

After Laci and Conner’s bodies washed up the following April, Peterson was arrested near the Mexican border, with $15,000 in cash, his brother’s driver’s license, four cell phones and several credit cards in different names. He had also dyed his hair, eyebrows, and goatee blond.

Peterson’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, will deliver his opening statement Wednesday, and is expected to challenge the prosecution’s use of only circumstantial evidence against his client.

Scott has pleaded innocent to charges that he murdered his wife on Christmas Eve 2002, when she was eight months pregnant, and dumped her body into San Francisco Bay. Her body and that of her son Conner washed up on the California coast in April.

The double murder charges against Peterson have received national attention and spurred the passage of numerous unborn victims laws.

The laws allow prosecutors to charge criminals with two crimes when they kill or injure an unborn child in addition to a pregnant woman.

Laci’s mother, Susan Rocha, has become and outspoken advocate of Unborn Victims Laws, both for individual states and the entire nation.

President Bush signed a federal Unborn Victims of Violence Law in March. Rocha had voiced her support of the bill, and had criticized members of the Senate, including presidential hopeful John Kerry, who had stalled and opposed the bill.

According to the National Right to Life Committee, 29 states have unborn victims laws, most recently Kentucky and Virginia, and 17 cover mothers and their unborn children throughout pregnancy. None of those laws has ever been successfully challenged in Court.