Scott Peterson’s Attorney Denied Request for Mistrial

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scott Peterson’s Attorney Denied Request for Mistrial

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 15, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — Testimony from Modesto police officers regarding the initial investigation into Laci Peterson’s disappearance led to an outburst and request for a mistrial from Scott Peterson’s defense attorney.

Officer Derrick Letsinger testified that, after being questioned at his house about his whereabouts the day his wife disappeared, Scott left the house, threw his flashlight on the ground and said something that sounded like a curse word under his breath.

When fellow officer Matthew Spurlock recounted the same incident, which neither officer had included in their reports, Peterson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, pointed out that the prosecution was supposed to inform the defense team of all statements by Peterson.

"I let it go the first time," Geragos said after Spurlock testified. "It’s nothing but just a cheap shot — one of a never-ending series of cheap shots by the prosecution."

Geragos’ loud objection and Prosecutor Rick Disataso’s attempts to speak over him in response led to the judge removing the jury from the courtroom while he restored order.

Geragos sought to have the testimony struck and asked for a mistrial, both of which were denied.

"I don’t believe this alleged violation raises to such an extent that a mistrial should be declared," said Judge Alfred Delucchi, pointing out Peterson’s act could have shown frustration about the search for his wife. "The defendant’s demeanor – I think it cuts both ways. It could be beneficial to the defense."

Prosecutors were cautioned to be more careful about turning over evidence to the defense.

Other testimony from the Modesto police officers explained why they thought Laci’s disappearance was suspicious and warranted an usually early call for a detective.

Letsinger noted that the Peterson home was a “model” home, with the exception of several dirty white rags on top of the washing machine, a crumpled throw rug, and dirty wet mop seemed out of place. Peterson’s alibi about fishing seemed suspicious, as did his nervousness about being questioned.

Letsinger testified that Peterson told another officer he didn’t know what he was trying to catch, but that he did use a seven-inch silver lure.

Spurlock said that Peterson was emotional and concerned when he was first searching the park near their home, but after police questioned him about his fishing trip his behavior changed.

"He just appeared more nervous and standoffish," said Spurlock.

In opening statements, the prosecution put forth a case based on Scott Peterson’s erratic behavior, affair, and alleged secret purchase of a fishing boat that could have been used to dump Laci’s body into the San Francisco Bay.

Peterson’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, has pointed out that the prosecution has no murder weapon, no eyewitnesses, and a case built entirely on circumstantial evidence. He has put forth explanations for Peterson’s strange behavior as well as theories that a satanic cult or men with a tan van abducted Laci on the morning of December 24.

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, Sharon 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, 30 states have unborn victims laws, most recently Kentucky and Virginia, and 18 cover mothers and their unborn children throughout pregnancy. None of those laws has ever been successfully challenged in Court.