Prosecution in Scott Peterson Murder Trial Begins Review of Evidence

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 23, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Prosecution in Scott Peterson Murder Trial Begins Review of Evidence

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
July 23, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — The prosecution in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial this week appeared to be gearing up to start reviewing the forensic evidence in the case, while defense attorney Mark Geragos continued to point out shortcomings in the police investigation.

Testimony earlier in the week appeared to dwell, once again, on Peterson’s affair and strange behavior in the wake of Laci’s disappearance.

Now, graphic autopsy photos and heated debate over the hairs found in a pair of pliers on Peterson’s boat appear to be the beginning of a foray into the scientific evidence that played an important role in the preliminary hearings.

Laci’s mother, Susan Rocha, was overwhelmed by tears during presentation of photos from the autopsies of Laci and her unborn child Conner.

As they were shown, California Department of Justice Criminalist Angelynn Moore, who performed the DNA analysis, explained to the jury how investigators were able to identify the bodies, though badly decomposed.

Geragos again contested the admissibility of the hairs investigators say were found in a pair of pliers in Peterson’s boat. Crucial to the prosecution as it is the only evidence linking Laci to the boat allegedly used to dump her body in the San Francisco Bay, Geragos has accused investigators of contaminating the evidence.

Prosecutor Rick Distaso had said in preliminary hearings that one hair was found in the pliers, but had broken in two, hence the existence of two hairs in the evidence envelope. But the prosecution’s witness on Thursday, criminalist Rodney Oswalt, testified that the hairs were likely two strands, not one broken strand.

Geragos claimed the prosecution’s theory "changes as it blows in the wind," as their own witness again debunked their theories trying to link Peterson to the murder.

Continuing charges that police did not follow up with all leads in the case, Geragos questioned Modesto Police Detective Mike Hermosa about a woman who stole checks from a mailbox.

Hermosa said he arrested the woman for the theft, but as she allegedly intended to use the checks to trade for drugs, she was not a suspect in Laci’s disappearance. Under Geragos’ questioning, however, he admitted they did not investigate her alibi for the date Laci disappeared. Prosecutor Dave Harris said that since the checks were stolen after Laci disappeared, the woman was not involved.

Earlier testimony this week from prosecution witnesses seemed to be trying to revisit Peterson’s affair and questionable behavior following Laci’s disappearance, including charges that Peterson had put a family photo album, including wedding pictures, in a wastebasket in a storage facility.

Geragos pointed out that, being in a storage facility, it did not appear that Peterson was intending to throw them out. Modesto police Detective Richard House, who testified about the photos, agreed.

The prosecution has been attempting to 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.

Geragos claims 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 the double murder charges. The case has 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 as a result of attacking 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 returned to Washington from the campaign trial to vote against 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.