Prosecutors Focus on Scott Peterson’s Finances, TV Viewing Habits in Trial

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 4, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Prosecutors Focus on Scott Peterson’s Finances, TV Viewing Habits in Trial

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
August 4, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — Prosecutors in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial brought an auditor to discuss Peterson’s financial situation, and may bring in a manager of a satellite TV company to discuss changes in Peterson’s television viewing habits after his wife disappeared.

On Monday, auditor Gary Nienhuis told the court that Peterson’s debt payments rose to 70 percent of his take-home pay in 2002, up from 58.7 percent a year earlier. Prosecutors have suggested that financial difficulty prompted Paterson to kill his wife Laci in order to collect on a $250,000 life insurance policy.

Under cross-examination, Nienhuis admitted that a small startup business like Peterson’s fertilizer company might not show a profit for a few years. Nienhuis also admitted that Peterson had an excellent credit rating, and according to credit reporting agencies, made almost all payments on time.

Despite Nienhuis’ testimony, the case for a financial motive appears weak. Prior expert testimony confirmed that Peterson could not collect on his wife’s insurance policy for up to seven years if no body was found, which conflicts with other prosecution testimony that Peterson tried to keep his wife’s body from being identified by dumping it in the San Francisco Bay.

Laci also stood to inherit a sizable portion of her late grandmother’s estate, which Nienhuis stated would have been a financial boon to the couple.

Former Modesto police officer Kirk Stockham took the stand on Tuesday, and testified that he examined five computers taken from Peterson’s home an office. He discovered a graphics file from December 8 showing the currents in San Francisco Bay, testimony that plays into the prosecution’s theory that Peterson planned to dispose of his wife’s body there, though they have little evidence linking Laci to the boat.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi ruled Tuesday that he will allow testimony from a manager at the satellite television company to which the Petersons subscribed. Prosecutors claim that Peterson ordered pornographic programming following his wife’s disappearance.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos argued that such information is irrelevant and an attempt to "assassinate his [Peterson’s] character."

Delucchi said he will let the jury draw the conclusions from the manager’s testimony.

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, and attacked investors for doing sloppy work and focusing on Peterson exclusively.

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.