Defense Launches Its Testimony in Scott Peterson Double Murder Trial

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Defense Launches Its Testimony in Scott Peterson Double Murder Trial Email this article
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by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
October 20, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — After a week’s delay, the defense team in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial began calling their witnesses.

Judge Alfred Delucchi reluctantly announced the delay last week after meeting with lawyers, but did not explain why the defense’s opining was delayed.

On Monday, a fourth motion to dismiss charges from defense attorney Mark Geragos was denied. Delucchi said there was sufficient evidence for the trial to progress.

That same day, the court heard from a concrete expert Steven Gebler, who refuted testimony from a prosecution witness last month regarding the cement used in the Peterson’s driveway.

Prosecutors allege that a quantity of cement Peterson purchased was far more than needed to make the single boat anchor that was found. Peterson said he used the remaining cement to patch their driveway, but petrographer Robert O’Neill told the court last month that the samples did not match due to gravel being present in the driveway samples.

On Monday, Gerber said that, not counting the gravel, which may have mixed with the wet concrete, the samples from the anchor and the driveway were the same. He also said he did not believe the neighbor’s pool and sidewalk construction contaminated the samples, going so far as to say no concrete was stored on the Peterson’s driveway.

Under cross-examination, however, prosecutors showed a photograph of the Peterson driveway with bags of cement piled on it.

Forensic accountant Martin Laffer also took the stand Monday, testifying that Peterson did not stand to profit from his wife’s death. Laci was to inherit $160,000 on her 30th birthday, but now that she is dead her relatives, and not her husband, will receive the money.

Laffer also testified that Gary Nienhuis, the prosecution’s auditor, overstated the financial difficulties of the Petersons’.

"There was no indication they were living beyond their means," said Laffer.

Laffer explained that the couple had over $2,000 per month in disposable income, and that Peterson was paying more than the minimum payment on his mortgage.

Also, the European company that Peterson was running his fertilizer company for was expected to lose money, and all liabilities were the responsibility of the corporation, not Peterson. In fact, despite losses Peterson was rewarded for his efforts with a year-end bonus.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, however, a juror’s question apparently helped prosecutors.

Juror Number 8 sent a note to Judge Delucchi, who passed the question on to prosecutors. Soon after receiving the note, Prosecutor Dave Harris changed the focus of his questioning and asked about Peterson’s monthly tax payments. Laffer responded that $1,300 of the $2,000 disposable income was used for paying taxes.

"So, you have $700 extra, not $2,000?" Harris asked, to which Laffer agreed.

The prosecution rested their case earlier this month, after 19 weeks of testimony from 175 witnesses.

The prosecution has 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. They have suggested multiple motives, including Peterson’s
affair and stressed finances.

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 investigators for doing sloppy work and focusing on
Peterson exclusively.

Scott Peterson 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 throughout pregnancy.