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Q: Scott Peterson trial verdict ( Answered,   0 Comments )
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Subject: Scott Peterson trial verdict
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: dakhurst-ga
List Price: $150.00
Posted: 07 Dec 2004 16:14 PST
Expires: 06 Jan 2005 16:14 PST
Question ID: 439580
I would like to review informed legal opionion as to the
appropriateness or inappropriateness of the jury's verdict in the
Scott Peterson trial, given the circumstantial evidence presented at
the trial.  I am looking for opinions by experienced capital case
defence or prosecution lawyers or jurists with no particular
connection with the case.  I am not looking for knee-jerk reaction by
talk show hosts or celebrity commentators pandering to an audience.

My focus is on what reasonable inferences can be drawn from completely
circumstantial evidence and how much a jury's emotional connection to
the case can determine whether reasonable doubt can be overcome in
order to convict a defendent.

To be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt requires a jury, in other
words, to be sure of the guilt of a defendent.  Can a jury in this
case be sure of the guilt of Scott Peterson based on the evidence.?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Dec 2004 18:03 PST
dakhurst-ga,

As you might imagine, with the Peterson verdict so recent, there is
not a great deal of published opinion about the verdict in the
professional legal press.  In fact, I've found only a single article
that goes directly to your point.

I've checked both the web, and on offline legal databases, but again,
only this single article turns up:


http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1101136516424


What Does It Take to Convict?
Robert A. Mintz
The National Law Journal
11-24-2004


After months of trial in the Scott Peterson case, what did prosecutors
really prove? No eyewitnesses, no obvious motive, no murder weapon, no
blood, no reliable cause of death and no solid forensic evidence
linked Peterson to the murders. To many observers, particularly
journalists brought up in the age of television shows like "CSI," it
all appeared to add up to a hugely embarrassing, high-profile
acquittal. But if there is one lesson to be learned from the swift
conviction of Peterson it is this: Those who underestimate the power
of circumstantial evidence do so at their peril...

 
==========


Beyond this, there are some articles in the mainstream press that may
be of interest to you, but these tend to be more of the talking-head
style commentary, than a professional legal opinion.  However, I'd be
glad to unearth these for you, if they are of interest.

Given the rather limited amount of opinion pieces available on this
topic, I wanted to ask you how you thought I should proceed at this
point.

Thanks.

pafalafa-ga

Clarification of Question by dakhurst-ga on 07 Dec 2004 20:54 PST
Dear pafalafa-ga,

Perhaps more time is wanted before articles of interest to me appear. 
I have seen the talking head variety of comment, but it is articles
like the one you referenced that are of interest to me.

Is it fair to ask you to see what transpires in the press over the
next week or two?

Many thanks,

dakhurst-ga

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 08 Dec 2004 05:05 PST
Sure.

Your question will remain active until it expires on January 6, so
I'll be glad to search again in a few week's time and we'll see if
anything new turns up.

In the mean time....Happy Holidays.


paf
Answer  
Subject: Re: Scott Peterson trial verdict
Answered By: adiloren-ga on 16 Dec 2004 20:33 PST
 
Hello, thanks for the question. It seems that "circumstantial"
evidence doesn't necessarily mean weak evidence. If the circumstantial
case is strong enough, as it seems it was in this case, it is the
defense attorney's burden to provide an alternate circumstance that
contradicts.

Early on, legal commentators seemed concerned about the lack of hard
"smoking gun" evidence in this case. Some seemed to think that a
repeat of the OJ trial may occur.

However, as the trial progressed, the circumstantial evidence mounted
and the defense wasn't able to raise enough doubt.

I agree that emotion and media hype may have played a role- but most
commentators seem to feel that the circumstantial case was strong
enough to warrant the guilty verdict. The death penalty decision does
raise some serious questions, but reinforces the certainty that the
jury had despite a lack of "hard" evidence, eg. blood, etc.

Below, I have compiled expert commentary, juror reactions, and news
reports on the case. I hope this helps.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Expert commentary:


Charles Montaldo
(Charles Montaldo is a Private Detective who has worked in various
areas of crime detection.)
About.com
http://crime.about.com/od/current/a/scott040718.htm

The trial of Scott Peterson for the murders of his wife Laci and their
unborn child Conner is a classic example of a prosecution based almost
solely on circumstantial evidence, rather than direct evidence.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence which may allow a judge or jury to
deduce a certain fact from other facts which can be proven. In some
cases, there can be some evidence that can not be proven directly,
such as with an eye-witness.

In these cases, the prosecution will attempt to provide evidence of
the circumstances from which the jury can logically deduct, or
reasonably infer, the fact that cannot be proven directly. The
prosecutor believes the fact can be proven by the evidence of the
circumstances or "circumstantial" evidence.

FindLaw
June, 17, 2004
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20040617_spilbor.html

The prosecution would be facing an uphill battle even if it didn't
have this huge evidentiary setback. So far, as noted above, the
prosecution's case against Peterson has been based on testimony as to
circumstances, whereabouts, motive, and demeanor. But this kind of
evidence, by itself, can't replace the lack of physical or scientific
evidence favoring the prosecution.

Even a casual "Law & Order" fan knows that, in any criminal trial, the
burden is on the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt.

In California, "reasonable doubt" is defined as follows: 

"It is not a mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human
affairs is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state
of the case which, after the entire

comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of
the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding
conviction of the truth of the charge."

FindLaw
November 16, 2004
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20041116_spilbor.html

How could the jurors feel an "abiding conviction" of the truth of
these murder charges? Certainly, there was suspicious evidence: It
would have been a marked coincidence if Laci's body just happened to
wash up near where Scott was fishing the day she disappeared. But
coincidences do happen.

My own strong suspicion is that the jurors' "abiding conviction" came
from the infamous "Amber Frey" tapes - and it began as an abiding
conviction that Scott Peterson was a loathsome human being, and
morphed into an abiding conviction of his guilt.

The tapes provided no evidence at all that Scott Peterson killed his
pregnant wife. They showed, instead, that he'd cheated on his wife,
he'd lied to his mistress, and he wanted to keep right on lying and
cheating despite his wife's disappearance. They also demonstrated that
Scott had an uncanny ability to lie to even his closest family
members, and exhibited a painfully callous disregard for his missing,
pregnant wife. While others conducted a massive search effort and
somber vigil, he tried to make sure his mistress wouldn't leave him,
now that she knew the truth.

Loathsome, yes; evidence of murder, no. 

Yet the effect the tapes had on the jury probably dwarfed that of any
other evidence, any jury instruction, or any closing argument by
counsel. Tapes don't lie - and so they provided jurors with at least
some certainty in a very uncertain case.

More than that, the tapes provided the jury with a reason to hate
Scott Peterson. And they likely imbued the jury a desire -- maybe
subliminal, perhaps downright visceral -- to avenge the honor of a
woman who tragically died ignorant to it all.

FindLaw
July 20, 2004
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/scripts/printer_friendly.pl?page=/hilden/20040720.html

So far, the prosecution's case against Scott Peterson, in his ongoing
California murder trial, has been unimpressive. The prosecution's
opening was unconvincing - relying heavily on weak circumstantial
evidence that could have an innocent interpretation.

For instance, prosecutors pointed out that (in a wiretapped call)
Scott Peterson gave a whistle of relief when an object found on the
floor of San Francisco Bay was an anchor, not his wife Laci's body.
But so what? Maybe he was relieved because this meant she might still
be alive. Is it really evidence suggesting Peterson murdered his wife,
if he was happy that an object found was not his wife's body?

To take another example, prosecutors noted in their opening that the
jewelry Laci wore every day was still in her bedroom when she
disappeared. They imply that therefore she never left the house, and
Scott must have killed her there.

But would Laci necessarily have worn her diamond earrings and sapphire
ring to walk the dog - which is what the defense, supported by three
witnesses, will maintain that she was doing when she disappeared? It
wouldn't have been very surprising, especially given that she was
eight months pregnant, if she'd walked the dog in her pajamas.

In the last few weeks, as the prosecution's case has unfolded with
witness testimony and other evidence, it hasn't improved much. As a
result, commentators have been almost universally harsh in their
condemnation of the prosecution's effort.

FindLaw
November 2004
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hilden/20041123.html

The Reporter
December 14, 2004
http://www.thereporter.com/Stories/0,1413,295~30195~2597060,00.html

Longtime Fairfield criminal defense attorney Leonard Oldwin said he
didn't agree with the jury's death penalty decision, but it wasn't a
surprise.

"I expected it. It was a death-qualified jury, and people seem to
enjoy vengeance," Oldwin said. "Our society today does not surprise me
anymore."

The circumstantial nature of the evidence against Peterson, Oldwin
said, also made it difficult for him to understand the jury's death
penalty ruling.

"Given the fact that there is no real, conclusive proof, it bothers me
that they would recommend the death penalty," Oldwin said. "But, then,
I can't see imposing the death penalty in any situation. I find it
disgusting."

Dixon attorney Ron Moe, who has represented several defendants in
death penalty cases during the past 30 years, said the speed of the
jury's initial guilty verdict was a clue to its future ruling on the
death penalty for Peterson.

"The decision doesn't surprise me, particularly because of the
quickness of the guilty verdict - that told me something," Moe said.
"You would think, because this was primarily a circumstantial evidence
case, that there would be some lingering doubt. But 12 people said
they had no possible doubt."

The Guardian
DECEMBER 13 2004
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-4671265,00.html

MARK GERAGOS - Suave and smartly dressed, the 47-year-old defense
attorney previously represented Whitewater figure Susan McDougal,
actress Winona Ryder and former Rep. Gary Condit. Before he was hired
for the Peterson case, he described Scott Peterson as ``a felony cad''
who faced a ``damning circumstantial case.''

Peterson Sentence Angers Wecht
CBS News
Dec 14, 2004 12:49 pm US/Eastern

Pittsburgh (KDKA) He was fired up after jurors found Scott Peterson
guilty of murdering his wife and unborn baby; now Allegheny County
Coroner Cyril Wecht is lashing out at the panel for its decision to
sentence Peterson to death for the crimes.
Peterson's defense team hired Dr. Wecht as a consultant to do his own
autopsy on Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Connor.
Wecht thought all along that the prosecution's case against Peterson
was circumstantial and weak; so when he heard that jurors agreed that
Peterson should die by lethal injection, his shock turned to anger at
the jury.

"This was a jury that just went wild. I hope that these jurors will
have a very, very merry Christmas when they go to their respective
churches, pray to God and tell him what wonderful Christians they
are." -- Cyril Wecht,
 

*********************************

Jury reactions:


The Reporter
December 16, 2004
http://www.thereporter.com/Stories/0,1413,295~30191~2599371,00.html

Three of the jurors, speaking to reporters after the verdict at the
San Mateo County court in Redwood City, said Mr. Peterson's
unemotional demeanor during his trial, when the guilty verdicts were
delivered last month and during his sentencing convinced them they
made the right decision.

Juror Richelle Nice, an unemployed mother of four, said, "For me, a
big part of it was at the end - the verdict - no emotion. No anything.
That spoke a thousand words - loud and clear."

After a murder trial that transfixed a nation, fertilizer salesman
Scott Peterson was found guilty on Nov. 12, 2004, of murdering his
wife and unborn son. On Dec. 13, the same jury recommended he receive
the death penalty.

CBS News
December 13, 2004

(CBS/AP)There was no murder weapon and no witness. But in the end,
the jurors who decided Scott Peterson's fate said his seeming lack of
sorrow and the circumstantial evidence were enough to convict and send
him to death row.

"I still would have liked to see, I don't know if remorse is the right
word," said juror Steve Cardosi. "He lost his wife and his child and
he's romancing a girlfriend. That doesn't make sense to me ? at all."

CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reported from outside the
courthouse as the jury read its recommendation of the death penalty to
Peterson's judge. The crowd was silent with anticipation, Blackstone
reported.

Peterson's unemotional demeanor during his trial, when the guilty
verdicts against him were read last month and during Monday's
sentencing verdict convinced jurors they made the right decision.

The 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman did not testify at his
trial, and jurors said pointedly that he didn't need to.

"We heard from him," said Richelle Nice, an unemployed mother of four.
"For me, a big part of it was at the end ? the verdict ? no emotion.
No anything. That spoke a thousand words ? loud and clear."

Nice hinted that the case struck a personal note with her, and
resonated emotionally.

"Scott Peterson was Laci's husband, Connor's daddy, the one person who
should have protected them," Nice said, according to Blackstone's
report.

Cardosi, Nice and Greg Beratlis were the only members of the 12-person
panel to discuss the case Monday with reporters. The others declined
to be interviewed.

Three jurors were replaced during the course of the five-month trial,
one in June and two after deliberations in the guilt phase had
started. One of those was the jury's previous foreman.

"We went through quite a bit of time that was very ineffective,"
Cardosi said. "The group unanimously agreed to change the foreperson
to become a little more effective in deliberating."

CBS News
December 13, 2004
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/12/13/national/main660854.shtml

The three who spoke Monday said there wasn't any one thing among the
volumes of evidence presented by the prosecution that led to their
guilty verdicts Nov. 12. They convicted Peterson of first-degree
murder in the killing of his wife, Laci, and second-degree murder in
the death of her fetus.

But the jurors were quick to point out Peterson's alibi. He said he
went fishing Christmas Eve day by himself in San Francisco Bay with a
newly purchased boat, and four months later his wife's body and fetus
were found there.

"Those bodies were found in the same place," Beratlis said. "That
played in my mind, over and over."

Cardosi, the foreman, said, "The bodies washed up where he was." 

Peterson's attorneys conceded he was a cheating and lying husband but
tried to convince jurors that did not equate to being a murderer. With
his mistress on the stand, however, prosecutors played audiotapes
showing how Peterson appeared uncaring about the fate of his wife.

Nice said he seemed more interested in romancing his girlfriend, Amber
Frey, than in helping with the search.

"When you put it all together, it spoke for itself," Nice said. 

Jurors say Peterson's demeanor made them skeptical
DAVID KRAVETS
Associated Press
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/10408814.htm?1c

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - There was no murder weapon and no witness. But
in the end, the jurors who decided Scott Peterson's fate said his
behavior and the circumstantial evidence were enough to convict and
send him to death row.

"I still would have liked to see, I don't know if remorse is the right
word," said juror Steve Cardosi, a paramedic from Half Moon Bay. "He
lost his wife and his child and he's romancing a girlfriend. That
doesn't make sense to me - at all."

Peterson's unemotional demeanor during his trial, when the guilty
verdicts against him were read last month and during Monday's
sentencing verdict convinced jurors they made the right decision.

*******************************

News Reports:


The San Francisco Chronicle
NOVEMBER 13, 2004

The verdict, let it be said, was well within reason. Circumstantial
evidence plus motive justified the finding of guilt. The defense
failed to knock down the charges against Peterson with fresh evidence.
But as in all big cases, there is always the chance of a successful
appeal. That's especially true if Peterson receives the death penalty,
grounds for an automatic reconsideration.

Los Angeles Times
November 12, 2004

"This case wants to be another O.J., in that it tries to generate as
much publicity as it can," said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola
Law School.

"In a post-O.J. world, some trials don't just occur inside the
courtroom -- there are spin artists inside, as well as outside," she
said.
Robert Pugsley, professor of criminal law at Southwestern University
School of Law, was more blunt: "The media has become an intruder in
legal processes, and explodes public awareness -- and lurid interest
-- in trials that should be settled in courtrooms, not television
studios or the streets of the city in which the case is being held."

"We should care because it corrupts justice," he said, "by turning
trials into TV game shows or reality television, when, in fact, they
involve life-and-death matters being decided by ordinary people doing
their best to reach a verdict without being influenced."

It remains to be seen whether such tactics will make a difference in
the Bay Area town of Redwood City, which until the Peterson trial was
an unremarkable bedroom community of 80,000 people with red-brick,
turn-of-the-century architecture and electric street arches
proclaiming "Redwood City Climate Best by Government Test."

Prosecutor Rick Distaso, a former military lawyer from Modesto with a
studious demeanor, didn't get rave reviews either. His thorough but
uninspired style seemed to some to be excessively dry as he steadily
presented his case, which was almost solely based on circumstantial
evidence.

In his closing remarks, however, Distaso surprised many in the
audience by giving a passionate, forceful and coherent argument that
some trial court analysts compared to a fiery church sermon.
The prosecution's case lasted 19 weeks, called 174 witnesses, and
featured hundreds of tape-recorded telephone conversations between
Peterson and Frey, who became a star witness for the prosecution.

Andrea Dworkin
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition
December 16, 2004

It was through the accretion of circumstantial evidence that the
prosecution built its case. There was no forensic evidence - no blood
in the Peterson home or in Peterson's truck, no evident cause of death
from the decomposed bodies; there were no eye-witnesses; there was no
apparent motive.
..

Possibly the most chilling utterance by Peterson is when he told Frey
that his wife had died and this would be his first Christmas alone. He
said this before Laci went missing. In later conversations, he told
Frey that Laci knew they were lovers, that he had told her in early
December, and she was "fine" with it. He also said that he had not
killed Laci but knew who had. Peterson had presented himself to Frey
as a rich sophisticate. Prosecutors came to the conclusion that his
motive for killing Laci and Conner was not that he wanted Frey but
that he wanted a libertine life with no commitments or
responsibilities.

Police, determining that Peterson was the killer, put surveillance on
him. They arrested him when he was ready to flee the country. He was
30 miles from the Mexican border. He had changed the colour of his
hair and grown a moustache and a goatee; he had nearly $ 15,000
(7,720) in cash, a new car in his mother's name, his mother's credit
card, his brother's driving licence, survival gear, and Viagra. Before
this effort to flee, he had turned Conner's nursery into a storage
cupboard, traded in Laci's car, had a conversation with an estate
agent about selling the house in which they had lived, and subscribed
to a hardcore pornography cable channel. In television and newspaper
interviews, Peterson shed crocodile tears. Laci's family waited in
desperation for 116 days until the torso and foetus were found.

Marcus Warren
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON)
November 13, 2004

Scott Peterson, 32, was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife,
Laci, and their son, although there was no witness to the crime, no
murder weapon was ever found and the cause of the victims' deaths is
still unknown.

Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
December 15, 2004, Wednesday

Although the high profile of the Peterson trial makes it unique in
many ways, legal experts worry that the emphasis on emotion here
reveals a more fundamental shift in juries nationwide, as Americans
increasingly weigh "Law and Order" acts of contrition as much as
actual evidence.
"The drama of the courtroom and how you evaluate it is important,"
says Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles,
who has been following the trial. "That has always been a part of the
equation, but I've never heard it articulated as clearly as by this
jury... This case highlights it."

Apparently, it was particularly true during the penalty phase of the
case, which ended on Monday with the jury's decision to recommend
death for Peterson for the murder of his wife and unborn child. In a
press conference following the trial, a panel of three jurors
mentioned Peterson's stoicism during the proceedings, suggesting that
it would be unnatural for an innocent man to behave that way. "The
witnesses [for Peterson during the penalty phase] meant nothing
because the jury was looking at Peterson," says Professor Levenson.

The jury's actions, however, leave many questions ahead - for lawyers
appealing the case and experts looking into its meaning. Victor
Streib, a law professor at Ohio Northern University in Ada, has seen
juries judge seemingly remorseless young defendants "whose way of
dealing with the world is to have bravado." "It's a problem," he says.

Los Angeles Times
November 4, 2004

Prosecutors in the Scott Peterson murder trial wrapped up closing
arguments Wednesday with a hard choice: either Peterson was framed by
strangers, or he killed his pregnant wife and tossed her corpse into
San Francisco Bay.

A stone-faced San Mateo County jury began deliberations at noon,
capping a five-month trial in which nearly 200 witnesses were called.
Peterson, 32, is facing two counts of murder, which carry the ultimate
penalty of death by injection.

The bodies of Laci Peterson and her fetus washed ashore in mid-April,
about a mile from where the Modesto fertilizer salesman said he went
fishing in a new boat on Christmas Eve 2002, the day his wife
vanished.
Defense attorneys have argued that Laci Peterson may have been
kidnapped, perhaps by members of a satanic cult. However, the defense
did not call any witnesses to support that theory.

"The entire defense was based on hearsay," prosecutor Rick Distaso
told the jury. "It is not reasonable that anybody put those bodies in
the bay to frame him. It's not reasonable and you must reject it."

The San Francisco Chronicle
DECEMBER 14, 2004, TUESDAY, FINAL EDITION

Other potential issues involve Delucchi's rulings on evidence. One was
his refusal to let the defense try to demonstrate that Peterson's
fishing boat would have capsized if, as the prosecution contended,
Peterson had weighed his wife's body with anchors and tossed it into
San Francisco Bay.

The judge also allowed evidence that a trained dog traced Laci
Peterson's scent from the Berkeley Marina parking lot to a pier four
days after she disappeared. Daniel Horowitz, a criminal defense
attorney from Oakland, called the evidence "close to a smoking gun"
and said the judge's ruling was scientifically questionable and thus
vulnerable on appeal.
On the other hand, dog-sniff evidence has been allowed in other cases,
and Loyola's Levenson said appellate courts seldom second-guessed
judges in such matters.
The defense also may appeal Delucchi's decision to let the jury hear
dozens of tapes of phone calls between Peterson and his secret
girlfriend, Amber Frey, in the weeks after his wife disappeared. The
tapes revealed him as anything but a grieving husband -- he is
reciting love poems to Frey while lying repeatedly to her about his
plans and even his whereabouts.

Prosecutors argued that the conversations showed consciousness of
guilt. But attorney Jonna Spilbor, a former San Diego prosecutor, said
the tapes should have been excluded because, she said, "The tapes
provided the jury with a reason to hate Scott Peterson" and "allowed
the prosecution a convenient shortcut on the road to guilty."


Linda L. Layne
Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
November 23, 2004

But there are many forms social recognition can take. Granting equal
legal rights to an unborn baby is neither necessary nor appropriate.
Regardless of the duration, intensity, or social breadth of
personmaking, until birth, a "baby" is not a separate entity, not yet
"an individual."

The murder of a pregnant woman is not two crimes but one particularly
heinous crime - and sentencing should reflect this. We give harsher
sentences for the murder of law enforcement officers in recognition of
the essential social function they perform and the fact that in so
doing they make themselves more vulnerable to violent, sometimes
fatal, attack. Likewise, we should recognize the special status of
pregnant women who also perform an essential social function. Data
suggest that pregnancy makes them more vulnerable to such attacks.

The Seattle Times
November 15, 2004

In essence, Peterson was done in by his own lying mouth. If the police
could not explain exactly how his young, beautiful wife died, there
was bountiful evidence to trample most of the defendant's statements.
A hastily arranged fishing trip on Christmas Eve, with a new boat and
license, looking to catch a fish with the wrong bait and tackle. Was
he fishing or golfing? The story varied. As police searched for his
missing wife, Laci, he tried to sell their home, car and jewelry.
Peterson called his girlfriend from a vigil for Laci.

Eventually, the bodies of his wife and unborn child washed ashore 90
miles from home near his alibi fishing trip. Police nabbed him with
$15,000 in cash and a blond dye job on his hair and new goatee.

The Boston Herald
November 13, 2004

The cuts on Scott Peterson, Murphy said - three cuts on his left hand
between thumb and forefinger, on the knuckles of middle finger and
ring finger - show that Laci likely reached up to try and pull his
hand away. She clawed at him. She fought.

He said he cut his hands on his toolbox. But investigators found not a
drop of blood there. They did find it on the comforter of Scott and
Laci Peterson's bed, where he likely lay his dying wife.
When Laci Peterson's body was found, she wore a maternity bra, beige
pants and underpants but no shirt. The shirt she wore that night, to
visit her sister, that shirt was found in a dresser, crumbled up in a
ball.

The San Francisco Chronicle
OCTOBER 6, 2004

Others said the prosecution's case had begun badly but had gotten
better toward the end.

"They got off to a shaky start," acknowledged Lis Wiehl, a former
prosecutor who has been analyzing the trial for Fox News. "The
prosecution wasn't really telling a story. But they seem to have
turned that around and have mounted a strong circumstantial case."

Los Angeles Times
September 15, 2004

Scott Peterson's defense lawyer promised jurors during opening
statements that testimony would show police found "zip, nada, nothing"
in their investigation that would implicate Peterson in the killing of
his pregnant wife.

On Tuesday, attorney Mark Geragos hammered that point in his
cross-examination of a witness who testified she found no blood on any
of the tattered clothing on the remains of Laci Peterson that washed
up on the shore of San Francisco Bay months after she disappeared.

US salesman sentenced to death for murder of pregnant wife 
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/122174/1/.html

However, the evidence against him was almost entirely circumstantial
and was heavily coloured in the eyes of the public by the revelation
that he had an affair with another woman and that he had lied
copiously following his wife's disappearance.

********************************

Not scholarly or professional opinion- but interesting none the less:

WE'RE THE 'LOSE-LOSE' PEOPLE!
Yahoo News
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=108&ncid=742&e=10&u=/ucac/20041216/cm_ucac/weretheloselosepeople

But even Geragos and Sherman would never sneeringly dismiss evidence
in a murder trial as "circumstantial evidence." Only nonlawyers who
imagine they are learning about law from Court TV think
"circumstantial evidence" means "paltry evidence." After leaping for
the channel clicker for six months whenever the name "Scott Peterson"
wafted from the TV (on the grounds that in a country of 300 million
people, some men will kill their wives), I offer this as my sole
contribution to the endless national discussion.

In a murder case, all evidence of guilt other than eyewitness
testimony is "circumstantial." Inasmuch as most murders do not occur
at Grand Central Terminal during rush hour, it is not an uncommon
occurrence to have murder convictions based entirely on circumstantial
evidence. DNA evidence is "circumstantial evidence." Fingerprints are
"circumstantial evidence." An eyewitness account of the perpetrator
fleeing the scene of a stabbing with a bloody knife is "circumstantial
evidence." Please stop referring to "circumstantial evidence" as if it
doesn't count. There's a name for people who take a dim view of
circumstantial evidence because they don't understand the concept of
circumstantial evidence: They're called "O.J. jurors."

Chicago Sun Times
December 14, 2004
http://www.suntimes.com/output/orourke/cst-edt-rour12.html

Common sense and direct evidence didn't convict O.J. Simpson in his
criminal trial for killing his wife, but common sense, along with
circumstantial evidence, did convict Peterson. But Peterson wasn't a
revered star athlete, with deep pockets, only a spoiled upper-middle
class young man with an easy smile and sociopath tendencies.

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