Scott Peterson's attorney spent yesterday morning picking apart the prosecution's case, insisting that Peterson's unborn son could not have died on Christmas Eve, minimizing his admitted affair and even hauling in a Martha Stewart show snippet to question a police search warrant.
"This is a murder case and there has to be evidence in a murder case," said attorney Mark Geragos.
Geragos didn't shy away from his client's much-publicized affair in the months before his wife's disappearance but emphasized that the two are mutually exclusive.
"He's not charged with having an affair," he said, adding that he would not dispute the relationship or some jurors' opinion that Peterson might be "a cad."
Right off the bat, Geragos attacked the idea that Peterson killed his pregnant wife of five years because he didn't want children and instead wanted a relationship with Fresno masseuse Amber Frey. At the time of Laci's disappearance, Geragos said that the two had barely started dating and Frey was unhappy with Peterson's lack of attention.
Peterson, he said, was not going to "chuck his entire life with Laci for this woman he had two dates with."
Yesterday's comments were defense attorney Mark Geragos' first chance to swing back at the allegations and implications made by prosecutor Rick Distaso the day before. The prosecution's case is built on the idea that Peterson murdered his wife on or near Christmas Eve day 2002, dumped her body in the San Francisco Bay and claimed she was missing when he returned home from a fishing trip. The bodies of both were found on April 13 and April 14 on a Richmond shore about one mile from the marina.
Distaso presented an exhaustive four-hour opening statement Tuesday that left no stone unturned in his case but also left no time for Geragos to reply.
Although the prosecution's case is completely circumstantial, Distaso tried to portray Peterson as a chronic liar and philanderer who methodically plotted his wife's death and disposal. Distaso pointed out numerous inconsistencies in his alibis and his excuses to Frey.
Geragos, though, argued that Peterson's actions came under a microscope by authorities way too quickly, discounting other potential leads and making his every move suspect. He also said Peterson dyed his hair to avoid the media mob that followed the case.
In contrast to Distaso's dry style that some observers said left the jury numb, Geragos finished in just under two hours. Standing at a podium just in front of the jury box, Geragos began his statements in low tones but quickly gained momentum as he spoke. He punctuated his words with wide arm gestures, loudly dropping a stack of reports in front of the jury and using subtle hints of humor. Instead of the slide show favored by Distaso, Geragos used an easel with posterboards and two flat-screen televisions to display photos, maps and even a clip of the Martha Stewart Show.
Peterson reportedly told police that when he last saw his wife Dec. 24 she was watching the show - "something with meringue," Distaso said.
A Modesto detective obtained a search warrant for the Peterson home on that basis, noting that he could find no mention of meringue on that show when he viewed it. Geragos wryly told jurors that the meringue is "the lynch pin in the prosecution case."
During the snippet, though, Stewart asks her guest what they should do with some extra egg whites. The women replied they could make meringues.
The search warrant produced no evidence implicating Peterson, Geragos said.
"There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that points to Scott Peterson," he said.
While Distaso matter-of-factly focused on the evidence, Geragos systematically chipped away at his points yesterday. Among his arguments:
· Peterson has been an avid fisherman since age 3 and has bought and sold four boats. Police found multiple two-day and one-year fishing licenses in his possession. The Petersons planned to tell Laci's stepfather, an avid fisherman, about the boat on Christmas Day. Peterson also personally chose the nautical theme for his son's nursery, complete with life preserver.
· Laci Peterson knew her husband owned the boat. She saw it at his shop and a woman will testify seeing her there. The couple's first date was a fishing trip in which their catamaran capsized; Laci vowed never to get on a boat again.
· Laci Peterson was healthy and not often tired at the time of her disappearance. Although Distaso said that she would not have been walking her dog Christmas Eve morning, Geragos said she attended a weekly yoga class and even hiked up hills in Carmel in prior weeks. Housekeeper Margarita Nava will testify that on Dec. 23 Peterson personally hauled in five or six bags of groceries from her car into the home.
· Peterson visited the Berkeley Marina numerous times after his wife disappeared because he heard police were responding to tips there and he was searching for two workers who saw him launch his boat that day. Peterson also visited marinas in other cities.
· Peterson was excited about being a father, re-arranged his work schedule to optimize their chances of her becoming pregnant and attended every doctor's appointment with Laci.
· Peterson was not apathetic about his wife's disappearance and was very emotional in private. "This is not somebody who wears his emotion on his sleeve," Geragos said.
Geragos said that Laci Peterson was more likely a victim of the homeless people who camped along the park trail where she walked her dog. She as " a spitfire" who would break up fights and not back down from a challenge, he said.
He also promised to produce evidence that Peterson was spotted in the days after her reported disappearance and that Conner Peterson was born alive.
"[The evidence] is going to show beyond any doubt that not only is Scott Peterson not guilty, Scott Peterson is stone cold innocent," Geragos ended his statements.
In the afternoon, the prosecution kicked off its witnesses with the housekeeper, Margarita Nava.
The prosecution continues its case this morning.