November 17, 2003
Direct Examination by David Harris
JUDGE: Call the matter of Peterson, Case Number 1056770. All parties are present. My ruling as far as the mitochondrial DNA is that it passes the Kelly test, that includes the statistical probability determination based on the Caucasian database. The Court will not consider the reference to the Hispanic database, as it's not relevant. I'm going to provide a written decision with findings and conclusions, and it will be -- it's being typed up presently. Ready to proceed with the next witness, Mr. Harris?
HARRIS: Yes. People would call Dr. Peterson.
GERAGOS: Your Honor, I believe this is the medical examiner. My client's preference, and I agree with him, that he not be present during this testimony. I've consulted with Mr. McAllister as well, and he agrees, and we jointly ask -- he understands he's got a right, obviously, because it's a special circumstance case, to be present during all stages of the proceeding and that it's required. He wants to, and I encourage him to, waive that right for this particular witness' testimony.
JUDGE: Mr. Distaso, any comments, other than getting a distinct waiver from the defendant? Is there any prohibition against that?
DISTASO: No, Your Honor, as long as I think he personally waives, I don't think there's a problem.
JUDGE: Mr. Peterson, you are entitled to be present at all stages of your proceedings. It's my understanding you wish to absent yourself from this particular witness' testimony; is that correct?
DEFENDANT: Yes, I do not wish to be present during this witness.
JUDGE: Is anyone forcing you or giving you any benefits to be absent during this part?
DEFENDANT: No. It's a choice.
JUDGE: Are you doing it freely and voluntarily, then?
JUDGE: So you give up your right to be present during the next witness' testimony?
DEFENDANT: I do.
JUDGE: He's excused, then.
DEFENDANT: Thank you. (Whereupon, the defendant exits the courtroom.) BRIAN LEE PETERSON, called as a witness on behalf of the People, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:
CLERK: Please have a seat, put the microphone around your neck.
HARRIS: Sir, can you tell us what your full name is, and spell your last name for the record?
PETERSON: My name is Brian Lee Peterson, P-E-T-E-R-S-O-N.
HARRIS: And what is your occupation?
PETERSON: I'm employed as a hospital and forensic pathologist by a company called Forensic Medical Group in Fairfield.
HARRIS: Can you tell the Court briefly your background, education and experience that allows you to be a forensic pathologist?
PETERSON: Following three years of undergraduate education at Marquette University, I entered medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. I attended there from 1976 until my graduation in 1980 with an M.D. I spent the next year at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, Ohio, doing a flexible or rotating internship, different specialties for the 12 months. I spent the next two years serving as a general medical officer with the Marines. I was a naval officer, but the Marines don't have their own doctors, so I was with a battalion and regiment for a couple years. I then entered a training program in anatomic and clinical pathology at the naval hospital in San Diego, beginning in 1983. That was a four-year program. Following that four years, I entered a one-year fellowship program in forensic pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. During that latter program, I took an exam offered by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic and clinical pathology and passed that exam. So I was Board certified in anatomic and clinical. Following the fellowship, I took a second exam in forensic pathology and passed that. So at that point, I was Board certified in forensic pathology. In 2001, I went through a voluntary recertification that the Board offered. So according the American Board of Pathology, I'm good for another ten years. After all that training, I spent another five years or so on the staff of the naval hospital in San Diego doing hospital and forensic pathology, and then left the Service and joined my present practice almost 11 years ago.
HARRIS: During the time that you've been in your present practice, do you work for other counties or work for counties in terms of being a coroner/pathologist?
HARRIS: And were you employed by Contra Costa County back in April of this year?
PETERSON: I was.
HARRIS: Have you qualified as an expert in the area of forensic pathology in courts of this State before?
PETERSON: Yes, I have.
HARRIS: Can you give the Court an estimate, if you can?
PETERSON: I'd estimate between 100 and 200 times.
HARRIS: Directing your attention back to April 14th of this year, in your employment with Contra Costa County, did you perform an autopsy on a body that was later identified by stipulation to be Conner Peterson?
PETERSON: I did.
JUDGE: Before you go into that, do you wish to voir dire on his qualifications?
GERAGOS: I do not, Your Honor. Thank you.
JUDGE: He'll be allowed to testify as an expert in pathology, then.
HARRIS: Doctor, starting with that particular autopsy, can you describe for the Court what it was that you observed when you started?
PETERSON: Well, the -- that particular autopsy, in the morning, presented from Richmond, and the first observation was simply to examine the history that I had. And there wasn't much. The history was simply that of a body found on the shore. The first step would have been the external examination. And, typically, the external exam is directed towards evidence of clothing, possessions, that sort of thing. Well, of course, in this case, there weren't any, since it was a fetus. There was some material associated with the body, however, and the one portion that I described specifically was some plastic tape. And what I found was a loop and a half, one and a half loops of plastic tape around the neck of the fetus. There was a knot near the left shoulder --
GERAGOS: May I just interrupt for one second? He appears to be looking from a report. May I just see what it is that he's --
JUDGE: Go ahead. I assume that's the same report that you've provided to the parties, Doctor?
PETERSON: Yes, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Have you seen that before, Mr. Geragos?
GERAGOS: I have, Your Honor. I just wanted to see what it was -- it appeared he was -- I couldn't tell if he was reading from it or if he was just using it to refresh his recollection. In any case, I would ask that when he's testifying, that if he is referring to the report or reading from the report, that he specify that as opposed to just reading from it.
JUDGE: Let us know, Doctor, if you need to read from the report or refresh your recollection or you're testifying from memory.
PETERSON: Yes, Your Honor.
HARRIS: Doctor, before we get back into that, I just want to go through that point. When you were done with performing that particular autopsy, did you write a report to document your findings and observations?
PETERSON: The way it works at that office, we actually dictate before and after the autopsy with a hand-held unit. There are some notes, organ weights, taken on a dry-erase board during the autopsy. But my practice is to dictate the external exam, then do the autopsy, and then dictate the internal exam at the same time then as the autopsy.
HARRIS: And when that's all done, is that converted into the report that you have before you?
PETERSON: It is. They have a transcriptionist at the office there who does that work.
HARRIS: All right. So going back to -- you were starting to describe what you found associated with the body of Conner Peterson.
PETERSON: And I'm referring back to the report now. And I was talking about the loops of tape. Again, one and a half loops of plastic tape there around the neck, there was a knot near the left shoulder, the skin beneath the tape was not injured, and there was approximately a two-centimeter gap between the tape and the neck.
HARRIS: Now, you noted in your report, and you just stated in your testimony, that there was no damage beneath the tape on the skin and that there was a gap. What does that mean from the forensic pathological point of view?
PETERSON: My opinion was that this tape, this loop likely existed elsewhere, and the association between the tape and the body was coincidental. I always forget if it's flotsam or jetsam, but I believe the tape would have been one of those things and simply ended up on the body.
HARRIS: Did you make any other notations or observations about the condition of Conner Peterson?
PETERSON: Conner was decomposing, in general terms. He weighed 1160 grams. The crown -- again, back to my report now, Your Honor. I'm sorry. The crown-heel length was 48 centimeters. The crown-rump length was 32 centimeters. The skin was quite soft, in general, in keeping with decomposition. I think an alternate appropriate term in a case like this would be maceration, which is an effect on tissue soaking in fluid. There was no extra skin or dead skin on the skin surface. The obstetrical term for that is vernix. There was no vernix on this body. Occasionally on a freshly born baby you'll see vernix. There was none on Conner. The other changes I found were essentially those of decomposition and immersion. For example, the -- externally, I could tell that the bones that formed the skull that were not yet fused at a baby of this age were overriding. That typically happens as a brain liquefies. There was a tear near the right shoulder that exposed skeletal muscle and the structures beneath. That tear actually extended onto the abdominal wall and portions of the small and large intestine protruded through that tear. Now, as I examined that tear, there was no scalloping, there were no curved marks around the edges. So, again, to my eye, it was an indication that that was simply from the tissue falling apart or perhaps being pulled apart due to tidal action, it wasn't due to animal feeding, which was one of the changes that I was trying to rule out. Other than that, a portion of colon did protrude from the anus, and that was about the extent of the external examination. The rest of it would have been internal.
HARRIS: And did you conduct the internal examination?
PETERSON: I did.
HARRIS: What did you find?
PETERSON: To make a long story short, internally there were no specific changes of either congenital abnormality or disease. The organs, in general, were soft and liquefied, in keeping with decomposition. In fact, two specific sets, the spleen and the kidney, I couldn't even weigh them, because they were liquefied right where they were. There was more liquefaction inside the right side of the chest as opposed to the left because of the tear that I mentioned. So I believe that was more opened to the environment. But aside from that, there was no evidence of congenital defect, there was no evidence of internal disease, and the changes that I observed were simply those of decomposition and immersion.
HARRIS: And to put that in lay people's terms, no abnormalities or no congenital defects, what does that mean in terms of a fetus being viable or not?
PETERSON: The way I would put this one would be there were no internal or external defects that would have been incompatible with life. In other words, I could not say that this child could not have been live born based on some pre-existing abnormality or disease process.
HARRIS: Now, you mentioned earlier that this was a fetus. Does a fetus usually have an umbilical cord?
PETERSON: Well, again, it depends on where the baby is in the process. The fetus always does, unless there's some other congenital abnormality there. In this case, there was a portion of normal-appearing umbilical cord present. It only measured half a centimeter, though, and the edge was rather ragged.
HARRIS: What does that mean if it's ragged?
PETERSON: I think it just fell apart or pulled apart, it was not cut.
HARRIS: Did you conduct an autopsy later in the day on the same date of April 14th on a body that was subsequently identified by stipulation to be Laci Peterson?
PETERSON: I did.
HARRIS: Can you describe to the Court the condition of that body?
PETERSON: I'm also referring, Your Honor, to my report as we go through these details. In the case of Laci, x-rays were taken at the office prior to my arrival. So I reviewed those x-rays, looking specifically for evidence of foreign material, such as bullets, blades, that sort of thing. There was no such evidence. It was possible to see mineral deposit on the outside surface of the body. As it turned out, that was associated with clothing. And that was essentially the next step. As I first approached the body, I received it in the prone position, which is a little bit unusual. Normally they come in on their back. But I believe this is how the body was recovered. And at first note, much of the body was absent. What I had to examine was the torso, I had portions of both upper extremities, I had portions of the lower extremities, however, the head and neck were absent, the forearms and hands were absent, and the left lower leg, the tibia, the fibula and the foot, those things were all absent. So what I had was the rest to deal with. There was clothing in place on this body. The clothing consisted of an underwire brassiere. There was a label on that, and on the label it said Bali, B-A-L-I, and there was also a number, 3630. There was a letter C on there, and following the C, a fraction, 40 over 90. So the brassiere was in place, it was intact, it was secured by two hook-and-loop-type fasteners, and, as best I could tell, had not been disturbed. The additional clothing consisted of khaki-colored trousers. There was a label in the trousers, and the brand was Motherhood. The size label was S for small. Beneath the trousers, there were panties. There was a label on the panties that read Jockey and the number seven. The back of the panties, the buttock portion was absent, but the elastic band, the leg band portion remained around each upper thigh. The -- I should get back to the trousers for a second. There was a -- there was a peculiar shredding kind of effect to those trousers. The legs were basically reduced to thread, and within those threads, the calcification, the stone-like material I mentioned earlier, was deposited. Additionally, there was some duct tape, and where I found that was sticking to the front waistband of the trousers. I actually first saw it on the back of her body, because, again, she came in prone. But where it was actually stuck was on the front of the waistband. Aside from that, the button closure of the trousers was intact, the zipper was intact, and there were cloth draw cords inside. Those were also intact. And the front of the panties -- I mentioned the buttocks was absent. The front portion was also intact there. And that was pretty much it for the clothing.
HARRIS: Now, with regards to this duct tape that you described, you indicate that you first saw it when the body was face down, and when it's turned over, it was attached to the pants. Was this a short or a long piece of duct tape?
PETERSON: I didn't put a measurement in my report. I saw it on the left thigh when she was in the prone position, and then when we rolled the body over, it was stuck to the trousers' waistband, but I don't have the length recorded.
HARRIS: So it was something that went from basically the front around the thigh or --
PETERSON: Around the thigh, yes.
HARRIS: Now, you indicated that there was -- besides -- let me try it again. Other than the clothing, did you continue doing an external examination of this particular body?
PETERSON: I did.
HARRIS: Did you find anything of note or anything of the absence of note?
PETERSON: Well, due to the nature of the body, the typical practice for autopsy is to perform an external examination and then open the body and do the internal examination. And normally that's approached in a step-wise fashion. We do use the standard Y-shaped incision, examine the organs in the chest and the abdomen, ultimately open the head. Well, unfortunately, in this case, most of those things were absent. There was neither head nor neck to examine. In terms of the chest, the skin, the tissue beneath the skin, the fat, the muscle, all that was absent, and the collarbones, the clavicles, the breastbone, the sternum, the ribs were all exposed. So pretty much with respect to the chest, there was simply skeletal structure, there was no internal content. So the organs that you think of as normally being in the chest, the lungs, the heart, et cetera, were all absent. In terms of the -- from the waist down, beginning at about the level of the bellybutton, or the umbilicus, the skin was absent, the fat was still present, and the fat had undergone a peculiar postmortem change called adipocere. It's a soap-like substance that's formed when fat is soaked in cold water. So the fat had become adipocere. Other than that, externally, the external genitalia were unremarkable, there was no evidence of injury. As I further examined the extremities, again, much of the skin, subcutaneous tissue was present on the upper arms and on the thighs, but the joints were exposed. And as I examined those joints, there was no evidence of specific injury there. What I was looking for, of course, was evidence of tool marks. So, for example, if these extremities had been cut off, there might have been marks on the bones, such as, say, a saw blade or a knife might leave. There were no such marks. Neither was there evidence of chewing. I should also mention that beginning at the level of the umbilicus, the abdominal wall was absent upward. So, again, the bones of the chest were exposed and a portion of the abdominal soft tissue was absent down to about the level of the umbilicus. And that was the external examination.
HARRIS: Did you -- even with the condition of the body, did you conduct an internal examination?
PETERSON: I did.
HARRIS: And what did you find?
PETERSON: There were a couple things internally. Probably the most remarkable was that the -- much was missing. Again, the organs within the chest were absent, most of the organs within the abdomen were absent. No liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas, intestines. All those things were gone. What was present, however, was the uterus. And the uterus was still in normal anatomic position, its attachments to the pelvis were still intact. I measured it at 23 centimeters. And once I took it out, it weighed 263 grams. Of note was the fact that it was quite thin, measured two millimeters in thickness at most -- again, I'm back to my report, Your Honor. And the fundus, which is the top part of the uterus, which is what they feel to assess, I guess, gestational age, one of the assessments for gestational age, the uterus at that point was essentially abraded away and torn. Again, no evidence of cut marks, no evidence of other specific tool mark that I could identify, but the wall there was thin, and it had been more or less rubbed away, and it was empty. Down at the base of the uterus, in the pelvis, the birth canal was closed and appeared normal. There were some bony injuries that I could examine internally. There was some fraying of right rib number nine and the inner portions of the bone were exposed. There were also fractures on the sides of left ribs five and six. To my eye, I could not say with any confidence whether these were antemortem or postmortem fractures, so I simply described them. And that was basically the extent of the internal examination.
HARRIS: And with regards to the description of the uterus, there's kind of an assumption there. What you're describing, what does that mean in the medical sense?
PETERSON: My opinion is is that that uterus was intact at the time that this body was deposited in the water or ended up in the water, however it did, and, essentially, I believe that Conner was in that uterus, and that with time --
GERAGOS: Objection. Motion to strike. It's speculation and there's no foundation.
JUDGE: Overruled. I believe he has the expertise to say that. You'll obviously be able to cross-examine him and try to convince me otherwise.
PETERSON: And with the time and tidal action and animal feeding, as the abdominal wall wore away, eventually the upper part of the fundus of the uterus wore away, and at that time, the fetus was released.
HARRIS: So let's -- I want to back up. The point that I was trying to clarify is from your examination of this body, could you tell that this person at some point in time was pregnant?
HARRIS: And that was based on what?
PETERSON: This was the size and extent of the uterus.
HARRIS: And that there was no signs that there was a vaginal birth?
PETERSON: That's correct.
HARRIS: So that with the stipulation that this is Laci and Conner, Laci is pregnant with Conner, and at some point in time Conner comes out of that uterus, can you describe to the Court how you believe that that happened?
PETERSON: Again, it depends a lot on knowing how bodies act in the water, and essentially because --
GERAGOS: Which is precisely why there's an objection. No foundation.
HARRIS: Doctor, let me stop you there. Let's go back for a second. We'll make sure we're clear about this. The experience that you've had as a forensic pathologist, have you ever examined bodies that have been in the water?
HARRIS: Can you give the Court some background about that?
PETERSON: Well, I guess a lot of it had to do with being in training and then being in practice on one coast or the other. When I was on the East Coast for my fellowship, I spent three months at the Medical Examiner's Office for Maryland, which is in Baltimore, on the coast. And then my practice in San Diego, being in the Navy, we also received many bodies out of the water. In terms of range, I've seen bodies that are essentially fresh, say, somebody has just jumped off a bridge, all the way to bodies that have been in the water for months and months and have been skeletonized, and pretty much anything in between. So, again, it's as to being on the coast, but I've examined many, many bodies out of the water.
HARRIS: So with that background, you're starting to explain to the Court what you saw of the bodies and what that meant to you.
PETERSON: Essentially, a body that's free to move in the water or float is gonna float face down. It's the center of gravity issue. And it has to do with the fact that the extremities are rather heavy, and they simply are gonna hang down. So when a body is in the water, if left to its own devices, so to speak, it's gonna float in the prone position. The other thing to know is that bodies tend to sink. At some point, they tend to float up. And this depends on postmortem change, gas formation, that sort of thing. So bodies typically spend at least some of their time near the bottom and some of their time near the top. Now, if they're near the bottom, they're open to effect by physical phenomenon, such as tides, currents, those sorts of things. And a body will then be pulled over the bottom structures, rocks, sand, whatever else might be down there. These sorts of things tend to be destructive. And when I use the term in my report "tidal action," that's what I had in mind, that it's simply that abrasive-type action on the body that's going to cause some of the changes that I saw. I believe that given time, and given the pattern on this body, it's consistent with that particular position, that prone position, and it's consistent with those portions of the body being more acted on than the posterior portions of the body. So the forearms were absent, the lower leg was absent on the left. How come? Because those portions were hanging down and were more subject to that damage. Again, the uterus, the pregnant uterus relatively heavy, the body still face down, the anterior abdominal wall and that upper portion, that fundus of the uterus, also exposed to that type of damage. So to me, it goes together in an intellectual way to explaining why I saw more damage there and why I saw this particular pattern. In terms of the condition of the bodies, comparing the two together, what I had to reconcile was the fact that Laci's body showed evidence of animal feeding, showed evidence of these external changes associated with exposure to the environment, Conner's didn't so much. Conner was decomposed, and, again, another reasonable term would be macerated, but there was no evidence of animal feeding. There was the one tear in the shoulder, but there wasn't the extensive damage that we saw on Laci. And as I tried to reconcile these two things, the condition of Conner's body and the condition of Laci's uterus, it made intellectual sense to me that his body was relatively protected by the uterus up until the end when the abrasion took away that portion of the uterus and allowed his body to be released.
HARRIS: Based on what you saw from Laci's body, you were briefly describing about how the environment affects the legs and the feet. Does the marine environment have effect on causing disarticulation?
PETERSON: It certainly can. There are, obviously, animals in the marine environment that will feed on a body. Down near the bottom, there are shellfish, crabs, lobsters, that sort of thing that will produce these sort of nibble marks. Again, though, there were no specific chew marks on her body. As I examined the joints that were available for examination, there were no tool marks, there was -- there were no bite marks either. So could these disarticulations that I saw have been caused by large animal feeding, shark feeding, something on that order? I suppose it could have. I don't have any particular positive evidence to say that they were, though.
HARRIS: The condition of the remains of Laci, is that consistent with other bodies that you've seen in the Bay?
HARRIS: When you were -- you had talked earlier when you were describing the clothing of Laci about something, mineralization. What did that mean?
PETERSON: What I saw in the trousers that have been more or less reduced to thread down around the upper legs, there were round, smooth, round to oval deposits of stone. I'm not a mineralogist, I'm not an anthropologist, but it was quite heavy --
GERAGOS: Objection. No foundation.
PETERSON: These were discrete deposits. Again, as I tried to consider what possible mechanism might have been involved there, I thought about, again, how a body acts in the water, how it tends to submerge and then resurface. And I think if this happened over a period of time, with alternate layers of wetting and drying, it could have account -- it could account for minerals building up as I saw here.
HARRIS: Did you observe any marine activity associated with the body as well?
GERAGOS: Objection. Calls for speculation. Vague and unintelligible.
JUDGE: Sustained. It's vague. Marine could mean a lot of things.
HARRIS: I'll try to be more specific.
HARRIS: Did you notice any barnacles?
PETERSON: There were no barnacles on the body. There was some barnacle on the clothing, but not on her.
HARRIS: Okay. When you were done with the autopsies of both Laci and Conner, did you stop there? Did you also seek assistance of anyone else?
PETERSON: I would say there were actually two separate sets of assistance sought. The first was to forward bone and tissue from both of these bodies for DNA analysis, and that was done that same night. The second was to bring a anthropologist up for consultation, being that an anthropologist is more of an expert in skeletal analysis than I am.
HARRIS: And did you do that in this case?
HARRIS: Who was it that you consulted with?
PETERSON: The consultant was Dr. Alison Galloway.
HARRIS: And did Dr. Galloway provide you with a report?
PETERSON: She did.
HARRIS: And have you reviewed her report?
PETERSON: Yes, I have.
HARRIS: Do any of her findings or any of her notations kind of coincide with what you're talking about?
PETERSON: I believe, in general, our reports are coincident in the sense that we talk about the same presence, the same absence, the same changes of immersion, including the adipocere formation, the same estimate with respect to time in the water. I don't find any particular disagreement between her report and my reports.
HARRIS: Let me ask you about that. What is your estimate of time in the water for these bodies?
PETERSON: I would simply say months.
HARRIS: And Dr. Galloway's?
PETERSON: Dr. Galloway, with respect to Laci, said three to six months and --
GERAGOS: There will be an objection. No foundation. Hearsay. I understand he's an expert, but he's already testified that he's not an expert in this particular area, and for --
JUDGE: And expert can also consult with others and get input. So the Court will allow that. Overruled.
PETERSON: In her report, Dr. Galloway said three to six months in the marine environment for Laci. In terms of Conner, her statement, and I'll read it from her report, is, "The postmortem interval of the infant is consistent with that of individual A," that was Laci, "however, the body of individual B," Conner, "was more protected from environmental degradation."
HARRIS: And in lay people's terms, is that pretty much what you've already described about Conner being protected by being in the uterus?
PETERSON: It is.
HARRIS: With the conditions of the bodies that they were in, were you able to make determinations as to cause of death?
PETERSON: My cause of death specifically was undetermined. I was not able to.
HARRIS: Now, do you go through a process of attempting to rule anything out as you go through this process?
PETERSON: Very much so. And that's the search for other objects in the body, such as bullets, it's the search for injury, that sort of thing. In this case, I think there were a few reasons that made that more difficult. Certainly, the fact that so much of the body was missing made it difficult. But with respect to the body that was present, there was simply nothing there. There weren't tool marks. There weren't bullets. There weren't other evidences of injury. So once all was said and done -- and, by the way, the toxicology was also not helpful. Once all those things were done, I simply had no anatomic or chemical cause of death, and, under those circumstances, I was left with little choice but to deem the death undetermined.
HARRIS: Now, with regards to going back to Conner, did you make some type of determination of his age at the time of his death?
PETERSON: I did. The measurement that I am accustom to making, that would be typical for a forensic pathologist to do, is simply measuring body length, and that can be either crown-heel length, the measurement from the top of the head to the heel, or crown-rump length. Based on those two measurements, the estimated gestational age for Conner was nine months.
HARRIS: And did you find that to be what you were doing there, the measurement from the crown to the rump, to be accurate under the circumstances that you were looking at?
GERAGOS: Objection. Vague.
PETERSON: My opinion was that that was not a particularly accurate measurement, and the reason is that this body was soft and decomposing. As tissues decompose, they tend to expand. And as tissues expand, in a case like this, that can affect the entire body. So my opinion is is that the crown-rump length is something that I could measure, but in terms of trying to come up with an accurate estimate of gestational age, there were more accurate ways to do it, and, in fact, I relied on Dr. Galloway for that measurement.
HARRIS: Did you have Dr. Galloway perform measurements of Conner Peterson?
PETERSON: Well, she did it as part of her professional expertise. I didn't require it, I didn't ask her to do it, but she simply did it.
HARRIS: And what was her estimate?
PETERSON: Dr. Galloway's estimate was 33 to 38 weeks gestational age.
HARRIS: Now, you use the term "gestational." What does that mean?
PETERSON: In other words, how long has the baby been developing in the uterus. It would be the time from fertilization until, in this case, 33 or 38 weeks later.
HARRIS: Is that different than a term for lunar birth?
PETERSON: There are different ways of estimating gestational age based on the starting point, and it all has to do with at what point does the menstrual cycle stop because of fertilization, and that is sometimes -- that can sometimes be difficult to determine. So Dr. Galloway mentions different types of age assessment in her report. She mentions lunar age based on the 28 lunar cycle. Based on that measurement -- again, this is nothing that I typically deal with, but according to her report, pregnancy lasts 280 days, or 10 lunar months. I'm accustom to talking about the solar calendar, about 32 days per month, a 9-month pregnancy. And, again, based on crown-rump length, this would be a 9-month pregnancy. Based on the measurements that she did, 33 to 38 weeks. And, of course, 9 months is in that range.
HARRIS: People have no other questions at this time.
GERAGOS: May I inquire?
JUDGE: Mr. Geragos?
Cross Examination by Mark Geragos
GERAGOS: Can we start with the -- you said the manner of death was undetermined?
PETERSON: I said the cause of death was undetermined.
GERAGOS: Okay. How about the manner of death?
PETERSON: In the Coroner's jurisdiction, it's not part of my job description to determine manner. Manner of death is determined by the Coroner. In this case, I know that the Coroner determined homicide was the manner of death.
GERAGOS: Did you originally -- I thought I heard Mr. Harris ask you that you did both of these autopsies in the same day?
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you do Conner's autopsy first?
GERAGOS: Do you remember -- do you have -- do you have a separate report for each of those?
PETERSON: I do.
GERAGOS: Okay. Those are in front of you?
PETERSON: They are.
GERAGOS: The first one, Conner's, is dated what date?
PETERSON: The date of the autopsy is April 14th, beginning at 8:10 in the morning. Laci is April 14th, beginning at 6:30 in the evening.
GERAGOS: Okay. Do you know if at the time that you did Conner's autopsy whether or not Laci had been found?
PETERSON: I don't know.
GERAGOS: Do you remember whether there were other people present at the time of the autopsy of Conner?
PETERSON: There were.
GERAGOS: Okay. Do you know if there was a Detective Villalobos present at the time of the autopsy?
PETERSON: As far as I know, only Officer Jeff Soler was present during Conner's autopsy.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you at one point -- well, wasn't -- was Captain Dean present at all during that autopsy?
PETERSON: Captain Dean was in and out. She typically doesn't attend autopsies. She runs the office.
GERAGOS: And she does, though, during the autopsies come down -- and there's two separate autopsy rooms that are on the ground floor there. She will come down and poke her head in during times of the autopsy, will she not?
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, during the time that you were doing the autopsy, did you comment -- well, were there any other detectives present besides Jeff Soler?
PETERSON: I don't remember.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you make some comment that it was -- that there was some evidence that the child may have been born alive?
PETERSON: As I said earlier under direct examination, I believe my summary was that I could not rule out live birth.
PETERSON: Now, I do not have specific evidence to prove live birth. But based on the anatomic findings, I could not rule that out.
GERAGOS: Okay. And I'm just asking specifically, did you remark when you found -- or when you were examining Conner that there was some evidence that the child may have been born alive? I'm asking if you made that comment during the autopsy?
PETERSON: Well, my memory isn't good enough to quote myself. I couldn't say. I know -- I know what my conclusions are. As far as the table talk at that time, I simply don't remember.
GERAGOS: Okay. There also was no umbilical cord attached whatsoever; is that correct?
PETERSON: Well, no, there was half a centimeter that remained attached.
GERAGOS: Approximately how long is a half a centimeter?
PETERSON: Quarter of an inch.
GERAGOS: Okay. Isn't that consistent with the length of the umbilical cord after a live birth, whether it's removed through cutting or torn off, after a live birth, isn't a quarter of an inch approximately the length of the umbilical cord after a live birth?
PETERSON: I'm not an obstetrician, and, you know, I really can't comment as to where -- how much of a stump they would leave. I've got two sons, and I know how much they had left on, and it was a bit longer than that, because the clamp has to be fit. But I would hardly call that a statistically valid sample either.
GERAGOS: Okay. It's not inconsistent with live birth, the fact that there was no umbilical cord present and that it was only a quarter of an inch, by your estimate, protruding; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, you -- you said there was no umbilical cord present, and then you said there was a quarter inch.
GERAGOS: Quarter of an inch present is what was there. The cord itself, all that remained was a quarter of an inch. If you want to talk anecdotally, what we would call a bellybutton, that's basically what was left; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, there was a quarter inch of umbilical cord protruding beyond the skin. And perhaps the easiest way to answer your question, I hope I'm hitting the target for you here, is that based on the length of the umbilical cord, I could neither rule in nor rule out live birth.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, you said that there was in addition to that a -- I want to kind of accurately quote you, that you had a -- and this would have been taking you fast forward to after you completed Laci's autopsy, that there was a significant difference in the decomposition between the two bodies; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: There was a significant difference in the condition. They were both decomposed. The differences tend to be other things, what was present, what was absent, those kind of environmental changes.
GERAGOS: Okay. Is it a fair statement that Conner's condition was such that you didn't believe that Conner could have been in the water in an unprotected environment for more than a couple of days?
PETERSON: That's a fair statement.
GERAGOS: Okay. And is it a fair statement that the reason that you believe that was because of when you touched the skin, the condition of the skin, your visual analysis of the lack of significant decomposition or degradation of the body itself?
PETERSON: I think the factor that I consider more than anything else was a lack of animal feeding. There must have been some protection so that that was avoided.
GERAGOS: Okay. Is it a fair statement that because of the size of Conner, that one would have expected that if he was in the water for more than a couple of days, that he would have animal feeding?
PETERSON: I don't think the size particularly applies there. I think a body in the water will tend to attract animals for feeding purposes regardless of size.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, were you given -- you said when Conner came in you were not given a whole lot of information. Is that a fair statement?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Okay. At that point, you did not know that this potentially was linked to Laci Peterson, Conner was; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you, when examining Conner, make the remark or something to the effect that, "This baby may have been born alive, we may have a mother in distress out there, we should do something about that"?
PETERSON: That doesn't sound like something I would say.
GERAGOS: You didn't make that remark to --
PETERSON: I don't think so.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, did they tell you, "they" being the detectives -- I assume that -- who reported to you the information? Was it only Jeff Soler, or did Detective or Sergeant England also give you information?
PETERSON: With -- I think with Conner's autopsy, pretty much the information came from Officer Soler.
GERAGOS: Did you later find out that there was a bag that had been found that also had some duct tape on it in the vicinity of where the two bodies were recovered?
PETERSON: You know, I heard that probably as much through the media as anything else. I was not privy so much to that type of information officially.
GERAGOS: Okay. The tape that you found around the neck of Conner, that had been knotted; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, there was -- yeah, there was a knot in the tape near the left shoulder.
GERAGOS: Were you able to determine what kind of a knot that was?
PETERSON: I didn't try to take it apart. I would leave that to a criminalist. So it was simply a matter of removing the evidence intact and handing it off.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you cut it?
PETERSON: I think I cut it around the neck. I don't remember.
GERAGOS: Now, the -- if I were to tell you that the piece of nylon -- or nylon is probably not accurate, but it's a piece of tape, for lack of a better word, was cut when delivered to the criminalist, would that refresh your recollection as to the fact that you had to cut it to get it off?
PETERSON: That's how I would typically remove something around the neck, cut it, but away from the knot.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, you said that it was -- that there was a area that was, I guess, removed from the skin of approximately -- was it two centimeters?
PETERSON: That was a gap between the tape and the neck.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, can we be specific about that gap? Was that two centimeters all the way around or two centimeters when you would pull it taut?
PETERSON: That was pulling the tape so that it was firm against one side of the neck, and then measuring the gap between the tape and the other surface of the neck.
GERAGOS: Okay. And is it also a fair statement that you could not easily lift that circle of or loop of tape over the top of the head?
PETERSON: You know, I don't remember trying that, probably out of concern for damaging the body.
PETERSON: I chose to cut instead.
GERAGOS: Okay. Is it a fair statement that the neck, Conner's neck was substantially thinner than the measurement of the crown of the head?
PETERSON: Well, again, it was -- it was hard to do a crown-of-head measurement, because the brain had liquefied and the skull plates were overriding. Certainly, in a normal baby, that's true. And a decomposed baby, not so much, the head was collapsing.
GERAGOS: Okay. In a normal baby, the difference between the circumference, if you will, of the neck and the circumference of the head is more than two centimeters; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: I think that's likely.
GERAGOS: Okay. In fact, it's generally in excess of five centimeters difference between the crown and the neck; is that correct?
PETERSON: It's not a measurement that I'm accustom to taking at autopsy. I couldn't say.
GERAGOS: Okay. There was also, when the baby was brought in, was brought in on a -- I guess kind of laid out on a white towel; is that correct?
PETERSON: I think it was on a sheet, and that was inside the body bag.
GERAGOS: Okay. And there was debris that was also present on the baby; isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. Were you told about where the baby was found?
PETERSON: I was told -- I mean, the baby was found ashore, is what I was told.
GERAGOS: And were you told that the baby was found ashore a certain amount of distance in -- or beyond where the rock jetty was?
PETERSON: I think ultimately I discovered that by looking at some scene pictures. I don't recall if I knew that at the time of the autopsy, though.
GERAGOS: Okay. When you looked at the scene pictures, did you make a visual determination as to how far inland, if you will, from the jetty the baby was?
PETERSON: Well, I can see the baby wasn't in the water and the baby was ashore. Perspective is a difficult thing. And, again, it simply wasn't a major concern for me.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, if you had known that there had been a bag that was found that had some duct tape on it, and you did know, 20/20 hindsight, so to speak, you did know that there was duct tape that was found on Laci, and you saw this tape, if you will, around the baby's neck, would that have also been consistent with the baby having been placed in a bag and this tape that was around the neck having been looped around once and knotted so that once placed in the water, the baby would have been in a protected environment? Is that also consistent with the lack of decomposition that you saw of the baby?
PETERSON: In terms of the first part of your question, the details about the duct tape and the bag, I really can't speak to that. I think the implication is that that's even the same tape or the same duct tape. I have no way of knowing that. I think what I can get to, though, is would it have been possible for something else to protect this baby aside from Laci's uterus? I think that's possible. Based on the condition of the two bodies, I don't think it's likely, and it certainly isn't my top choice. But if we assume that somehow he was removed through that portion of her uterus that was damaged that I mentioned earlier and placed in some kind of protected environment, and if we further assume that he was released from that at about the same time that Laci floated up, I think that's possible.
GERAGOS: Okay. And is one of the reasons why that's possible, because you saw no damage underneath the tape so that if the tape was placed on over a bag, that would be consistent with not showing any kind of damage under -- around the neck; isn't that true?
PETERSON: Well, no, I mean, the problem was, again, all I can comment on is what I saw. There was no bag around the head of the body. There was simply that tape. I think that the reason that there was no damage is that the tape was not put on in life or that there was simply too many changes of decomposition to effectively observe that. Of course, when there's damage applied to the neck of a living person, that can be accompanied by internal damage, bleeding in the muscles, fracture of the hyoid bone, damage to the thyroid cartilage, this sort of thing you see in strangulation cases. There was no such damage here.
GERAGOS: And that's -- and did anybody show you the pictures of when or the specific location of where Conner was found?
PETERSON: I believe I saw pictures of the scene. I don't remember -- in fact, I think I even saw a picture of the body at the scene, yeah.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you see in the body at the scene that in addition to the tape around the neck, that there also appeared to be a piece of plastic that was kind of strewn from the neck area?
PETERSON: I don't remember seeing that.
GERAGOS: Okay. The other area that you were describing to Mr. Harris regarding the -- I guess the injuries to Laci, so to speak, both you and Dr. Galloway talked about multiple rib fractures; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. And in your report, I believe you identified that there were rib fractures to the left number five and six and to the right number nine; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Now, when she did her examination, she referred to I believe the fifth and the sixth ribs show, she called it, perimortem fractures; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: She did.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, can you describe what the difference between a perimortem fracture is and a postmortem fracture?
PETERSON: Sure. A postmortem fracture is one that occurs after death. An antemortem fracture would occur before death. A perimortem could be either.
GERAGOS: And based upon what she saw -- and you had indicated also, I think, that one of the reasons that you had some hesitation about -- I mean, you had estimated a nine-month gestational age, you were worried about the expansion of tissue because the body had been in the water, presumably had been in the water; is that correct?
PETERSON: Well, the body was decomposing, put it that way.
GERAGOS: Okay. But you did do x-rays on this -- on the baby; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: No, I didn't record them in my report. I don't think so. I don't think we did x-rays on that body. They may have been done afterwards.
GERAGOS: Okay. What if I were to tell you that there -- they have an x-ray machine there in the Contra Costa morgue, don't they?
PETERSON: They have both kinds, dental and regular.
GERAGOS: Okay. And there are x-rays that have been produced to both sides, the defense and the prosecution. Have you ever looked at the x-rays?
PETERSON: I don't think so.
GERAGOS: Okay. You did call in Dr. Galloway, however, and Dr. Galloway specifically said that she would need to take bone measurements; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, Dr. Galloway -- she and I didn't discuss what her procedure was going to be.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, the -- did you ever talk to a Detective Grogan from the Modesto PD?
PETERSON: I'm looking at my list of folks that attended Laci's autopsy. He's not on that list. And, frankly, I've had so many discussions between then and now, I couldn't tell you for sure.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you ever tell Detective Grogan -- and it looks like he interviewed you on Monday, April 14th, at about 3:15. Is that -- I know you probably talked to a number of people regarding this case. But did you ever tell him that the baby was a full-term male infant with advanced stages of decomposition?
PETERSON: That's just what I described in the report.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you tell him that the umbilical cord was approximately a half a centimeter long, and you're unable to state for certain whether the umbilical cord had been tied at one point along the ragged edge of the umbilical cord or if the umbilical cord had been attached and came off as part of decomposition?
PETERSON: I don't recall saying that. I could certainly speak to that issue.
GERAGOS: Well, let me just take it step by step.
GERAGOS: Let me see if this refreshes your recollection.
GERAGOS: Okay? Does that refresh your recollection as to whether you told Detective Grogan on the -- that would have been the very afternoon of the autopsy of Conner and before you did the autopsy of Laci?
PETERSON: It was the afternoon of the day in which I autopsied Conner in the morning and Laci in the evening.
GERAGOS: Okay. Does that refresh your recollection as to whether you told him you're unable to state for certain whether the umbilical cord had been tied at one point?
PETERSON: It does.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, did you also tell Detective Grogan you could not say for certain whether the child had been stillborn?
PETERSON: Again, same thing I've been saying and I said in my report.
GERAGOS: Okay. And that you also could not tell for certain whether or not the child had gone through the birthing process?
PETERSON: Correct. Same thing.
GERAGOS: Okay. There is also -- I think you were specifically asked, and this would have been one of the ways I believe that you could determine if the child was born, was to examine or to do some tests with the lungs; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: No. I think -- I hope, anyway, what you're referring to is a float test?
PETERSON: Okay. The float test has been held up as a test to determine live birth, with the idea being that if a baby is stillborn, the baby's never had a chance to draw a breath, and in that case, the lungs are heavy and simply will not float in water. On the other hand, if the baby is live born and has drawn breath, lungs are expanded, there's air in there, and then they'll float. The problem is that there can be postmortem gas formation in the lung due to decomposition. And we know that this case was a decomposed case. By the same token, in my autopsy experience, just to see what would happen, I've tried floating lungs in stillborn babies, and occasionally they'll float. I don't have an explanation for that beyond specific gravity, but I know that's the case. So I would not rely on the float test.
GERAGOS: Well, did you tell Detective Grogan that the lungs were small and wet and no determination if the child had ever taken a breath could be made based upon the decomposition?
PETERSON: We're saying the same thing. In other words, decomposition can mask a number of things.
GERAGOS: Well, isn't what you're saying is that you couldn't do the float test because of decomposition? Isn't that what you told Detective Grogan?
PETERSON: Well, no. I don't do the float test. I do not believe the float test is reliable or helpful, and in some cases it can be misleading.
GERAGOS: Well, then, I'm a little confused. Why were you telling him that the lungs were small and wet and no determination if the child had ever taken a breath could be made if you don't do a float test?
PETERSON: The lungs were small and wet, that's true. No determination could be made based on those lungs, that's true. That test -- that comment you're reading there doesn't refer to the float test.
GERAGOS: Well, no determination if the child had ever taken a breath could be made based on the decomposition doesn't refer to the float test?
PETERSON: I don't do the float test.
GERAGOS: Well, then what were you talking about?
PETERSON: I was answering a question.
GERAGOS: You were answering a question to Detective Grogan about the float test, even though you don't do the float test?
HARRIS: Objection. Assumes a fact not in evidence and calls for speculation.
GERAGOS: I'm just asking a simple question. I'll rephrase it.
GERAGOS: Please tell me what you were responding to, what were you referring to when you said the lungs were small and wet and no determination if the child had ever taken a breath could be made based on the decomposition?
PETERSON: I'm referring to determination of live birth versus stillbirth and the fact that I can't do that based on those lungs. That's all.
GERAGOS: Now, the specifically the -- Dr. Galloway did a measurement or a series of measurements of various bones of Conner's; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: She did.
GERAGOS: Okay. And then she compared those bone lengths, if you will, to various charts that she lists in her Appendix A; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's what I read in her report, yes.
GERAGOS: Okay. Do you have Appendix A in front of you?
PETERSON: I do.
GERAGOS: Okay. Do you see where the -- she's got various -- first of all, she has a chart where she talks about the what appears to be five different, separate bones that she measured in a variety of ways; isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. And then she lists specifically what the measurement was in the next column and then the measurement itself numerically; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Then she takes and compares to two different scales. One is Fazekas and Kosa, Forensic Fetal Osteology; is that correct?
GERAGOS: And the other is referred to as Sherwood's Fetal Age, Methods of Estimation and Effects of Pathology; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, based upon Fazekas, which is F-A-Z-E-K-A-S, she went through and listed the bone length and how many weeks it appears that the baby -- or the age of the baby was; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: She does.
GERAGOS: Okay. She lists for the first three measurements all fall within the range of 36 to 38 weeks; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: She lists the -- is it parietal cord height at 40 weeks?
GERAGOS: She goes through and lists the other three remaining measurements of the parietal from 34 to 36 weeks; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: And she then takes the right frontal and does cord -- the same thing again with those four measurements; is that correct?
PETERSON: She does.
GERAGOS: And she comes out to 38 to 40 weeks, 34 to 36, 36 to 38, and 34 to 36 respectively; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's the chart, yes.
GERAGOS: Okay. Nowhere on her chart anywhere does she go -- does she find anything as low as 33 weeks; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: I don't see any number on that chart lower than 34 weeks.
GERAGOS: Okay. And, in fact, the majority of the estimates are 35 weeks or higher; isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Now, she also -- and I don't want to get outside of your area of expertise. Is it a fair statement that your -- you consider yourself a forensic pathologist?
PETERSON: I do.
GERAGOS: Okay. Do you have any special expertise in the estimation of fetal age?
GERAGOS: Okay. Is one of the reasons that you asked Dr. Galloway to come in is to make some estimation as to the fetal age?
GERAGOS: Okay. And was that because you didn't feel all that comfortable with it?
PETERSON: Well, again, as I said, it's not my particular expertise, and based on the condition of the soft tissue, my opinion was that one could produce a better estimate on firm tissue, that is, bone.
GERAGOS: Okay. Do you know whether or not the baby was -- that there were any other tests that were done on the baby or that could have been done on the baby that would have determined whether or not the baby was live birth?
PETERSON: There are -- there are no other tests that I know of.
GERAGOS: Do you know if the -- did you go and consult any of the literature as to the changes that take place in a fetus between the 32nd week and the 39th or 40th week to determine whether or not this baby had in fact developed well beyond the 32nd week?
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you -- nobody, neither you nor Dr. Galloway, estimated this baby's age at 32 weeks; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, there are --
JUDGE: Very much longer?
GERAGOS: I've got quite a bit longer.
JUDGE: Let's take our recess here. Ten minutes. (Recess: 10:53 a.m.)
Reconvene at 11:07 a.m.
JUDGE: Everyone's present except for Defendant Peterson. You may continue the cross-examination, Mr. Geragos.
GERAGOS: Thank you, Your Honor. I have a number of pictures, and as we did before with the other pictures, I'd like to just mark these for identification so the witness and the Court can see them. I'm not going to move them into evidence, because I don't want to get into a situation where they're ever released. And I have eight pictures total. I could do them as one number with the subsets A through and make that easier.
CLERK: Doesn't matter.
GERAGOS: Or one letter, I should say.
JUDGE: Just to make the record clear, let's start with DD and work our way through eight slots (Four photographs were marked Defendant's Exhibits DD through GG inclusive for identification.)
GERAGOS: Okay. And DD, have you ever seen this photo, what appears to be out at the Richmond area where the baby was recovered?
PETERSON: I don't remember seeing this one specifically. I may have.
GERAGOS: Okay. In this one, it appears that that tape is wrapped around the neck, and then in addition to that, there's a -- the baby is intertwined with what appears to be plastic as well, all surrounding the baby; is that correct?
PETERSON: It looks to me like that's the tape that we discussed earlier with the knot near the left shoulder.
PETERSON: The material over by the left arm to my eye looks like more tape. It's hard to say from the perspective, though.
GERAGOS: It would appear to be some kind of a plastic substance -- is that a fair statement? -- or some kind of translucent substance?
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, on EE, is this how the baby appeared when it was brought in for you to take a look at?
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, on this photo, there is this tape that is, lack of a better word, looks knotted around the neck and the shoulder and then it wraps around the front chest area as well?
PETERSON: I don't recall it wrapping around the chest. I guess it would depend on how you laid the body out. Specifically, there was a loop around the neck, and this may have been loose here. I think it was.
GERAGOS: Okay. I've got what appears to be a series of your pictures or somebody's pictures from the autopsy, which looks like in all of them they're wrapped across the front, around the neck, and then under -- what would it be? -- the left arm and then knotted back behind the neck; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. That knot there appears to be a knot like a bow tie knot, isn't it?
PETERSON: Well, it's hard to see what's the side of it, but I think that's the knot that I described, though.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, also on the first picture which we marked -- let me go ahead -- let me make this EE I've marked and FF. Both of those have what appear to be a black substance that's over the left ear that looks like a piece of, to the untrained eye, I suppose, a piece of electrical tape or something, doesn't it?
PETERSON: It wasn't tape. I think it was kelp. There's plenty of vegetable material associated with the body, and I believe that was just more vegetable.
GERAGOS: You see where the ear is folded over as well? Once the -- whatever that substance was, once it's removed, the ear appears to be folded over.
PETERSON: It's the same between the -- well, this is FF.
GERAGOS: And then I'll mark this as GG.
PETERSON: So the ear hasn't changed position between those two pictures.
GERAGOS: That's correct. That's what I'm asking you. It appears that, once whatever that was is removed, that there is a discoloration on the baby's body as well right where it was?
GERAGOS: Is that correct?
GERAGOS: Looks like almost an adhesive substance that's been left there; is that correct?
PETERSON: I wouldn't go quite that far. There's certainly a discoloration there, though.
GERAGOS: Okay. And the discoloration goes across the side of the head. Now, it appears -- and this is what I was asking you before. It appears that there is, in these pictures, FF, EE and GG, that it was on a white sheet, towel, whatever you want to refer to it; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Okay. That was saved for Laci so that all of the material here was -- that was on the baby, including you call it kelp, although it does appear -- I guess the best description of it is looks like a rectangular black object --
HARRIS: I have to object as counseling testifying. The witness can speak for himself.
GERAGOS: Describe it for the record.
JUDGE: He can ask a leading question. It's overruled.
GERAGOS: Okay. It's a rectangular black object that appears to be adhered to the side of the head; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: It's -- whatever that black substance is, it certainly appears adhering to the head.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you save that? Do you know if that was saved?
PETERSON: I don't know what happened to that.
GERAGOS: How about the towel and all of the debris that's here? Do you know if that was saved?
PETERSON: That's not part of what I do. So --
GERAGOS: Whose job is that?
PETERSON: That would be up to the criminalist.
GERAGOS: Okay. Who was the criminalist working on this case?
PETERSON: That would have been Officer Soler from Richmond.
GERAGOS: Do you remember -- does this refresh your recollection at all as to how you got the tape off the neck of the baby and around? Because it goes around the neck and it also goes under the arm and then it's knotted back in the back. Do you know how you got that off?
PETERSON: Well, the funny thing is in this scene picture which is DD, it's not around the chest and the arm.
GERAGOS: Well, it appears it is right there.
PETERSON: Well, I don't want to argue with you, but there's tape around the neck here. The majority appears to be over by the arm, whereas now here it's more associated with the chest. That could have been simply a transportation issue.
GERAGOS: Well, right here it appears that it goes right across the chest and under the arm in the picture, doesn't it?
PETERSON: Well, that's the neck right there and we already agree there's a loop around the neck.
GERAGOS: Right. Then we see right here what appears to be tape going -- that same tape going --
PETERSON: I'm not seeing that. I think that's a limit probably of the picture and our eyes' resolution.
GERAGOS: Okay. Well, is it a fair statement that what you're seeing right here in FF appears to be represented right here and there's much more plastic, or whatever that is, where the baby's left arm is?
PETERSON: Well, yeah, I think -- we're seeing it in two different ways, and I'm not trying to argue with you. All I'm seeing is more of the same by the arm that's around the neck. I believe there's a connection there -- see where I'm pointing at right there?
GERAGOS: Uh-huh. Yes.
PETERSON: That leads over to this. I believe we're looking at the same material here. It's just been moved in position from here to here.
GERAGOS: Is there anything in the picture that shows that there's a connection?
PETERSON: Well, again, that's what I think is right there on top of the arm and maybe right there.
PETERSON: Hard to say, though, based on this picture.
GERAGOS: Okay. Based on the picture, you did not get all of the other material that was at the scene. Isn't that a fair statement?
PETERSON: I don't know.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, the -- leave these right here, if I could.
JUDGE: While he's looking for that and you have the pictures right there, you just indicate this is a tape around the neck. Can you describe the tape? The width? Is it electrician's tape? Plastic tape? Is it sticky tape, not sticky?
PETERSON: Your Honor, it's clear plastic. As I recall from taking this off the baby, there was nothing particularly sticky anymore.
JUDGE: But did it look like tape, the type that you use to tape something or is it --
PETERSON: A lot like wrapping tape, Your Honor, boxing tape.
GERAGOS: Thank you.
GERAGOS: Now, if I could move over -- I was asking you before, and I didn't have the pictures handy, so I'll jump back to where I was before the break. The multiple rib fractures, your -- your ability to determine from the rib fractures what had -- whether they were antemortem, postmortem, perimortem was limited; is that a fair statement?
GERAGOS: Can you describe the rib fracture, what you've referred to in shorthand as "left 5"?
PETERSON: I'm referring to my report now.
PETERSON: And the sentence at the end of the second to the last paragraph simply reads, "There are lateral fractures of left ribs 5 and 6."
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you -- were you able to -- when you say "lateral," what do you mean by that?
PETERSON: Some were within the line of the armpit is what I call lateral. The front of the armpit is called the anterior axillary line. The back of the armpit's posterior, and anywhere between those two lines is lateral.
GERAGOS: Okay. Was there a way for you to determine whether or not the fracture appeared to be from one side to another, for instance? Was the -- where did you observe the fracture on the rib?
PETERSON: I'm not quite sure if I understand your question.
GERAGOS: Was there -- you said under the armpit, and I'm asking you if you can get more specific.
GERAGOS: You can't?
PETERSON: (Negative headshake.)
GERAGOS: How about to 6? Same?
PETERSON: Same thing. Same sentence.
GERAGOS: And for 9?
PETERSON: What I said there again was referring to the report, "The distal margin --" the end margin "-- of right rib number 9 appears frayed, with exposure of the inner cortex and medulla," the inside of the bone.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, Dr. Galloway has the left fifth rib fractured approximately six centimeters from the vertebral end. Do you remember reading that?
PETERSON: Yeah, I see that.
GERAGOS: She also had that consistent with an in-bending force. What does that mean?
PETERSON: I believe when she -- well, again, you'd have to ask her. When I read, to my eye, "in-bending" means pressure from the outside pushing in.
GERAGOS: And she says that she characterized that as a transverse fracture. Do you know what that is?
PETERSON: Sure. It's fracture from one edge to the other.
GERAGOS: Okay. The left sixth rib is fractured approximately ten centimeters from the vertebral end; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's what she says.
GERAGOS: Okay. Also -- that also is consistent with what she describes, Dr. Galloway describes as an in-bending force; is that right?
PETERSON: That's what she says.
GERAGOS: Okay. Then the right ninth rib she says shows abrasions on the sternal end of the bone. Can you show for the Court where the sternal end of the bone would be of the right ninth rib?
PETERSON: The sternum's the breast bone. Sternal end would be toward the center of the chest.
GERAGOS: Now, you did not want to, in response to Mr. Harris' questions, estimate the time in the water, if you will, to be anything more than months; is that correct?
GERAGOS: And is it a fair statement that you're unable, as you sit here today, based upon your examination and based upon Dr. Galloway's, you're still comfortable with all you can say is months?
PETERSON: I am.
GERAGOS: Okay. As short as 30, 60 days, or do you not want to even specify a number of days?
PETERSON: I prefer to leave it at months.
GERAGOS: Okay. And the -- nothing about Dr. Galloway's examination of Baby Conner would change your opinion that the baby could not have been in the water unprotected for more than a couple of days; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, you also told Mr. Harris that there were things that were missing or absent in your autopsy diagnosis: Organs; is that correct?
PETERSON: There were organs missing, yes.
GERAGOS: Okay. And that included the heart and the lungs?
GERAGOS: The -- it included the head and the neck?
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, also -- how about the grand uterus?
GERAGOS: I'm sorry. The gravid uterus?
PETERSON: That was present.
GERAGOS: How about the fetus and the placenta?
PETERSON: The uterus was empty.
GERAGOS: Okay. But you have a statement here, number 2, that indicates on your autopsy diagnoses, the gravid uterus; fetus, placenta and umbilical cord were absent. Is that correct or incorrect as written?
PETERSON: There's a semicolon after "gravid uterus."
GERAGOS: Does that mean that it was absent or not absent?
PETERSON: The uterus was present. The contents of the uterus were absent.
GERAGOS: And the cervix you said was intact and closed; is that correct?
GERAGOS: And even though you don't have the expertise in gynecological or there is a -- you don't consider yourself to be an expert in gynecological matters, you think that's consistent with not being a vaginal delivery; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you also determine or do a toxicology test? I think you'd referred to that when you were talking to Mr. Harris?
GERAGOS: Okay. And the results of that toxicology test also, I think, you indicated were not very helpful?
PETERSON: Correct. Not -- at least not in terms of cause of death.
GERAGOS: Okay. They did show caffeine present in -- or in levels that could be detected by the tissue samples?
PETERSON: In the skeletal muscle of Laci, yes.
GERAGOS: Okay. Are you aware of how long caffeine would have to be -- or would remain present within the skeletal muscle tissue? Is that what -- what was tested for the caffeine?
PETERSON: Skeletal muscle.
GERAGOS: Okay. How -- how long will traces of caffeine in detectable levels remain in the skeletal muscle tissue?
PETERSON: I have no idea.
GERAGOS: Okay. How about antemortem?
PETERSON: Well, that might be hard to find volunteers to test. I've never seen normal limits for skeletal muscle caffeine.
GERAGOS: Have they ever -- there's been no study that you're aware of or somebody who's tested that or done any kind of correlation --
PETERSON: Not and lived.
GERAGOS: Based on -- obviously nobody's volunteering, but I'm saying based upon a war time study or anything of that nature.
PETERSON: Not that I'm aware of.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, when you said the wall of the uterus is markedly thin, and you said approximately two millimeters in thickness at most; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. And was that all the way through or all the way along, or was that at its thickest point?
PETERSON: I measured it in several different locations, and the thickness to my eye ranged from nothing to two millimeters.
GERAGOS: So there were parts there was nothing?
PETERSON: Sure. Up near the fundus where it was absent.
GERAGOS: Okay. Was there any kind of evidence of -- you used the term "scalloping" at the ends of the uterus?
PETERSON: As I described there, I said it appeared abraded and friable, which means soft and crumbly. I did not see specific evidence I could point to and say, yes, this must be animal feeding, and that's where I would use the term scalloping.
GERAGOS: Okay. You saved the uterus; is that correct?
PETERSON: I did.
GERAGOS: And when you were doing the autopsy, did you tape-record your -- as you were going along?
PETERSON: Well, as I said earlier, I would -- I tape-recorded the external examination, and then I did the autopsy, and then I tape-recorded the internal examination.
GERAGOS: Okay. And do you still have that tape-recording?
GERAGOS: What did you do with it?
PETERSON: Well, that tape gets turned in to the office. It's transcribed and eventually recycled.
GERAGOS: Okay. The -- did anybody ever show you these photographs, which I think were also taken by Detective Soler. I'll mark these. I think the last one was GG. So starting with HH.
JUDGE: Is that right, Jennifer?
CLERK: I go up to KK.
JUDGE: They're already marked?
GERAGOS: Yeah, I marked DD, EE, FF and GG. So I'll just start at H (Defendant's Exhibit HH was marked fo identification.)
GERAGOS: Did you ever see this photograph that Detective Soler took or this bag itself which appears to be lying on the table in the autopsy area?
PETERSON: I don't recall seeing the photograph. At this point I can't remember the bag. It was likely it was there. I just don't remember.
JUDGE: Is that one marked II?
GERAGOS: HH. And then I'm going to mark the next one II (Defendant's Exhibit II was marked fo identification.)
GERAGOS: It appears that the bag was brought into your autopsy there and placed on one of these sheets again, like every thing else was placed; is that correct?
PETERSON: It's not in the autopsy area. It's the wrong kind of floor. So wherever this was taken, it wasn't in the autopsy room, which I think explains why I didn't remember seeing them. That's concrete floor.
GERAGOS: Okay. You don't know if this was taken out in that little antechamber area before you go into the rooms?
PETERSON: The scale room?
PETERSON: That's got the same poured kind of floor. This could have been out in the garage, I guess. It's not autopsy room or foyer floor.
GERAGOS: Anybody bring these over -- bring you over and show you these two pictures?
PETERSON: I don't remember seeing them.
GERAGOS: Okay. The one piece of rectangular black substance that was off -- that was on the ear, did you actually take that off?
PETERSON: I don't remember taking that off. I don't specifically remember that piece of material at all.
GERAGOS: Okay. The -- and you don't remember it? You don't remember taking it off. And you're looking at the pictures here. Is that an accurate picture, though, of how the baby looked when you saw the baby on the 14th?
PETERSON: I believe it is.
GERAGOS: Okay. You do remember, however, taking off the tape around the neck and around the arm; is that correct?
PETERSON: I do.
GERAGOS: But you do not remember taking off the -- what I referred to as a black substance off of the ear?
GERAGOS: Did you talk to Captain Newman or Officer Opdyke on the day of the autopsy?
PETERSON: I don't remember those names, but I would never trust my name memory. I may have.
GERAGOS: Okay. Thank you. I have no further questions at this time.
Redirect Examination by David Harris
JUDGE: Mr. Harris.
HARRIS: Thank you.
HARRIS: Doctor, just to kind of go in reverse order, you were talking about you have no specific recall about this black item that was on or near the ear, but you do have a specific recall about this tape that was about the flotsam and jetsam around the neck. So I want to go back through that a little bit. You were shown one of the photographs, and there was a discoloration under that black item?
HARRIS: Was that a purple discoloration?
PETERSON: It looked purple to me, as best as I could tell from that picture.
HARRIS: Now, in a body that was as decomposed as Conner's would you expect to have seen purple something that might give the appearance of bruising?
PETERSON: As decomposition progresses, bruising, whether internal or external, becomes harder and harder to discern. Typically it wouldn't be that violet purple color anyway. In the case of Conner, knowing what shape his body was in, I would have been surprised to be able to see any kind of bruising at all.
HARRIS: Now, that violet purple color, is that much more consistent with the iodine in kelp?
PETERSON: That's what I was thinking.
HARRIS: Now, with regards to your practice of collecting things from the body, you told us about you went through the process of removing the item from the neck. If you thought this was electrical tape at the time on Conner's ear, would you have collected --
GERAGOS: Objection. He's just testified he doesn't even remember seeing it on the day it took place.
JUDGE: Sustained. Assumes a fact not in evidence.
HARRIS: Doctor, do you have a standard practice for collecting artifacts at the time of an autopsy?
PETERSON: I do.
HARRIS: If you were to believe that particular item that was on Conner's ear was an artifact instead of an organic component, would you have collected it as part of your standard practice?
GERAGOS: Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. He just stated before he saw the picture today, he doesn't even remember it.
JUDGE: Overruled. I'll allow him to testify to that.
PETERSON: I would have.
HARRIS: Would you have, as part of your standard practice, turned that over to the criminalist that's employed there?
PETERSON: Or more likely I would have simply asked the criminalist to take it at the time. He could have removed it from the body as long as I was there pointing it out to him.
HARRIS: Now, you were asked a lot of questions and shown a number of photographs about that tape, regardless of where the tape was at, whether it's across the chest, by the arm, or whatever, did Conner's body indicate any evidence of trauma from that tape?
HARRIS: In your professional opinion, does that tape have anything to do with his cause of death?
HARRIS: You were shown the appendix and asked to go through the numbers of the appendix of Dr. Galloway's report. Is there a portion of her report where she refers to that appendix?
PETERSON: There is.
HARRIS: And, in fact, doesn't she in that portion of her report where she refers to the appendix explain why the numbers are different?
PETERSON: She does.
HARRIS: And what's the difference?
PETERSON: Well, I believe the appendix simply lists charts that might be available for anybody to review. Once she's considered those charts and her measurements and applied her expertise, that's where her estimate of 33 to 38 weeks comes from.
HARRIS: Does she refer in her report that the charts are from European charts and, therefore, they're not applicable to --
GERAGOS: Objection. Leading.
HARRIS: -- not applicable to US babies?
PETERSON: She comments on the two papers and notes from her report that they appear to run below published standards for contemporary US populations. She doesn't use the specific term "European," but she does contrast with US population.
HARRIS: Then she expresses her opinion as that being the 33 to whatever weeks it was?
PETERSON: She does.
HARRIS: She also indicates that that's because there's a kind of plus or minus factor?
PETERSON: Oh, sure. There's always a range for this kind of estimation.
HARRIS: Now, to go back to -- you were asked a number of questions about Conner about whether you had said he was full term or born alive or stillborn. Is it -- let me try this a different way. When you look at that particular question, is it more appropriate just to look at Conner individually or to also look at the other autopsy, and that being of Laci?
PETERSON: Well, let me tell you the process that I went through. When I approached Conner, of course, I had no idea at that time that he had any connection to Laci at all. This was simply a body washed up on the shore; and the typical forensic pathology question in that type of case was: Is this a stillborn baby or a live-born baby? If it's a stillborn baby the issue simply is one of body disposal, I guess. If it's a live-born baby, that makes it a whole different type of issue. So the question I typically attempt to address in that type of case is: Was this baby born alive or was he not? And that took place that morning, and that was really the sum of that case. Only later when I had the opportunity to perform Laci's autopsy, and then even later when it become clear that those two bodies were intimately connected, did the other thinking come into place. At that point we're trying to consider where that body was, how it was protected, why the states of decomposition are different. At the time of Conner's autopsy, no, it was simply a matter of stillborn versus live born.
HARRIS: Okay. So if we look at the bodies together, talking specifically about that, you've indicated that you don't claim to have an expertise in obstetrics, but have you performed autopsies on women before?
PETERSON: I have.
HARRIS: A number of times?
HARRIS: And with regards to the autopsy of Laci, in this particular case, was this -- was Conner born vaginally?
HARRIS: So if he wasn't born vaginally, that kind of leaves only the other alternative that he's not born vaginally; correct?
PETERSON: That's my opinion.
HARRIS: Okay. And from what you saw, was there any sign of an incision or cut that Conner would have been removed?
HARRIS: Okay. So if there was no cut or incision, Conner came out through some other process?
PETERSON: He did.
HARRIS: And your opinion of that process is?
PETERSON: That it was a combination of tidal effect, animal feeding and decomposition which ultimately gave Conner exit through the uterine fundus.
HARRIS: Now, you were asked about possibility of Conner being in some kind of bag or something like that, and you were saying it would assume a number of things, but it's also possible.
PETERSON: (Affirmative nod.)
HARRIS: Was Conner's decomposition and Laci's decomposition, not the states of the body, but the decomposition itself similar?
PETERSON: It's almost two different processes. With the infant, I've used the term "maceration." That can even happen in the uterus. So if a baby dies in the uterus and then is still in the uterus for, say, several days, the same process occurs. And it's simply taking tissue and letting it soak in fluid, and whether that's a baby in amniotic fluid in the uterus or a baby in ocean water, I believe it would be relatively similar. But they were -- they were both decomposed, but one was simply more protected than the other. I think in terms of stage of decomposition, if, hypothetically, you had that infant sitting in ocean water but protected for a several-month period, you might see similar changes. I don't think it would have been quite -- I think it would have been more, though. I think it's hard to create that level of protection outside of the uterine environment.
HARRIS: Now, in terms of the decomposition of Conner, you've described to us that his brain was almost in a liquefied state?
PETERSON: It was.
HARRIS: And his internal organs?
PETERSON: Same problem.
HARRIS: So the decomposition was significant enough that his insides were starting to liquefy?
PETERSON: That's correct.
HARRIS: People have no other questions.
Recross Examination by Mark Geragos
GERAGOS: The specific findings of Dr. Galloway were an age assessment ranging up to 38 weeks; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Yes, she said 33 to 38 weeks.
GERAGOS: Right. And that was -- she had -- and that was just based upon measurements of bone lengths; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, it was based upon measurements of bone length, several bones, though.
GERAGOS: That's what I mean. She wasn't looking at anything besides just the size of or the particular measurements of bones; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct. I mean, that's what anthropologists do.
GERAGOS: Right. So the -- the question of whether or not this was a full-term infant, when you looked at the baby that morning, your professional opinion was that the -- that the baby -- that it was possible that the baby had reached full term; isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. And you estimated that, based on the size, that the baby may have reached full term; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Based upon the crown-rump and crown-heel lengths.
GERAGOS: Okay. And, specifically, when I asked you the question about whether the baby had been in some other environment, you are just -- you're hypothesizing and trying to reconcile what you see to be two conflicting or two disparate, if you will, sets of circumstances: The decomposition in the baby or the maceration of the baby and the decomposition of Laci. Isn't that correct?
PETERSON: I am going to try to get to the question there, I think. Yes, I'm looking at her state of decomposition and what's missing and what's been fed on, his state of decomposition with no such feeding and so forth, and trying to figure out how could that be that these two bodies could be in such a different state. That's true.
GERAGOS: Okay. And one of the things that's a little perplexing is that the internal organs of Laci are all missing and the baby shows no signs of animal feeding; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, those are both true.
GERAGOS: Okay. And you had said that one of the things that there was a combination of factors, including animal feeding, which would -- which you're speculating on or hypothesizing, may have contributed to the lack of her internal organs; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Okay. Where -- what is the internal organ that's closest to where the baby is in the female body when it's in the uterus?
PETERSON: Well, depending on the size of the uterus, I guess there are any number. The uterus is relatively close to the kidneys, to the urinary bladder, to the ovaries, to the fallopian tubes.
GERAGOS: Okay. Was the urinary -- was the bladder present?
GERAGOS: Were the kidneys present?
GERAGOS: Were any of the organs that normally surround the uterus present that you were able to see?
PETERSON: They were not.
GERAGOS: Okay. So the only thing that you were able to see was what you've stated, an abraded end of the uterus. The baby had no animal feeding on it whatsoever, and the baby's found with a plastic tape that's knotted around the neck with enough room so that a bag could have been underneath that tape; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: That's a little --
GERAGOS: Let me break it down for you. There was enough room between the tape, as it was knotted, that was underneath the -- around the neck and underneath the arm to have put a bag underneath that; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: I think that would be possible.
GERAGOS: And clearly the baby was not -- had not decomposed to any extent to what Laci had; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, he had decomposed. He hadn't been fed on, though.
GERAGOS: He hadn't been fed on, but he had not decomposed to anywhere near the extent that Laci had?
PETERSON: Well, I'll accept that. That's fine.
GERAGOS: Okay. The animal feeding -- did you see any evidence of animal feeding internally on Laci?
PETERSON: To the extent that organs were absent. There were not -- there were not tooth marks or bite marks; but, of course, there was nothing left inside there aside from the uterus anyway.
GERAGOS: Basically it was just hollow, wasn't it?
PETERSON: Basically it was.
GERAGOS: And the ribs were showing, weren't they?
PETERSON: They were.
GERAGOS: Okay. There was absolutely no -- at least on the front portion of Laci, there was no flesh in the area right in the abdomen area; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, from the level of the bellybutton up, there was none. From the bellybutton down, there was.
GERAGOS: Okay. And that's where the pants were; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Now, I want to make sure I'm absolutely accurate here. There was skin left beneath the pants, that's correct.
PETERSON: Before the pants was removed, there was no skin visible.
GERAGOS: Now, if the baby was delivered other than vaginally, traditionally that's a Cesarean; isn't it?
GERAGOS: That's out through the area where there was no flesh left; isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Well, there's specific injuries that are in-bending -- isn't that correct? -- at the fifth and sixth rib?
PETERSON: There were.
GERAGOS: Okay. There -- if the in-bending, which is force from the outside going in at the fifth and sixth rib, can you show the judge exactly where that area would have been?
PETERSON: Left fifth and sixth would be about up here. (Indicating.)
PETERSON: I'm trying to count on myself.
COURT: About the middle of the area.
PETERSON: Mid-chest, Your Honor.
GERAGOS: Okay. That was an area where there was no flesh; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Isn't animal feeding accelerated by the presence of a wound?
PETERSON: Yes, in general.
GERAGOS: Okay. If there was a wound in that area or some kind of an incision or bleeding, something to that effect, wouldn't animal feeding accelerate in that area?
PETERSON: Well, again, since there was no soft tissue remaining, what did or did not happen, I cannot say conclusively. As a general statement, sure, injury accelerates decomposition and feeding.
GERAGOS: As you sit here today, you don't know what happened; is that correct?
PETERSON: That's correct.
GERAGOS: You're just coming up with basically a hypothesis to try to explain why it is that there was a difference in the decomposition between that baby and Laci?
PETERSON: And the lack of feeding on the baby.
GERAGOS: And the lack of feeding on the baby?
GERAGOS: Thank you. I have no further questions.
COURT: Let me ask a question before the prosecution has another one. I want to understand this tape that you said, when you pull it, it's only two centimeters?
PETERSON: There was a gap, Your Honor. If you pulled the tape snug against the neck, from the direction you were pulling it, measuring from the neck to there, there was a two-centimeter gap.
COURT: How could that be an item that floated onto the baby if -- I assume two centimeters doesn't get it over the head?
PETERSON: Simply because the head's deforming and the skull plates were overriding, and that's dynamic process. Depending upon what the baby is brushing up against or washing onto, I see no problem with that happening.
COURT: Mr. Harris.
2nd Redirect Examination by David Harris
HARRIS: Doctor, to go into that, when you talk about the plates overriding, to use laypeople terms, does that mean that the head has basically collapsed?
HARRIS: Now, going back to the damage to the ribs, in your experience, have you ever seen C sections that cause breakage to ribs?
HARRIS: I won't ask that. The C section, not just talking about the external and whether you move organs aside, to do a C section, do you have to make an incision or a cut into the uterus?
PETERSON: You do.
HARRIS: Is the uterus -- can you describe it in terms of its strength or lack of strength in terms of other organs?
PETERSON: It's muscle. It's relatively strong and resistant, and in terms of what tends to be left in a decomposed body, the uterus tends to be pretty hearty compared to the organs, other organs.
HARRIS: And when you add this all up together, as you previously said, there's no cut, there's no incision. So do you still stand by your opinion that Conner came about because of the environmental action on Laci?
PETERSON: That's my opinion, yes.
HARRIS: People have no other questions.
2nd Recross Examination by Mark Geragos
GERAGOS: Let me show you EE again. You answered the judge's question. You said it could have just got on there. So this tape that's on there that's knotted behind the back, this baby would have to -- what? -- be swimming like this, have the tape go over the head and then underneath the arm and be knotted right here? Wouldn't you admit that that is extremely unlikely that this tape would have been wrapped around to be only two centimeters around the neck, to also be wrapped around the arm and just so happen have a bow tie knot right at the shoulder area?
PETERSON: Well, I would agree it's unlikely that a dead baby would swim but --
GERAGOS: Would you also agree that it's unlikely that the dead baby would have that tape around it in such a fashion that you had to cut it off as opposed to just pulling it off?
PETERSON: You know, all I can do is describe the findings there at autopsy. I know how deformable the head is as the brain is liquefying. In terms of how this baby went through rocks, other things that may have happened on its trip to the shore, I can't speak to that. All I know is this tape was there, and there was no injury to the neck, and I believe it would be quite easy to deform the head enough to fit that tape circle.
GERAGOS: At the same time the arm just so happened to have a tight fit? Wasn't the tape around the arm and the shoulder as well and knotted on the back?
PETERSON: Well, the knot is the knot that I described about the left shoulder. As I recall, there was only that one knot. This is picture EE. There was another picture that showed the baby at the scene in the grass, where to my eye anyway, that tape was in a different position. So I don't particularly think it was wrapped around the arm or the chest. I know it was wrapped around the neck, though.
GERAGOS: We had that discussion earlier.
PETERSON: We did.
GERAGOS: You don't see the tape. I do see the tape. Here, clearly, when you see the baby, you hadn't -- when you made your findings, you hadn't seen the picture I showed you; isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Now I'm showing you the picture that was shown to you at the autopsy, and clearly it's not just looped around the neck; is that correct?
PETERSON: In this picture, it isn't.
GERAGOS: In this picture, it's not only looped around the neck; it's looped around the left arm and shoulder? Correct?
PETERSON: In this picture, it is.
GERAGOS: It appears to be done so tightly; isn't that correct?
PETERSON: Well, in this picture, it does.
GERAGOS: In that picture, that's the way you saw the baby?
PETERSON: It is.
GERAGOS: Thank you. No further questions.
3rd Redirect Examination by David Harris
HARRIS: Just briefly.
Doctor, does it make any difference at all in terms of your findings
how that piece of tape is wrapped around the arm or not wrapped
around the arm or depicted or not depicted in those pictures?