Peterson Defense Team Trying to Fill Gaps in Argument

Sunday, August 17, 2003

NEW YORK  Fox News has learned that Scott Peterson's defense team is trying to fill some major holes in their case as they try to build their argument that a third party was responsible for the death of Laci Peterson.

Sources close to the case tell Fox News defense lawyers are working on numerous strategies prompted by an incomplete visit last week by noted forensic and criminal experts, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Henry Lee.

The defense team's new top guns were reportedly not able to determine a cause of death for Laci Peterson after examining her body and that of her unborn child, Conner.

They also determined that the body was much more decomposed than they had expected after viewing an autopsy report and that upon reviewing her body have initially determined that she was not dismembered, as some members of the defense team had suggested early on.

Rather they believe, some of her body parts were not present due to the fact her body had been underwater for such a long period of time.

That also means that if Scott Peterson committed the crime, he had to move the whole body, not parts of the body in bags, as some have suggested.

Although they were allowed to see the bodies in Contra Costa County, sources say Dr. Wecht and Dr. Lee, were not able to enter the crime lab in Stanislaus County in Modesto, and therefore were not able to see valuable forensic evidence in this case, such as Laci's clothing.

Additionally, the experts were not able to see a strip of duct tape that Fox News has learned was found around Laci's leg area and also approximately dozens of bags containing forensic evidence which were removed from Scott Peterson's home during several police searches.

The two have yet to receive some results from tests the prosecution requested at several state and national crime labs. The lack of information may cause them to ask for a delay for September's preliminary hearing.

Sources say the defense believes two of the defense's strongest pieces of evidence are discrepancies between a sonogram Laci had done right before she disappeared, indicating the baby was 31 weeks old, and a medical examiner's determination that the baby was 35 to 38 weeks old when he died.

This discrepancy allows the defense to argue that the baby or both the baby and Laci could have lived longer than the prosecution's argument that she was killed on Dec. 23rd or 24th, meaning the defense will suggest that you can't rule out a kidnapping or cult in this case. Others will argue these tests are not an exact science and there's usually approximately a three week margin of error.

Additionally, Fox News has learned that Dr. Wecht and Dr. Lee also met with several witnesses who say they saw Laci Peterson walking her dog on the morning of Dec. 24th, which would have been after prosecutors say she was killed.

Sources say, the defense is seriously considering calling these witnesses to the stand in September.

Fox News' Rita Cosby contributed to this report

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