The Scott Peterson case rolls on
CNN. Larry King Live
Aired September 23, 2004.
KING: The Scott Peterson
case rolls on. Let's meet a panel of four who are all
there today. Ted Rowlands, CNN correspondent, has
covered this from get-go and has one of the few
on-camera interviews with Scott Peterson. That was in
court today, by the way. Michael Cardoza, the
famed defense attorney, former prosecutor. Chuck
Smith was not in court today, but the former San Mateo
County prosecutor, famous as a homicide prosecutor now
in private practice. And Richard Cole, who covered
the Peterson case and is covering it for "The Daily
News" Group, including "The Redwood City Daily News," a
veteran crime and trial reporter. Ted, what were the
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a fourth day on the stand for Detective Craig Grogan this the lead detective in the case. And many believe that this witness has really changed things for the prosecution. Because the prosecution has been able to use Grogan to talk about all facets of the investigation against Peterson and they've been able to go over points that have already been developed in court one by one and bring them together.
At one point, during this week of testimony, Grogan even rattled off a number of the 41 reasons that the Modesto Police detectives compiled thinking that Laci Peterson's remains would be found in the San Francisco Bay. And when all those points were brought together in a fell swoop it gave the jurors a sense of the prosecution case, and that is, that there are little bricks all being stacked up. We've heard little bricks come up throughout the testimony, but Geragos has been able to knock most of them down. This time it gave the prosecution, without any direct cross right away, an opportunity to really spell out their case for the jury.
They have used Grogan to introduce the videos of his interviews on television, the one with Diane Sawyer, very compelling, where they see him actually lie on camera and then the other interviews as well, plus audio conversations. Grogan has really helped the prosecution according to a lot of observers. Now Geragos has started his cross and he's going to continue through Monday so that he can sort of dismantle some of this, and bring it back towards center.
KING: Michael, Ted mentioned building bricks. Are they building a building?
MICHAEL CARDOZA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They are getting to that. A lot of people may not know, but a new district attorney has stepped up behind the table. There's now a third, Birgit Fladager. She has taken over. She put on Grogan this week, and she did a commendable job. It was seamless testimony as she asked questions. They did bring those 41 points of the prosecution, at least they put it in logical order. But now it's the defense's turn and Geragos has taken it apart now brick by brick.
For example, he talked to Grogan on cross-examination. He said wait a minute, Scott was the one who told you he was surfing the Internet for a fishing spot. Yes, he did. Scott was the one who told you they were going to sell the jewelry. Well, yes, he did. So Geragos is making some headway on cross-examination that has just started. And the one that I'm leaning back on, is the detective said on direct with Fladager, you know, one of the things I thought was interesting and pointed towards his guilt was he bought $13 worth of gas and he didn't get a receipt on his way back from the Berkeley Marina back to Modesto. And I'm thinking what's that got to do with this? Why is this so suspicious. They haven't answered that. But that's one of their 41 points.
KING: Chuck, I'll ask you in a minute. But Richard Cole, you were there today, what were your thoughts?
RICHARD COLE, "REDWOOD CITY DAILY NEWS": I think the case was assembled very well by the Mrs. Fladager and Detective Grogan. What we've gotten this time is the reason that police suspected Scott. We -- it's very clear why they suspected him. He rattled off the reasons. He was the last person to see, the last person known to have seen her. He's the husband. All of these reasons. The trouble is that they certainly amounted to a great deal of suspicion that he did it. The question is going to be, does it amount to beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it. And so far, I think they're falling a little bit short of that unless they've got something we don't know about.
KING: Chuck Smith, I know you weren't there today, but what do you think is the reason we have another prosecutor in this? CHUCK SMITH, FORMER PROSECUTOR IN SAN MATEO: I think it was pretty much concluded by most observers that the two lead prosecutors were not doing a very effective job of presenting the case. Larry, in a circumstantial evidence case, a prosecutor has to just have things buttoned up and tight. It's got to go point A to point B directly. You have to be a master of the facts. They were not doing that. Birgit Fladager has done a wonderful job of doing that. At one point during the presentation, she was going through a series of exhibits and she skipped over one them. The judge said, you mixed number 206- F. And she turned very smartly and said, "that was by design, your honor." Just conveying to everyone, I know where I'm going. I know the facts. I know how to get to where I want to be. She's just very effective.
KING: What is her reputation?
SMITH: Well, she's an assistant D.A., which is one of the supervisors. She's got a good reputation. I actually have a case out in their jurisdiction these days, so I've been talking to some of my friends out there. And she's got a good reputation. She knows what she's doing. She's got a great presence about her. I think that the more she will do in this trial, the better it will be for the prosecution.
KING: In the Grogan/Scott interview, Scott seems to cry and break down. We're going to show you a clip of the tape. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG GROGAN, DETECTIVE: You and I both know what happened to Laci.
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: You know what happened to her/
GROGAN: We both do.
PETERSON: Craig, I need to know what happened to her. Are you telling me you know what happened to her?
GROGAN: Scott, I mean, lets be serious with one and other.
PETERSON: Craig tell me what -- you know what happened to her? Do you -- do you know where she is?
GROGAN: Well, I know where we're looking for her. And I think we're probably going to find her over in the bay. It's a matter of time.
PETERSON: Craig you -- I had nothing to do with Laci's disappearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ted Rowlands, he doesn't sound like a guilty person there, does he? ROWLANDS: Well, you know, what the prosecution tried to establish in the phone conversation is that Scott was acting as though he didn't understand what Grogan was saying. And that sort of came through where he's saying, you know where she is, Craig?
Where Grogan was more of the rock in the conversation, saying come on, let's be serious, we both know what we're talking about here. Let's come clean. And it came on the heels -- earlier in the conversation, Peterson broke down and was opening himself up, saying how horrible this whole thing has been. Grogan heard that and went in for the kill. But your right, Peterson didn't fess up to anything. In fact, later in the tape, Peterson turns on Grogan and says I'm hanging up. I see where you're going with this. How it played with the jury, who knows. But it was another piece of compelling audio tape that they were exposed to.
KING: Michael, as a veteran of trials, you know you can never guess what a jury would do. But How Would you think a jury would react as when they see someone lie, a as he lied to Diane Sawyer.
CARDOZA: Certainly that's not good. One of the things that helps him the very next day, the very next day, he phoned Grogan and said, look, detective yesterday I was on Sawyer's show. I didn't tell the truth. I lied about whether he told the police or not about the affair. He said, I told her I told you immediately. Craig Grogan, you and boy both know that's not true. He fesses up right way. So, how is that going to cut? I don't know. It going to be in the eye of the beholder. If you think he's guilty, you can spin this evidence any way you want. If you're on the other side, you can spin it the other way. That's why this is such an a darn interesting trial.
KING: Richard Cole what do you think the effect on the jury was of the home videos of Laci?
COLE: Well, it's certainly made Laci real. You saw her kind of sweet, kind of sexy, kind of pretty. This is in July, she's pregnant but not showing much. She's wearing a bikini. Her friend's wearing a bikini. Scott's making jokes of showing this to Osama bin Laden to show him, you know, what he's missing out on with his views of life. It's certainly made her real. I don't know that it was any more emotionally effective than that picture we've all seen of her sitting alone in the chair in the red outfit with her belly out to here. But the other side of it -- pardon?
KING: What was its relevance?
COLE: As far as we could see, none at all. They introduced it on the basis of that at the end of this tape, there's some shots of the watches that they put on eBay. I don't know that there's any big issue with those watches. There's no question they did it. They did it together. I thought what was interesting was that the prosecution kept fast forwarding through portions of the tape and they were all portions of the tape where Scott and Laci are chatting.
They're doing this traffic study because the neighbors are complaining about a road project that's going to be built and Scott's driving and Laci's Apparently filming and they're having a very friendly, you know, husband/wife chat. And for some reason, the prosecution fast-forwarded through the conversations. We saw them on the transcripts, but the jury hasn't heard them. It almost gave a feeling of playing a little bit fast and loose with things. But maybe the defense will come back and play it on its cross-examination.
KING: Chuck what do you make of its relevance?
SMITH: You asked the perfect question, Larry. Normally in a homicide trial this kind of day-in-the-life tape of the victim is simply not permitted. It's an appeal to emotion. A jury is not supposed to make a decision based upon emotional reaction. Normally, this wouldn't be allowed. But the judge has allowed so much in this case to show the completeness of all of the evidence that's been gathered that I think his decision was basically, all right, they've seen everything else and they've heard everything else, they should see all of this as well. But it is unusual.
KING: Let me get a break, come back. We'll include your phone calls. Scott Peterson case getting toward the defense part of it. They'll put on their witnesses and then the conclusion still weeks away. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about a couple of things that just are flying by today, they were mentioned as well. The neighbor claiming they saw you loading some large object the day of, Christmas Eve day.
SCOTT PETERSON: Right, right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that accurate?
PETERSON: Yes, actually. In the back of my truck, I put some of these umbrellas that we have, these big umbrellas. It started to rain and I was taking them to storage. So, yes, I did load some umbrellas in the back of my truck that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you interact with that neighbor?
PETERSON: I don't know which neighbor that is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The -- was there a blue tarp involved in that?
Yes, they were wrapped up in the tarp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was Ted Rowlands' interview, also in court today, of Scott Peterson, the accused. Let's go to calls, San Mateo, California, hello. CALLER: Hi, Larry. I have two quick questions. One is, does Scott Peterson have pictures of Laci in his cell? I know most prisoners usually do have family pictures. And also, it seems like every time Gloria Allred gets in front of a camera, she seems to try the case. Is this fair for the defense? Thank you.
KING: Let's have Ted answer the first one and Michael the second. Ted?
ROWLANDS: I don't know the answer to the first one. It's a very good question. We can ask his attorney and see if we can get the answer to it but great question though one that should probably have already been asked.
KING: Has Gloria Allred predetermined the outcome, Michael?
CARDOZO: Oh, absolutely. She said everything but the word guilty when she gets before the microphone certainly she's spinning it because of her client in this case.
KING: But her client doesn't know if he's guilty.
CARDOZO: No, I'm not saying she knows for sure, but certainly Gloria puts that spin on it that Scott Peterson is guilty. She won't come out and say that, but you can read all of that into any statement of Gloria Allred that she's made about the case. Will she have an effect on the jury, no, because the jury's not supposed to watch.
ROWLANDS: Larry, Mark Geragos tried to clamp down on Gloria Allred in Modesto. He wanted her to come under the gag order, because she's holding these press conferences, you know, every time she's outside of court and is slamming Peterson and Geragos but the judge in Modesto ruled on it and said she does not come under the gag order so she can say whatever she wants basically as long as she doesn't talk about the evidence.
KING: There were shots of the nursery in court today too. We'll show those as well. New Orleans, hello.
CALLER: Who has Laci's jewelry? Was it given back to her mother?
KING: Do we know the answer to that, Richard Cole?
COLE: Yes, I do. That came up in court today. It wasn't given back to her mother. Her mother went and got it fairly early on, I believe, in early January, January 4 or 5, around there, I remember Laci disappeared on December 24 of 2002. Her mother went and got the jewelry. The defense brought that up, because Scott never showed any interest in the jewelry at all. I was puzzled by the date of her mother doing that. It would have been understandable after Scott came under suspicion. But that -- the family didn't start believing that he might have been involved until mid-January, that's when they found out about Amber Frey. As of January 4 or 5, they were still all hunky-dory, both families were together, they were trying to find Laci. But apparently, Sharon Rocha went in and took all the jewelry that was in the jewelry store at that point.
KING: Chuck, what's all the furniture doing in the nursery?
SMITH: The point about the furniture in the nursery is this. Scott Peterson said to a couple of people during the course of the investigation that he couldn't bear to go into the nursery, because of the horrible memories it would bring. But what has happened is that when the police went back in, I think, February and March, there was furniture, other furniture that had been moved into the nursery. So the argument from the prosecution's standpoint is he wasn't telling the truth, because clearly, he has been back in that room putting furniture in it, et cetera. What the defense -- I don't think this is a powerful point, though. The defense is going to suggest is that other family members were doing that as part of the normal clearing out of the house and maintenance of the house. I don't think it's a big deal, Larry.
KING: Because he built that nursery, did he not?
KING: Las Vegas, hello.
KING: I'm sorry, Ted, you want to say something?
ROWLANDS: One more thing on that same point. The defense will clearly point out later that in between the time when Peterson said he wouldn't go into the nursery, other people were not only in the house, but Peterson got -- left his warehouse so he had extra furniture, he needed to do put it somewhere and there's no evidence that he actually put that stuff into the nursery. So the time there was wide open for that room to be used.
KING: Las Vegas, hello.
CALLER: I love your show. My question is for Ted. Last week, so much was made of the tensions between the Rocha and Peterson families with -- in regard to their seating arrangements in the courtroom. I was wondering this week how are the families behaving towards each other?
ROWLANDS: They're ignoring each other. The judge made it pretty clear that he was not going to tolerate any discussion between the two families, because it was getting heated and quite frankly this trial is getting to the emotional state. It's only going to get worse as we wind down to the end. But the judge did a good job of interceding and saying, listen, nobody talks to one another and if something happens again, you're going to be moved to the back of the courtroom.
KING: Sumter, South Carolina hello.
CALLER: Hi. Who now has ownership of Laci and Conner's dog?
KING: Michael, do we know? CARDOZO: I don't know where Mackenzie has gone. Does anybody else?
KING: Anybody know?
ROWLANDS: I think Mackenzie is in San Diego, either staying with Susan Cadill (ph) or with Janey Peterson (ph). One of the sisters, I believe, has Mackenzie.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments and some more phone calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETERSON: I had nothing to do with Laci's disappearance. Even if you think I did, think about Laci. And I know that there's a nation that wants to bring her home to our families. So you can think what you want of me, question my moral character, question how I've acted, if it's been smart, if it hasn't been. Obviously, I'm not media savvy, so I've made some mistakes. But Laci's missing. She needs to be home with her family and people look at that and constantly say that no, you know, I need to be looking for her. And god, I hope they do. That's the key to bringing her home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Milford, Connecticut, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. This is for the attorneys. The defense hired a forensic pathologist, Dr Lee and Wecht. When Dr. Wecht submitted his report, they let him go because apparently his information favored the prosecution. Now, can the prosecution attorneys call Dr. Wecht and use that information for their case?
CARDOZA: Sure they can. They can give him a call and talk with him about it if he wants to give up that information. He was their expert. If they hired him, if they disclosed him, if they gave that information up to the prosecution, sure, they can give him a call and call him on the stand, but I don't think it's quite that way.
KING: Chino, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry, love your show.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: My question is for Ted Rowlands. During your interview with Scott Peterson, Scott said the night she disappeared. Did you catch that? Do you think the jury or the district attorney caught that?
ROWLANDS: You know that has not been brought up. And to be quite frank with you, I did not catch that. I'll have to go back and look at the tape. It's a very good point if, indeed, he said that, because, of course, that's what the prosecution's theory is she was killed on the 23rd in the evening and I'll have to go back and look at that.
COLE: I think maybe there might be a little confusion. I think when he made that, the night she disappeared comment, I think he was talking about when he talked to police. And he did talk to police the night of the day that she disappeared.
KING: How long is this trial going on, Chuck?
SMITH: And I think that the prosecution is going to go through next week. We only go to trial four days a week. And probably spill into the following week.
But most observers also believe that the defense case is not going to be, you know, that long. Maybe two weeks or so. So maybe you know, another three or four weeks and we'll be to argument time.
KING: Ted, what if the trial ends election night and the race is close and just about they're calling Florida, which will be the key, and the jury is assembling with the verdict, which the judge says will be allowed live. Ted what do we do?
ROWLANDS: That will be interesting to see. That's up to you, Larry. We'll be standing by. But I think the election will take precedence.
KING: I think so. Maybe they'll split screen it, Richard Cole. What do you think?
COLE: It would certainly be an interesting split screen. I will tell you that. I tell you, it's funny...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, you guys, let's go with Laci.
COLE: This trial is like a political campaign too. People pick sides and they stick with them no matter what the evidence is.
KING: Michael, do you expect a vigorous defense when Mr. Geragos presents his side.
CARDOZA: It's certainly going to be vigorous. What I look for him to do is put on a lot of defense experts to negate the defense experts that the prosecution has put on.
KING: The prosecution experts.
CARDOZA: The prosecution, excuse me.
I don't expect he's going to put people on to say somebody else did it or witnesses to say they saw Laci in the park, none of that. Stick with your experts. Once that's done, in argument, look to the jury. You've got a wash on the experts, say what's that leave the prosecution with? Will those 41 points cut to it prove Peterson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?
And I've got to tell you, they're hard pressed to do that. That's my hit on this. But again, with circumstantial evidence, it's up to each individual juror to interpret it the way they want.
KING: And Chuck, it's silly to guess, because we're trying to think for 12 people, right?
SMITH: It's going to be tough, Larry. But you talked earlier about the lies. The lies may carry the day for the prosecution. I mean, he lied to absolutely everybody, Ted, Diane Sawyer, Detective Grogan, Amber Frey. I mean, lies, lies, lies. If worked well by the prosecution, they could carry the day.
KING: Thank you all very much. Of course, we'll be calling on you again. Ted Rowlands, Michael Cardoza, Chuck Smith and Richard Cole. And Michael, Ted and Richard were all in the courtroom today. Chuck's been there for most of this incredible story.
And we'll be back to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.