Peterson Cash Flow Scrutinized
REDWOOD CITY, Calif.,
Oct. 20, 2004
(CBS/AP) Scott Peterson was financially secure and stood to gain more if his pregnant wife remained alive, a defense witness said, countering claims by prosecutors that the couple was experiencing money problems and the former fertilizer salesman hoped to cash in Laci's insurance policy.
But as the accountant called by the defense testified that Peterson had no money problems and no financial reason to murder his wife Laci, a juror had a question, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone. He handed over a note for the judge.
The question wasn't revealed but the judge gave it to prosecutor Dave Harris. He then immediately asked about Peterson's taxes, which the witness, a former IRS investigator, said he had not deducted when estimating that the Petersons had a comfortable disposable income.
Martin Laffer, a certified public accountant and former Internal Revenue Service investigator, said Peterson was paying $1,300 a month toward the mortgage on the couple's home, $50 more than the minimum required payment.
"Does it appear to you they were doing well for a young married couple with a baby on the way at their age?" defense attorney Mark Geragos asked.
"Yes, they were fine," Laffer replied.
"Is there anything you see from the credit report that indicated Mr. Peterson did not have good credit?" Geragos prodded.
"Not at all, just the opposite," Laffer said.
Prosecutors allege Peterson killed his pregnant wife on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her body in San Francisco Bay. The bodies of Laci and the fetus she carried washed up about four months later, a few miles from where Peterson claims to have been fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
Defense lawyers claim someone else abducted and killed Laci, then dumped the body in the bay to frame Peterson after learning of his widely publicized alibi.
The second day of the defense case was marked by more speculation about why Geragos had Peterson questioned by attorney and commentator Michael Cardoza in a mock cross examination.
"It looks like Geragos is trying to manipulate the media and the jury and he's been pretty good at it," said former assistant district attorney Jim Hammer.
The former prosecutor said jurors usually do want to hear from the accused, but revealing the mock cross examination may have backfired.
"I think the spin they want to get out is that Scott really wants to testify, but his lawyers are stopping him," Hammer said. "The message coming out is Scott did badly, Scott didn't do well, and that's not a good message to get back to the jury."
The court day was cut short when an alternate juror, a grandmother in her 60's, reported feeling ill. With the specter of a flu epidemic in the courtroom, Judge Alfred Delucchi sent jurors home early.
If the jury is healthy and testimony resumes Wednesday, defense attorney Geragos has a surprise on his witness list: the lead detective on the case, Craig Grogan, reports Blackstone. It's surprising because the detective already spent some two weeks on the stand as an important witness for the prosecution.