Something's Bugging Me!

Silly me! Before the trial of Scott Peterson, I thought every piece of evidence collected by police and detectives was fully and completely tested, for whatever evidence it yielded, whether for or against the suspect. I thought the purpose of an investigation was to discover truth, let the chips fall where they may.

Imagine my surprise, and subsequent disillusionment, when I heard detectives testify about evidence collected but never sent in for testing. But that paled in comparison to the shock I experienced as I heard Pin Kyo identify items that were sent in but were not tested, because a specific test request did not accompany the item. Or that only certain tests, out of all possible, were requested. It really seemed to confirm my suspicions that the Modesto Police Department was only interested in what could convict Scott Peterson, not finding the truth. I guess their basic philosophy was, What we don't know can't exonerate Scott.

I did not follow the David Westerfield trial very closely, but I was aware of all the bug testimony. Okay, the official term is forensic entomology, which can help identify time of death and also whether the body has been moved by identifying and analyzing the various arthropods (bugs and insects) that have invaded the body and their stage of development. I recommend Introduction to forensic entomology for some good basic reading in forensic entomology, and it also provides a lot of other links and case studies.

So, what has this to do with Scott Peterson? Should a forensic entomologist have been on the list of experts consulted by the Defense? A forensic entomologist certainly did not seem necessary, as the few barnacles that were on Laci are common to a marine environment.

However, a key point in the Defense was the presence of twine wrapped around Conner's neck. Mark Geragos argued that this twine could not have been ocean debris that Conner picked up as he "washed ashore." Did Geragos drop the ball when he failed to follow up with an analysis by a forensic entomologist?

Let's look at some facts. The high tide on April 13 peaked at approximately 10:06 a.m. Conner was found at 4:45 p.m. That's nearly 7 hours for Conner to be lying on that Jetty, exposed to the arthropods that live in that environment. Pin Kyo testified that the twine around Conner's neck did have bugs and insects on it, but no bugs or insects were reported on Conner.

Kyo also testified that she collected the bugs/insects and photographed them, but she did nothing further regarding identification or sending them to someone to be tested because a request to do so wasn't made.

I concur with Dr. Cyril Wecht, that never in a million years could that twine have accidentally wrapped around Conner's neck. But the Prosecution treated the possibility that Conner got there some way other than "washing ashore" as a joke, characterizing it as ridiculous and unreasonable. A forensic entomologist may have provided the Defense with the extra oomph it needed to get the Jury to seriously consider the exonerating evidence presented.

In the interest of Truth, those bugs/insects should have been identified and analyzed by a forensic entomologist for whatever they could tell us about when Conner arrived on the Jetty, how he got there, and where he came from -- let the chips fall where they may.