The Illusion of Evidence

Editorial Commentary

July 8, 2004

Police Investigators face an age-old problem -- finding the evidence to prove their primary suspect did in fact commit the crime. The Modesto LE seem to have found a way around that problem. If no evidence exists to convict your suspect, plant it. Now, there are two ways to plant evidence. One deals with putting actual physical items in a certain place OR tampering with evidence to make it yield different. The other way is to plant the idea that evidence exists, when, in fact, it does not. This is called the illusion of evidence, and it can be very convincing.

Wednesday we witnessed a powerful drama in court -- a witness very near Laci's height, pregnant, and lying inside the toolbox in Scott's pickup and in the boat. These were pictures, or course, displayed on a big screen as the witness sat in the witness box. The intended message was clear: Scott put Laci into the tool box to initially transport her from the home, and then he put her into the boat. Other witnesses had just testified that the Marina was quiet and without activity on Dec. 24, suggesting that Scott was able to carry out the deed of launching the boat with Laci's body in it without being seen by anyone. Pictures of the woman in the boat not visible to onlookers at certain angles carried the court attendees and, most probably also the jurors, down the intended path to convicting Scott.

Cross examination, of course, exposes this evidence for what it really is -- illusion, smoke and mirrors, deception. Just as a magician deceives his viewers into believing something has happened, this Prosecution is attempting to deceive the jury and the public into believing Scott committed these murders.

The primary deception was to use a live person instead of a dead person. This is critical for a couple of reasons. Kim Fulbright was indeed nearly identical to Laci's size and pregnant condition. But, Kim was alive, Laci was dead; Kim climbed into the toolbox and into the boat, Laci had to be put there; Kim climbed out of the toolbox and out of the boat, Laci had to be lifted out. All the demonstration proved is that Laci could have crawled into the toolbox if she had wanted to, and that she could have laid down in the boat, almost entirely hidden from view, if she wanted to. But, is the prosecution trying to convince us that Laci voluntarily laid in both the toolbox and the boat? Hardly. It is trying to convince us that Scott murdered Laci, and then put her into the toolbox, took her out of the toolbox, put her into the boat, then dumped her from the boat into the Bay.

While we would not expect Fulbright to subject herself to being murdered or to being drugged so that she would be motionless, at the least the Prosecution's demonstration should have included Investigator Kevin Bertalotto lifting Fulbright into the toolbox and getting her into a fetal position without any assistance from her, then lifting her out and putting her into the boat, again in a fetal position and without any assistance from her, and then lifting her up from the boat and somehow dumping her overboard--with assorted attached weights. And, the demonstration should have been videotaped so that the jury could better judge if Kim had to in any way assist Bertalotto, or how many attempts it took Bertalotto before accomplishing each feat.

Simply put, the Prosecution's demonstration did not show Bertalotto doing with Fulbright what it says Scott did with Laci; it has not produced forensic evidence in the toolbox or the boat to show that a dead Laci was in either; it has not produced a single eye witness that saw Scott performing any of this activity at the house, the warehouse, or the Marina; and it has not produced a timeline for completing the activity before rigor mortis would have made it impossible.

The Prosecution has attempted to present Covena Ave, the warehouse, and the marina as being so void of activity that Scott could easily have committed this criminal act undetected, and that accounts for the absence of eye witnesses. Geragos and Harris have contradicted that claim by showing that all of Scott's neighbors were home that morning, Servas was up and around and did not hear or see anything unusual, and the Medinas were up and around and did not hear or see anything unusual. They have also shown that dozens of opportunities existed at the Marina for someone to see Scott, if he had been doing anything suspicious. Furthermore, Scott called ahead, in effect announcing that he was coming.