Journalistic Irresponsibility at its Height

August 27, 2004

Editorial

New York Post online Edition

I have been very critical of the media coverage of Laci's disappearance. Eager to break a story, many otherwise respected reporters ran with stories that have since been proven false. Those falsehoods, distributed so widely and repeated so often, contributed significantly to the rush to judgment and lynch mob attitude that required the trial to be moved from Modesto to Redwood City.

But I am even more disappointed at yesterday's article in the New York Post online edition. The title itself, "LIAR SCOTT SNICKERED IN DELIGHT OVER FUTILE LACI HUNT" is an outrageous affront to Scott's constitutional rights. The words "liar" and "snickered in delight" could have only one intent -- to convince New York Post readers that Scott is guilty of murder. The article makes no mention of the laughter and humor that Sharon Rocha saw in the situation, or Heather Richardson, or Guy Miligi. Only Scott is condemned. And Scott's laughter is minimal compared to Heather's.

The article catalogs a list of lies and callous behavior -- grossly distorting the evidence presented in Court.

* Laughing when he heard that investigators were searching for his wife in Washington state.

That is blatantly false. The person who prepared the transcript editorialized that Scott was laughing, but the laughter was not audible to others in the courtroom and the Judge specifically instructed the Jury to make their judgments based on what they hear on the tapes, not what they read on the transcripts.

* Exhaling in a sign of relief when told that rumors his wife had been found were untrue.

For the life of me I cannot understand why this is objectionable. Laci was not found, an anchor was found, that meant that Laci might still be alive. Who wouldn't exhale in a sigh of relief? My God, can you set aside your presumption of guilt long enough to even consider the possibility the man is innocent and quit interpreting EVERYTHING he does, even very basic, normal human reactions, as a sign of guilt?

* Telling friends and family that he was out of town, when he was really hiding out and secretly observing the site were investigators were searching for his missing wife.

The discussion about where Scott was isn't over yet. The cell phone information does not conclusively identify his location; the surveillance unit reported that Scott was at home, not at Berkeley; and the media harassment may have given him good reasons to give misinformation to family, who would obviously be clued in on what was going on.

* Lying to his mom about talking to investigators who were looking for her in Washington all in an apparent effort to get out of having to join their effort.

Another gross misrepresentation of the evidence presented in Court. Jacobsen admitted that not all calls on the phones involved in the tap were recorded. He also admitted that the home phone and the business phone were not part of the wiretap. Those presented more than enough opportunity for Scott to have made the calls he said he made.

* Trying to sell the home he and his wife shared while his kin were still holding out hope she would be found alive.

Another blatant falsehood. By the time Scott discussed selling the home with Brian Argain, Sharon Rocha, Ron Grantski, and Brent Rocha had already accused Scott of murdering Laci and begging him to tell them where she was. They were not still holding out hope she would be found alive. When the LE searched the Bay, they were not searching for a live Laci.

The article continues with characterizations intended only to inflame its readers against Scott.

One of his alleged lies came on Jan. 11, 2003, when fertilizer salesman Scott told people, including his mother, that he was out of town in West Fresno. But according to the phone records, Peterson was peddling another kind of manure that day.

Peddling another kind of manure? Is the New York Post reporting news or writing a novel?

The jaw-dropping revelation made Scott Peterson's mom, Jackie, burst into tears yesterday, as prosecutors played a recording in which the defendant told her the alleged lie about his whereabouts.

This reporter observed what apparently no one else did. Mark Geragos emphatically denied that Jackie Peterson burst into tears when she heard that tape. But, in my opinion, she had good reason to, as she witnessed still another instance of something being taken out of context and grossly distorted for the sheer purpose of assassinating Scott's character.

In a coldblooded gesture, he deleted a recording in the middle of hearing his mother suggest he attend a candlelight vigil. He also deleted a message without reaction in which his mother said that a Laci sighting in Longview turned out to be someone else.

It is cold-blooded indeed to so grossly misrepresent the facts. Scott didn't listen to the entirety of some of the voice mail messages -- for one good simple reason. He returned the phone call so he could hear the information direct. He called the person back. Do these reporters live in the real world? Has this reporter never done the same thing?

But a short time later when he apparently thinks no one is paying attention Peterson is captured on tape laughing as he listens to a voice mail from his mother saying a family member was up in Washington putting up posters.

Again, the laughter was not discernible to many in the courtroom, and if the transcript had not editorialized, I doubt even one person would have thought he laughed.

I respect that many people disagree with my opinion that Scott is factually innocent. But they shouldn't be publishing their opinion as news. This article should be labeled an editorial, not a news story; and its author a talking head/commentator, not a news reporter. Media has room for both. It's just blatantly irresponsible to package commentary as news. And it's blatantly irresponsible to have so much falsehood and misrepresentation in either commentary or news.