Presumption of Innocence

Many millions of Americans agree with Nancy Grace: I'm not bound by presumption of innocence because I'm not sitting on that jury.

Before the trial started, we heard, I'm not bound by presumption of innocence because I don't live in Modesto and can't be called to the jury. Then we heard, I'm not bound by presumption of innocence because I don't live in California and thus can't be called to the jury no matter where they move the trial.

My question is, if no one but the sitting jury is bound by presumption of innocence, then what good is the principle? It has no value, it is worthless. Why? Because if the public does not practice presumption of innocence, then an acquittal by the jury has no value because it is not accepted by the accused's community. The accused remains guilty. Scott Peterson's community, because of the extensive media coverage, is the whole nation. So, an entire America will continue to believe Scott is guilty, even if he is acquitted. That's potential employers, landlords, and neighbors who will always see him as the monster who murdered his wife and unborn child.

Presumption of innocence asks us to wait until evidence is presented in Court before coming to a fixed opinion that a person is guilty. The principle is founded on the reality that an opinion, once formed, is nigh impossible to change. This case is a very good example of how stubborn a guilty opinion can be.

Through the course of the pre-trial coverage, we were told these facts:

These very compelling facts convinced millions of people that Scott was guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Then add to it the smile at the vigil, the continued conversations with Amber, the changed hair color, the $10,000+ and clothes and camping gear in his car when arrested -- what a solid case, what a slam dunk.

Let's take another look at that list of facts.

Blatant lies. Every detective and family member who has testified at any of the hearings has stated unequivocally that there was not a strong smell of bleach in the house. And, the test results on the mops and mop bucket were negative. In fact, every test for Laci's blood, fluids, fibers and other forensic evidence performed at the house came back negative.

Proven to be lies by Susan Medina's testimony that she saw both vehicles, the Land Rover and Scott's truck, in the driveway at 5 am on the morning of the 24th. No way could Scott have been at his house at 3 am doing something suspicious, transported Laci's body to the warehouse and then to the marina, and returned by 5 am. Impossible. Further, the DA has admitted in his opening statement that the State has no eye witnesses that saw Scott in the commission of any part of this crime.

While Scott did not "tell" people about the boat, he made no effort to "hide" the boat -- it was kept in a public place of business, noticeable to every person who would come there, including employees and family members who would visit, and within plain view of anyone in the vicinity when the roll-up doors were open. The boat was registered, and Scott paid cash because the seller requested cash. But, further to the point, the Defense is establishing testimony that Laci knew about the boat, saw the boat, and was in the boat. This last assertion, if proven to be a fact through testimony in Court, will adequately explain why the scent dogs trailed Laci's sent from the warehouse to the pier at the marina -- as her scent was in that boat.

The dog handlers were uncomfortable calling these "alerts," as the dogs had not been trained to differentiate human scent from chemical smells, and that is why Judge Delucchi ruled that they could not be admitted as evidence at the trial. And, since there were no "unusual" chemicals in the shed and warehouse, nothing that a reasonable person would not expect to find there, then we have no basis for an attempted cover-up of Laci's scent by Scott.

This has been proven to be a gross exaggeration. The supposed source of the information, Amy Krigbaum, testified at the Preliminary hearing that she was not always home in the morning to make that observation, and that when she was home, Laci did not always open her blinds, but she usually did.

A blatant lie told by the police to plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of family and friends. That revelation came out of Detective Brocchini's own mouth at the Preliminary hearing.


All of these facts that have been exposed as blatant lies or gross exaggerations or only half-truths, and yet we have millions of Americans who are as convinced as ever that Scott murdered his wife and unborn son.

Well now we get to the heart of the problem--nothing happens to change this opinion when these facts are exposed as lies, half-truths, exaggerations. The opinion does not change. It remains as fixed as ever. Even worse, the opinion is now fueled by anger -- anger that yet another guilty person is going to get away with murder.

This is why presumption of innocence MUST be applied at the individual level and by all Americans. We MUST resist the temptation to form a fixed opinion of guilt before evidence is presented in Court. We MUST train ourselves to wait until we see it presented as evidence in Court before we accept it as fact.

What will it take for the American people to understand the importance of presumption of innocence? Will it take having it happen to each and every one or to someone they love?

I am accused of being a bleeding heart liberal and criminal lover. Nothing can be further from the truth. I am a conservative Republican, among the religious right. My position does not favor criminals. I want every criminal caught, convicted, and punished to the full extent of the law. Laci's and Conner's murderer should be executed.

My insistence on presumption of innocence goes more to ensure that the guilty person IS charged and convicted than the opposition view. All the time spent on proving an innocent person is guilty could have been spent finding the real murderer. When the innocent are convicted, the guilty go free. The murderers are free to murder again. Who wants that?

Presumption of innocence endangers no one; its absence endangers everyone.